KUALA LUMPUR: Cartoonist Fatah sat in his wheelchair surrounded by an excited crowd, his hands trembling from a nerve disorder, but he happily obliged autograph requests.
Thin and frail, the 66-year-old struggled to hold a pen and needed help to put pen to paper, and beamed after inscribing on the page.
His fan, a middle-aged man who grew up reading Fatah’s comics in the once-popular Gila-Gila magazine, broke out in a huge smile after getting the comic legend’s autograph in his newly-launched biography Fatah.
The book celebrates the Terengganu native’s contributions to the local comic scene, and is designed as a record of his artwork.
The cartoonist community, including Malaysian icon Datuk Mohd Nor Khalid, better known as Lat, gathered at the Malaysia Cartoon and Comic House to launch Fatah’s biography here yesterday in conjunction with Malaysia Cartoonist Month.
Due to his declining health, Fatah, whose real name is Abdul Fattah Ngah, can no longer draw or paint as he used to.
“Fatah is part of the first generation of cartoonists in Malaysia who made comic history and was part of Malaysia’s comic renaissance during the 70s,” said Fatah author Sabri Said.
“He was the first to create a character in the 1960s with a rich background story and the first to use the Terengganu dialect in comics,” he said of Fatah’s signature character A Mamud.
According to Sabri, Fatah’s hands started trembling when he first drew comics in his 20s but the slight tremble in his strokes created a style that was uniquely his.
Fatah’s comics, he added, depicted the simple life of kampung folk in Dungun, Terengganu, and were a reflection of the east-coast Malay community’s interactions, way of life and mindset.
He said Fatah had the uncanny ability to illustrate his hometown Dungun in great detail, right down to the company logo on the trains that passed through Bukit Besi.
“His jokes were not slapstick but relevant and people could identify with them.
“To this day, no other cartoonist has done what he did in terms of strokes, ideas or the background settings of the cartoons,” said Sabri, a former editor of Gila-Gila.
He also said Fatah, together with fellow cartoonists at Gila-Gila, helped establish “cartoonist” as a legitimate profession in the publishing industry.
Fatah, who mentored many budding artists in his younger days, now has difficulty speaking.
However, his thoughts and aspirations for the comic industry are captured in his biography.
“He would like people to know that cartoons are not just a form of entertainment but also a documentation of the culture, way of thinking, of the community and the people of Malaysia,” said Sabri.