How can anyone resist a talking purple octopus called Faraday and his partner-in-crime, an adorable little boy named Wilbur? They play pretend and explore the world, chase their dreams and wonder about why things are the way they are. They confide in each other, as friends do, and commiserate over chocolate chip cookies they bake together.
The inseparable duo can be found within the pages of Pepper Lim’s Wilbur & Faraday, a comic book written “for both children, and the child in adults”.
“Wilbur & Faraday is a reminder of myself,” says Lim, 49.
“I think sometimes adults are so busy being adults that we miss out on the simple pleasures in life. This comic helped me explore some subjects that bring joy to me, like being curious, falling in love for the first time, and having a good friend,” says the entrepreneur and motivational speaker.
Wilbur & Faraday, published by Keropok Comics and the Popular Book Co (M) Sdn Bhd, is Lim’s third book; the first is a self-help book and part tribute to his mother, How My Mother Became A Millionaire (2008); and the second, a children’s story book called The Troublesome Prince Lucky Mole (2010), marking his foray into the world of comics proper.
“I never imagined drawing a comic book. I guess it is another milestone in my life. And I guess I was just lucky to catch the eye of a publisher,” he says.
But the Penang-born Lim is no stranger to drawing a cartoon or two when inspiration strikes.
In fact, cartoons were what got him noticed in the first place by Popular.
“Someone from Popular saw my political cartoons and thought I had talent! So they told Keropok Comics, which publishes English language comics, to contact me about making a comic book,” he shares in an e-mail.
Having never drawn a comic book before, Lim was initially sceptical.
“But then I thought, I have nothing to lose if I try. So I started to form ideas for characters and finally decided on a little boy and his octopus friend. The boy, Wilbur, is named after Wilbur Wright, the first aviator, and the octopus, Faraday, is named after Michael Faraday, the father of electromagnetism,” he relates.
Lim did not immediately dive headlong into creating a book; he thought it was first important to get a feel of what other people find funny, so he tested his cartoons online by sharing them on social news aggregator site Reddit.com.
“One comic, A Hero’s Pay (see the cartoon strip left), was shared so much that it gained over nine million views. I was shocked! Most of my online drawings were only getting around 3,000 views, but this one was a real hit. And with that, I was confident I could make a funny comic book,” he says.
Wilbur & Faraday was finally completed after four years, a long journey fraught with as much doubt and frustration as fun and elation. Lim not only felt he had exhausted his supply of jokes when he was at the halfway mark, but every new joke he came up with just didn’t seem funny to him.
“However, my editor found them funny so I realised that I shouldn’t be too critical of my own ideas. I try to read a lot, and if I liked something I read, I would try to find the funny side to it and see how it could fit with Wilbur & Faraday,” he explains.
The biggest challenge in getting the book done was the process of translating thought into art and words. He struggled many times with comics that turned out, in the early drafts, to be “too complicated”.
“My rule is, comics have to be funny in the least complicated way possible. There is really no point in drawing beautiful, lavish, complicated panels with lousy jokes. But comics that are visually not pleasing are also a turn off. So my challenge was to find that fine balance,” he says.
Lim strove to make Wilbur & Faraday as fun as it is educational, incorporating the wonders of science, ruminations on life, and amusing observations, into the book.
“I write regularly for a children’s magazine called Just English, and I enjoy contributing factual articles, so I guess that’s why Wilbur & Faraday is skewed towards that direction,” muses the father of two, daughter Paprika, eight, and son Saffron, six.
Lim hopes that Wilbur & Faraday will be something the entire family can share and read together.
“I would be very happy if the reader develops a sense of curiosity and a love for seeking answers to curiosities. We live in such a wonderful age where information is available at our fingertips. But if we do not ask questions, we will receive no answers,” he says.
Lim will be making appearances at the BookFest@Malaysia 2017 exposition currently ongoing at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Swing by at 4pm on June 27 to meet him and check out the book, and perhaps even score yourself a free Wilbur & Faraday T-shirt. On June 28, he will be running a workshop beginning at 5pm for children at which he will be presenting fun facts about the moon and providing infographics for children to fill in and colour.
BookFest@Malaysia 2017 is currently on daily, from 10am to 10pm, until July 2, at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Admission is with purchase of the BookFest catalogue at RM2.50 per entry or RM10 for multiple entries. Catalogues are available at all Popular and Harris bookstore outlets nationwide and also at the event’s entrance. Entrance is free for students 18 years old and below and senior citizens aged 60 and above.
For more information, visit facebook.com/ BookFestMalaysia. Star Media Group is a media partner of BookFest@Malaysia 2017.