Cartoonist explores emotional journey of parenting a child with special needs


Following his daughter’s Dalya’s diagnosis with Smith-Magenis Syndrome, Zid created a comic to raise awareness about the condition. Photo: Mohamad Yazid Kamal Baharin

As the father of two young daughters, comic book artist Mohammad Yazid Kamal Baharin, better known as Zid, reveals that he and his small family embrace a day-by-day approach to life.

“I’ve long realised I was never in control of my path. I can plan, but I learned the hard way through the curve balls that I’ve been thrown at time and time again that the best way to move forward is to let go and ride the waves,” he says in a recent interview in Kuala Lumpur.

One of those “curve balls” was discovering that his youngest, Dalya, has Smith-Magenis Syndrome, a rare neurodevelopmental disorder caused by chromosome deletion at the embryonic stage, often leading to difficulty sleeping and developmental delays, such as speech and language issues.

Dalya was initially thought to have Prader-Willi Syndrome, a more commonly known rare condition. But in 2021, after going through rapid early intervention therapies that didn’t improve the outcome, it was recommended that Dalya have her blood tested to get a more solid diagnosis.

“Lo and behold, it was a completely different condition – Smith-Magenis Syndrome is rarer, with a different set of genetic deletion. But knowing is half the long and arduous battle ahead of us,” says Zid.

Together with his wife Maisara Ainulsofia Abdul Rashid, known as Sara, they have created a nurturing and affectionate home – in Subang Jaya – for their two daughters: Zayra, their spirited and determined seven-year old, and Dalya, now five, who needs additional care due to her special needs.

The cover of Zid’s graphic novel 'Diary Of A Work-From-Home Dad (Volume 1)', set for a reprint after its initial run sold out. Photo: Mohamad Yazid Kamal Baharin The cover of Zid’s graphic novel 'Diary Of A Work-From-Home Dad (Volume 1)', set for a reprint after its initial run sold out. Photo: Mohamad Yazid Kamal Baharin

“Despite growing up in isolation during the pandemic, Zayra is thriving in school. She loves making friends, and is performing in completing her daily tasks in her class. She also shines when encouraged with positive encouragement, so we commit to propping up her self-esteem that way,” shares Zid.

Working as a team, Zid and Sara juggle caring for Zayra and Dalya alongside their personal endeavours – Zid, 41, a self-employed comic artist, diligently meets deadlines for his diverse projects, while Sara explores her hobbies in crafting, from sewing to claymaking.

“Sara remains the backbone homemaker to allow my daily grind to operate smoothly,” he adds.

A visual diary

Since 2019, Zid has been sharing online comics that chronicle the highs and lows of fatherhood while navigating a career in the unpredictable comics industry. His series, aptly titled Diary Of A Work-From-Home Dad, captures this balancing act with humour and heart.

The comic – a mix of lighthearted, chuckle-inducing situations to heart achingly vulnerable moments – has become a hit among his followers on social media, which still comes as a surprise to Zid.

“It started off as a way to immortalise one-off moments that I found funny or significant, or situations that I wanted to cherish in visual form, but after some time, it’s become something akin to a family photo album – one that my children can look through fondly, maybe even after I’m no longer around, complete with my personal narration to guide them through the time machine,” says Zid.

In this family photo, comic book artist Zid (left) is accompanied by his daughters Zayra (middle), Dalya (right), and his wife Sara, standing behind them. Photo: Mohamad Yazid Kamal Baharin In this family photo, comic book artist Zid (left) is accompanied by his daughters Zayra (middle), Dalya (right), and his wife Sara, standing behind them. Photo: Mohamad Yazid Kamal Baharin

For him, the comics are also his way to help shed light into the lives of those with developmental disorders, as well as that of their families and caretakers.

“At the back of my mind, there’s this need to spread awareness of what we go through as a family with one of us who has a rare condition, so that the public would be less judgemental towards others who may not be so keen to share their battles out in the open.

“Perhaps it’s in the hopes of encouraging a culture of understanding and support that will make it easier for us and those like us to manoeuvre through our daily lives, especially in public spaces,” he says.

The comic recently transitioned from online to physical copies as Zid premiered the self-published Diary Of A Work-From-Home Dad (Volume 1) at last weekend’s Comic Art Festival Kuala Lumpur.

“The idea to compile the comics into a physical comic has been a frequent suggestion by readers of the series, which I initially waved off, because self-publication is an expensive commitment, and there is no guarantee that you can make a return on your investment,” says Zid.

‘I honestly didn’t expect people to be interested in reading and owning a storybook about someone’s life without superheroes or fantastical actions,’ says Zid. Photo: Mohamad Yazid Kamal Baharin ‘I honestly didn’t expect people to be interested in reading and owning a storybook about someone’s life without superheroes or fantastical actions,’ says Zid. Photo: Mohamad Yazid Kamal Baharin

But he eventually relented when Zayra stumbled upon photos of Zid from his younger days, selling DIY comics at independent comic book and fan conventions.

“Her interest was piqued – I think it was more to do with the cosplayers, really. But Sara suggested that I take this opportunity to reach new audiences with a physical version of the series while at the same time bringing Zayra to experience a convention for the first time,” he adds.

Beyond superheroes

Zid printed a modest 120 copies of the Diary Of A Work-From-Home Dad comic for the event, which quickly sold out, much to his shock.

“I honestly didn’t expect people to be interested in reading and owning a storybook about someone’s life without superheroes or fantastical actions,” he admits, noting that he doesn’t have a concrete plan for the series.

“What I know for certain is that there are many more stories waiting in the backlog, eager to be drawn and compiled until I can no longer tell them.”

Zid is currently gearing up for a second print run of the comic due to high demand, including numerous walk-in orders and requests from overseas after selling out. To secure a copy, interested readers can reach out to Zid through his social media accounts or official website.

A page from the 'Diary Of A Work-From-Home Dad (Volume 1)' graphic novel. Photo: Mohamad Yazid Kamal Baharin A page from the 'Diary Of A Work-From-Home Dad (Volume 1)' graphic novel. Photo: Mohamad Yazid Kamal Baharin

With a background in collaborating with major international comic book publishers, Zid’s illustrations grace notable works such as Dune: The Official Movie Graphic Novel, Lost In Space, and the Monsterverse.

He considers one of his proudest professional achievements to be his work on Kingdom Kong, where he was entrusted with designing Camazotz, a winged, subterranean bat-centric kaiju integrated into the Monsterverse lore.

However, for him, no accolade or recognition could overshadow his family.

“I may not have the same level of fame, productivity, or technical prowess as my peers, but having my family who holds me in such high regard is more than sufficient motivation for me to continue striving to make them proud,” he concludes.

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Zid , comic book , artist , graphic novel , visual , diary

   

Next In Culture

Weekend for the arts: Hwang Bo-reum book tour, Peking opera magic
Furry divine symbols: cats join Egyptian antiquities show at Shanghai Museum
Romania faces down Louis Vuitton for 'stealing' its beloved blouse
Grammy Museum to rock a K-pop exhibit with BTS and Le Sserafim artefacts
Singapore's hell theme park dead serious about afterlife
Young Canadian pianist Tony Ann strikes a chord in neo-classical scene
Brighten the corners: Swiss collection shown in a new light
London exhibition chronicles 65 years of Barbie's design evolution
Melaka Heritage Festival to feature 'Malakka Dutch Week' and Hang Tuah theatre
Veteran dancer-choreographer reclaims the spotlight with ArtKU dance series

Others Also Read