Malaysian cartoonist Aie, who is known as one of the best visual storytellers to emerge from the 1990s local comics scene, died early today (June 28) of kidney failure at his home in Banting, Selangor.
The Johor-raised Aie, who’s real name is Saari Sulong, was 48.
In the early 1990s, the self-taught Aie started out in the Bahasa Malaysia comics scene with the Jenakarama magazine.
He gained prominence a few years later through his work in the Ujang comics magazine, where he pencilled the highly-related Abe comedy drama series, which was written by veteran cartoonist Ujang.
Abe told a slice of life story about a special needs child who lived in a kampung setting, where he was often bullied by villagers. The main character Abe was protected by his older friend Che Din, who stood up for him and joined him on daily adventures.
Abe remains one of the most endearing Malaysian comics from the 1990s, establishing Aie's early career as one of Ujang magazine's finest talents.
Another important work that Aie worked on was the youthful angst-riddled Aku Hidup Dalam Blues series in the Ujang comics magazine in 1994.
This pioneering series of Bahasa Malaysia "grunge lit" was later collected and turned into a best-selling graphic novel in the late 1990s.
The Aku Hidup Dalam Blues series, written by the late Azzam Supardi (aka Toyon) and illustrated by Aie, captured a coming of age 1990s story set against the backdrop of grunge culture, music, family and love.
Aku Hidup Dalam Blues caught the imagination of local readers who identified with the book's main character Sham - a young Malaysian - who studied in Seattle before returning home to an uncertain future. It often addressed themes such as social alienation, self-doubt, neglect and other slacker dilemmas.
In the early 2000s, Aie grew in stature as an innovative solo artist, who was willing to experiment with storylines and formats. He started out a new indie series titled Aku Dan Sesuatu, where he inked and wrote the reality-based story. His poetic writing in this series - half comics, half novel - centred on characters and hard-bitten lives in the creative industry.
He was also behind the Jenama X graphic novel anthology series, featuring cartoonist friends such as Sireh, Ubi, Tembakau and Gayour.
Throughout a nearly 30 year career, Aie worked with various mediums, starting off with pencil, ink and watercolour before dabbling in animation, album artwork, commercial work and conceptual art projects.