sma21 swa1 sma21

SMA9 Interview #1 – RIZA aL ASSAMI (Grand Prix Runner up)

Brendan W. Brendan W. 10/08/2018 18 min read

Surrounded by the beautiful scenery of his native Indonesia, ‘SMA9 Grand Prix Runner Up’ AND ‘SMA9 Excellence Award’ winner RIZA aL ASSAMI has bounced back from despair with a determined sense of mission and some lightning fast manga creating skills to boot! Join us as we meet the man himself and find out what inspires him to draw each day!



  “I HAVE to make a manga like this one day!!”  

Hi there, Riza! First, let me just say CONGRATULATIONS on your winning entries!

Thank you! I still can’t believe it really! Haha!


Well, no need to pinch yourself, you definitely did it! Let’s dive straight in by asking you a little about how you started creating manga. What was the spark that caused you to pick up your pen?

I always enjoyed reading manga but I never considered having a stab at creating any myself, until I read the (SMA 1 Winner) Alex Irzaqi manga called “Dharmaputra winehsuka.” He’s a fellow countryman so seeing how he combined Indonesian culture with his interesting art style really blew me away! As soon as I finished reading, I immediately said to myself “I HAVE to make a manga like this one day!!”


And here we are now! Is there any particular method you use when creating manga?

Like most manga creators, I generally begin with a story idea. Once I’ve got something in mind, I’ll create a name and proceed with the sketching and inking before scanning the pages onto my PC for toning and finishing.


I see! Do you do all of this at home, or in a studio?

I actually don’t have a specific place to work. I draw wherever I feel like it, be it at home whilst watching T.V., or even laying in bed! The only thing I do entirely in front of my PC is toning, since my computer is too heavy to carry around!


Ah, so you’re more analog than digital?

Yes! From creating a story and name, through to inking the final work, I do everything analog. I only go digital when it comes to toning and adding the finishing touches. I often see professional manga creators on YouTube applying screentone manually which always makes me want to attempt it myself. However, screentones are not only expensive in Indonesia, they’re also quite difficult for vendors that sell. As such, I prefer to use Photoshop!


You must have lots of pens and paper lying around then!

Indeed! I’ve used the same materials for many years now; paper, pencils, snowman drawing pens (size 0.1 and 0.2) and a small marker that cost me 1000 rupiah (around ¥7).

In addition, I have a laptop that a friend lent me after the CPU on my main computer broke in 2016. The laptop doesn’t have a battery though, and the keyboard is also damaged but I’ve rigged it up to my old keyboard and monitor so it’s still alive and kicking! Haha!






“We’ll have to visit the Shadow Puppet museum!”


Being somewhere as picturesque as Indonesia must give you lots of inspiration.

Yes, I live in a small village called Tembok Lor, which is located in Tegal City. It’s a beautiful location with a mountain range situated to the south, and a black sand coastline to the north. Actually, it’s the perfect place for an artist like me to live!


Wow, that certainly sounds very nice!

It is! The food is great, and I’m surrounded by plenty of beautiful scenery! If you ever visit here, I’d love to show you the mountain waterfall and natural hot spring baths. Oh, and of course we’ll have to visit the shadow puppet (wayang) museum owned by the famous puppeteer Ki Enthus Susmono!


I’m sold! I love mountains, and waterfalls never fail to amaze me! You certainly have a rich culture, but what is the comic/manga scene like in your country?

Right now, digital comics, particularly webtoons, seem to be gaining a lot of ground.


I see, and do you have any particular favorites?

Actually I read comics from all over the world. Indonesian comics, western comics, comics from Hong Kong and Korea, and of course, Japanese manga. I love so many titles so it’s hard to pick a favorite, but one manga I really love is Takehiko Inoue’s ‘Vagabond’. I’m also very fond of Daisuke Igarashi’s work. Other works that I’m really into would be those of Sergio Toppi (from Italy), and Norman Rockwell (from the U.S.) so I guess you could say I’m into classic stuff.


Riza has a broad taste in manga!


That’s a broad taste you have there! Are locally created comics/manga well received in your area?

Yes, we have a local comicon which is held several times a year. It’s pretty popular and it’s a great place for artists to meet fellow creators and comic fans, plus an opportunity to sell work.


So I’m guessing you know other local creators?

Of course! I have a lot of creator friends, but my favorites would have to be Alex Irzaqi and Sweta Kartika since they always include elements of local Indonesian culture in their work. I’m also a big fan of DS Studio since their beautiful work always brightens up my Facebook timeline!




“We will never find style, but style will find us.”


Moving on to SMA9, how long did it take to create your manga?

I finished them both about a month before the deadline.


Wowzers! You certainly didn’t mess around! Where did you find the inspiration for your entries?

I started by understanding the theme, then I pieced together a suitable story after drawing inspiration from the environment – not to mention reading a great deal of reference material!


Both Hara-sensei and Hojo-sensei were impressed by the considerable difference in art style that you used for “The Last of Us” and “Together”. Is there any particular reason why you wanted them to look so different?

Ah, thanks Hara-sensei and Hojo-sensei! For ‘The Last of Us’, Takehiko Inoue’s ‘Vagabond’ was a big help in me grasping the fine details of the characters’ designs. For the story of the children in ‘Together’, I wanted to illustrate it in a simpler way that’s more akin to the work of Naoki Urasawa. Regarding the contrast in art styles I used, I always remember the words of American cartoonist Scott McCloud when he said “We will never find style, but style will find us.” I draw from inspiration from a lot of different reference sources, and try to adapt my style each time accordingly. Maybe my next entry will also look different.


More samurai frolics than you can shake a katana at!


In “The Last of Us”, Hara-sensei also liked how you included the samurai short-sword in the story. What inspired you to include it?

I’ve always loved stories about samurai, whether I read them in encyclopedias, comics, novels, or movies. I’m just fascinated by how they lived and maintained their code of honor. Of course, the sword fights are also pretty awesome! Haha!  Recently I’ve been enjoying Akira Kurosawa movies, such as ‘Seven Samurai’, ‘Yojimbo’, and ‘Rashomon’, all of which I find really cool.


Well, you’re preaching to the choir there Riza, as I love Kurosawa’s movies too! Speaking of details, we were impressed by the level you put in both entries. Were there any parts in particular that gave you trouble?

Dividing the panels was what gave me the most trouble since I really wanted to maximize the use of all 16 pages so that the readers could fully understand the message I wanted to share.


Well, you certainly made it look easy! Regarding SMA9, what other entries did you like?

I loved Paco Puente’s ‘Sleepy Rock Z’. It was so funny!


Ooh! We obviously have similar taste, since I loved that one too! Haha!




“I used to be a reader, but now I can proudly say I’m part of the manga industry!”


Judging by the level of work you’re creating now, it’s clear you have a bright future in manga. Looking ahead, what kind of manga do you want to create?

I definitely want to keep creating. Actually, it’s my dream to create a manga about ‘Wayang’, Indonesian shadow puppets, since they’re a huge part of my country’s cultural heritage. In the same way that Japanese creators share their country’s culture with people all over the world via manga, I hope to one day do the same for Indonesia. Few people know about Wayang these days so I want to do my best to change that!


Ki Enthus Susmono and his wayang (Photo by hok le kio)


That’s certainly a very noble undertaking! We certainly look forward to seeing what you come up with! By the way, how does it feel to be part of the SMAC! community now?

It’s a dream come true. I used to be a reader, but now I can proudly say I’m part of the manga industry which makes me feel very proud. To my readers; I will strive to create the best work, to my fellow creators; let’s be friends, and to the editors; you are all very cheerful and friendly. I love you guys!


Aww that’s very kind of you to say! On that note, is there anything else you’d like to share with the community?

In truth, 2016 was the worst year for me. The hard drive on my computer broke and I instantly lost 500gb of data. All the image files, reference material, art and story concepts I worked on for 3 years disappeared in a flash. To make matters worse, I was on the verge of signing a contract with a publisher and making my debut, but I lost everything. All I could do was cry. What happened after is actually a pretty long story so I’ll save that for another time. But despite all that, I didn’t give up on my dream of becoming a comic creator and here I am. There are always challenges, but I really hope that fellow creators never give in to their limitations, and have a strong spirit because the results will never betray their efforts, believe me ^^


I think I can safely say, on behalf of the entire SMAC! editorial team and community, we’re very glad you didn’t give up on your dream! We can barely wait to see what you come up with next! Thank you so much Riza!

  And there we have it! Now it’s YOUR turn to become an award winning manga creator!!

Make manga your language too! Take your first step into the world of making manga by joining SMA X! You have until September 30th, 2018 to say “HELLO” to your new friends! Click the banner for more details on how to enter…

Brendan W.

Brendan W.