Monday, January 29, 2018

Interview with Guy Delisle

Some of you might have heard that SWF Words Go Round has invited Guy Delisle for their school and public programmes this year. That’s really exciting news for me as I have been hoping for Guy to be invited to Singapore one day. His series of travelogues have been most inspiring. One is tempted to compare him with Joe Sacco as it seems that Guy has been travelling to all these hot spots and troubled zones. But not quite. He explained that how he ended up in these places was by chance – he was an animator previously and thus worked in Pyongyang and Shenzhen. Then as a house husband, he followed his wife who worked for Doctors Without Borders to places like Myanmar and Jerusalem. He is more of an observer than a journalist in these contexts.

His new book is Hostage, his first ‘serious’ book that is not based on his own experiences. You can read Paul Gravett’s review of the book here:

Here’s a short interview with him done via email.

You are French Canadian from Quebec but you are way more popular in France and Europe than in North America. Why is this so?

It is hard for me to say. The distribution of my books in Canada is not as good as in France. I mostly sold my books in the French part of Canada which is not so big.

Your stories are travelogues and in some instances, about being displaced or being out of place. So I’m curious - do you feel more ‘at home’ in France or in Canada? (for example, do you feel an affinity with the works of other Canadian comic artists like Chester Brown, Seth and David Collier?)

I feel at home in both places now. Probably because I have spent half of my life in France. I had the chance to meet Chester Brown and Seth the last time I was at the TCAF in Toronto. I admire both of their works and I was glad to be able to tell that to them. They have been an influence on my work.

You have described your stories more like long postcards or a diary. Interestingly, graphic diaries and autobiographical comics are a popular genre in Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia, and also in Malaysia (the books of Lat and travelogues by younger artists). One could say that you are one of the pioneers of autobiographical comics and travelogues together with Harvey Pekar, Chester Brown, Peter Kuper, etc. How do you think this particular genre would develop in the future?

In the last 15 years, comic books have been able to explore different styles and genres. Traveling books is one of them. Just like in literature, the travelling novel is a genre by itself. Some publishers have a special collection dedicated only to these. I guess someday the same thing might happen with travelling comic books. In France, there is a popular magazine which only publish graphic reportage. It's very good quality. So maybe someday it will be even more specialized and only present some travelling content.

You have answered this question before in the past, but maybe you have changed your mind about viewing yourself as a journalist. But what if I change the question: do you see yourself as a documentarian or a comic artist?

It very simple, I see myself as a comic artist. I do talk in my books about history and politics, but just enough so we can understand what is going around in the country. So, I ask a few questions while I am abroad and I do some research but for me, that doesn't make me a journalist or a documentarian. I see myself more as a popularizer but no more than that.

Were you surprised by your success like how well Pyongyang and Jerusalem sold?

Yes, I was surprised. I received the Best Book of the Year at the Angouleme Comic Festival in 2012 for Jerusalem, but I never imagined that so many people would follow me in the small streets of Jerusalem. The number was beyond my imagination.


Your new book, Hostage – what strikes you immediately when you sit down to read it is its slowness. Is that deliberate?

Yes, totally. I wanted to go for an immersive type of story. In order to get to the feeling of the everyday life of a kidnapped person, I needed to go step by step. So therefore, slowly. That's why there are so many pages.

In her review in The New York Review of Books, Hillary Chute talks about the innovations and experimentation that could be found in Hostage – pushing the boundaries of how one can represent time and the subjective experience. Were you conscious of such experimentation when you were doing this book? Or was it a case of wanting to do things a bit differently from the previous ones?

It is just the way I saw this book from the beginning: an immersive experience based on Christophe André's kidnapping. I wanted the reader to feel the time passing by just like he did and to go through everything he has told me. And the only way to do that was to take my time and to be as close to that reality that I can be.
As I worked on the book I realized it was a different rhythm than the usual comic book. But I had no doubt that it could be done.

Andre tried to get through the days by revisiting his favourite military battles in his mind. What are your favourite military battles in history?

I don't really have a thing for military battles, but since I have spent a lot of time with Christophe discussing his passion, I could say now that my favorite one is the battle of the Abraham's plain in 1759 in my hometown of Québec. One of the only battles where the two generals died during the attack.

Hostage took 15 years to complete. Were there at any time that you felt you were ‘held hostage’ by this book and you need to complete it so that you can move on to other projects?

Yes, I remember thinking that if after so many years it's still there in my head, it's probably worth working a few years to turn it into a book. It is a relief now that it's done.

On that note, what is the next project?

I am working on the 4th volume of the Bad Dad Guide.


Your experience in Pyongyang remains unique and you have talked about how the comic medium works perfectly to capture that moment in history for you. Cameras were not allowed and to take photos is a dangerous thing.
Looking back, did you encounter any really dangerous situations when you were in Pyongyang?

I never felt I was in danger, even though we did some stupid things while we were there. I guess because we were part of the contract the animation company and the North Korean government had together. In that sense we were invited guests, so nothing could really happened to us.


I went to Yangon last year to visit writers and comic artists. At the airport, I saw your Burma book on sale. Have you gotten any feedback about the book from the Myanmarese?

Yes, I was invited for the first comic book festival in Yangon last year but I couldn't go. I heard the books are very popular there. I am very proud to be translated in Myanmar. Not a common language.


What are you looking forward to in Singapore? Any particular food you would like to try or places you would like to visit?

I don't have any plans, I come with the family so I will probably go see the touristy places. I heard the food was very good in Singapore so, I am looking forward to try that.

Lastly, are you really a neglectful parent?

Not all the time. I am working on it.

You can try looking for Guy in schools but that's a hit or miss. Go to the Alliance Francaise on 1 March 2018 instead. He is having a talk there at 7.30 pm, which I am moderating.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Munching with the Moomins: Interview with Roleff Krakstrom, Managing Director of Moomin Characters Limited

The Moomins are coming! One of Finland’s strongest export (way before Angry Birds) and loved over the years by children and adults of all ages, these classic characters will be featured in two Singapore Writers Fest programmes:

A life size Moomin troll will be making its appearance too at the Moomin storytelling by Paula Parviainen, Ambassador of the Embassy of Finland in Singapore.

Sophia Jansson, the niece of Moomins creator Tove Jansson, and the current Chairman of the Board and Creative Director at Moomin Characters Ltd, and Roleff Kråkström, the managing director of Moomin Characters Ltd, will be in town for Finland 100, a celebration of Finland’s 100 years of independence.

I had a short chat with Roleff over the phone about Tove Jansson (1914 – 2001) and her beloved Moomins. Like other Finns I have met in Helsinki and in Singapore, Roleff’s response can be rather reserved. But you can still hear his passion for the Moomins in his voice when I called him in Helsinki on a Friday evening.

What is your first memory of the Moomins?

My first memory of the Moomins was my parents reading the books to me when I was a small child. I was 3 or 4 then. I was very young at that time so I don’t have a very clear memory. But it has become a very safe and comfortable memory for me since then – this image of being read aloud by my parents.

Later, I work with the publisher of the Moomins. I have a very long common history with the Moomins.

How did this long association with the Moomins come about?

I started working for WSOY, the Finnish publisher of the Moomin books in Helsinki. That was back in 1992 or 1993.

I did meet Tove once at the publishing company dinner. She didn’t know me then. I was just a junior staff member. But my impression of her was that she was very kind and a very small woman in size. She was a petite person.

Is this your dream job?

I have worked very long in the publishing company and I am an extremely lucky person so far to only have worked with things I am passionate about.

So yes, you can say that it is a dream job.

In your opinion, what is the appeal of the Moomins? What accounts for its longevity?

What sets the Moomins apart from other licences in the industry is that we are not a manufactured entertainment company like those for anime series. The Moomins have always been about the art and the universal values it embodies. So the stories are about love, courage, tolerance, respect for nature and family. Thus they have been able to travel over time and culture as compared to other properties in the manufactured entertainment industry. For the entertainment industry, it is a default setting to always replace the old characters with new ones. There is always a target audience for them, which is the antithesis of the universal.

For me, the aesthetics of the Moomins is a combination of being brave and respecting your fellow person and surroundings. Often, freedom and bravery lead to arrogance. But in Tove’s stories, the main character solve the dilemma by being brave and also respecting everyone at the same time. It’s not me, myself and I, but by doing and solving things together.

This is very different for the US where you have individualistic superheroes. You can even take it a notch down and look at the children literature. The protagonist’s family gets killed. There is a war and horrible things happen. But basically the protagonist makes it on his or her own.

The Moomins solve things as a family. The character gets into a dilemma. He takes off and have an adventure. He finds something. But the family always come together. He is never alone. The family will always come looking for you just like in the first Moomin book, The Moomins and the Great Flood (1945).

What explains the success of the Moomins in Asian countries like Japan and China? In China, there has been a 300% increase for the retail value of the Moomin brand.

For our Asian success, the reasons are different for Japan and China. In Japan, it is the Moomin aesthetics which is very clear and the artwork is appealing to the Japanese. Tove was influenced by the Japanese masters like Hokusai in terms of the composition and dynamics, so the connection is there.

But at a deeper level, Finnish and Japanese societies are similar in the sense that the infrastructure of both countries were almost completely destroyed after the war. The old way of life was gone and urban society took over. The Moomins resembled the values of the village way of life in Japan and Finland that was dominant only two generations away in the early 20th century. So the stories bridge today’s society and values with the beginning of the 20th century. There lies the appeal and popularity of the Moomins in Japan.
In China, it is different. After years of rapid economic growth and urbanization, the people are in a state of immense wealth. The Moomin stories focused on values and they could possibly serve as a roadmap for happiness.

Moomin Characters and Bulls Press, who does the licencing for the Moomin brand, have formed a new literary rights and brand licencing agency, Rights & Brands, to expand Nordic properties worldwide. How is that doing?

Thanks for asking about that. Rights & Brand has been in business for slightly over a year and we are the biggest brand agency in the Nordic region. We work with over 50 properties and our turnover has doubled in the first year.

We only represent literary properties that represent our values. There must be a value proposition in terms of art, design and they are handcrafted. It is not entertainment.

There is demand for such values anchored properties. We do not want to offer the same things that everyone already has.

It sounds like your properties have a very strong hipster appeal. Has there been any backlash?

It might be but then again our characters, our brands and our legacy are what they are. We do not allow ourselves to tweak it to a mass market product. They have to be true to what they are. We do not alter them.

Sophia Jansson has said that the Moomins have always been like a family business. What is it like for you to join the family and join the family business?

Sophia and I are friends when I joined the company. Now we are married. It was a natural progression. Today I feel very much part of the family where before I was a hired executive.

The Moomin stories are a body of art created by Tove. We manage it and we are committed to it. I am happy that all five of our children work in the group or with companies that we are associates with.

Have there been many offers wanting to buy the Moomin brand?

During my time here, I have only received one direct offer to buy the Moomins, so it is impoosilbe for me to assess how serious it was. It is a very valuable brand and now it is more clearly defined. Rights wise, it is a much tighter package than before.

Are you looking forward to your visit to Singapore?

Yes, this will be our first time to Singapore. We have visited Thailand many times but we have not been to Singapore or Indonesia before.

I didn’t get the chance to talk to Sophia Jansson, but I asked the Moomin trolls for a quote from her. Here’s what she shared:

“My earliest memories of Tove are from our mutual summers together in the Finnish archipelago. They are memories of the family being together, going on picnics, swimming, or other similar activities you do in the summer. Tove was always a warm and welcoming person and never made me feel inferior or like a child that was in the way.”

Thanks to Paula Parviainen, Marina Kelahaara, Laura Karttunen and others in the Finland 100 team for their assistance.

All images: © Moomin Characters™

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chinese Editorial Cartoons in 2016 / 2017: 看点漫画

Back in the late 1990s, when Cherian George was the art and photo editor of The Straits Times, SPH used to put out The Year in Cartoons books, compilations of the ‘best’ cartoons from the paper. They are similar to the Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year book series. Good for teaching of current affairs and social studies, but they get dated real fast. Quality varies and they serve better as visual guides to review the events of the year. Reminder of what happen to who and when.

Sales were probably not very good and The Year in Cartoons books stopped after a few years. The internet has removed the need for such books when news and images are easily found using search engines. So it is surprizing that SPH took another stab at this – a compilation of the cartoons from Lianhe Zaobao. Maybe they are testing the market. This book was launched at the Singapore Book Fair at Suntec City during the June school holidays and only about 500 copies were printed.

A total of four artists’ cartoons are featured and only cartoons dealing with local topics are compiled here. That explains why Heng Kim Song’s cartoons are not included as he draws mainly about foreign politics and not local events. Some of the topics covered: new PSLE scoring system, the maid situation in Singapore, our obsession with our mobile phones, Michelin Star hawker food, HDB flats being too small, aedes mosquitoes, and so on. You get the idea. Even if you read the papers every day, you can still learn something new from perusing this book as there might be some local news that you may have missed out.

If nothing else, this book reaffirms the fact that the best editorial cartoonist is the angriest one. And so Li Tai Li wins over the rest hands down. You can feel the seething anger rising from the lines in some of his cartoons. He does not jump from one trendy topic (eg. Pokemon) to another – he sets his targets and keeps firing. So he is at his most satirical and critical when he takes on issues about education, this whole notion of meritocracy in Singapore and how stressful a society we are. He touches on the unemployment problem we face, structural or otherwise and he saves his best bullets on the useless young adults who are still living off their parents. He is relentless. Li Tai Li deserves a book of his own.

Some suggestions to improve the book: to organize the cartoons thematically, so that it is easy for the reader to find all the cartoons about a particular topic. To include dates of original publication and to provide some context / background to the events depicted in the cartoons. Memory is short these days. Some of these events should be remembered.

Sold at $15 if you can find it. ;)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Ye Zhen's Singapore Pok Kai Zai!!!

Sold at STGCC 2017 but will be having its proper launch at SWF in November (10.11.17, 8.30 pm – 9.30 pm at the Arts House), Book 10 of Ye Zhen’s Singapore Horror Hip Hop, Singapore Pok Kai Zai, is still the most far out comic series in Singapore. Skateboard P and his posse (Snoop Eastwood, Spacegirl and Kate Li, etc.) are still defending Earth from alien enemies. The new super villain is Nonpander Yingjie (where does Ye Zhen get the names from? His enemies in real life? People who stole his girlfriends in the past?) who is instigated by Skateboard P’s archenemies, the time-traveling Warbabies, the main troublemakers of the series.

Since 2008 when Ye Zhen released the first four volumes of his horror hip hop epic, comic readers have been trying to figure him out. Where did he come from? Where did he study comics? Why is he doing comics? And why these type of comics? Singapore Horror Hip hop is totally different from the stuff put out by Sonny Liew, Troy Chin, Koh Hong Teng (circa late 2000s) which are more autobiographical and ‘serious’ in nature. Ye Zhen is simply doing his own thing and you can say he does not quite fit in with the other comic creators or what readers expect of comics from Singapore.

Which, to me, is a great thing. We need variety and diversity in our comics. Even if they absurd and non-PC comics – sexy babes with tattoos fighting renegade aliens together with their Afro boyfriends who look like they are on dope and constantly getting it on with the babes to the sounds of Marvin Gaye. And these are the heroes of the series.

Artwork wise and in terms of pacing and storytelling, Ye Zhen has improved. This is evident since the last book. If you have been following the series, it is getting more fun to read. Even if you are a new reader, you will be impressed by the verve and energy of his lines and strokes.

There is a confidence at play here when Ye Zhen starts the story with our hero Skateboard P having bizarre bad dreams about an Attack on Titan experience in primary school and then witnessing the death of his mother in hospital. Except that he knows it is not his real mother, but “the one in my nonsensical dreams.” But it does not make the vision any less terrifying. There is a certain bleakness when Ye Zhen writes the lines, “I guess everybody has to sleep in a hospital bed at some point. Either sooner or later. As a baby from the start or as a victim of human regression.”

It’s almost social commentary at some point – just before the big fight, Skateboard P and Nonpander Yingjie had a heart to heart talk walking down the streets. They are like a mouthpiece for Ye Zhen and his beliefs: “This country has paid the price for its prosperity. Despite the advancements, we still have a ‘colonial state’ mindset. We have nothing important culturally to call our own but our great wealth. And no amount of wealth can change the fact that we are servants to our colonial cultural masters.”

But it is not clear what this colonial state culture is. Ye Zhen is influenced by Western music, movies and Japanese manga culture (he cited Hunter X Hunter) – are these colonial or contemporary cultures? How have they shaped us and our decisions? Ye Zhen has not quite sorted out what his heroes and villains represent – the status quo or chaos/anarchy? He may need to think harder about his characters and their motivations.

Still, it is still one hell of a read especially if you like Jo Jo Bizarre Adventures and Hong Kong kung fu comics. Singapore Pok Kai Zai is emotionally charged with kinetic energy and almost non-stop fighting.

“Even the best of us have to scream madly at some point. Together or alone, yes sir.”

The book is sold for $15 at:

Kinokuniya at Takashimaya Lvl 3

Comics World at Parklane #B1-22

Ghim Moh Book Corner 929 Ghim Moh Rd Blk 19, #1-239

Books Actually at No. 9 Yong Siak Street, Tiong Bahru

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

FSc exhibition

Once upon a time, Foo Swee Chin (FSc) was one of our most elusive comic artists in Singapore. Despite contributing cartoons to Liahe Zaobao since the 1990s and drawing her own comic titles for Nekopress and Slave Labor Graphics (predating Sonny Liew as the first comic artist from Singapore to be published in America), she remained relatively unknown in her home country. She is more famous overseas, especially in Japan where she has been documenting her attempts to break into the competitive manga market there. She has boothed several times at Comiket but it's still tough.

So why has FSc been languishing in obscurity? Part of the reason is her own quiet character and quirky personality. She doesn't like crowds, which I can understand - Singapore is getting too crowded! She is slightly introverted and not one to self-promote herself. A few of us comic / manga scholars have been trying to get her introduced to a wider audience. We featured her in the Women's Manga Beyond Japan conferences in Singapore (2011) and Vietnam (2012) and she has been invited to present about her work at various manga conferences in Japan, Australia and elsewhere.

Things are better in recent years as she has come out of her shell more - she made appearances at local events like Panelgraph in 2015 and was featured at last year's Singapore Writers Fest which presented her with lots of love from her old fans from the 1990s. They have been trying to track her down. She is that elusive.

She was also an invited guest of the Comic Art Festival Kuala Lumpur in 2016. She is also featured at STGCC this coming weekend and will also be speaking on panels at the upcoming Comics and Translation symposium at The Arts House, 23-24 Sept.

Now thanks to Eddie Cee and Artblovk, she will be holding her first solo exhibition in Singapore.


ANSUZ: FSc launch night
15 Sept 2017
at Artblovk
195 Pearls hill terrace #03-05
Singapore 168976

The exhibition will run from 15 Sept to 15 Oct - free admission!

In the meantime, you can try to look for her Clairvoyance e-comic online and hunt down the sketchbook, EP (Extended Psychoneurosis) published by Funics in 2015. She has a new book out in Japanese by Kadokawa, Nihon Lah, which was originally serialized online on Kadokawa's Comicwalker. The book has also been translated into Chinese and sold in Taiwan.

See you at the opening on 15 Sept.

Some links:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

STGCC 2017: Interview with Arthur Adams (and Ann Nocenti)

Art Adams is coming to town with his comic artist wife, Joyce Chin.

Here is his bio from the STGCC website:

Arthur Adams, a self-taught artist, became a fan favorite when, at the age of 19, he left his job making pizzas for the masses to pencil the critically-acclaimed Longshot limited series, written by Ann Nocenti and published in 1985 by Marvel Comics. He has been in high demand as an artist since.

Adams' highly distinctive and detailed artwork gained him considerable popularity amongst fans and editors, if not his inkers, and he's enjoyed being a cover artist, and the artist and sometime writer for miniseries, specials, and annuals. These days, in order to spare inkers the pain, his work is largely shot directly from pencils or inked by himself, with some exceptions.

In his career, Arthur has worked on many titles, Batman, Superman, Spiderman, X men, Godzilla, Vampirella, Rocketeer, the Authority, Danger Girl, Excalibur, and the Hulk, to name a few. He also launched his creator owned, written, and drawn series Monkeyman and O'Brian in 1993 with Dark Horse Comics "Legend" imprint. He also had a ten-issue run on an anthology series featuring the character Jonnie Future. The eight page Jonnie Future stories appeared in Tom Strong's Terrific Tales (2002–2004). More recently, Arthur has been working on Ultimate X for Marvel Comics with writer Jeph Loeb, and issue one launched in 2010.

Adams has provided cover images for issues of the Justice League of America, Appleseed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Green Lantern, Hulk, Avengers, X Men, Red Sonja, Superman, Batman, and Vampirella, among other titles. In addition to his work in comic books, he has also produced popular commercial art, such as numerous illustrations for trading cards, posters, shirts, and various other comics-related merchandise. Outside the field of comics, he has also provided illustrations for various magazines, movies, video games, and worked in toy design, packaging art, and even a series of X-Men-themed Campbell Soup cans.

Arthur lives in Northern California in the woods somewhere, like his hero, Bigfoot. When told he should have a "Web" site he went outside and tried to spin his own web. It was funny and sad all at once. We got him back inside and gave him his medicine.

I managed to speak to Art on the phone on a Saturday morning (it was Friday evening in California). The phone was on speaker mode as Art was drawing and answering my questions at the same time. A hard working artist, his quick wit and humourous side came through loud and clear over the phone.

Q: You were an army brat, and you are not the only one in the comic industry eg. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Ed Brubaker also grew up in military bases. What is it with the army and comic books?

A: I didn’t know that about the other army brats in comics. My dad was in the air force and the first two comic books I had was given to me by my father. He came back from a long period of being away and he brought back these two giant comic books, which he didn’t even buy. They were some comics an airman had left behind on the plane. My dad was in charge of keeping the plane clean so that it can be used the next day. So he gave them to me and I love them!

Q: What comics did you get?

A: Giant Superhero Holiday Grab Bag and Marvel Special Edition: The Spectacular Spiderman, both from 1975. These were the treasury editions and the Spiderman one had him versus the Sinister Six and also reprinted the first appearance of the Lizard.
I wish all my comics were like that in that size!

Q: You breakout work was Longshot in 1985. I remember picking up #1 and it was a breath of fresh air with its kinetics and crazy details. In hindsight, did you expect it to be so popular and successful when Ann Nocenti offered it to you? (I can’t believe all the other artists who rejected it…)

A: I was very fortunate when Annie asked me to do draw Longshot. I wanted to draw comics so badly that I would have drawn anything offered to me at that time. So you will never really know how things would have turned out.

Q: Do you get any royalties from Marvel for co-creating the character?

A: Not much, just some.

Q: Some writers have described Longshot as proto-Image with inks by Whilce Portacio and an uncredited Scott Williams, and even helping to popularize cheesecake art in comics in recent times. How do you pled?

A: I have never heard that before (laugh). I was more influenced by Dave Stevens and his Rocketeer. And he was influenced by Bettie Page and all those wonderful artists like Frank Frazetta.

Q: It’s water under the bridge now, but why didn’t you join Image and went with Dark Horse for the Legend imprint instead back in the early 1990s?

A: I thought about doing that, going to Image. But when I had wanted to do my own creator owned book, I was already friends with the artists at Dark Horse. I knew Walt Simonson, Frank Miller, Mike Mignola and John Byrne who were all doing stuff for Dark Horse. So it was a matter of wanting to hang out with people we already knew. And I got along with the Dark Horse people like Mike Richardson.

Q: I bought the Gumby Summer Fun Special #1 published by Comico back in 1987 and it was lots of fun. Are you still a fan of Gumby?

A: Well I’m not a huge Gumby fan. I was a fan of the first Gumby comic writer, Bob Burden (who wrote The Flaming Carrot Comics) and I wanted to work with him. Gumby was silly fun, so I don’t mind a career drawing him. It will be easy to draw.

But I am not sure how much cheesecake art I can put into Gumby.

Q: Why the obsession with monsters and B-movies?

A: I just love these monsters as a child. I just didn’t grow up and they became part of my career. I still like King Kong and Godzilla. The idea of radiation baking a big monster on a jungle island, that appeals to me. Also the good thing when drawing monsters is that even if it’s ugly, no one knows. You make a mistake with the monsters, no one will know. They are monsters.
Yeah I saw the new King Kong film and also the recent American and Japanese Godzilla films. I like them. They are well done.

Q: That old DC-Marvel team-up book, The Uncanny X-Men and The New Teen Titans (1982) drawn by Walt Simonson was described by you as “the bible of how to draw comics”. You have drawn the X-Men many times over. Ever want to work on the Teen Titans? (other than that pinup you did of Starfire)

A: It’s the bible of how to draw a teen superhero comic book. There were so many characters in that book. To draw Teen Titans? Not particularly. That’s because I only like the George Perez-Marv Wolfman period. The team was different by the time I can draw them and you have these other characters that I don’t care about so much. I suppose I’m more of a Marvel kid.

Q: You are known for being slow in drawing. Have you gotten faster over the years?

A: Oh no. I think I’ve gotten even slower. All the details are still there. Even more in fact.

Q: Reading your earlier interviews, your desire and determination to be a comic book artist could be seen at a very early age. (you published your first story at 19) Do you think that is what’s important for someone to break into the comic industry – guts and drive? (other than talent and luck, of course)

A: It’s a combination of factors. I truly wanted to do it, to draw comics. But there were others who really wanted to draw comics, they were not given the opportunity. So I got lucky that I started out on Longshot.

It’s a complicated story but Louise Simonson had just ended her editing career at Marvel and went freelance. She had started editing Longshot while still on staff and Ann and I were worried whether Louise would continue with us. She did, as a freelance editor. Now, we were worried how fast I could draw to complete the series. If a fulltime editor had been handling the book, there might be more pressure on me to complete it faster and it might not have come out the same or turned out as well as it should. So who knows, that might be my last book for Marvel. Luckily because of Louise being a freelance editor, that gave me time to learn. During the two years it took me to draw Longshot, I also spoke to other artists and I learned a lot of stuff.

Q: There are quite a few comic professional couples working in the industry today. What are the pros and cons of being married to a fellow professional?

A: We both understand each other when we have deadlines. Joyce is better at it, she draws faster. Those who are not couples in the industry, they may not be as understanding as much, so there could some problems.

The bad thing is that neither of us are good housekeepers (laugh). The house is a disaster, a mess!

Q: What do you look forward to in Singapore? What food you and Joyce are dying to try?

A: Chicken rice! I like all kinds of food. I heard there are good and fresh seafood in Singapore so we are pretty excited. When I was dating Joyce, her mom didn’t like me. She was not thrilled her daughter was dating a white boy. So she tested me by getting me to try new food. I met the challenge. Even chicken feet.

We welcome Art and Joyce to the food paradise that is Singapore.
(Thanks to Joyce Chin for helping to arrange for the interview)

x x x

A Chat with Ann Nocenti

To make things more complete (and I’m a big Longshot fan), I reached out to Ann Nocenti to tap her memories of the early 1980s…

Ann is the famed writer and editor at Marvel who co-created Longshot with Art. She also wrote X-Men, the New Mutants and Daredevil, creating the explosive Typhoid Mary with John Romita Jr. She took a break from writing and editing comics and went into journalism. And now she is back creating a new series for Karen Berger’s new line of comics with Dark Horse. Art by David Aja. We are looking forward to that.

Q: I read that Longshot was a result of your readings and studies of existentialism and media theories. Looking back, would you have done Longshot differently?

A: I have certainly matured as a writer... When I look back at that comic, I think it was too complicated perhaps, too much story, too many characters-- but maybe that is also what made it fun-- the over-the-top zaniness of both the writing and the art. Arthur and I were both young, enthusiastic, thrilled to be making a comic, and I think that enthusiasm from both of us is there in the pages.

Q: Did you expect the character to have such longevity?

A: Not really, but I think it was Arthur's artwork that gave it longevity -- fans were amazed at the power and detail of his work, and he influenced many artists to come.

Q: Do you still follow the comics featuring Longshot, Mojo and Spiral? (and Typhoid Mary for that matter)

A: I don't follow the comics. I am usually overwhelmed with other things I need to read for various projects. I am just happy to know they are all still leading fun (or villainous) lives!

Q: Your run of Daredevil explores various societal issues. Typhoid Mary is particularly memorable. What is the impetus of creating and writing the character?

A: My run on Daredevil was influenced by living in New York City -- many of the stories came from things I experienced on the streets. Typhoid was one of the few elements that came from another place -- I think maybe frustration with how women were portrayed in comics, and she was a kind of satire on that -- she was all the female stereotypes in one crazy bundle. Also, Johnny Romita Jr. and I wanted to create a villain that could attack both Daredevil and Matt Murdock.

Q: You went into journalism and filmmaking in the 1990s. Why the departure from comics?

A: I've always been a restless type, and my stories, especially in Daredevil, had some journalistic aspects to them. So I think I was headed into pure journalism and documentary filmmaking all along.

Q: You have returned to comics in recent years. What brought that about and how has the comic industry changed from your point of view?

A: More women in comics! That is the best and most welcome change.

Q: The new project with Karen Berger is exciting news. Can you tell us more about that, the new series that you are writing? (The Seeds drawn by David Aja)

A: Well, every panel is a spoiler in that comic, so it is difficult to talk about without ruining the mystery, but it is an eco-thriller, in the not too distant future.

We should get Ann to Singapore one day.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

IAF 2017: interview with Fishball 阿鱼丸

Fishball 阿鱼丸 is one of the most popular Malaysian cartoonists on social media.

Check out her hilarious facebook page:

Her book with Maple Comics, My Giant Geek Boyfriend, is a best seller.

Even Heidi MacDonald and the Huffington Post wrote about her:

She will be boothing at IAF this weekend. Sadly, her giant nerd boyfriend won’t be here.


Details for IAF 2017:

Q: In a sentence, how would you describe My Giant Geek Boyfriend?
A: Height difference is not as fun as it seems.

Q: Is your boyfriend real?
A: Yes he is!

Q: What gave you the idea of doing a strip like this?
A: I like to record interesting things. I'm not good with words, hence I draw them out into strips.

Q: How / when / why did you start drawing cartoons?
A: Primary school, I think...?

Q: Who influence you? (pls don’t say it’s your boyfriend)
A: My dad.

Q: Who influence your style of comics?
A: Hergé and a lot of manga.

Q: Is your fan base more English or Chinese speaking?
A: English.

Q: Is your fan base more local or foreign?
A: Foreign, somehow.

Q: Even my friend in the Philippines want me to get your book when you hawk your wares at IAF. What gives?
A: Yay come meet me for the book! :D

Q: Did you expect this level of success / infamy?
A: Nope, not at all...

Q: Was a conscious strategy to use social media to conquer the world?
A: Wait, I didn't know I had so much power in the first place!

Q: Is your boyfriend embarrassed of you?

Q: Are you embarrassed of your boyfriend?
A: Wait, why would I?

Q: Maple told me you do your own translation for your comics. Was it fun translating all the f*uck f*ck sh*t sh*t?
A: A lot of fun. So many variations of profanities!

Q: Why are your strips for mature readers only? My 7 year old niece is very disappointed her mom doesn't let her read Fishball. My sister told her only can eat fishball.
A: Duh, profanities. Please do enjoy fishballs, they are delicious.

Q: Do you say a lot of bad words in real life?
A: I do have the tendency to swear...

Q: Are you really that small size and is your boyfriend really that big?
A: I would say I am at an average height...? He's the one that's freakishly huge, haha.

Q: Is your boyfriend more famous than you?
A: Haha! Maybe!

Q: Why isn’t he coming to Singapore?
A: He couldn't fit in the bus seat hahahahaha! Nah, he's busy.

Q: Do you know how disappointed people will be?
A: Aww I'm sorry ):

Q: Are you looking forward to meeting your fans at IAF in Singapore?
A: Yes!

Q: Finally, why do you call yourself fishball?
A: It's cute, easy to remember, and delicious.