New Online Comic Hero Butman Tackles Yangon's Problems with Humor

By Lwin Mar Htun 28 September 2018

YANGON — Superheroes wear colorful, custom-made costumes and fight bad guys, monsters and aliens to save the day with their uncanny powers. The best-known among them —Spider Man, Thor, Captain America, Batman, the Hulk, Superman, Wonder Woman — hale from either the Marvel or DC universes.

Fans of superhero comics and movies truly love the stories and have no doubts that their favorite characters will always prevail. But some aren’t satisfied with just the comics or movies and don their favorite hero’s costume; they love the stories that much.

A local group of talented designers and superhero lovers has started its own online comic label called Myanga, and its series Butman is trending with young fans.

The Butman comic series in print in the Myanmar Times. / Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy

“The Butman name and style is inspired by DC superhero Batman, but our superhero doesn’t have any superpowers,” said Kaung Myat Maung, 21, who leads the Myanga team and is one of the character’s creators.

“Actually, it’s But….Man. That’s the meaning of the hero. Even though he wants to help the city and people, he always ends up with the opposite result. So he tries, but he can’t do it on his own. He’s just a man.”

“The characters are inspired by American comic books but the structure of the stories is inspired by Japanese Manga. Manga means comic in Japanese. So we chose the name Myanga because it’s a comic in the Myanmar language,” Kaung Myat Maung said.

Kaung Myat Maung works on a drawing. / Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy

Butman mixes the serious with the comic, and the team thinks of the series as edutainment — a portmanteau of education and entertainment — because it aims to educate readers about social problems and complex issues with a heavy dose of fun.

“We have a total of 10 members in the team and everyone has their own tasks. I’m the team leader, but the story lines come from our teacher, Ko Nyi Nyi Htwe,” said Kaung Myat Maung.

Nyi Nyi Htwe, who also goes by Yangon Bee, is a famous local designer and illustrator behind the Hexagon Creative Academy, a school for young people interested in graphic design and illustration. Kaung Myat Maung was one of his students and went to work for Hexagon after finishing the academy. He and Nyi Nyi Htwe started Myanga as a side-project.

Members of the Myanga team at work at the Hexagon Creative Academy. / Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy

“Ko Nyi Nyi Htwe gives us the ideas and stories, and I lead the team,” Kaung Myat Maung said.

One chapter can take two weeks to produce, sometimes a month.

“It is easy to read one page or one chapter, but it isn’t easy creating the characters,” Kaung Myat Maung said.

The process started with the drawing team. Their drawings then get filled in with colors and finally sent to the designers.

Butman is Myanga’s second series and has already published two issues, “Rangoon City” and “The Flooded Land.”

In “Rangoon City,” piles of garbage turn into a giant, smelly monster that rampages across the city, sending the hapless populace fleeing in terror. Butman hops into his car to race to the scene, but gets stuck in traffic. The car’s GPS doesn’t work, either, because of a bad internet connection.

Kaung Myat Maung. / Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy

In “The Flooded Land,” Butman is eating breakfast while watching the news on TV. When the anchor announces that Yangon is about t0 flood because of a heavy rain, he quickly changes into his costume, a traditional man’s cotton shirt, a longyi for a cape and another around his waist, and slippers. His nemesis again is a monster made of the wastewater and trash in the city’s drains, clogged because of all the garbage people have thrown into the street. If you want to find out whether our hero saves the day, you’ll just have to read the story.

“We’re sending a message about society’s problems and we hope the audience gets it,” said Kaung Myat Maung.

Butman is published online in Burmese and in English in the Myanmar Times’ weekend edition.

Myanga’s first series was “T, The Huntsman” and was inspired by Toot P, a local comic book character popular with young and old alike. T is published online in Burmese and already has three episodes under his belt.

“We are now creating a Myanga application. After that, we will publish all the stories in Burmese, English and Japanese,” said Kaung Myat Maung.

“Burmese comic culture has nearly vanished, but the kids and youth still want to read them. So we want to build up the comic culture again,” he said.

Hein Htet, 27, an American comic book fan, likes what he sees.

“Myanga is really cool and their ideas are awesome,” he said. “Love that web comic.”