Malaysian character animator, illustrator and comics creator Erica Eng is currently living the comic artist dream. Her webcomic titled Fried Rice has been nominated in the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards – the comic industry’s equivalent to the Oscars, where it is in the running with five other worthy contenders for the Best Webcomic award.
Erica is a graduate of Digital Animation from The One Academy, and is currently pursuing a degree in 3D character animation. The autobiographical slice-of-life webcomic is her most poignant work to date. It centres around Min, a 17-year-old girl from Batu Pahat, Johor who aspires to be an artist and animator, visiting her cousin in Kuala Lumpur. It follows her as she applies to an art school and chases her dream.
Fried Rice is an ongoing work that is expected to have a finish of 200 pages. She updates every Sunday morning which is a challenge, but she is committed to finish it, with her biggest motivation being to see modern Malaysian life depicted in comics. Readers will be able to feel the nostalgia through the sepia tones and familiar local elements.
“It is about a girl who wants to be an artist, but she doesn’t really see her surrounding as an art pool, so she wants to leave to study abroad. The experiences I put her in are based on my life, but I would say that she is a different person from me,” she preluded to the story.
“The comic is based on my experience after graduating high school and wanting to be an artist and animator. It takes a lot of discipline to keep cranking out pages week after week, but I love this story so I’m committed to finish it,” Erica said.
Even at the young age of 15, she knew that she wanted to be an animator. Her interest in comics as an art form only started in college, where she also actively participated in projects and competitions with her course mates. She took on the role of directing 21 students on the animated short film Farewell, which won multiple awards in the Student Kancil Awards 2019, Asiagraph 2019 and FLiCKERFEST 2020.
She got to know about the Eisner Awards when she was reading graphic novels and found that many of the artists had this award. Inspired by other Malaysians who have paved the way to the Eisners, Eng decided that she wanted to try her luck as well. It became an entry in her bucket list to be ticked off. She was not expecting anything out of it, but thought that it was something she should try.
Her advice to young people who would like to turn their interest and hobby into a career is to “set your standards high and look at the people who’ve been there and done that. Look at their work and try to model your work after that. Don’t be envious of awards or titles, envy the craft instead.”
Erica is the fourth Malaysian ever to be nominated in the prestigious awards, bringing pride and glory to the country. The future of Malaysia’s animation and illustration scene sure looks bright with a talent like her. Huge congratulations and all the best in winning! Her ongoing weekly webcomic can be read at www.friedricecomic.com.