Comic strip, Welcome to Agency X has garnered attention with its unconventional story line which we can get a laugh from even in the toughest days. The mastermind behind this creation, Sam Hepburn certainly did not become a cartoonist overnight. With sheer perseverance to stay for the long haul, Sam got us smitten with the characters from WAX which are not overly far-fetched. Learn more about Sam from today’s Featured Interview!
1. Hi Sam! Please tell us more about yourself.
I’m a Scottish cartoonist who’s been based in Malaysia since 2000. I was originally trained as a copywriter, but I began experimenting with art around 2010. My first major project was a blog about growing up ‘mixed’ (my mum is Chinese and my Dad is Scottish), and my first published work was a picture book about my dog, Gunnie. I like to think of myself as brave, I’m also very opinionated, and I wholeheartedly embrace the term ‘nerd’.
2. Please tell us more about Welcome to Agency X (WAX) and Questionable Quotebook.
I came up with the comic strip Welcome to Agency X (WAX) in 2015, and the gag cartoon Questionable Quotebook in 2016. Welcome to Agency X is about awkward, creative types, working a day job while they discover or get up the courage to pursue their dream job. At the heart of it, the comic is about enjoying the journey while on the way to your destination – accepting yourself for all your weirdness, faults, self-doubt and fear. Questionable Quotebook is in many ways the complete opposite of this. It’s a gag cartoon based on the idea of the worst possible ‘inspirational’ quotebook you could keep on your bedside table. Every cartoon features an original quote I’ve written about any subject from politics to vanity to yoga to the economy.
3. Are there any plans for WAX 2 and perhaps publishing a book for Questionable Quotebook?
WAX 2 is in the works (fingers crossed!) and will be a schooldays themed ‘reboot’ of the WAX universe, where all the characters will be reimagined as students and teachers.
4. We did a bit of ‘social network research’ about you and we know that you just came back from a holiday where you attended a weekend woodblock carving workshop. With your new skills set, are you planning to create more merchandise with woodblock technique?
I had a wonderful experience learning woodblock from one of the foremost teachers and artists of the technique, and am very excited about exploring how I can use it to add a new dimension to my cartoons.
5. It’s been a while since you created the main characters of Agency X- Sam, Percy, Russell and then Jenna. As your life progress, are there any plans to introduce more lead characters to reflect some personal milestone that’s happening in your life? (i.e new relationships, children, pets, etc).
Each character reflects a different aspect of my own personality, but they are separate ‘beings’ with their own ‘milestones’. Further down the line, I would like to create a graphic novel for Welcome to Agency X, and in that long story format, you will be able to see growth and development of the characters.
6. What are the highlights of your time as a cartoonist in Malaysia so far?
Definitely meeting fans and readers in person! It’s always a joy to see how people connect with my stories, how they see themselves in my characters, and how they find a kind of peace by being able to relate to the personalities I’ve created. I’ve had people come up and hug me and say that my cartoons make them feel less alone in their daily struggles. To me, it’s more important that my comics are meaningful and thought-provoking than funny, so this is one of the best possible compliments I could receive.
7. Are there any big plans coming up for your work which we should be looking forward to?
My exhibition/sharing session at Awe Gallery on 28th and 29th April, and my second WAX comic collection!
8. Words of wisdom which you’d like to share to aspiring cartoonist in Malaysia.
Don’t follow the crowd, instead work hard on being original and finding your own voice, your unique life experiences to draw from. Anybody can make a joke about the new Star Wars film – be the person who talks about the first time you saw Star Wars and how it made you feel. Don’t be tempted by shortcuts to popularity, but instead learn to appreciate ‘slow art’ – take time to hone your voice and craft. Spend more time in your own head with your own thoughts. Get used to drawing, erasing, redrawing, editing, reading and re-reading, and ‘killing your darlings’ (don’t hold tightly to a cartoon or comic when you know deep in your heart that it could be better)
9. Any life motto which you live by?
The phrase that appears on all my WAX apparel is ‘All your ideas are wonderful’, and it’s encouragement I give to my fans as well as to myself. Though sometimes when I think I’ve made a mistake, I laugh to myself and add, ‘Except this one’.