6 Eisner Nominations for The Art of Charlie Chan Hock ChyeRead More
I'll be in the US next month to promote The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye and the new Doc Fate trade. It starts in NYC and then crosses over to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle, before heading to Dallas and Arkansas :) With a visit to RISD to boot!
For more info on the events:
Tue Apr 56:15pmRhode Island School of Design ISB Gallery 2 College Street Providence, RI 02903
Sat Apr 910:00amLos Angeles Times Festival of Books "Illustrating Lives: The Art of the Graphic Novel" Salvatori Computer Science Center (SAL 101) (with Sam Alden, Julian Hanshaw and Sammy Harkham) University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 90089
Mon Apr 117:00pmElliot Bay Book Co 1521 10TH Ave Seattle, WA 98122
Wed Apr 1311:30-12:30amThe University of Texas at Dallas Eugene McDermott Library Room 2.410 Dallas, TX 75080
Fri Apr 15 11:00amHenderson State University Russell Fine Arts Building Arkadelphia, AR 7199
Sat Apr 1612:30pmArkansas Literary Festival Main Library 100 Rock St. Little Rock, AR 72201
Hoping to crowd source for information on Singapore's Comics History :)
The link above leads to a Google Doc that anyone can add suggestions and comments to. Please help fill in things you feel are missing or erroneous :)
With feedback from fans, creators, publishers and more, hpoefuly we can have a more inclusive history of local comics :)
ps: The categories and placements are all tentative, we'll reoragnise things once we have more information at hand
I've never met Roger Langridge* - though somehow ours paths have crossed over time. Above is his pinup/review for The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, which he did with Manga Studio for the first time :)
I first encountered his work when I bought a copy of Fred the Clown, and there was an energy and style that reminded me of the Beano and Dandy cartoons I loved growing up (my mom would buy them from a bookstore in Seremban and me and my sis would copy pictures off 'em, Dennis the Menace, Billy Whizz, Roger the Dodger, the Bash Streets Boys and on and on)
(Beano Fanart by Cheryl Liew)
(Beano fanart by me)
For some reason Marvel comics put us together for a Spiderman short called "Nightmare Commute" in 2010, and it was one of those odd moments when you find yourself in contact with someone's work you'd read and assumed would always be at that author-reader distance. (Another was working with Marc Hempel on My Faith in Frankie, having read Gregory)
And I got the chance to sort of return the favour with an alternative cover for his series Abigail and the Snowman a couple of years back.
I guess the point of all this is maybe partly about the way the internet has allowed us to connect and work together in ways that would have been a lot more difficult when we were still using faxes and snail mail.
But more than that - Roger's generosity (and those of many others, from David Mazzuchelli to Robb Mommaerts, Gene Yang to Aaron McConnell) reminds me of the need to be less solipsistic myself, less caught up in work and deadlines.
To try to always ask:
Ok back to erasing now, don't-call-me-I'll-call-you :p
*edit: As it turns out this is a Lie, as Roger remembers : "...it was at the San Diego Comic Con... at a bar across the road from the convention centre, at some Disney-related thing. Charly LaGreca (of the Indie Spinner Rack podcast) introduced us, but it must have been after we’d already done the Spider-Man story, because I recall telling Charly we already “knew” one another through collaborating on that."
Yipes! Blur Sotong as usual :-0
The Economist reviews The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye (March 12 2016 Print edition)
"A touching, thoughtful meditation on Singapore’s relentless progress.... Like any other country, Singapore means different things to different people. Its detractors admit that modern Singapore is safe, well-run and has achieved remarkable material progress since it became independent just over 50 years ago. And even its defenders admit that Singapore restricts civil liberties... Sonny Liew’s brilliantly inventive “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” weighs those costs and benefits."
This magazine used to be de riguer reading in junior college days for everything from history to economics and the General Paper :p
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye hit the international shelves last week, and the biggest question on my mind was of course: is anyone out there going to buy this book?
It'd done really well in Singapore partly due to the hoohah over the NAC's grant withdrawal, and the pre-release reviews had been excellent - but there were all sorts of obstacles in the way: (a) there was no way of knowing how much interest there would be in a book set entirely in Singapore and dealing in large part with its history and politics, and (b) I'm not JK Rowling.
As with The Shadow Hero, Amazon's sales rankings seemed to be the easiest way to track sales, so I clicked on the book page every other day to see how things were going.
With more good reviews and previews from a couple of comics sites, the book seems to hover somewhere in the 20,000-40,000 range the first week. It's not exactly a house on fire.
This feels like it could be a disaster. Like most cartoonists, I dream of having a Neil Gaimanesque career where we get to pursue personal projects that are somehow also commercially viable. Bills need paying, the future needs planning, and even if death consumes us all in the end, there is still the hope you can make a decent fist of this time you do have here. And having a book sell well means you get to go to the publishers with the next book you want to write/draw and ask for a bit more advance, get a better page rate. If the book sinks into semi-obscurity, then its maybe back to the drawing board. Everything is tied up in a bundle of hope, fear and anxiety, there's really no escape, except maybe by replacing it with a different bundle of hope, fear and anxiety.
Then the NPR Fresh Air review goes on air.
Despite spending a couple of years in the US, I've never really listened to NPR (my staple media diet in the RISD art school days were late night reruns of Star Trek TNG and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), so don't really have a clear sense of just how big a deal it is in the scheme of things.
As it turns out, lots of people listen to NPR Fresh Air, and the very kind review sends the book spiralling up the Amazon charts - at one point it maybe reaches #174.
The A.V. Club posts a positive review as well, and at this point the book is up there with the likes of Maus, Persepolis and Patience in the Literary GN category.
These things can be a bit misleading though, as this article recounts:
So I'm not sure what exactly I've learnt so far in terms of actual books sales - that will have to wait till actual numbers come in from the publisher.
One thing I was curious about for now though: what were the actual best selling books out there at the moment on Amazon?
As it turns out, eating and dieting are a major preoccupation.
And everybody loves Harry Potter.
Now: is anyone out there going to read this post?
And so it begins again.
Illustrator and fellow RISD-ite Antoine Revoy did a pinup for The Art of Charlie Chan...! See his blog (and a colored version of the image) at:
Antoine is also releasing an intriguing Japanese horror influenced graphic novel called "Playground" from First Second soon, do check it out! http://www.pastemagazine.com/…/exclusive-first-second-annou…
NPR Fresh Air reviews The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye!
"...a startlingly brilliant tour de force.... At once dizzyingly meta and deeply heartfelt, the book spans 80 years and in its complicated layering remind me of everything from Maus and The Tin Drum to, believe it or not, Ulysses... a Valentine to cartooning, to old buildings and street food, to heroes written out of official history, to ordinary people trying to make a better life."
Some early reviews:
- The Beat says that The Art of Charlie Chan is "2016’s first superlative graphic novel"
- Mental Floss lists the books as one of "5 Most Interesting Comics of the Week" and "a tour de force artistic performance"
- The Gazette calls it "easily one of the greatest books of the year... [A] multilayered, beautifully executed work is like no history book you’ve ever seen. It will leave you speechless."
- There are features on the book at Pen America and CBLDF
- Over at NPR, a review says "The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye feels like Singapore between two covers. The pressure-cooker country — tiny and polyglot, globally competitive and politically repressive — seems to have been poured into this dense book"
- On Instagram, The Beguiling says : "With this book, #SonnyLiew establishes himself as a major voice in comics"
- The BookPage calls it "transcendent graphic novel" that reveals "the ability of comics to blur the lines between fact and fiction, and to transport readers between eras and cultures."
An Amazon link to buy the book here :)
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye from Pantheon Books
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye from Pantheon Books is out this week!
It was one of Publishers Weekly's Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2016, who say that the book is a "stunning tour de force masterpiece of imagined and real history" and that "this multilayered book is a masterpiece".
The Beat meanwhile calls it the "first superlative graphic novel... easily the first comics masterwork of 2016"
“Riotously funny, heartbreakingly beautiful, fizzing with provocative ideas... breathes life and intimacy into the multi-layered history of Malaysia and Singapore. Sonny Liew has produced a true masterpiece. " — Tash Aw (The Harmony Silk Factory, Five Star Billionaire)
I'll be one of the Guest of Honors (!) at the MoCCA Festival in NYC in April, alongside Cece Bell, R.O. Belchman, Phoebe Gloeckner and Rebecca Sugar.
I'll also be heading to various stores and events in New York, Rhode Island, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin and Arkansas, do check out this Blog or follow me on Twitter or Instagram for updates on dates and more :)
Finally, those in Singapore, do drop by Mulan Gallery from March 4-24 for an exhibition of original art work from The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye!
Venue : Mulan Gallery 36 Armenian Street #01-07 Singapore 179934 Exhibition Period : 4 - 24 March 2016
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday: 11.30am – 6.30pm. Closed on Mondays, Sundays and Public Holidays
Cover Art for Doctor Fate #12
DOCTOR FATE #12 Written by PAUL LEVITZ Art and cover by SONNY LIEW On sale MAY 18 • 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US • RATED T The victorious Khalid returns to Brooklyn determined to get on with his life, but that’s easier said than done when you’re a novice superhero juggling romance, homework, and the untold powers of Doctor Fate. Fortunately, help comes in the form of a man who might know something about it: Uncle Kent Nelson.
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is one of Publishers Weekly's Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2016 in the Comics category. Alongside books by Daniel Clowes and Julie Doucet(!) http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/tip-sheet/article/69297-the-most-anticipated-books-of-spring-2016.html
"A stunning tour de force masterpiece of imagined and real history as Liew recreates the entire career of the titular cartoonist via art and photos to explore the history of both comics and Singapore."
Singaporean cartoonist Uranium featured in this New Nation piece by Irene Hoe from August 9, 1979.
A lot of his travails will sound familiar to cartoonists today - dreams of a comics magazine running into authorities who see comics as non-educational, facing problems with distribution, the lack of fulfilment in a job in advertising agencies, finding compromises to keep parts of the dream alive. With a love story thrown in as well :)
Here's the link to the archived articles: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/newnation19790809-1.2.35.aspx
Uranium did go on to join the Straits Times as a cartoonist:
And below is a transcript of the piece :)
ps: Anyone who know the folks in the story: Uranium, Susan Koh, L J Holloway, Hou Soon Ming, Frank Ambrose, Chua Lark Koon... would love to be able to get in touch with them, so do let me know :)
Yippee! A Success
Cartoonist Uranium talks about the family he created in the children's mahgazibe nearly called Fantasyland
by Irene Hoe
Uranium likes children so he quit his job and started a family. In the short span of four months, he produced the Yippee! family with a little help from a friend. There was Yen Sen, Pigsy, Jerry Mongo, Mr Billion, Dynaman, Uncle Leng and many more. Then Uranium got married.
If that sounds rather unusual and unorthodox, it's because Uranium's tale isn't your ordinary run of the mill story. It's the story of how Yippee!, the children's magazine, came into being.
Once upon a time, Uranium was a layout artist in an advertising agency. In due course, he was promoted to visualiser and then assistant to the art director. He should have been happy but he felt he had come to a creative dead end. He recalls: "You can give your very best in advertising and the client just ignores you."
So he and his colleague Susan Koh gave up their jobs and sank their life savings into Yippee! She wrote the stories and he drew the pictures.
"We wanted to call it Fantasyland but weren't sure whether Walt Disney had a copyright on that name. So our brain-child became Yippee!"
The creative part was the least of their problems. The menagerie of characters who peopled the pages came naturally to them.
"Thinking up characters isn't very hard when you've been trained in advertising," says Urnanium.
Wherever possible they gave their characters an Asian flavour to balance the more westernised creations. So there was Uncle Leng, Yen Sen and Jerry Mongo to balance Mr Billions and Dynaman who was billed as Asia's Six Million Dollar Man.
Not all have survived. The more durable include Yen Sen who started as the principal character in a 13-part serial called Star Pagoda, and easternised Pilgrims' Progress. He stayed on to become Yippee!'s mascot. Jerry Mongo, an amiable buck-tooted and barechested native, had humbler beginnings. He used to present the crossword puzzles. Now he has his own column.
"Sometimes children ring up the office and ask to speak to Yen Sen or Jerry Mongo. Some want to ask Uncle Leng for advice," says Uranium.
Uranium and Susan also invented their contributors - names like Pasar Pan, the Grand Wizard, Comicons, Mr Ghostpimples, Kelvin Kiew and Henry Chia. "We wanted to give the impression we had a lot of staff," he explained rather sheepishly.
But creativity wasn't enough to sustain the magazine. The first issue sold between two and three thousand copies at a newstand price of 80 cents. That was in September 1976.
By Christmas they had to lower the price to 60 cents. Inbetween writing stories and editing the magazine, Susan canvassed for advertisements.
She wasn't too successful. A full colour as on the back ran to $1800 and "people felt they got better value in the Straits Times."
Agencies were only interested in circulation figures and Yippee! was having distribution problems in spite of having hired the services of a distributor for a 40 per cent cut of the cover price.
"It looked bad if a magazine didn't have a few ads so we put in a few for free hoping that the companies would buy space in future issues," said Uranium.
"But we still couldn't break even," recalls Susan. Printing costs were high and sales stagnated. So they ran deeper and deeper into the red.
"We were desparate," said Susan. She called the managing director of the Time Organization, Mr L J Holloway, and offered to sell Yippee! to Times. They struck a deal in two days.
"We lost about $20,000, I think. It was a big price to pay," she said.
Times paid off their debts and turned them into salaried employees. It was June 1977. They had carried their baby for nine months.
In retrospect they feel their biggest stumbling blkck was poor distribution. They had an impact beyond sales.
"Before we started Yippee, we did a study of children's magazines. We found that local magazines were not very good - especially in art work," said Uranium.
"Most publications think children are gullible and that they'll buy anything no matter how it's written or drawn. Our original idea was to make Yippee entertaining with lots of drawinfs - good quality pictures."
But teachers and principles felt the magazine was too much like a comic book. "When we tried to sell it in schools, they'd take one look and tell us they didn't want comics sold in the school."
Like parents, they wanted more writing, fewer illustrations. They wanted stories with morals, not the horror stories written by Mr Ghostpimples which were popular with the children.
So comics like Ali HaHa and the Four Teeth Thief gave way to "moral" comic sequences like Bully to the Rescue and The Amazing World of Mr Billion has sobered into Let's Find Out.
Sports or at any rate football has left its imprint in the form of Uncle Choo's Soccer Corner which take pride of place inside the front cover.
The funnies are still to be found but Uranium concedes Yippee! is going heavy on educational rather than purely entertainment features in order to win over teachers and parents. It's a policy tied unabashedly to the pursestrings. And it works. Increased parent-teacher approval means bigger sales and circulation has been climbgin steadily.
There are other factors. Now, instead of having a lone canvasser approach schools to sell Yippee!, representatives from Federal Publications have been roped in to promote the magazine as well as sell books. Since they visit schools more often, they find principlas and teachers more receptive when they present the magazine.
Yippee! is no longer a two-man show. Uranium still directs artistic operations but he has 17-year old self taught artist Hou Soon Ming as his assistant.Another addition is Frank Ambrose, 21, the magazine's sales representative. The newest member of the team is Chua Lark Koon, 24, an editor in the books division of Federal Publications who doubles as editor of Yippee.
What of Susan? She left a few months ago to be an editor in a publishing firm. But she's still part of the family. You might say she married into it. She's now Mrs Uranium.
But why Uranium?
"I wanted to be different, and uranium, well, it's different. It's rare."
He said he would rather I didn't use his real name. "I just wantto be known as Uranium, the cartoonist." It seemed to be a matter of professional pride.
How did he come to be a cartoonist? "I saw an advertisement in Movie News for a correspondence course offered by the Cartoonist Exchange of America. I wrote in and applied."
At that time he was working in Targus Design, an advertising agency, and taking a part-time course at the Nayang Acedemy of Fine Arts in St Thomas Walk. He graduated in 1969.
"The cartoonist's course was good for me because I could do it at my own pace. they would send me assignments to draw. If there were any corrections to be made, they would do an overlay on my drawing and send it back."
As he progressed, advertising art became even less attractive as a career. "All the while, I wanted to be a cartoonist."
it shows in Yippee! which leans heavily on art. Art contests, colouring contests and feature like "Learn How to Draw are staples in the magazine.
"You know, some of our ideas have even been copied by children's magazines in Malaysia and Hong Kong."
But undoubtedly, the plum artistic satisfaction has come from having one of Yippee! 's cover designs accpeted for publication in the 1979 edition of Modern Publicity, a prestigious international art magazine produced in Britain.
Uranium said ruefully: "I'm sorry I can't show you a copy of Modern Publicity. It's so expensive that we couldn't afford to buy it."
Yippee! aside, Uranium, 29, has won about 20 awards for his art. "I even managed to win two first prizes, a second prize and one consolation prize in one contest," he said.
Rather shamefacedly he confessed: "I entered them under different names. We were only supposed to submit one entry per person."
On the level, he also illustrates children's books occasionally.
"I once applied to be a cartoonist with Straits Times. You know what they told me? They said I was overqualified."
Diffidence is not an obsession with him. "I've written a few songs," he said. "One day I expect tp sell them to a big American company for a small fortune."
And that would be enough to make anyone shout Yippee!
An interview for Preview's Indie Edge
Online version here: http://www.previewsworld.com/Home/1/1/71/942?articleID=172150
The books mentioned (with Diamond order codes):
Malinky Robot (JUN110503)
Shadow Hero (MAY141431)
Doctor Fate (DEC150320)
Ice Haven (OCT101094)
A Distant Neighbourhood (DEC111076)
Bottomless Belly Button (MAR083712)
Early Reviews for The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye from the Library Journal, Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus reviews :) Out in March 2016 internationally.
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"An early candidate for the various best-of lists for 2016, this superlative achievement... tells the story not only of Singaporean artist and comics creator Charlie Chan Hock Chye, but of Singapore itself... a tumultuous sweep that is mirrored in the history of cartooning. Make no mistake: this multilayered book is a masterpiece."
Library Journal (starred review)
"The combination of a powerful message, artistic virtuosity, and a fascinating framing device make for an un-put-downable read... This relentlessly engaging work stretches the boundaries of the graphic novel medium and is highly recommended for fans of political satire, Chris Ware, or Art Spiegelman."
"A fascinating look at a clever, uncompromising artist married to the times in which he lived."
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye was named several times in Singapore Poetry's My Book of the Year 2015 selections :p
"It is complex, brilliant and so edgy. Bold and creative. The visuals are stunning and powerful. A phenomenal accomplishment." - Lydia Kwa, novelist and poet.
"My book of the year, no question, is Sonny Liew’s The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Gustave Flaubert once said that writing history is like drinking an ocean and pissing a cupful. Sonny Liew drank an ocean and pissed vintage champagne. Charlie Chan, amazingly, might be the only non-academic book to accurately depict Singapore history. But more importantly, historians often fail to capture the emotion, the feelings, the spirit surrounding history. Liew captured all of that in his art. It’s truly a remarkable work." - P. J. Thum, historian
"The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew pulls off the improbable feat — imbuing the modern history of Singapore with such artistry and revisionist imagination that it makes reassessing our past urgent and pressing. Perhaps its greatest achievement is to dare the reader to dream of an alternative future and even long for it. - William Phuan, arts administrator.
Get the Special Bookplate Edition here: http://www.previewsworld.com/Catalog/STK694415
Or pre-order here: http://www.amazon.com/Charlie-Chan-Pantheon-Graphic-Novels/dp/1101870699
Those in Singapore or Malaysia, pop over to a bookstore or order online at:
(special cover edition: http://shop.epigrambooks.sg/collections/graphic-novels/products/charlie-chan-special-cover )
Shigeru Mizuki (水木 しげる) , 1922-2015