3 posts categorized ":01 AUTHOR on AUTHOR INTERVIEWS"

January 15, 2007


CAMPBELL: There must have been a terrific demand for Kampung Boy over the years. I wonder if you can tell us how many copies of it have sold all together since it was first published in 1979?

LAT: I can’t tell you off hand the total number....it had gone through the 11th reprint a couple of years ago..

CAMPBELL: They made an animated series of the Kampung Boy for television a few years ago. Can you tell us a little about that. Did it live up to your expectations?

LAT: In the 1990’s Malaysia launched its own satellite TV station ....and I wanted to get in touch with the most important audience of all--- the toddlers. Measat (Malaysia East Asia Satellite TV) offered me to do this made-for-TV Kampung Boy animated series that would appeal to the pre-school and primary school kids. I came out with story ideas....to develop them we worked in a big team. So it was the work of a very big production team.

CAMPBELL: My favorite of all your books is without a doubt Town Boy, the follow up to Kampung Boy. It was a book about your teenage years, very funny but also so poignant in places, in its accounts of first girl friends and partings from boyhood pals. I wonder if you are more fond of this work which sits a little in the shadow of the more famous Kampung Boy?

LAT: Town Boy was about growing up as a teenager in Ipoh (where I have come back to... in my semi-retirement days)...The teenager discovered new very exciting things....I learned a second language...and I understood what was said and sung on the radio....I Wanna Hold Your Hand...I heard this Western girl singing “I Will Follow Him”....how cheeky...and I wondered how a girl could go a post office to mail a parcel to answer the call of her boyfriend who said please “Send Me The Pillow That You Dreamed On”...

I made new pals and they were Chinese, Indians and Eurasians...we’d meet at our rendezvous - either the Rex or Lido cinema....We saw the cheap matinee re-run movie about David Niven going around the world...his assistant (Passepartout) rode a very funny bicycle with one huge wheel...we laughed...my young brother Rahman and I laughed so hard till there were tears in our eyes....I was very happy because I still had some coins in my trouser pocket and later we’d play one song at the juke box...the song was about a new dance called the Mash Potato...the name of the singer was quite easy to remember....D D Sharp...And I had money given by my mom to buy my drawing papers, dipping pens and black ink...

I’d pay mom her money back because the sixties also saw me drawing for the entertainment magazines and newspapers...I made a lot of pocket money from cartoons in the newspapers on monthly basis...I was 17...Beatles were singing Hey Jude...Cowboy movies were getting sophisticated...They even had Burt Bacharach writing the score...Town Boy were the days before I moved to the capital city to venture into life as an adult....and later a professional doodler . Yipee!

CAMPBELL: I noticed you returned to the subject of the Kampung in 1993 with Kampung Boy Yesterday and Today. The modern sequences were done in lovely watercolours. I wonder what you think of the technological advances in publishing since ’93, with computers and all. I see they’ve made a font out of your hand-lettering for instance. And do you send your art to the paper or book publisher now on disc or even email? I wonder what the boy in the Kampung would have thought if he could have foreseen it all?

LAT: Anybody would end up writing like me if they’re writing in a hurry.....I don’t do much coloring any more...if I do I’d use water-color or felt-tipped marker pens...I only use the computer to look at my e-mail....My wife Faezah helps me scan my drawings and e-mail them to the newspaper office in far-off Kuala Lumpur.


January 12, 2007



(An editorial cartoon from Lat, from the beginning of 2007 -- click to enlarge)

CAMPBELL: A couple of the books I have here are collections of your newspaper cartoons. We would probably refer to them as ‘political cartoons’. I would imagine this is your ‘bread and butter’ work, but I’ve read that you don’t think of yourself as a political cartoonist..

LAT: I have never been a political cartoonist....but an editorial cartoonist- yes...Yes, these editorial cartoons would be compiled into a book every one or two years and we’d call it Lat’s Lot...Lat was Here...Lat Gets Lost etc....all pertaining to Malaysian current affairs...events...daily life....social commentary. I don’t think I am a political cartoonist because whenever I draw politicians the issues I touch on are very light humor...not deep enough....because politics don’t last....I prefer my drawings to last a longer life like in the Kampung Boy and Town Boy books.

CAMPBELL: One of your other books shows you travelling around in Europe in ’79 or ’80. This was the first work of yours I ever saw, way back in 1982. Were you sending cartoons back to your newspaper and was the paper contributing to your expenses, or did you put your job on hold while you went to see the world?

LAT: Suddenly I became famous in the late 70’s because or my Scenes of Malaysian Life cartoons in the New Straits Times English daily....Malaysia had longed for local yokels...I drew folkie stuff...the public liked it...they said it was about their lives....from a Day at the Races to the Malay, Chinese or Sikh Wedding ceremonies....I could handle it rather easy because I was still a reporter in that newspaper at that time. You know what reporting is like....GET THE STORIES! So the foreign embassies and high commissions in Malaysia was certain about one thing:” If we invite this guy to our homeland (all expenses paid), he’d draw about us! It’d be good to know what he thinks about our country...!”
The first embassy to send me an invitation was none other than the USA......under the International Visitors’ Program....early 1977....I zig-zagged across the continent...Elvis was alive...the first month was official (I was escorted) treated like a VIP from Washington DC to Phoenix...when that ended I asked for an extension of stay...on my own...(spending my own pocket money)...I was a hippie. I took the Grayhound bus from Phoenix to Memphis...then Nashville...finally ended up in Santa Fe and stayed for a few weeks. The locals thought I was a Hopi.
Yes, when I got invited to those various countries I drew about my travels ... the hosts paid the expenses....Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany... Later I preferred to save money and traveled on my own during holidays because I love traveling to other countries....and I prefer traveling with my wife and kids.

CAMPBELL: Kampung Boy is your most famous work. I’m curious as to how it came about, since there has never been an automatic market for a cartoon memoir. Did you go to the publisher with a finished project, or with a plan for one? I imagine this was right at the beginning of your career, so you wouldn’t have had a reputation at that point.

LAT: Kampung Boy is about the early childhood in a Malaysian village. I drew the pages in 1977, 78...and it got published in 1979. We had become city rats and I wanted to tell people about our origins. I didn’t have a dateline for it....I just drew when I had free time at home. My three books before Kampung Boy were all compilation of editorial cartoons....so I decided to give to the public a fresh work. Of course I was new, the world was new....they wanted more and more. Needless to say, I was no longer a stranger to Malaysians when that book was put out on sale.

January 11, 2007


Eddie Campbell interviews Mohammed Nor Khalid, aka LAT, author of KAMPUNG BOY, and the upcoming TOWN BOY. Lat is revered throughout Southeast Asia for his work of many years as the greatest cartoonist from Malaysia. First Second is honored to launch its author on author interviews with this gem in three parts -- special thanks to both of them.

Hi, Lat. Eddie Campbell here. We exchanged a few emails around five years ago. It is truly wonderful to see our books appearing from the same publisher after all these years. I hope we get to meet sometime.

CAMPBELL: The ‘Lat’ abbreviation has served you well over the years. The titles of your books have usually been a play on the name (Such as “Better Lat than never’, ‘Lat’s Lot’, and ‘Lots of Lat’. What’s your full name and how does it feel to be internationally known by such a short one?

LAT: Lat is short for the Malay word “bulat” meaning round or moon-shaped...the moon is bulat, the soccer ball too...and so is the globe...The family wouldn’t call you Mohammed Nor Khalid when you’re a stark naked toddler running around the village house. The name Lat got stuck till school days, early adulthood and eventually up to the end. My books had been passed around between Malaysian students studying abroad and people of the countries they were in right from the 1970’s....In a way, I had already “gone international” even then...

CAMPBELL: I’m writing here with eight big Lat books in front of me, which must be only about a quarter of the total. The marvel is not that you are now winning accolades in the USA but that it took so long. Something about the style of your work and its charm makes me want to fetch out my handful of books by another great cartoonist, Carl Giles, who was a regular in the British Daily Express for over fifty years between ’44 and the mid-‘80s. Was he a favourite of yours in your early days?

Here’s a reminder, from 1961:


LAT: In my school days I drew in the style of Malaysian comic artist Raja Hamzah and cartoonist Rejab Had...later I thought I had been more influenced by Frank Dickens who drew Bristow...Ralph Steadman because I was reading Rolling Stone magazine in the later Nixon years... I first saw a Giles’ cartoon in the Daily Express in March 1975...the subject was “White Easter” as it was snowing in London, I was walking around Bayswater very excited about snow flakes falling....then that cartoon appeared on the front page....and it was my first trip to the United Kingdom too. I didn’t see much of Giles’ cartoons in the UK. I would see the works of other cartoonists in Punch and Private Eye.

CAMPBELL: What other things were you looking at when you were young? Davey Law’s Dennis the Menace perhaps?

LAT: The little Kampung Boy with the pile of hair is supposed to be me in the early days...there were two types of boys in the cartoon and comic world at that time - naughty ones with the bushy hair and nice boys with the nicely-combed centre-parting hairdo. Cartoonists the whole world over would draw like that...you’d see characters like Smasher and Dennis the Menace as good examples. Yes I read Beano and Dandy when I was a kid. We bought them second hand....no, more like third or fourth-hand... at the Sunday market. Sometimes I was lucky enough to be able to borrow Classics Illustrated comic books from school friends. The first one I read was The Man Who Laughs (Victor Hugo?)

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