Contributed by collector and Overstreet Advisor Art Cloos
Indonesian comic books are a niche of the comic collecting world that are almost unknown to western comic book fans. They can also be very frustrating to document. Finding the publisher, dates of publication, and just being able to read them if one does not understand the language are all very difficult tasks. Anything prior to or around 1979 is usually in poor shape, so one does not collect these looking for pristine condition copies. For this column I will take a look at two examples, to present an idea of what they are like.
First up is a book from Ermar Press which was located in Bandung, capital of Indonesia’s West Java province. There is no month or year of publication anywhere on it, but the guy I got it from is fairly sure it was published in the mid-1970s through the early 1980s and my gut tends to agree with him. It reprints the actual art from World’s Finest #106 (December 1959). It has a script by Bill Finger, pencils by Dick Sprang, and inks by Sheldon Moldoff (all in black and white). The cover, though, echoes the UK 1966 Batman World Adventure Library series from issue 8. While not a direct swipe it is pretty darn close, especially the logo which makes this even more interesting as I wonder if this shows that the UK books made it into Indonesia? Despite having some kind of access to the art which would indicate some sort of NPP involvement, there is no copyright information to be found or a year it was published.
It’s interesting that the lady on the cover looks like Catwoman but in the book, she is named Putri Bintang and in English her name is translated as PrincessStar/Wonder/Amazing. She’s an obvious take on Wonder Woman and she has an original story as the backup in the book with art that is pretty decent. She appeared in her own comic too, one of which I have included here. Also, in that burst on the Indonesian cover it says “Baru Semua” which translates to “All New!” and the word “Kembar” on the bottom right mean “Twins” in English. The book has on the inside front and inside back cover “Wins Tomas Oil Company” stamped on it, so for all I know it could be a giveaway. Comics were actually rented in Indonesia for 1¢ in their currency and this could have been rented too, but again I do not currently know. It is a book still full of mystery. Personally, I like the bootleg cover more than the US one.
The second one is from the bootleg publisher Jergam Fantasy, this one has an interior date of September 27, 1972 and features a team-up of Tarzan and Batman. The story and art seem to be native to the region with no impute from DC, as it is very doubtful that they would allow their character to suffer the fate he does in this story. In this one, Batman makes a relatively short appearance and after a quick fight Tarzan dispatches Batman with relative ease. He then removes his mask as he lies unconscious, something that would not make US fans of the caped crusader very happy. It seems the US comic practice of having heroes fight to a draw does not apply here. Since I can’t read any of the story and googling every word in the book is impractical I don’t know why they fought. Still, I love the cover.
In terms of collecting these books, one must understand that the climate alone is a very real danger to them and many comics succumb to it. In addition, few thought to save them as the whole notion of collecting comics seems to be a significantly more recent development there then it was here, but there does seem to be the beginnings of a collecting fandom today. Plus it simply is not easy to get them out of Indonesia and to the US (or really any part of the comic collecting world). But if you want to try something really different you might want to check some out.