Pandemic, anime style: Ernest Ng’s 'Covidball Z' webcomic has been turned into a book

‘I hope everyone pulls through this tough time and we all beat this thing,’ says Ng, who is worried about the spike in Covid-19 cases. His new book compiles the few first months of his pandemic series during the MCO. Photo: Filepic/Ernest Ng

It's the battle against the pandemic like you’ve never seen it before. The notorious Covid-19, depicted as a monstrous, heavily muscled green alien figure, out to wreak havoc on the world. And various politicians and public figures, many also depicted as cool, overly muscled figures, all rise to fight him.

In the past few pandemic months, comic book artist Ernest Ng has been drawing web cartoons about current affairs in the country and abroad.

Ng’s webcomic series started out as If Malaysian Politics Was An Anime, before it morphed into the cult classic If Covid-19 Was An Anime.

This online cartoon series went viral during the movement control order (MCO) period, and now, with a spike in Covid-19 cases, it’s timely to have Ng’s works compiled into a book titled If Malaysia Was Anime: Covidball Z to remind Malaysians to stay safe.

“After drawing for months, I realised that I had actually drawn over 200 pages and many online fans asked for a book to be made. Initially, I didn’t really think about it, but after a lot of requests I just caved and went ahead and made it into a book,” says Ng, 34, in a recent interview.

“I’m just happy that I managed to release a book this year,” he adds.

According to Ng, he never expected for his webcomic series to explode online.

Ng, also a YouTuber and the man behind the webcomic (and book) Bro, Don’t Like That La Bro: Here Comes The Bros, is a seasoned observer of contemporary Malaysian life.

Real life stories

The inspiration for If Malaysia Was Anime he reveals came from a previous project about the perils of shopping.

“It came last year when I did a piece about a guy having to fight it out during the yearly sales. He takes on some brawny men and I drew him fighting them off ‘anime’ style battle. Since then I realised I enjoyed exploring real life (events),” he explains.

However, the pressures and challenges of doing this If Malaysia Was Anime: Covidball Z webcomic, he mentions, came from keeping up with the real-time world.

News alerts and daily pandemic updates kept happening so fast and he had to quickly adapt the story as things went by. His deadlines were tighter and Ng had to work fast.

His book serves as a document of the early MCO days. Ng reveals that he thrived on the adrenaline rush when working to get the cartoons out.

Some of his memorable experiences also came when local politicians featured in the webcomic series actually responded to them.

“So far it has been an experience to remember. I also realised that many people are very into Japanese manga and they tend to get all the (cheeky) references I put in the panels ... I find that very enjoyable.”

Documenting the times

If Malaysia Was Anime: Covidball Z, which is self-published, also contains unreleased material.

“There are a few cartoons that I drew, but I didn’t post online because some were too ridiculous, in my opinion, and strayed a bit too far from reality. They have been added to the book, so people can see these works as bonus content,” he says.

Ng is also concerned about the current pandemic situation in the country, especially with red zones being declared.

His series is an ongoing one, and If Malaysia Was Anime: Covidball Z is the first volume. There will be new books out planned since Ng has current content to think about now.

Ng said that he had several other plans for 2020, but the pandemic has unfortunately put an end to them.

“What I really want is to take a break and go on a holiday,” he adds candidly.

However, it looks like Ng still has a lot on his plate (or on his art canvas!) as the pandemic situation in Malaysia is far from resolved.

“I hope everyone pulls through this tough time and we all beat this thing. Basically, the ending of my comic depends on how everyone behaves throughout this period.

“In essence, my comic is kind of a ‘choose your own adventure’ comic and everyone is playing it right now. I hope everyone chooses wisely so we all can get the good ending,” concludes Ng.

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ernest ng , covidball z , malaysian webcomic , book


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