Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Comic Collector in Singapore

Originally written for the inaugural Singapore Comics Kaki (SCK) newsletter launched at STGCC 2014.

Like Superman and Spiderman, the comic collector in Singapore can be elusive.
Some of us have wondered who is this person. Does he or she have a secret identity like the superheroes? Even for the bestselling titles, newspaper reports would only give rough estimates based on ballpark figures provided by comic shops or booksellers. A few years ago, I compiled a monthly list of bestselling graphic novels provided by the bookshops on . But it was not possible to get firm figures. Less is known about the comic collector who buys the comics. This is an attempt to find out from who is the comic collector in Singapore.

A questionnaire was put up on the Singapore Comics Kaki (SCK) facebook page on 16 August and a few other sites. Replies were received till 26 August. 13 males and 1 female responded. While recent US reports claimed that there are more female readers, this may not be the case in Singapore. What is quite clear, however, is that most of the respondents are in their 30s-40s, which meant they are quite serious collectors and have the buying power to purchase collectible back issues, especially the Silver Age titles. What was surprising is that even with this small sample size, two respondents listed Incredible Hulk #181 (1974, first major appearance of Wolverine) as one of the valuable comics in their collection. My sense is that this is a group of collectors who grew up reading comics and is now able to afford to re-buy rare titles from their youth, either for pleasure or profit. A few of them hold senior positions and might be travelling for their job, giving them the opportunity to buy CGC graded comics. The internet has also made mail order and online auctions easier. A few of them sell their collectibles to other fans in Singapore. However, this does not mean an emergence of a back issue market in Singapore. One suspects such ‘big time’ collectors are still far and few in between, and most likely they would buy their expensive comics from overseas.

Respondents also confirmed what some have observed for the last few years – collectors are buying their trades from Kinokuniya (especially when there is a 20% sale) and a few of them have stopped buying single issues from the comic shops. However, there is still a handful who will make that weekly trip to the comic shops on shipment day. Their ‘strategy’ is to buy the singles from the comic shops and to buy the trades at Kinokuniya. Increasingly, there are some who buy their trades from Amazon or Bookdepository because of the deep discounts offered. There might be a need for comic shops and bookshops to organise more events (eg. signings) as incentives and outreach, and to build a community.

The good news for the shops is that the mainstream titles are still the most popular. Most respondents considered themselves as fans of DC, Marvel and Image comics. Only a few listed independents like Fantagraphics or First Second. This corresponds with their favourite comic book adaptations – recent blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers and Thor. Attempts to find out how much comic collectors spent on comics per month is not conclusive as some left it blank. Those who did answer put between 10-20% of their salary, but some are single digit %. For those who gave actual figures, some collectors spent about $100-$200 per month on comics. But most of them collect other things like Lego, toys and original art, so the amount they spent on pop culture memorabilia would be higher.

What comes across is the sense of enjoyment they receive from reading/collecting comics. Some of the anecdotes talk about how they were introduced to comics and it is a link to their childhood. “I read comics because my cousin sent me a box of Marvel comics when I was 8 years old, and I never looked back.” Another said, “I was introduced to it by my late father when I was 5 years old… I do not collect for the sake of collecting or selling. Every comic I own, I read.”

It is encouraging that as a result of FB groups like SCK, more comic collectors get to know each other to exchange information about their passion. Friends are made through comics.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Who is the comic collector in Singapore?

Questions for article on ‘Who is the comic collector in Singapore?’

Some of us have always wondered about who is the comic collector in Singapore. Newspaper reports can only give rough estimates based on ballpark figures provided by comic shops or booksellers. This is an attempt to find out who is the comic collector in Singapore. As for myself, I have been reading/collecting comics for the last 35 years.

Please be assured that all information will be kept confidential. All the results will be aggregated. No form of the raw data will be released or read by anyone else.

You can send your answers to or reply me via FB messaging.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Area of residence: (eg. Ang Mo Kio, Jurong, etc.)
Number of years reading comics:
Number of years collecting comics:
How often do you buy comics: (eg. once a week, once a month, everyday!?, etc.)
Buy comics from: (eg. comic shops, Kinokuniya, mail order, etc.)*
Do you go down to a comic shop on shipment day? Which one?
Amount spent on comics per month:
Do you consider yourself a fan of: (eg. DC/Marvel/ Image/Dark Horse/ IDW/ Fantagraphics/etc.)*
How many comics do you own:
What other comics do you read: (eg. manga, HK kung fu comics, comic strips, editorial cartoons, etc.)*
Top 3 favourite comic:
Top 3 favourite characters:
Top 3 comic movie adaptations:
Top 3 most valuable comic in your collection:
Do you sell your comics to other collectors:
What else do you collect: (eg. toys, trading cards, original art, other merchandise, etc.)*
I read comics because:
Do you have good friends who read comics? How many?

* list as many as you want

Friday, July 11, 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Article on Singapore Comics

Here's an article on Singapore comics, hot off the press from Draft by Drama Box.

English version (pp. 37 - 47):

Chinese version (pp. 33 - 43):

A very nicely designed mag, I must say.

Monday, June 16, 2014

D-Day cartoons

The Daily Mirror reprinted their 7 June 1944 edition of the paper and these are the cartoon strips that appeared on that fateful day:

Buck Ryan
Beelzebub Jones
Just Jake…

And a huge editorial cartoon that dominated 3/4 of another page depicting Allied soldiers kicking down the walls of Nazi Germany.

All cartoons were uncredited as per the custom back then.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Tiananmen at last!

Epigram Books is bringing out a new edition of Morgan Chua's Tiananmen, the lost classic about the crackdown of the student movement in China in 1989. People don't talk about Tiananmen these days except for the Chimerica play of last year

and this book is almost unheard of. I have been wanting for it to be back in print for some time and it's finally here, the 25th anniversary special edition. I first read it in the national library eons ago. It was the only Morgan book available then in Singapore in the 1990s.,7

Urban legend has it that agents from Beijing swept into HK to buy up all the copies when the original book was released in 1989. This is unconfirmed but the fact remains that the book was sold out almost immediately and has been out of print since then. If there is some truth to this myth, it is no wonder. Because this is Morgan at his satirical prime, before he decided to do cartoons about Mdm Kwa and Mr Nathan. This is Morgan drawing blood and letting it bleed.

IF you do not know who is Morgan,

This is the Morgan we should remember. This is the standard of work we should aspire to. Historical amnesia is a terrible thing, to forget what was possible and achieved in the past. The same goes for Tiananmen and the tank man image. I suspect that's why this Cirque du Soleil production got passed by the Chinese censors in the first place last year. Even the censors had no knowledge of the event and the image.

I told Joe Gordon of FP blog about the book and he has written about it here.

Go get before it disappears again.