Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DC and Marvel rise again

I have not been active about comics for quite some time. I still read comics. But I did not bother to keep up with the news and updates. And when I start looking around, I cannot help but realize that there seems to be less alternative comics (for the lack of a better term) coverage in the American comics news sites. Not only that. Some of my favourite indie creators, like Jeff Lemire and Jonathan Hickman have gone mainstream by joining one of the big two companies.

I did catch all the Marvel movies this "summer", and enjoyed them. I skipped Green Lantern. And now that DC's New 52 are selling so well, I cannot help but feel that Marvel and DC are gaining a lot more attention in America than they did before 2010. This may mean that alternative comics will have a harder time competing for attention. And for me, a reader of alternative comics, that pretty much sucks.

I really like it when DC and Marvel release comics that are done by indie/alternative creators. For example, DC's Bizarro World and Marvel's Stange Tales. Seeing outsiders' interpretation of my favourite superheroes is so intellectually satisfying.I don't see why stories with supervillains involved have to usually end with violence. I think it takes more originality to come up with a non-violent solution in superhero comics. If DC has Jeff Lemire, why not let him decide what is the best course of aciton a superhero can take besides beating up the bad guy?

The New 52 is no doubt full of new concepts, but I am sure sex and violence will still be at the forefront.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I first heard about Zunar when I read in the papers that Malaysia’s first political cartoons magazine, Gedung Kartun, was banned by the government in September 2009, after it was out in the market for 2 to 3 days. Zunar was the publisher and chief editor of the magazine. The authorities did not like the fact that this magazine was making fun the current Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, during the Merdeka month. Gedung Kartun’s printing license was withdrawn.

More cat and mouse followed and more of Zunar’s books and magazines were banned. Finally, on 24 September 2010, Zunar was arrested in his office on the very day his book, Cartoon-O-Phobia was to be launched. Since then, Zunar has caught the attention of the international cartooning scene. He received the Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award from the Cartoonists Rights Network International in Florida in July this year. But he remains a Malaysian at heart. He wants to reform Malaysia and Malaysian politics with his cartoons.

On my last trip to KL, I caught up with him at his office near KL Sentral. He was not well, suffering from gastric pain, but still took the time to meet me. But before we get down to his replies to my questions, let’s start with his own personal statement, which he sent to me before we met.

My name is Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ul Haque. I have been drawing editorial cartoons for the past 20 years in Malaysia under a pen-name "Zunar". I consider myself as one of the best editorial cartoonists in Malaysia.

My cartoons are blacked-out by national newspapers, so as an alternative they are now being published by an internet media,

My aim is to use cartoons as a weapon to fight corruptions and abuse of power by the government. The issues highlighted in my works such as the murder of the Mongolian model by the name of Altantuya, the conspiracy against ex-Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, the domineering PM’s wife, the loss of jet engines, the Scorpene submarine scandal, racism, corruption and waste of public funds, among others.

In my career, I constantly face harassment, intimidation and oppression from the Malaysian government. I was arrested, detained and jailed for drawing cartoon. While in jail, I was treated like a criminal and jailed together with other criminals such as drug abusers and robbers.

On top of that, seven titles of my books are banned by the government, my office were raided twice, the printing factories that print my books are constantly raided and through-out the country, vendors are often warned not to sell my books.

Below are the summary of the challenges I face through out my career:


1. On September 2009, my office was raided by eight officers from the Home Ministry. In the raid, they confiscated 408 copies of my magazine, Gedung Kartun (Cartoon Store).
2. I was investigated under the Printing Presses and Publication Act (PPPA).
3. The government also threatened to charge me under the PPPA. If convicted, the penalties are 3 years in prison or RM20,000 (about USD6,280) fine.
4. They also raided the printing factory and seized the printing plates.
5. The factory was also warned not to print my books in the future, or else its printing license will be revoked.
6. The Home Ministry officials also confiscated Gedung Kartun from vendors through -out the country, and warned them not to sell my books in the future.
7. Gedung Kartun was banned thereafter.
8. The loss was estimated to be around RM10,000 (about USD 3000).


1. On June 2010, the Malaysian goverment announced the banning of five of my political cartoon publications. The ban was made under the PPPA. The books are:
a. 1 Funny Malaysia.
b. Perak Darul Kartun (Perak, The State Of Cartoon)
c. Isu Dalam Kartun vol 1 (Issue In Cartoon vol 1)
d. Isu Dalam Kartun vol 2 (Issue In Cartoon vol 2)
e. Isu Dalam Kartun vol 3 (Issue In Cartoon vol 3)
2. The government claimed that my cartoons "can influence the people to revolt against the leaders and government policies and detrimental to public order" as a ground to the ban.
3. This resulted the vendors withdrawing all the books and returning them to me. The loss incurred was about RM80,000 (USD25,000).


1. On the 24th September 2010, ten policemen raided my office in Brickfields near Kuala Lumpur, just 4 hours before the launching of my new cartoon collection, Cartoon-O-Phobia.
I was arrested, detained and locked up for two days under the draconian Sedition Act, which carries the maximum three years in jail if found guilty.
66 copies of Cartoon-O-Phobia were confiscated, as well as one of the original editorial cartoon. All these materials are still in the police custody.
2. At the same time, another 30 policemen raided two separate printing factories and warned them not to print my books in the future, or they will risk their printing licenses revoked by the government.
Police also went to the publisher, Malaysiakini, to search for the remaining stocks of Cartoon-O-Phobia.
As a result, Cartoon-O-Phobia cannot be sold openly as the vendors fear the risk of being charged under the Sedition Act by the government. I had to survive on the online sales which has a very limited market.


I will continue to draw to expose the corruption practiced by the Malaysian government as well as fundamental key issues such as abuse of power, police brutality, violation of human rights and misuse of public funds.

1. On July 2010, I filed a suit against the government to challenge the banning of my books: 1Funny Malaysia, Perak Darul Kartun and three volumes of Isu Dalam Kartun vol 1. In the suit, I sought the court to declare that the ban is illegal and an infringement to the rights of free speech guaranteed by the federal constitution.
The ban also breached the rules of natural justice and mala fide. For this case, the court will deliver its judgment on the 14th of July 2011. [Update: The court threw out my case as expected.]
2. On June 2011, I filed another suit to challenge the Malaysian government for the "unlawful detention" against me on September 2010.
The whole arrest and detention process reeked of bad faith and was politically motivated.
This suit aims to bring into focus the constitutional and human rights arguments, the police’s excessive powers and abuse, illiberal and outdated laws like the Sedition Act 1948 and the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984, and the collusion between the government and the police.
And for this the court has yet to set a trial date. [Update: The date was set for 13 September 2011.]

On the 24th June this year, I produced my new book, “Even My Pen Has A Stand.”

Q: How did you get started drawing political cartoons?

A: I started in school, drawing part-time for fun, as a hobby. I’d send cartoons to children’s magazine like Bambino. That was around 1974 when I was in primary school. In secondary school, I continue to send my cartoons to selected children’s magazines, to their new talent pages.

I just kept drawing. I left school in 1980 and had my first cartoon for Gila-Gila published. In 1982, I worked for the government as a hospital lab technician. But I kept contributing cartoons to magazines. In 1986, I decided to be serious about drawing cartoons professionally and I joined Gila-Gila fulltime. I was drawing political cartoons then, but not as hard as what I am doing now. Gila-Gila is for teenagers, so half of my cartoons were political and the others were just humourous satire.

After a few years, I felt I needed a platform for political cartoons, so I joined Berita Harian in 1991. After I only lasted for 6 months. After that, I went freelance. I found out that I couldn’t do much in a government controlled newspaper. It was very restrictive, the editor would often comment on my cartoons and asked me to remove things.

That was not enough for me. But at that time, there was no internet. So you could draw for Bertia Harian, The New Straits Times or The Star and they are all the same medium, same restrictions.

So I retired for a while as there was no place to send my cartoons. I stopped drawing political cartoons in 1996 as there was no place for me in Malaysia for my type of political cartoons. I did a lot of freelance work like book illustrations.

In 1998, former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim was arrested. I felt I need to make a comeback as a cartoonist and not to keep quiet about this conspiracy against Anwar. As a cartoonist, I need to show my stand and views about this situation. In February1999, I sent my cartoons to Harakah, the newspaper run by PAS. It was the only opposition newspaper then. They accepted my cartoons and they kept publishing them. I got good response from the publisher.

So here I can draw what I want to draw. I can make my stand and do my best. It was a turning point in my career. People started to know me.

In 2003, I started to draw for Malaysiakini. This is the internet era and I need to move with the times. Harakah could only reach out to Malay readers. Malaysiakini would allow me to get a wider audience.

Since then, my fan base has kept growing day by day, across the different age group. I get response from teenagers to ex-judges, lawyers and doctors.

Q: Describe your politics.

A: I support PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat). I support the opposition. It is very simple for me. I’m not involved personally in opposition politics, but as a Malaysian, I support PKR. (Zunar is an advisor to The Keadilan Daily) Barisan Nasional has been in power for 53 years and still could not solve two big issues – corruption and race. They have no policies for that. They cannot do it and they cannot settle it because they are the ones who are corrupted. When you are in the circle for 53 years, whether it is the police or the ministers, it’s ‘you help me, I help you’.

It is seriously affecting the people because public funds are misused. For example, the road toll. The toll agreement between the government and concession holders, that’s under OSA (Official Secrets Act). The result: when toll fees go up, the people cannot question why. The public has no access to the Petronas accounts. Petrol prices are going up. But we are producers of crude oil, and yet the people are still paying a lot. Petronas give the government RM70 billion net a year, but where does the money go?

That’s why I say the present government cannot settle this. We need to change the government. If PKR were to repeat what BN did, then we throw them out, just like other countries.

As for the racial problems, the government cannot settle it because they are the ones who practiced it. The government wants to break the people. They don’t want the people to stand together. They tell different races different things. Najib declared 1Malaysia, that’s a good slogan. But you also have Ibrahim Ali, the Perkasa president, who declared supremacy for the Malays. Najib kept quiet about such things.

UMNO’s survival is dependent on the Malays. They play the Malay racial card and sentiments to survive. There are no policies and the people are frustrated. On the ground, the people are not happy.

Q: Do you expect your cartoons to make a difference in all these?

A: I believe if I consistently do this, young cartoonists will follow my footsteps. I always say I will focus on corruption. If I stop and I compromise my stand on corruption, I will not be giving a good example to the young cartoonists. I cannot go back on my word. Some people have advised me to slow down a bit, so that I can survive. All my books are banned, there are no sales of my books in the bookshops in Malaysia. But I say no, these are my principles. There is no point for me to print another humour magazine. If I don’t do this, we cannot create culture to be followed by future generation of cartoonists.

I am single-handedly doing this now.

Q: Are you partisan?

A: My own philosophy is this: political cartoonists are important for any country. Like Malaysia now, we are facing a moral crisis, with corruption and the race issue. You must make a stand, you cannot be neutral.

This stand must be clearly seen in your work. It cannot be you making a stand, but your cartoons are different. Because as an artist, you must be a sensitive person. You are closest to the rakyat and you know how they feel. People like my cartoons because I draw what’s on their minds, what they are feeling.

I support PKR because of the problems we have in Malaysia now. People say I am biased, but I have a reason why. It is the situation, you don’t have a choice. When the field is not balanced, you need to play a different game. If you play the same way, you will get KO’d, 100-0. So now you play more rough, to give support to the underdog, until the day the field gets more balanced.

I am partisan. Barisan Nasional has every cartoonist in the mainstream newspapers to support them. I am the only one in the opposition’s side. I have to do that.

Q: What happened after Gedung Kartun was banned?

A: In Malaysia, you need a license to publish magazines. But you don’t need a license to publish books. So since the Gedung Kartun magazine is banned, we went into ‘book’ publishing. We published Perak Darul Kartun as a book. That was our most saleable publication, it was reprinted twice.

Then we set up a new company to get a new license and we managed to publish three issues of Isu Dalam Kartun. That was a team effort with the young cartoonists. As for my personal work, my Malaysiakini cartoons were collected and published as 1 Funny Malaysia.

Then all were banned by the government.

But since the government banned all of them, I realized that the government was afraid of cartoons. So we decided to do a second book of my cartoons, Cartoon-O-Phobia.

On 24 September, on the day of the launch, I was arrested. That night, the launch went on without me and the books. I was kept in the KLIA police lockup. The next day, I was brought to the magistrate court and was to be remanded for five days. They did not inform my lawyer of the hearing, so I had to represent myself.

I questioned the detention. The police said Cartoon-O-Phobia was seditious, which carried a maximum sentence of 3 years in jail. I said this book is not out in the market yet, how would you know it would be seditious or not. At least Isu Dalam Kartun was out in the market for 3 months before it was banned. (Isu Dalam Kartun was very popular. Just 2 weeks before the ban, we signed a contract with a major distributor to distribute it to other parts of Malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak. And then it was banned. Maybe the authorities got the info about the distribution deal…)

I asked the police if they had read the book. They said no. I told the magistrate this was not fair, and they released on the same day. (on 25 September) They had no grounds to arrest me.

But when they cannot stop me from drawing, they did two other things – they stopped people from printing my books and they stopped vendors from selling my books. In Malaysia, no shop dared to sell my books until now. The police will harass the shops and the court can take away the shops’ license. For printers, they can revoke their printing license.

So for my new book, …Even My Pen Has A Stand!, it has been very difficult. I searched for 2 months for a printer who dare to print my book. I searched from Penang to Seremban and in the end, managed to find one.

Q: How and where do you get your ideas?

A: The way I get my ideas is different from others. The first step is to collect information from every aspect, source and perspective. I will go to the internet, I will talk to the persons involved if I know them. If there are demonstrations or court cases, I will attend.

Second step, after collecting all these, I will make my stand.

Third, then I will find the joke. And this joke must be aligned with my stand. This is the most difficult part.

I have drawn cartoons about Mahathir, Badawi. But with Najib, there are more issues and I get more ideas. Especially his wife. (laughs) They are the ones who provide the ideas. They do funny things.

Q: How do you survive since your books are banned?

A: I can still sell my books through the internet, but it is hard to make money through that. I am broke and I have printing debts. All my staff has resigned, the 7 young cartoonists who worked with me.

But in life, there is always risk. If we don’t take risk, nothing happens.

The young cartoonists have gone freelance. But we will regroup when the right time comes.

As long as you want to fight, people will support you. From 3 October to till of the end year, I will be one of the Artists-in-Residence for the 2011 Art and Censorship programme to be held in Bilbao, Spain. So I believe if you work hard, you can get the support. You will not be rich, but you can survive.

Q: Any upcoming events to promote your books?

A: If you are in KL on 24 September, we will be M Corp Mall at PJ. We will be setting a stall to sell our books. It’s a Hari Raya thing, get together with some friends.


On 14 September, Najib Razak announced that his government will repeal the ISA and the Emergency Ordinance. He will also lift the licensing curbs on the media, including the Printing Presses and Publishing Act (1984), which was used against Zunar. I emailed Zunar for his reactions to these latest news. Below is his reply:

"It is just lip service and a PR exercise by PM Najib because the election is said to be middle of November this year.

a. ISA will be replaced with another law similar to Patriot Laws in the US, which allows the government to detain people without trial. Even though Najib says the laws are specifically for terrorists and not for the opposition, the government said the same thing when they introduced the ISA 60 years ago.

b. There is absolutely no media reform because the PM only mentioned there is "no need to review license" of publishing companies on an annual basis. But the government still has the right to cancel licenses if regulations are flouted. They also decide whether you can have a publishing license in the first place. It means that government still has an absolute power to deny any applications.

c. In his speech Najib did not touch on the fundamental issues for reform for Malaysia:

First, a need for free and fair elections. Second, corruptions. Third, racism. Fourth, judicial reform. There is also the issue of police brutality."

NB: Zunar just won the Hellman/Hammett Grant from the Human Rights Watch.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Good friend Bowie

One of the most beautiful friendships is the one between Bowie and Iggy. Like I just said, Bowie helped Iggy in the 70s by co-writing songs with him and producing his albums. In the early 80s, when Bowie was at his peak as a chart hitter, he covered Iggy's songs in his albums, ensuring royalties for his friend. eg. China Girl, Tonight, Neighbourhood Threat. Both collaborated on Iggy's Blah Blah Blah (1986). That album was a turning point in Iggy's career.

Go watch Bowie and Tina Turner's take of Tonight on youtube.

Lust for Life

There are songs and artists you return to over and over again. Dylan is one. I've been listening to Iggy Pop a lot these days. You don't realise how brilliant he is until it hits you right in between the eyes as you walk down the streets, listening to your ipod.

Lust for Life. Excellent song, filled with energy. Didn't think much about it. Got sick of it when it was overposed when used in the Trainspotting movie and later in some TV commercial. Blah blah blah.

But the ipod was on shuffle and this came on. This line struck me:

"I'm worth a million in prizes."

What? What do you mean you are worth a million in prizes? Like those Readers' Digest prizes? You are already a millionarie? It means nothing.

And then you realize how ironic Iggy is in this song. In fact, he is taking a piss at himself.

"I'm worth a million in prizes
With my torture film
Drive a GTO
Wear a uniform
All on a government loan"

That is so loser. And the context: Iggy was deep shit in heroin in the 70s then. He tried to clean up. His bud David Bowie tried to help him by co-writing songs with him and producing his albums. David is a good friend.

But this story has a happy ending. Iggy survived the 70s, 80s, 90s and now still giving it to us where it hurts in the second decade of the 21st Century. (did you see his performance in the last season of American Idol?)

Welcome back, Johnny Yen.

Overheard 2 X The Greed of Man

Just watched Overheard 2. Excellent HK crime thriller about insider trading. A lot people compare it with Overheard 1. But the obvious comparison is actually with early 1990s HK TV drama, The Greed of Man, which uses the same background context of the 1973 stock market crisis in HK and starring Lau Ching Wan and Kenneth Tsang pitting against each other. 20 years later, these 2 are still providing the acting chops that make this one of the best of 2011.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Children's comics galore

Was asking if comics artists in Malaysia can survive drawing comics full time and was told that mainly it would be those who draw children's comics. Attended the book fest in KL (KLCC) and it's true. GeMeiLia is the most successful of the lot, with animation in the works.

Michael Chuah's new comic book with GeiMeiLia

The other type of books that sell very well - assessment books from Singapore! But there is still a size-able readership of Chinese books as Chinese schools are still alive in Malaysia.

The new anthology by the Mandarin Comic Society

Archetype of a father's love

Just watched the Johnnie To-produced Punished (2011) and Steven Soderbergh's The Limey (1999) back to back. Reminded me the 2009 To-directed epic starring Johnny Hallyday, Vengeance. A father will cross oceans and destroy his own world to avenge his daughter's death.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Try to get your hands on this excellent comics magazine from the guys from Gempak. Totally under-rated and deserving of our attention. Best it got new comic stories by Baba Chuah, drewscape, Kaoru, and Leong Wan Kok...

Issue 009 has interviews with the Gilamon gang about their new titles from last year, Major Zombie and Six.

2 insightful quotes from Tan Eng Huat:

"For me, my stress usually comes from deadlines because I fear my lateness will affect others in production line. The first 2 to 3 years were very stressful. Working for an international company through emails was initially very strange because I didn't get to see anyone and it felt like you can lose your job any time. Plus it's not a full time job and I have to compete with a lot of artists in America too. So for me, there's really no way for me to release that stress. I just had to swallow it and not let it consume me by constantly doing better."

(when asked things he would die for...)
"For me it's Star Wars LEGO because Star Wars is really huge thing for my generation. There's also a sentimental value to it for me because my father used to like taking apart machines and fixing them later. LEGO lets me do the same but, of course, it's so much more simpler. So to me, it's like both things I like in one."

Indon Comics

(Aish, Rony, Azisa, Rama, Tita)

Had lunch with Tita Larasati during STGCC and she updated me about the scene in Bandung. Basically, she and her business partner, Rony Amdani, were in town to promote the books published by their company, Curhat Anak Bangsa (CAB).

All the books are written by Rony. The art is by different artists:

Seeta – Rama Indra (based loosely on the Ramayan)
Insight – Risza A. Perdhana
The Messengers – Aish (based loosely on the independence of Indonesia)
Mantra – Azisa Noor

It’s still tough for indie artists to make their living from drawing comics fulltime. Even for Tita, she lectures at the Bandung Institute of Technology.

Interestingly, the bestsellers from CAB are the graphic diaries by Tita and Sheila Rooswitha Putri. Tita has written an article about the trend of Graphic Diary for an upcoming volume of International Journal of Comic Art, based on a paper she presented at the Women’s Manga Beyond Japan conference held at the National University of Singapore earlier this year.

Sheila’s story about a family trip to East Java has been reprinted in Liquid City 2. She has kept busy with a new project for . She is drawing a strip written by Trinity and Erastiany. (Rony is involved too)

Several Indon artists have made it overseas. Other than Ardian Syaf, people like Chris Lie, Sunny Gho and Admira Wijaya (aka Anto Garang) have done international work. Chris Lie has drawn for GI Joe and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 video game (Chris is also running Caravan Studio, which he set up in West Jakarta in January 2008) while Sunny Gho is the Art Director of IFS Jakarta. He has coloured Power Girl, Secret Warriors, Ultimate Avengers vs. New Ultimates and The Darkness. Both Chris Lie and Sunny Gho were at STGCC. Some samples of Caravan Studio works here:

But the bulk of comics produced in Indonesia are slapstick books, eg. the “101” series. (101 Surviving Super Singles, 101 Prehistoric Culture, etc) and ‘local manga’ series.

Tita called this current situation as “lata” – the Malay word for imitate. Most comic companies are merely copying each other’s themes to sell their books.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

When the weird turns sappy…

It’s almost a Singapore comic con tradition to have the new Resident Tourist volume out when the event takes place every year at Suntec City. Even for this year, when the con was brought forward to August, we have the launch of TRT 5 there.

The first 3 cons were organized by Play Imaginative and since last year, Reed took over.
2007 – Troy Chin and Ken Foo shared a booth near Sonny Liew to sell their minis.
2008 – Adrian Teo published TRT 1 and 2 for Troy. A TRT related short story appeared in Liquid City 1.
2009 – Troy self-published TRT 3 and Loti 1. (all of them serialized on his website before)
2010 – TRT 4 launched at STGCC. Loti 2 was launched at Books Actually earlier. Another short story in Liquid City 2. (non TRT related)
2011 – TRT 5 launched.

When TRT first came out, it was a breadth of fresh air. Troy was featured in an article about local comics in IS, but most of us only got to read his stuff when Adrian Teo published TRT 1 and 2. It was weird, with bats hiding in shoes and shit. A returning Singaporean from NYC, who sees a hot psychiatrist – he seems aimless and profound at the same time. What’s going on?

2008 was a good year for Troy as he got extensive coverage in the national papers. An interview with The Sunday Times, a nice pic of him outside of his old school, the now abandoned Braddell-Westlake, and a review of TRT 1 and 2 a week later in the book reviews section.

Troy was slowly building his fan base with appearances at Books Actually, the National Library, Singapore Writers’ Festival and recently, post-museum. They are a varied bunch – kids studying overseas, doctors (a psychiatrist!) and even a lady who traveled all the way from Japan to meet him at the comic con in 2009.

Things got a bit more normal with TRT 3. It was about friendship, growing up with your gang in Victoria School. Read this together with Loti and you find Troy to be quite a nostalgic fellow. In TRT 4, we learn what’s wrong with Troy. He tried to kill himself in NYC. That volume affirmed Troy’s rep as one of the strongest narrative storytellers for comics in Singapore. His panel to panel transition is smooth and ‘invisible’.

By all counts, the newly released TRT 5 reads like the end of the tourist for now as it brings the story to the present. (2010) Since last year, Troy kept saying that people will be pissed off by what he has to say in TRT 4. Maybe the lack of recognition and poor sales was getting to him. But it was something else…

TRT 5 confirms what some of us suspect for some time. It is a love story, after all. The punch line – Troy finally hooked up with Mint in 2005 when they were in NYC. Troy returned to Singapore soon after and they maintained the long distance relationship. So the whole TRT series, which start with the return of Troy to Singapore, is his paean to Mint. If one is to read into it, putting his life in comics form on the web is Troy’s way of telling Mint of how he is feeling.

Those feelings go deep in TRT 5 – Troy confessing his love for Mint, telling her he wants kids, etc. It is heartfelt; Troy handles the emotions well. But it is also sappy when you reach the last page. The truth is: he is this generation’s Colin Cheong, in comics form.

TRT 5 is selling well. It is on the Planerds bestselling list for August (The just reprinted TRT 1 and 2 are on it too) and during STGCC, the Harris booth needed another 30 copies for the second day of the con. There are enough going for it for people to buzz – the timely reference to the foreigners issue; more throwbacks to the early 1990s: Sembawang Music Store, Nirvana’s Nevermind; Veronica Yip; chapter 20 of the Sec 4 Biology textbook for Express classes.

Troy is already a hero to some in Singapore for living his dream and for not compromising. Fans will enjoy his encounters with crazy people (albeit caricatured) and not backing down. The angry man he met while queuing up at SingPost reminds me Harvey Pekar’s observation of quirky Jewish ladies at the supermarket. But Troy’s encounter is nastier. That’s Singapore 2010/2011 for you.

If there is an inconsistency to be noted, it’s that for the earlier volumes, the perspective has always been Troy’s. In TRT 5, we see the story from his friends’ point of view. That came across jarring.

Troy is 33 this year, an age of reckoning according to the good book. From now on, he is moving on to his next project – a piss take on the music industry.

The tourist has returned home.


Sampled Gail Carriger's Alexia Tarabotti novels. Which brings to mind steampunk has been around for ages, both in novels and comics. There's Fritz Leiber's "Catch That Zepellin!" short story and Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld series.

In comics, Alan Moore is having a delightful run with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen since the last century. Even earlier, Tardi had The Arctic Marauder. Warren Ellis did Captain Swing recently and Bryan Talbot of Tale of One Bad Rat fame told the story of Grandville. The closest to what Carriger is doing - Lady Mechanika published by Aspen.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


It's always good to see Sensei again.

Friday, September 9, 2011


One thing I realized from doing interviews with the Southeast Asian artists I met at STGCC is that they have agents working for them, getting them the contracts and the jobs. Especially so for the Filipino and Indonesian artists who might need that link to DC and Marvel Comics. In the case of Ardian Syaf, he needed someone with the linguistic ability to negotiate with the comics companies. Interestingly, both Carlo Pagulayan and Ardian had European agents instead of US ones. (unlike say, Sonny Liew) In any case, as pointed out by CB Cebulski, given the long distance between Asia and America, even having an agent in Europe meant it's easier for them to fly in to San Diego to represent the artists for work.

This doesn't mean all Southeast Asian artists working for DC or Marvel has an agent. One of the Malaysian pioneers, Tan Eng Huat, doesn't have an agent as he was talent spotted by Andy Helfer of DC in 1999. One job leads to another and Eng Huat's schedule is packed these days.

Perhaps having an agent is part of the professionalization of the medium in this region. One day we will have local talent companies starting to represent comic artists.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bestsellers at Planerds and prologue

Below are the August bestsellers for Planerds and { prologue }



1.       Resident Tourist v5 SC

2.       In Memory of Kwa Geok Choo: 1920-2010 SC

3.       Resident Tourist v1 SC

4.       League of Extraordinary Gentlemen III: Century #2: 1969

5.       Sense and Sensibility GN TP

6.       Resident Tourist v2 SC

7.       Malinky Robot Collected Stories & Others TP

8.       Blackest Night TP

9.       Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne HC

10.   Batman: Complete Hush TP


{ prologue }

1.       In Memory of Kwa Geok Choo: 1920-2010 SC

2.       Smurfs v1: The Purple Smurfs SC

3.       Smurfs v3: The Smurf King SC

4.       Smurfs v5: The Smurfs and the Egg SC

5.       Smurfs v4: Smurfette SC

6.       Smurfs v2: The Smurfs and the Magic Flute SC

7.       Smurfs v7: Astrosmurf SC

8.       Smurfs v6: The Smurfs and the Howlibird SC

9.       Pokemon Adventures v37 TP

10.   Transformers: Dark of the Moon Prequel: Foundation TP


Clearly, { prologue } had a very Smurfy month, but local artists rule the roost, especially at Planerds.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Registration now open for Singapore 24 Hour Comics Day

The Singapore leg of 24 Hour Comics Day is back this year on 1-2 October 2011 (Sat morning to Sunday morning).  Participants will challenge themselves to create 24 pages of comics within 24 hours.

Admission is free but registration is required. We will have free food, courtesy of sponsorship from National Arts Council!

If you think you're crazy enough to take on this challenge, register here:

Venue is Goodman Arts Centre, a 6-minute walk from Mountbatten MRT station:

Internet connection will be a problem, so I suggest you prepare all your reference material beforehand.

This year's event will be part of a larger event called Comics Xchange, which will have a bazaar, seminars, workshops and cosplay.