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.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The house of lee

The Lee siblings dispute over 38 Oxley Road has come to an end for now.

(cartoon by Don Low, 6 July)


What the debacle has thrown up is a series of cartoons on social media that will not see the light of day in the mainstream press.

The first shot was fired by Dan Wong / A Good Citizen on 14 June.

This was followed by James Tan / SingaporeInk on 15 June.

In fact, I met up with James that morning and told him he need to get to it, throwing down the gauntlet for him to draw a cartoon about the house of Lee. And the cartoon was up that afternoon, inspired by Richard McGuire no less.

James followed up with a few more cartoons over the next few weeks.

(3 July)

(4 July)

(5 July)

(6 July - this is my favourite, modelled after Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World, of course)

Others also got on to the act, like The Cartoon Press.

(3 July)

And Sonny Liew.

(19 June)

The best political comics and cartoons are on social media these days. Last year, when Professor of Communications and comic scholar pioneer, John Lent was in town to research on political cartoons in Singapore, I sent him to interview Dan Wong, James Tan, Don Low and Sonny Liew. While there are more cartoons in the press now about local events, there are still very little usage of political caricatures. That is reserved for satirizing foreign politics and politicians. It reminds me of what Kuo Pao Kun said in 1998 – what kind of cartoonists do we have when they only make fun of other countries’ leaders and not our own?

Do we have a sense of humour? Can we laugh at ourselves?

There is a curious history to all these.

Singapore used to have a vibrant political cartooning scene in the 1950s and early 1960s. But with the demands of nation-building and the need for national consensus from the late 1960s onwards, there were less and less political cartoons in the newspapers and magazines. Most cartoons illustrate social and economic affairs with a light and humourous touch rather than commenting on the politics and government policies.

For a long time, there was no political caricatures. That’s why we always enjoy Morgan Chua’s caricatures of Lee Kuan Yew when Morgan was the chief artist for the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) in the 1980s.

(NB: this is not a Morgan cartoon from his FEER days, but taken from his book, My Singapore)

And also memorable ones by overseas artists like David Levine.

It was only with the launch of National Education and the mounting of the National Education Exhibition at Suntec City in 1997, and the publication of The Singapore Story by Lee Kuan Yew (volume one of his memoirs) in 1998 that history made a ‘return’, which allowed some gentle caricatures to be featured locally. In 2000, we have the children’s book, Growing Up with Lee Kuan Yew by Lawrence Koh Choon Teck and also My Singapore by Morgan Chua.

But we are still a long way from holding up the savage mirror to show the emperor is really, well, naked.

Many years ago, when I did my research on political cartooning in Singapore, some told me that they do not tackle local politics head-on because that is not the Asian way of doing things. We do not make fun of our leaders or wash our dirty laundry in the public and any disputes or problems should be resolved behind closed doors.

Things have not changed that much as this cartoon by James Tan shows.

(23 June)

Except things have changed with social media and globalisation. For those who still read political cartoons either those done here or overseas, we know what the standards are. Sure, one can draw political cartoons without using caricatures and use exaggeration, symbols, metaphors or animals as representations instead. But by doing that, you are depriving yourself of one of the key tools in your chosen medium. It’s like swimming with your hands tied behind your back.

We know things are not easy like in the Leslie Chew’s case.



The Charlie Hebdo attack has shown the potential powder keg political cartooning can be – welding the satirical pen can be bad for your health. Still, you cannot take on giants if you don’t expect a few chipped nails or two.

(Cheah Sin Ann's The House of Lim, the long-running comic strip in The Straits Times in the 1980s and 1990s. It was originally to be called The House of Lee. Until it was decided otherwise...)

To cross boundaries without making offense. But what kinds of boundaries are you crossing then? What kind of changes or improvements are you hoping for?

Thursday, November 17, 2016

chin yew needs your help...

Chin Yew is probably one of the most persistent bugger I know. I first got to know the Malaysian comic artist when he sent in a story for Liquid City Vol 2 (Image Comics, 2010), an anthology of Southeast Asian comics I co-edited with Sonny Liew. Chin Yew is heavily influenced by the Drawn & Quarterly gang like Joe Matt, Seth and Chester Brown. The story he did, The Box, is a little existentialist tale about a man trying to get rid of his porn addiction. (but one never gets rid of one’s porn collection as Joe Matt has proven; you just rebuy all the old Playboy and Penthouse you have thrown away…)

I gave Chin Yew the feedback that porn addiction is too specific and not all would identify with it. I suggested for him to change it to addiction in general. He agreed and you can read the story for yourself in Liquid City Vol 2.

In the year that Liquid City Vol 2 came out, Harvey Pekar passed away. Both Chin Yew and I were big fans and we readily worked on a comic story together to pay tribute to the man.


Apparently, Joyce Brabner, Pekar’s widow, has a copy of the book.

So I am familiar with Chin Yew’s work, having edited his comics and worked with him. He went to Europe to work for a few years and we lost touch. But we got reconnected again when he returned to Malaysia a few years ago. Since then, he started a patreon page where for USD$1 a month, you get his daily diatribes. So get this, for just 0.033 cents a day, you get a read a single page comic filled with quirky insights and loser situations that you are glad Chin Yew is experiencing on your behalf. You get to live vicariously. For just 0.033 cents a day.

I’m doing this sales pitch not because Chin Yew is a friend but he is a very talented artist spilling his guts out on the page – his bad relationship with his father, his lack of a girlfriend problem, etc. It’s uninhibited and bashful.

Recently, Chin Yew had an exhibition and here are some photos from it.


I’ve also included a sample of Chin Yew’s daily strip here. Hope he doesn’t mind. (too late bro!)

What I like about Chin Yew is his tenacity. As of today, it is Day 449 of his daily struggle.

Anyway, if this is something you like, do support support.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

SWF 2016: Tita Larasati

In the previous blog entry, I featured Xin, a local artist whose comics are like diary entries. This particular form of comics is rather popular among indie female comic artists these days - personal and confessional in a short story. We have longer autobiographical stories like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (2006), Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know (2009), and Miriam Katin's We Are On Our Own: A Memoir (2006) and Letting It Go (2013). Miriam will be at the Singapore Writers Fest next weekend.

But in Asia, the short story form in telling personal stories has taken root. In Japan, we have the essay manga while in Indonesia, we have the graphic diaries. You also see similar examples in Thailand and Malaysia (the comics of Sarah Joan Mokhtar and the travelogues of Mimi Mashud, which is a slightly different genre). Of course, this form is not exclusive to female artists. In Singapore, we have the Ollie baby stories by dreamscape and the urban sketching trips of Favian Ee.

One of the pioneers of the graphic diaries from Indonesia will be coming for the SWF, Tita Larasati. Together with Sheila Rooswitha, Tita started doing graphic diaries in the 2000s. In 2008, Tita and Rony Amdani set up CAB to publish graphic diaries. Their first titles were Curhat Tita by Tita and Cerita si Lala by Sheila.

Both of their stories have appeared in the Liquid City volumes, the anthology of Southeast Asian comics published by Image Comics. Sheila did a family road trip story in Vol 2 while Tita wrote about her grandmother in Vol 3. Recently, Tita's mother passed away and she has been remembering about her ibu in short graphic diary entries which she posted on Facebook.

At SWF, Tita will be appearing on a panel with Miriam about Drawing To A Close, on graphic novelists wrestle with the concept of personal loss and trauma - how they depict painful memories, and how the process helps them seek closure.

Tita has come to Singapore several times for STGCC and other personal trips. But this will be the first time she will be speaking about her personal comics. Do check out her panel with Miriam.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Illustration Arts Fest / Singapore Writers Fest 2016: Interview with Xin

The Illustration Arts Fest at LaSalle may be over but the fest continues as part of the Singapore Writers Festival over this coming weekend. I’ve been interviewing the foreign guests, but this week I like to feature our homegrown talent, Weng Pixin, or better known as Xin.

I first encountered the work of the 32 year old artist about five years ago. She was then selling her own handmade toys from recycled materials in a shop, Doinky Doodles, which she opened in 2008 along Bali Lane (an earlier incarnation was Maki Squarepatch in 2006). She was also teaching part time at LaSalle on how to draw comics.

Xin is not a professional comic artist. But she has created a few mini comics, which she sold at her shop and bookshops like Books Actually. At that point in time, she has made about 8 mini comics and 3 poster comics. Her mini comics are priced at $10 and above, double the price of most other mini comics in Singapore.

Xin’s comics are reminiscent of the work of Harvey Pekar and Jeffrey Brown. She seeks to emulate the emotional and intellectual intensity of the former but is closer to the latter’s lovelorn sappiness. Her major comics are the two-parter, Please To Meet You and I’ve Lost An Ocean, which detailed the fallout of her breakup with her boyfriend in 2006.

Xin described these two works as diary-entries, and doing these comics was meant to be therapeutic for her. In the afterword, she said she was advised by family and friends to not be overly edited. Thus, Xin’s comics falls within the category of what Hillary Chute described as reimagining trauma, whereby artists return literally to events to re-view them.

The first book, Please To Meet You was a blow by blow account of the fallout. But the catharsis was incomplete. The second book, I’ve Lost An Ocean was more reflective. It took place immediately after the events of Please To Meet You – it showed how Xin picked herself up, recovered from the experience and reconciled with the breakup. She still described her boyfriend as kind and gentle even though she was dumped for no good reason.

In this email interview, Xin’s answers were thoughtful and provided insights into her artistic processes and practice. The desire to build a community through art is a constant refrain in her replies. Xin has since closed down Doinky Doodles at the end of 2013 and has started a new workspace, Studio Why Not.

What is your current art practice and what informs it?

My current art practice involves teaching-&-facilitating art workshops mostly for children, engaging in community-based art projects and designing-&-facilitating art experientials for groups of individuals with specific goals in mind (the goals are often directed by the organizations I am working with). In terms of my personal art-making processes, I find that there has been a gradual shift, from my initial interest to create semi-fictional pieces reflecting themes of loss, change and transformations, to my more current interest, which carries themes of acceptance, courage and working with vulnerability. I feel my interest in expressing my responses to universal states, such as happiness, shame, pain, harmony…etc, are what generally informs my art processes, practices and interests.

How would you describe yourself - an art maker of handmade objects, an art therapist or a comic artist?

Yes, I think all of them apply to me in big and small ways.

You graduated with a first class honours in Painting, Fine Arts from the LASALLE College of the Arts in 2004, and later returned to LASALLE to do a Masters in Art Therapy. What motivates you as an artist?

What motivated me is…probably my belief that art is not an extra special something in life, and that art is very much part of our life. It is not restricted to scheduled moments in the theatre, galleries…, it is also not restricted to books, paintings and many other structure that art exists in and within (though those mediums are just part of where art takes its form in). Art is a form of communication in the broadest sense, be it in a verbal or nonverbal manner, or both. For me, seeing art in this way motivated me to do what I do, as an art-maker, art therapist and comic artist.

Can you share with us My Thread, My Word, your communal sewing project?

My Thread, My Word started because I found myself wanting to sew, but I was not motivated to do it on my own anymore (I did solo-sewing for close to 7 years!) I had completed my studies in art therapy and began work in a private psychotherapy clinic. Soon the idea of a communal sewing project came to mind. I wanted to…somehow (during my off days from work) be able to do something that brings people together through the art process that I enjoy very much, while also giving me the opportunity to sew. It is also connected to my belief that art is for everyone, that it is not about being in some hip venue making art (though I don’t mind that happening), but really- about the gathering of people in a comfortable space to make and sew some art together.

When and why did you start doing comics?

I started making comics sometime in 2006. The reason was pretty much to make sense of a heartbreak that was experienced as a very sudden and surprising thing, so naturally- that made it rather hard to sort of, digest, what just happened. I tried writing it out, like journal-entries really. Then when I found I could not put to words what was going on, I found myself drawing, to accompany my journal. As it looked like a huge mess, I thought to arrange them in boxes, which also helped provide a sequence or flow to how the words and pictures work together to tell my story. Prior to that, I had not read a single graphic novel in my life (I grew up more with cartoons and short-formed comics like Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes or Matt Groening’s Life in Hell). When I completed my comic, I knew I was not the only one who ever went through a heartbreak from breakups, and so decided to print it into a comic zine to sell at art markets. It was only then, where people started sharing information to me about graphic novelists, in a “hey, your work reminds me of so and so”, where I begin to check out graphic novels.

Who/what are your influences for art in general and specifically for comics?

My influences in art came from…as a teen, mainly Van Gogh and Picasso. Van Gogh for his passion and honesty (though looking back, I think he needed a lot more help than just making art), and Picasso for his playfulness and daringness. As an art student, I found myself more influenced by people I get to meet close-up (not through art books), because I feel seeing the artworks themselves made a much bigger impact on me. For me, as an art student- I was under the tutelage of Ye Shufang and Kelvin Tan during my studies. While Shufang encouraged me to check out works by overseas artists through books, which was wonderful, Kelvin recommended that I check out a senior of mine, Sia Joo Hiang, who was painting a few doors from where I was situated. I was pretty lucky to be able to check out her art space back when LASALLE College of the arts was situated at Goodman Road. Joo Hiang’s works made a big impact on me, because she painted the way, I feel, Marlene Dumas painted. I don’t mean stylistically, but in terms of energy: raw, unfiltered, bold…in a way that it stirs me emotionally. Looking back, I realized this energy of ‘stirring’ me was likely from their courage to be themselves and speak their minds. As an art student, this was refreshing because she was showing me that we can use art beyond representing something in our immediate surroundings. Joo Hiang’s art taught me how we can communicate ourselves in an, as unafraid a manner as possible. In my comics, I tried to do that as much as possible.

What is your process like for your comics? Do you lay out your pages first by doing thumbnails or is it more free flowing - you just draw one panels after another? Do get someone to edit your work?

The process for my comics has been a bit of a mixed bag. In some stories I wish to tell, I find it better to plan it out a bit, and in some others, I find free flowing works much better. Overall, I avoid too much planning such as sketching in detail where everything is to be within a panel or as a whole comic. This is due to the fact that I am sort of a messy art-maker in my paintings and drawings. In my sewing, I rarely plan at all. So I suppose I don’t quite work well with too much structure or certainty put into place.

You have described Please To Meet You and I've Lost An Ocean as diary-entries. Are they meant to be therapeutic?

They were meant to…help me understand what was going on inside my head. For some reasons, the heartbreak (then) hit me pretty hard and I was not able to string words together to make sense of my thoughts. I wanted to gather my thoughts so they could help me understand what is going on in order to know what I can do next. And in turns out- the pictures have to come in, to help me out.

What functions do comics serve for the individual (for the artist and for the reader) and for society?

I believe there is research stating that we survive as a human species by communicating and passing along our stories, our lived experiences, universal desires and wishes…and so on. In essence, it makes us feel less alone in our experiences and dilemmas. And comics is just one such way for stories to be created, passed along, for people (readers) to feel less alone and more connected to the community. Personally, I felt relieved when I found Gabrielle Bell’s works, because she captured a sense of mundaneness which I could relate to very much. I felt ‘less alone’ in experiencing my personal bouts of melancholia, and in turn- that helped relieved anxiety of ‘being the only one feeling or thinking this and that’.

Why do you think most Singapore comics today are dealing with more about personal stories and issues?

I believe we inherently, not only as Singaporeans, but just as people, want to belong. And a way to do that is to express ourselves, connect, and engage with others. Considering from a local context…there may be some reasons such as: (1) the availability of the internet, where you are exposed to a greater spectrum of others’ lives, from the wonky to the mundane, to the really interesting; (2) This may also be connected to the newer government’s approach where it is less authoritative than what my parents’ generation was used to. There is an expanded area for conversations, opinions and thoughts to be shared (more so compared to the past). With that, you have people feeling more comfortable expressing themselves than before; or (3) art schools and art colleges’ teaching approach, where the encouragement of one’s ideas (as a ground for art to take form) trumps the focus on honing techniques.

What was the last comic you produced and any new ones coming out soon?

The last comic produced was probably in 2015, where I completed a series of short-form comics, working along the themes of conversations with the subconscious (if subconscious manifested as a human being). A new one I am working on is a short blurb for Chicks on Comics project, a Buenos Aires-based comics collective, with a focus in supporting and encouraging women comic artists.

Comics as art or art as comics - what do you think?

I like to think it is comics as art as life.

You are taking part in the SWF panel on Illustrating the Female Body. Is illustration a mode for feminist discourse? And what is the role of the woman artist in contemporary times?

Yes, illustration is certainly a mode for feminist discourse. Art in all forms is a potential mode for feminist discourse, so long as it is communication that does not promote hate and divisiveness. Illustration in particular is powerful because of its usage in print media and online media. Considered from a local context, a woman artist can further utilise her capacity by using her art as a form of education and support for the younger generation, especially the girls. For example, I believe illustrations (or any other form of art…) that seek to capture a fuller spectrum of women’s lives, experiences and dreams, can be a great base to contribute to the feminist discourse. If an artist’s illustrations can help inspire a girl to feel less alone, help her think and dream big, I believe that makes illustration a wonderful modality for amazing things to take form.

After the interview, I thought of an additional question for Xin, whether she feels alone and isolated as a woman and as an artist? Maybe I’ll ask that at the SWF panel she is appearing at:


Check out her activities here:


And you can find the rest of the IAF panels at SWF here:


Friday, October 21, 2016

Illustration Arts Fest / Singapore Writers Fest 2016 - A short interview with Mattias Adolfsson

Famed Swedish illustrator Mattias Adolfsson is coming to town for the Illustration Arts Fest at La Salle at the end this month. Something his fans in Singapore are looking forward to. And he is one of the most relaxed and chilled guys you will get to meet too. He left the games industry some years ago and has not looked back since.

His appearance at the Illustration Arts Fest:

And at the Singapore Writers Fest:

How burnt out were you when you decided to quit your day job and just go into illustration full time?

Not that much. It was just a growing feeling that I wanted to quit the game industry; the plan was to work a couple of years more as my side business grew on the side. My body told me it was high time, but I guess the brain did not agree fully with the decision.

Are surprised by the success and acclaim you have achieved overseas? For example, the adoration you have received from your fans in Taiwan..

Yes it`s a constant surprise for me but I am very happy that the things I draw are liked all over the world

Where do you get your ideas from?

I get them from my brain, but where my brain gets it from I have no idea.

What is with your fascination with robots, machines and steampunk?

It`s probably from my childhood I have always been fascinated by things I really can`t understand.

Is the future dystopic?

Probably yes, but I like to think positive with my drawings, nothing halters creativity than a depression.

Given the details in your illustrations, how big are your originals?

For most of the time I draw in scale 1 to 1, so if you see something in prints it`s probably its size

What do you expect to find in Singapore?

So many people have told me how wonderful it is, so I have really high expectations. One thing that I`m expecting is to sweat alot.