Friday, August 11, 2017

Retro Foreign: Indonesian Rachman: Petruk Gareng dan Scooby Doo dalam Pengembaraan Ruang Angkasa

Indonesia has a rich history of wayang, or shadow puppet theater, that dates back to medieval times.  In one style called wayan kulit, the dalang, or puppeteer, tells stories by lighting the puppets from behind casting a shadow on a white cloth.  A popular family of characters called Punkawan, or clown servants, would usually appear in the 2nd act of a these plays.  The Punkawan are composed of a father, Semar, and his three sons, Gareng, Petruk, and Bangong.  They usually act as advisers to the hero of the story and their appearance in plays is highly anticipated by audiences due to their comedic relief.

Two of these characters, Petruk and Gareng, were modernized and adapted to comics starting in the 1960s by a prolific Indonesian artist, Indri Soedono, who worked on these comics into the 1970s.  Other artists would also work on these characters and one of the more prominent is Tatang Suhenra (Tatang S.) who worked on the characters in the 1980s when the comics were very popular with school children due to the slapstick nature of the stories.  Petruk is tall and gangly with a long nose and Gareng is his shorter companion.

I acquired a digest-sized Petruk and Gareng comic, published by Gultom Agency, and drawn by Rachman which has a rather bizarre lineup of pop culture characters although I suspect this is normal for a Petruk and Gareng comic based on my research.  The title is Petruk Gareng dan Scooby Doo dalam Pengembaraan Ruang Angkasa or Petruk Gareng and Scooby Doo in a Space Odyssey.  In the story, Petruk is wearing a shirt that looks very similar to the Star Trek uniform worn by Jame T. Kirk in the original Star Trek television series minus the Starfleet badge.  Gareng is wearing an outfit that has a helmet very similar to those worn by the characters in the cartoon G-Force and his uniform has a giant G on the front chest.  They are flying a spaceship that looks like the Millennium Falcon while another more traditional rocket ship has the Scooby Doo gang, including Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and of course Scooby Doo.  They all land on a planet where they meet a character that looks like Big Foot, but is actually Chewbacca who actually talks to them!  Along with Chewbacca are Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Obi-Wan Kenobi; Obi-Wan only appears in one panel and Han disappears from the story after appearing in a second panel.  Chewbacca and Luke join the others on a trip to yet another planet flying their own spacecraft.  On the other planet, they meet Bruce Lee, fight some creatures and meet a Princess that looks nothing like Princess Leia.  As Luke and the Princess are eyeing each other, Gareng drop kicks Luke, I'm not kidding here, and other high jinks ensue.  In the story, Scooby Doo, Luke Skywalker, and Bruce Lee are named.  Even Star Wars is mentioned, making me believe there is some awareness by Petruk and Gareng of the characters they are meeting.

Rachman: Petruk Gareng dan Scooby Doo dalam Pengembaraan Ruang Angkasa a
- Gultom Agency, Indonesia (1980s)
On the cover are several characters from the story.  The two in the lower left hand corner are Petruk and Gareng, both wearing Star Trek style shirts, and next to them are Shaggy, Velma, and Scobby Doo.  Behind Velma and Scooby Doo is Chewbacca.  The character next to the UFO in the middle of the cover is Bruce Lee.  I applaud the writer for being able to concoct a story that has such a diverse lineup of characters.

The Petruk and Gareng stories published by Gultom Agency are known for containing 2 panels, one on top of the other, per page, so while the publisher is not identified, I think it is safe to assume this issue is from that publisher.  There is an unrelated 2nd story in the comic which looks like it takes place during the medieval ages.

As I am learning more about these Indonesian comics, several items are becoming apparent.  The artists of the stories was important to selling the comic and many times their names are shown first on the cover.&bnsp; Additionally, it is possible not every comic with the same cover contains the same two stories on the inside.  (Most of these digest-sized comics contain 2 stories.)  This hasn't been proven yet, but there is anecdotal evidence of this from comparing these comics with others who have the same issues.  This could be due to a lack of quality control at the publishers or some other way that they used to package the content.

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