Ahmad Fauzi bin Zainol Abidin was born in 1960 and grew up in Kampung Datuk Keramat. His drawing talents were already apparent when at the age of four he began drawing cowboys from off the TV screen, starting with the boots and working up to the hat. When he ran out of paper, he would continue with the walls in the house. Once he learned to read his life revolved around comic books. He was an ardent fan of Batman and Robin. He attended the V.I. from 1972 to 1978. Small and skinny, he was a very timid boy when he first stepped in the V.I., frightened even of his own shadow. He found escape in drawing, and even in Form One he was sketching all the time. To flip through Fauzi's exercise books from front to back at that time would be to find drawings and doodles on every page. It was a wonder his teachers didn't notice them. After witnessing the school football team being beaten 3-2 by the Royal Military College at the Merdeka Stadium, Fauzi decided to create a 12-page comic book of the V.I. football team and their adventures. Here he could fantasize and make the fictitious V.I. footballers win every time!
Still he could not escape the school bullies and, one day in Form Two after he returned home with the imprint of someone's foot on his thigh, his mother decided enough was enough and went to the V.I. to complain to the Headmaster, Mr Victor Gopal. From Form Three onwards there was no more bullying, but Fauzi still cowered inside his shell, intimidated by the bustle of school life, the school assemblies, the prefects and the academic as well as the extra-mural aspects of the V.I.
By the time he reached to Form Five he was the only one in his class without a nickname. Fauzi was a square! His classmates thought he was a book worm who hid out in the library but in reality he didn't like studying but merely liked to read up on general knowledge. However, his classmates knew he could draw and so they commissioned him to draw the entire class to match their nicknames. When the Sixth Formers heard about his talent, they asked him to illustrate their newsletters. Then, one by one, the various societies and clubs got Fauzi to draw things for them. Yet despite his obvious talent, through some misunderstanding, Fauzi did not offer art as a subject in his SPM exams. (He sat for it he left the V.I. and got an A1.)
Wrapped in his dream world, it amazed Fauzi when he learned that he was accepted into Form Six Arts. There his perspective of people took a 180 degree turn! He found that he was now the biggest guy around, Big Man on Campus. People were calling him up to join this club and that society - he joined more than ten - and he was made an honorary member of the Art Club. At year's end, Fauzi's face was all over the 1977 Victorian.
In Form Six his heart was still not in his studies. To make things worse, his classmates introduced him to English football and he became a fervent Leeds United supporter, spending his pocket money on souvenirs, boots and jerseys. His classmates even formed a small football club - the Q-Peks - to play among themselves. Fauzi played as fullback. Feeding this football frenzy were the stacks of football magazines in the V.I. Junior Library which Fauzi pored over and absorbed like a sponge so much so that he was frequently called upon to settle football arguments. And it didn't help the slightest bit that he already had his eye on this pretty girl in his class who would one day be his wife!
Fauzi co-edited the 1978 Victorian. His handiwork cannot be missed by any one flipping though that issue; every other page seems to have a Fauzi cartoon or illustration! However his two years in Form Six gave him experience in human relationships. He seemed to be called upon to do things he never thought he was capable of doing, to mediate in disputes, calming hot-tempered classmates who were at each other's throats. But he sensed that he was going to fail his Higher School Certificate. In fact he was planning to fail it, come what may!
On leaving the V.I., his exasperated mother advised him to apply to join a Teacher's Training College. A disinterested Fauzi did his best to fail the interview but, to his utter astonishment, he found that he had been a failure in failing this time but was actually offered a position as a teacher trainee. This, of course, he rejected to his mother's dismay. Fauzi finally set his sights in the direction he really wanted. He did a degree in Art at I.T.M. hoping to learn about animation but found that they did not teach him any more than what he already knew. But he did learn a thing or two about advertising and commercial art and so, on graduation, he headed north and started a two-man outfit called K & M Associates with a friend. The latter did the canvassing while Fauzi did the graphics design. Business grew with contracts coming from the Penang and Kedah Development Corporations. But then he missed his family and life in Kuala Lumpur and so he packed up and went home.
Back in K.L. it came as no surprise when in 1984 this Batman fan won second place in an art competition held in conjunction with the First Malaysian Comics Convention. It was at this convention that he met key figures from the Malaysian comics scene and with them attempted to launch a comic book called APAZINE which unfortunately did not take off. (A local artist lamented that Malaysians were not yet ready for local superheroes who wore capes over their shoulders and their underwear on the outside.) In competitions Fauzi was luckier, for he never entered any competition unless he was prepared to put in every ounce of work into his entry. In 1985 he won first prize at the first "Marvellous Mags Art Contest". His effort appeared on the cover of The Star's Section 2.
Fauzi then joined the New Straits Times and worked as a crime desk reporter for about six months. Listening to the police band on radio for tips, he would chase after fires and crimes with his photographer. It was a harrowing business as the former Mr V.I. Timid Guy could not stand the sight of blood and gore. Once he was overtaken by ex-Victorian Datuk Zaman Khan, the CID Chief, rushing to the same crime scene in his police car. Another time he actually got to the crime scene before the police did! Fauzi eventually transferred to the more sedate Arts and Entertainment column in June 1987. The 1978 Victorian editor wrote on, among other things, the Malay film actress Kasma Bootya in three-part NST series.
The series were noticed by Japanese fans of Kasma Booty who invited Fauzi to Japan. He was also invited to England on an all expenses paid trip to attend seminars on art. By a stroke of fate, Fauzi was in Berlin in November 1989 on an exchange programme. As the Berlin Wall began to fall on the historic night of November 9, Fauzi joined thousands of joyous Berliners as they danced on the top of the Wall. He has a piece of the Wall as a souvenir.
Before long the call of the pen and brush became too strong to resist and Fauzi went back to what he loved most. His own cartoons started appearing in the NST - the first was Taufan which ran for 33 weeks. Then he started contributing to the editorial pages and very soon his cartoons were adorning the pages of books by Kee Thuan Chye and Victor S.L. Tan. In 1991 he drew a caricature of ex-Victorian Datuk Rafidah Aziz which caught the attention of Arab Malaysian's Tan Sri Azman Hashim who invited him to draw cartoons for the organization's newsletter. More offers came, including one from Shell Malaysia to develop cartoons for their Shell Friend Club. Fauzi's cartoons have also appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review.
Today, Fauzi has his own art company and, confident that local cartoons can still sell, is working on his own comic book called AMAT. He works as a stringer for the New Straits Times, drawing up to 30 cartoons a week which are used to lighten the mood of an editorial or feature article whose theme may range from business to science to Shakespeare. Taking ten to fifteen minutes a cartoon, he breezes through his weekly assignment in a matter of hours. His cartoons usually depict a humorous exchange between two characters around the theme of the article. Unbeknownst to NST readers, both these characters are actually Fauzi's alter egos. One, a tall, gawky, bug-eyed character, has the physical appearance and the timidity and bewilderment of his old V.I. persona while the other character is drawn (pun intended) from his present plumper, more confident and, evidently, more successful self. But we already know, don't we?
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