Panji Koming, by Dwi Koendoro

Dwi Koendoro was an Indonesian cartoonist, most famous for his signature series 'Panji Koming' (1979- ) and 'Legenda Sawung Kampret' (1990-1991). Both are humorous comics series set in Indonesia's historical past, respectively the 13th-16th century and 17th century. Yet both have a satirical undercurrent, commenting on present-day Indonesian politics and society. Under president Suharto's regime, 'Panji Koming' was therefore often censored by its editors. Apart from making comics, Koendoro was also a film and animation producer. His work was very beloved in his home country and often won awards.

Early life and career
Dwi Koendoro Brotoatmodjo was born in 1941 in Banjar, Western Java, when the country was still under Dutch colonial rule. His father was an engineer, while his mother worked as a make-up artist for weddings. Her brother was a cartoonist too. Koendoro's father originally wanted his son to follow in his footsteps, but when he realized his talent for drawing, he helped him become a professional artist. One of their neighbours in Bandung, a painter named Herman, invited him to join the studio of Cipta Panca Angkasa, where Koendoro effectively became the youngest member! In 1958 the young man moved to Yogyakarta, studying painting at the Indonesian School of Fine Arts. After a while he changed to graphic illustration, which interested him more. He considered Walt Disney and Charles M. Schulz his main graphic influences. Much like Schulz and manga comics, Koendoro drew in a simple black-and-white style with mostly empty backgrounds. As a student, Koendoro already made illustrations and cartoons for the magazine Waspada and daily paper Kedaulan Rakyat.

Unfortunately, in 1965 president Sukarno's regime was toppled in a military coup. Suharto now became the country's dictator until 1998. In the chaos Koendoro was unable to continue his studies. He gave up cartooning for a while to become production manager at the Television Experimental Agency (more or less Indonesian public television) and the advertising bureau Intervista. At Intervista he learned a lot from Nuradi, an executive who schooled him in job and company ethics. In 1968 Koendoro moved up the ladder and remained involved with the network until 1972.

'Panji Koming', 2 November 1980.

From 1972 on Koendoro picked his illustration career up again and became a cartoonist for the magazines Stop and Senang. During this period, he drew a comic strip titled 'Legimin Bond', a spy parody obviously spoofing 'James Bond'. Four years later he joined the newspaper Harian Kompas as a cartoonist and as head of its publisher's audiovisual department: PT Gramedia Film. In 1979 he started running PT Citra Audivistama, a production company specialized in documentaries, animated films and advertisements. In 1984 Koendoro became chief editor of Harian Kompas, where he served as a mentor to many cartoonists associated with the company.

Other activities
Koendoro was the head of ANIMA (Indonesian Animation Association), the Cergam Contesting Judges and from 1995 on the director-general of the Cultural department of P&K. He was also head jury member during the Indonesian Soap Festival (FSI). In 2002 he established his own film studio.

'Panji Koming', 8 February 1998.

Panji Koming
At the advice of fellow cartoonist G.M. Sudarta, he started a satirical comic strip, which debuted on 14 October 1979 in the Sunday edition of Kompas (Kompas Minggu) as 'Panji Koming'. The series is set during the Majapahit dynasty (13th-16th century) and revolves around Panji Koming, a smart young peasant. His name is a contamination of the word "panji", an old Javanese title for mid-ranking royalty, and "koming" which means "stunted" or "small-minded". The word "koming" is also a verbal reference to the newspaper Kompas. Panji has a girlfriend, Ni Woro Ciblon, and a crazy but brave and loyal sidekick, Pailul, with an obese and talkative girlfriend, Ni Dyah Gembili. Whenever they need advice they go to the grandfatherly character Mbah, who lives like a hermit and owns a dog named Kirik. The post office worker Denmas Arya Kendor, with his bureaucratic obsessions, is a frequent target for jokes and basically acts as the antagonist of the series. Many characters in 'Panji Koming' are archetypes for the average Indonesian in society.

'Pailul', a mid-1980s spin-off strip with Panji Koming's sidekick.

However, underneath this historical setting, Koendoro often offered sly commentary on Indonesia's current politics and society. Panji Koming and his friends serve as underdogs who'll always defend the common people against those in power. Some episodes were therefore considered too daring for publication, especially under Suharto's regime. Editors sometimes withdrew episodes or asked the author to tone down some content. Precisely because 'Panji Koming' was so popular the comic strip was never banned and to this day it still runs in Kompas, though mostly drawn by assistants, including Koendoro's own son, Pinot.

Legenda Sawung Kampret
Koendoro's second best known comic strip, 'Legenda Sawung Kampret' (1990-1991), was another humorous historical adventure series, but set in the 17th century, when the Dutch East Indies Company colonized Indonesia. The main characters, Sawung Kampret and his obese sidekick Na'ip bin Jali, fight against Dutch colonial rule, with real-life historical explorer Jan Pieterszoon Coen being the series' antagonist. 'Sawung Kampret' is somewhat comparable to René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Astérix' in that regard, which features two Gaulish warriors resisting against the Roman Empire, personified in Julius Caesar. Other side characters are the Dutch people Dr. van Klompen and Fritz and Marietje van der Bloemkool. 'Sawung Kampret' ran in HumOr magazine, where in each issue at least five pages were devoted to a new episode. In 1996 Koendoro adapted his comic strip into an animated TV series broadcast on Surya Citra Televisi (SCTV).

'Legenda Sawung Kampret'.

Koendoro won an award at the Jakarta Arts Council Mini Festival twice (in 1974 and 1975) and two other times in 1979 and 1989, at the Indonesian Advertising Film Festival. He received the 1981 Citra Cup in the category "Best Documentary" at the Indonesian Film Festival. His work was awarded in 1994 at the International Animation Festival of Hiroshima too.

Dwi Koendoro passed away after a series of strokes in 2019, at the age of 78. To mourn his passing, the next episode of 'Panji Koming' in the papers had four pitch black panels, with in the final one the main cast members holding their heads down in sadness, while a series of dots float above their heads, symbolizing a minute of silence. Entertainment company Bumilangit made a special tribute drawing which showed all their superhero characters, including Gundale, Aquanus, Sri Asih, Godam and Si Buta dari Gua Hantu (Warrior from the Ghost Cave) pay their respects by laying flowers on his grave.

Family connections
Koendoro's wife Cik Dewasih worked as an illustrator for the magazine Bobo (the Indonesian version of the eponymous Dutch toddlers' magazine) under the pseudonym Cik Deka. Their son Wahyu Ichwandardi, also known as Pinot, is active as an animator and has occasionally assisted on his father's comics too.

2019 episode of 'Panji Koming', mourning the death of its creator.

Series and books by Dwi Koendoro in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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