Friday, December 27, 2013

Interview with Hu Jingxuan

Things are a bit slow around here. Here is an email interview with Hu Jingxuan.

1. For those who are not familiar with your art, can you introduce yourself?

I am a visual artist trained in fine art. I mainly work in the medium of painting and comics in which I want to create a surreal wasteland of painted structure, textures, lines and patterns that ravish with pseudo‐organic ornamentation and rotten opulence. My website:

2. What are your major works so far?

My debut comic book Lament, comic strips in the book series Liquid City Volumes 1 and 3, and my long running comic strip in the 早报逗号 newspaper published by the Singapore Press Holdings.

3. Turning points:
- Lament
- story in Liquid City
- studying in Chicago
- studying in London

How have the above experiences changed you and your practice?
Can give an example of a major work in Chicago and in London thus far - could be art or comics.

Two years of working on Lament gave me a taste of what it takes to be a comic artist. Since then, I have made up my mind to pursue a career in art.
Drawing comics for Liquid City made me more aware of my own identity and forged a strong sense of belonging with the comic community of South East Asia. It also gave me the great opportunity of meeting many great local creators and I’m very glad to have met you through the Liquid City volumes!

Chicago provided the best playground for me to test the terrain of art. I studied painting, sculpture, design and even worked for a theatre. It made me realize that art is very multi-layered and I am making new discoveries everyday in my studio.

I wanted to further make strides with my painting and that’s why I decided to do a Master of Fine Art degree in London. It has given me with tools essential for maintaining an art practice that I can keep challenging myself with.

4. How did the audience respond to your comics when you had a booth at MCM Comic Con, etc? (which conventions have you been to so far in London? other than MCM last year and this year…)

I have been quite actively involved in all the major comic conventions in UK such as MCM, London Film and Comic Convention, London Anime Con and Thought Bubble. A large portion of my audience like gothic and Japanese anime culture. Most of them commented that they really like my very detailed and ornamental drawing style. A few readers wrote me emails commenting that they could relate to my stories and they admired the mix of pain and love inside.

5. How were your recent experience presenting about your comics at Transitions 4 comic symposium and the drawing session at the Comica Comiket?

It was a bit uncomfortable at first since making art for me is mostly an intimate process through which I try to have a deep conversation with myself. But after a while, I get into the flow and it’s great. I feel proud to be showing people what I love to do and create more awareness for Asian artists.

6. You are influenced by manga. What are some of your favorites?

Angel Sanctuary, Nana, Gantz and Hunter X Hunter, to name a few.

7. Do you consider yourself an artist from Singapore or from China?

I think I am a Singapore artist since this is the country I became inspired to do comics.

8. Is there a Singapore style for comics?

Hmmm, I do not think so.

9. Given your own manga influences, do you think we even speak of a national style for comics? (whether it is for Singapore or other countries)

I think styles are difficult to define and something that is easily definable might be cliché. I think a comic is a medium artists use to tell a story, it might be better to be left open-ended so creativity can flow freely.

10. Any new influences for comics? You mentioned Enki Bilal at Transitions 4...

Art-style-wise, my recent muse includes Japanese woodprints and Art Nouveau.

11. Which writers influence your writing? (comic stories)

Hajime Isayama from Japan and Xiada from China.

12. What's next?

I’m currently working on a series of canvas paintings that deconstructs space and incorporates elements and traces from contemporary life and my personal memories. At the same time, I am planning and drawing a new comic story.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Match Point!

This one got the Slam Dunk/Ping Pong Club/ pervert mix right. Someone just publish this in book form and make Ken rich and Adrian famous now!

Hong Teng being loved

David Hine writing about Hong Teng.

article on Singapore comics and cartoons

Article on 24 Hour Comics Day exhibition and the Lianhe Zaobao cartoon exhibition at the library.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

STGCC 2013 - Jerry Teo

Conventions are about the artists and the fans, not just the products, merchandising and consumerism. As a lead up to STGCC 013, we hear from the people who will be there.

Jerry Teo is an artist.

1. What's the big deal about this year's STGCC?
COSPLAYERS!! Joe Madureira is here too....but COSPLAYERS!! Ok let's not forget the Artist's Alley where you can find more indie stuff that may be of interest to popular culture fans and collectors.

2. I don't read comics. Why should I attend?
The interesting thing for STGCC is that it is not restricted simply to comics. But also the other subcultures that spawned from comics. This means there's a wide range of things to participate in, to look at. Its all very vibrant and fun. Not too shabby for boring Singapore.

3. What is there to buy from you?
Putting out a limited run of my own interpretation of Aesop's fables that I drew during last year's 24 Hour Comics Day held at the Bukit Merah library. 3 short tales compiled into a little book, minimal dialog, great for kids. :D Also introducing a new character I've been working on called Rex. He's a T-Rex and he gets into all sorts of shenanigans which he later regrets. Hopefully he is entertaining enough for everyone.

4. Okay, I am sold. When and where I can find you?
I'm at booth G45 hawking my wares with Ray Toh.

5. What's the future of comics?
Using pictures to tell stories will always be around. Maybe the technology will change and people's tastes for presentation will change, but it is always an interesting way of communicating a tale. It is gonna be around for a while. It used to be cave paintings, now we have interactive comics on portable media devices, who knows what's next?


STGCC 2013 - Ray Toh

Conventions are about the artists and the fans, not just the products, merchandising and consumerism. As a lead up to STGCC 013, we hear from the people who will be there.

Ray Toh is an artist.

1. What's the big deal about this year's STGCC?
- I’ll be promoting a new business that I have just created. It’s a platform created for comics artists and creators. They can source for funding by pitching ideas they may be developing or they can use our ebook store to sell their ebooks on Fantastic Fox. It’s purely comics and illustrations ebook focus.

2. I don't read comics. Why should I attend?
- There’s a lot more events and things going on at STGCC. Getting to meet the artists and talking to them can be an enlightening experience by itself if you are gearing yourself toward the entertainment line. Not just comics. So drop by and talk to people. You wouldn’t know who will be hanging around the corner.

3. What is there to buy from you?
- I’ll be selling my Ray Toh Ideabook 2011, original framed artwork, A1 posters and A3 Art prints.

4. Okay, I am sold. When and where I can find you?
- I’ll be at Booth G45 throughout the whole event.

5. What's the future of comics?
- Self-Publication. With the acceptance of buyers willing to buy digital content, artists can spend time to do their own original content instead of being hired to do work based on existing characters. They can approach print per demand online book store or they could sell the digital copy online. And with 3D printing technology growing, an artist can do their own line of merchandise. There will be a lot more creative content which will spice up the market. Hopefully Fantastic can be a part of that movement and a place for local artist to explore their own content too.

Fantastic Fox:,
Ray Toh:,

Monday, August 26, 2013

STGCC 2013 - Sonny Liew

Conventions are about the artists and the fans, not just the products, merchandising and consumerism. As a lead up to STGCC 013, we hear from the people who will be there.

Sonny Liew is a comic artist.

1. What's the big deal about this year's STGCC?
Its the closest thing we have to the San Diego Comic Con. Artist Alley is a great chance to catch up with what Singapore-based creators have been up to.

2. I don't read comics. Why should I attend?
There's also Toys and Games :p And who knows, you might find a comic that catches your eye, and start on the long road to perdition.

3. What is there to buy from you?
A Pinocchio figurine, possibly an Astroboy bust, postcards, original art and maybe some comics

4. Okay, I am sold. When and where I can find you?
Booth G30

5. What's the future of comics?
Possibly digital, though that complicates the whole static image and page-as-the-basic-unit aspects of the art form.

STGCC 2013 - Andie Tong

Conventions are about the artists and the fans, not just the products, merchandising and consumerism. As a lead up to STGCC 013, we hear from the people who will be there.

Andie Tong is a comic artist originally from Malaysia, studied/worked in Australia, worked some more in the UK and finally he is here in Singapore.

1. What's the big deal about this year's STGCC?

For me, One of my biggest idols, Joe Madureira will be attending. Even though I really liked comic art early on, he was one of the few artists that made me take notice and made me realise comic art was something I wanted to do.

2. I don't read comics. Why should I attend?

Plenty of other entertainment that you might enjoy and partake. There's cosplaying if you like dressing up in your favourite fictional character (Doesn't have to be comics); there's games if you enjoy a bit of console playing on your free time; there's movies related booths; there's artists showing and teaching art if you're an aspiring artist or someone who simply enjoys art. There's a little bit for everyone. It all comes down to simply having fun and enjoying a little bit of pop culture entertainment.

3. What is there to buy from you?

I'll have my sketchbook, along with pinups and I'm available for commissions.

4. Okay, I am sold. When and where I can find you?

I'll be at booth F45. Just look for the Andie Tong sign.

5. What's the future of comics?

With movies now going hand in hand, the future of comics can only keep growing, bigger and badder! It's an exciting time right now to be in this medium.

STGCC 2013 - Lefty and Eng Huat

Conventions are about the artists and the fans, not just the products, merchandising and consumerism. As a lead up to STGCC 013, we hear from the people who will be there.

Lefty and Eng Huat are comic artists from Malaysia.

1. What's the big deal about this year's STGCC?
STGCC is the closest we could get to as a decent comic culture convention in the Singapore/Malaysia region.

2. I don't read comics. Why should I attend?
You don't need to be a comic book reader to experience the exciting world of comics. Comics culture are no longer being restricted in comic books, it is in the movies, fashion, games and many other pop culture format. Come to this event to meet some of the people who are behind this culture (like me =P). This is the event to get a substantial dose of condensed comic cultural fun.

3. What is there to buy from you?
Tan Eng Huat & I m releasing a new graphic novel, "Zero Hero: Giant Killer", under our Gilamon banner. Gilamon is an independent group that publishes creator own books in limited form. "Zero Hero: Giant Killer" is a signed & numbered limited edition, and we are only printing 100 copies. There is a full story by myself (with fabulous colour by Swa33) and an extensive gallery of Tan Eng Huat's beautiful drawings. There will also be an exclusive convention pack which comes with a beautiful acrylic print and our personal sketches. We have only 20 sets up for grab. Glad to say that the response from pre-orders are very encouraging.

4. Okay, I am sold. When and where I can find you?
Our books will be available at Diamond Comic Distributors(B3) and Banshee(F44, Artist Alley) booths. We will be running around mainly between these two place so do come over and say hi if you see us (even if you don't buy our book LOL).

5. What's the future of comics? (bonus question)
IMHO comics will still be around for a very long time but the big question is, in what form? I think we are very fortunate to be in an exciting time as we seems to be in the state of transformation. The obvious form that most publishers are going into is digital, however very few managed to monetize from such venture. It is still too early to tell. We are really at a try-out stage, I would love to find out from what the readers think, perhaps you could leave your opinion at the comment area below.

STGCC 2013 - Peow Yeong

Conventions are about the artists and the fans, not just the products, merchandising and consumerism. As a lead up to STGCC 013, we hear from the people who will be there.

Peow Yeong is a civil servant/fan.

1. What's the big deal about this year's STGCC?

It is the largest pop culture event this side of the world and been an annual affair since late 2000's. Where else would you be able to gather so many pros and fans in one event in Singapore?

2. I don't read comics. Why should I attend?

To find out what the fuss is about and get a good education. Besides, there's something for everyone... Games, toys, art, cosplay, collectibles.

3. What is there to buy? How does it compare to other cons you have attended?

Exclusive launches of toys, sketchbooks, comics, prints, art... The other conventions I've attended include NYCC (also organised by ReedPOP), MOCCAFest, Brooklyn Book fest. NYCC is by far the largest event I've attended. They all target different types of readers and collectors. STGCC has the best representation of both Asian and American pop culture across various platforms of comics, books, toys, games and art.

4. What's the future of comics?

I'm optimistic and pessimistic about comics' future at the same time. Optimistic because there is greater awareness of comics thanks to Hollywood adaptations of comics stories...a wider range of stories to choose from and hence wider appeal to a broader audience. Yet, the number of retailers have been dwindling and seem to be filled with middle-aged men. I am not sure if there is a pipeline of new readers and sales figures have dwindled to mere thousands for the best-selling comics. Superhero comics seem to be written for a mature and older audience rather than kids which is a demographic they be targeting if it is not to become a sunset industry.

For more of Peow's passions, go to

STGCC 2013 - Carlo Jose San Juan

Conventions are about the artists and the fans, not just the products, merchandising and consumerism. As a lead up to STGCC 013, we hear from the people who will be there.

Carlo Jose San Juan is a medical doctor/cartoonist from the Philippines who took a booth at STGCC last year. He studied for a few years in Singapore when he was younger. We also met at Komikon in April in Manila this year.

1. What's the big deal about this year's STGCC?

I believe this year's event will be the biggest STGCC so far as there is a lot of participation of exhibitors and guests from various countries in our region and beyond.

2. I don't read comics. Why should I attend?

STGCC is a pop culture event. While comics are a big part of that and more mainstream than many believe, there are many other things to enjoy. As the name implies, Singapore Toy Game and Comic Convention also involves participation from the toy and game industries. All those also involve movies and TV series, so seeing such media in the event wouldn't be a surprise. There's also the possibility that you'll find a comic you'd enjoy!

3. What is there to buy from you?

My comic strip series, "Callous", features a physician named Dr. Rianne Nicah who happens to have a Guardian Duck, Cal Duck, and their lighthearted everyday adventures in the medical world and beyond. I'll have four of my self-published, fun-filled "Callous" comic books for sale in STGCC 2013. Two of which, "Chocolate Chip Wishes and Caffeine Dreams" and "Take Two Spoonfuls of the Sunny Side", compile gag-a-day strips such as those I submit to and are published by the Manila Bulletin. The other two, "The Land of the Guardians" and "On Lighter Dreams" are of the adventure/fantasy fare involving the same characters. "Webcomics: What's Cooking?", a collaborative charity comic book/cookbook project of many of the top webcomic producers in the world for the benefit of North American food banks, will also be available in my booth. I'll also have related merchandise such as coffee mugs, prints, posters, and button pins available.

4. Okay, I am sold. When and where I can find you?

I'll be at STGCC on August 31 - September 1, 2013 in the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre in booth F37! You can also find my comic strip, "Callous", in the Manila Bulletin and at!

5. What's the future of comics?

The sky is the proverbial limit for comics right now with the relatively new avenues of webcomics and digital comics to explore. The comic reading experience may go beyond just looking at drawings and reading words in speech bubbles with the possibility of animated panels and accompanying speech, sound effects, and soundtracks. Creativity in comics is looking at a new frontier and it is a very exciting time to be a part of the industry right now. But there is also the fondness of the tactile experience in printed comic books that I believe can't and won't go away. There's still a lot of creativity that can be explored there.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

ICDS 2013

We get the lowdown on ICDS 2013, happening this Sunday at *Scape, from cosplayer Tessie Tan.

1. What is ICDS all about?

ICDS is short for International Cosplay Day Singapore. It is a day where fans celebrate their love for pop culture. This is the 2nd year that Neo Tokyo Project is organizing this. Last year the event was held at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. This year we've moved closer to town, to *Scape.

2. I don't cosplay. Why should I attend?

As long as you are a fan of pop culture, both East and West, you should attend. Not only will there be cosplayers for you to take photos with, there will also be booths set up by local artists selling their works, and performances by local singers and dance groups, and panels with invited guests. This year's event also included a segment known as ConQuest to inject more interactivity in the activities. One of the main highlight of the event is a 2hour stage show known as "Cosplay Chess", where characters from the factions of Science and Magic will battle it out. This year, con-goers who take part in the ConQuest mini-missions, can actually influence the outcome of the chess match.

3. Who will be there?

We have invited Alodia Gosiengfiao, a cosplayer, actress, model and now a recording artist in Tokyo as part of the Jpop idol group called Super Dolls. We have also invited the photographer Jay Tablante, who have worked with Marvel and D.C. Jay will also be holding a photography panel to share with the audience about his experience. Locally, we also have our own share of stars. Invited as a guest and also as a performer in CosChess, we have Yuanie, a cosplayer who have represented Singapore in an international competition known as the World Cosplay Summit. We also have Clive Lee, who is known both locally and internationally as a renowned mecha and armour cosplayer. He is also on the advisory panel for various cosplay conventions, such as the upcoming Singapore Toys, Games and Comics Convention at the end of this month.

Personally, I will be changing into 3 costumes on Sunday - 1 for the Blizzard Cosplay Runway, and 2 for the CosChess performance. Let's see if you can spot me in all 3 of my costumes!

4. What is there to buy?

Fan art, fan products, handcrafted jewellery etc. For a small country, we have some amazing artists here in Singapore, and quite a lot of them are going to be at the Artisan's Alley at ICDS. Not only do you get to bring home fan products inspired by your current favourite anime series (Shingeki no Kyojin, Free!, etc) you also get to support the local art scene!! (Despite the fact that most things there are not expensive, I end up buying enough to amount to a small fortune anyway.)

5. Okay, I am sold. When and where is it?

It will be held this Sunday, 25 August, at *Scape Warehouse, from 10 am to 8 pm. For more information, please check out the website here

Monday, July 29, 2013

Date King Unleash!

I wrote about this a few months ago and it's finally out.

Go get.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Caravan Studio

Will be meeting Chris Lie of Caravan Studio again next week at the Bandung conference, so here are some short notes based on the chat I had with him at STGCC last year.

For those who don't know, you learn more about Caravan from their company profile here.

At last year's STGCC, they were selling this very nice art book. KLOVN; Artbook of Caravan Studio.

I wrote about them earlier.

Caravan Studio can be considered a success story in Indonesian comics. They started out in January 2008 with only four in-house artists, but now has grown to almost 20 people in their studio. This does not include the freelancers they engaged. What is interesting is the model they are using in Indonesia, which is a studio system to create works for projects overseas. This pays the bills and allow them to hire artists to work on graphics and comics. They are like IFS (Singapore), which used to have a studio in Jakarta and Sunny Gho's Stellar Labs and Makko.

But doing projects overseas do not necessarily give you a presence in the local market/scene. That is something Caravan has rectified with their current Baratayuda series. So far, more than 10 issues are out. Full colour and good quality paper. It is based on the Mahabharata story, but aimed at the 6-12 years old market. Caravan knows they cannot compete with the manga market in Indonesia, so they decide to create stories based on their own myths and legends.

As to why they decided to use the Garuda, Lie said, "Garuda is popular, because it's also our nation's symbol. A mythical bird from the epics."

Lie has come a long way since growing up in Solo, and coming to Singapore to work between 2001 and 2003. He still has close links with Singapore as his brother works here. He attended Savannah College of Art and Design on a Fulbright Scholarship between 2003 and 2005.

One of the first Caravan projects was an adaptation of a classic Twilight Zone episode, Deaths-Head Revisited. It was published by Walker and Company in 2009. Lie did the storyboards and his team did the actual drawing and finishing.

Since then, Caravan has worked on card games illustrations for Legends of the Five Rings, Wizard of the Coast. They used to do the bestselling Return to Labyrinth series for Tokyo Pop before the latter went defunct in America. They have also done Scholastic Books like the Dinosaur Data Handbook.

Lie promises to announce a new project at the Bandung conference, so do keep a lookout for that.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bandung Comics Conference in June 2013

From the website:

Welcome to the 5th International Scholarly Conference 2013 to be held at Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in Bandung, Indonesia on 14-16 June 2013. This conference is co-organized with the International Manga Research Center (imrc), Kyoto, which has already held four similar Comics Studies conference, in Kyoto (2009), Cologne (2010), Bucheon (2011), and Kobe/Kyoto (2012), and it is generously supported by Goethe-Institut Indonesien. Under the title “Comics Alternatives: From Graphic Diary to Manga Style”, this conference sets out to engage comics artists and researchers as well as representatives of different sorts of graphic narratives in dialogue about the potentials of the comics medium.

This thematic orientation arises from the observation that alternative comics in the strict sense (for example, graphic diaries) and manga-style comics (from derivative to original creations outside the Japanese-language market) are treated as separate categories in international comics discourse, but that they have actually a lot in common due to their position towards the mainstream. Although in different ways, they are both “alternatives”.

Our conference aims at an interaction of these two kinds of contemporary comics by striving for a balance between scholarly papers and artist talks. With a special focus on inner-Asian networking, creators, critics and curators will discuss aesthetic and cultural “alternatives” within and by means of graphic narratives.

After the conference, we intend to publish an edited volume possibly with NUS Press consisting of both scholarly essays (not necessarily centered on the artist talks but related to them if appropriate) and visual works of the participating artists.

Well, me, Hong Teng and Yong Hwee will be there. If you are in the area...

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


Probably the first time a cartoonist is arrested for sedition in Singapore.

Which reminds me of an earlier sedition case almost 60 years ago.

For a brief history of political cartooning in Singapore:

Saturday, April 20, 2013

2 news

You should have heard by now from the mainstream press that drew is eisner-nom. Read the story and press release here.

And SNCF is organizing a comics competition.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Literary Talkback! - Comics

Goodman Arts Centre is conducting an Open Call for comics for their Literary Talkback! open dialogue session. Comic Art is sorely underrated and they are attempting to shed some light on its artistic merit through this programme.


Check it out if you are interested.

Adam Glass in Singapore

Adam Glass, the writer and executive producer of the internationally famed television series Supernatural and also three-time New York Times best-selling author of Deadpool: Suicide Kings, Suicide Squad: Kicked in the Teeth and Suicide Squad: Basilisk Rising, will be making a special appearance at Kinokuniya Singapore Main Store on Friday, 3rd May 2013 at 7.30 p.m. to meet his fans and conduct an exclusive book-signing session.

See you there.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Turn, turn, turn

A friend was asking me if I still have a turntable. He just got one and was wondering if the sound was better. He was worried if it's poser these days to say you are into records.

I do have a turntable but it's not plugged in. Space is a premium and I listen to my music these days on my iPhone. Time, convenience and iTunes.

But when I first started listening to music seriously, it has always been the radio, cassettes and when you saved up enough, vinyls. Those were the early years of CDs and they were expensive.

Most of us started out writing fan letters. And after you become a regular in the letter column, you sent in a short review to get some feedback from the editors. My first review was the first Smiths single from their last album. The band had broken up. So it was a poignant moment for the fans. I couldn't find the single, but I listened enough of it on BBC to say something about it.

It was a raw attempt at putting down my thoughts what I felt about the music. It was not printed.

The second attempt fared better. I bought the third 10,000 Manics album on cassette, lived with it for a few weeks and sent in a review. It was accepted. That was in the mid 1980s.

Me dad recently reminded me that I pestered him for a hi fi set then. I finally added a turntable to the system some time later and I was listening to singles and albums on vinyls.

But it was not about being cool or having a better sound. It has always been about the music. A DJ friend found the vinyl revival of the late 1990s fueled by the club culture elitist and fetishistic.

Today I pre-purchased the new Nick Cave and David Bowie albums because I'm still excited to listen to what they got to say. iTunes are convenient, I don't discriminate.

Regardless of the format, it is more important that you care about the music, that you still believe rock n roll can save your life.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

24 Hour Comics Day Exhibition

We had 24 Hour Comics Day in Malaysia, Indonesia and even Cambodia. We were jealous. I broached the topic with JF and in 2010 we organized the first 24 Hour Comics Day in Singapore at the School of Thought. We had sponsorship from the Food of Thought, Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and G 'n' B Comics, etc. It was a good turnout as established artists like Sonny Liew, drewscape and Seiji (James Tan) took part. New artists made their debut and became regulars over the years. It was an event that some looked forward to every year.

Success rate was low that first year in terms of completing 24 pages in 24 hours. We carried on and the second edition was held at Goodman Arts Centre in 2011. More people completed their stories. By the time we organized the third edition at the Bukit Merah Public Library last year, we had enough completed stories to do an exhibition together with NLB.

This event will be held at the Jurong Regional Library (Skybridge, Level 3) from 19 March to 2 May. After that it will move to the Sengkang Public Library from 3 May to 18 June. The last stop will be the Serangoon Public Library from 19 June to 31 July. There will be a launch event at the first stop, the Jurong Regional Library, on 30 March (Saturday), 10 am to 11 am at the Programme Zone on Level 1. We will talk about how we started the 24 Hours Comics Day, its significance in light of what's happening in comics in Singapore for the last 3 years and then artists will be there to present their works.

Looking back, this simple affair has been able to cross boundaries in getting support from the different comic circles in Singapore, from the Liquid City 2 gang in the first year to collaborating with Association of Comics Artists (Singapore) in the second year and getting sponsorship from Epigram Books last year. They are the guys who published the new graphic novels by Miel, drewscape, and Oh Yong Hwee and Koh Hong Teng. The latter even turned up to show his support together with Dave Chua (whose Epigram-published graphic novel drawn by Xiao Yan will be coming out soon). Parka Blogs covered the event and sponsored prizes and Absolute Comics gave out free comics. We also have artists from the Comics Society stable joining us.

Right from the beginning it is about connecting with people and with the different communities. We wanted the artists to see the link between comics and art and got them free entry to SAM for inspiration in the first year. Given the type of connectivity we have these days, we wanted collaboration with our Indonesian neighbours. So 2 writers in Singapore worked with 2 artists in Bandung in 2011. I need to model the way, so I threw in my hat into the ring and worked on a maid story called Nanny with Fanni that year. JF had attempted to complete a story on his own in the previous year. This cross-boundary collaboration continued last year - I did a story with Jho from Jakarta and another one with Jin in Australia. Maybe one day you will get to see them.

Things don't happen in a vacuum. 24 Hour Comics Day took place at a time when there is a growing interest and awareness of comics in Singapore. We had comic artists winning the Young Artists Awards, the Liquid City volumes, STGCC, the Epigram graphic novels, greater support from NAC and MDA and of course, graphic novels continued to be a popular staple in the NLB libraries.

So what's next? A publication? Some of the stories done during the 24 Hour Comics Day events have already seen print. Sonny's story appeared in a Flight anthology, drew has self-published his as a mini. The Nanny story I did was published in Indonesia. So a publication is not too far fetched to consider.

2013 - still sussing out the potential location; a request from Malaysia to collaborate. That's something I want to see grow, writers working with artists and from different places/background.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Date King book?

So after introducing Ken to Edmund 2 weeks ago, there might be a Date King book coming out?

Keep you guys posted.

Jack Kirby's Argo

So Dave was telling me that Kirby draw the original storyboards for what was to be the Argo movie in the late 1970s.

Amazing stuff.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Short interviews with the 3 Mangaka at the Manga Festival 2013

Interview with Yaro Abe (深夜食堂)

I first heard about Shinya Shokudo from Connie Lam, the Executive Director of the HK Arts Centre, who is a big comics fan. Later, I found the books in the HK bookshops and that it has been made into a TV series. It is a food manga, which is a popular genre in Japan. You can find out more about food manga here.

Q: Why did you do such a story like Shinya Shokudo?
A: My stories are serialized in a magazine whose target audience is above 40 salary men and businessmen.
[NB: maybe older people like to eat?]

Q: Are you surprised by the popularity of the manga?
A: Yes, especially when I wrote it for a niche market (above 40 salary men) in Japan. It has been made into a TV series and published in Korea and Taiwan.

Q: What food have you tried in Singapore?
A: This is my first time in Singapore. I have tried the chicken rice at Chatterbox and I want to try all the food listed in the guide book. But I have no time yet!

Q: What advice would you give to young artists?
A: Don’t just draw what people like. Draw what you find interesting and focus on that. Each person is different so the manga they produced will be different.


Interview with Masayuki Ishikawa (Moyashimon/Tales of Agriculture)

I find the story of Moyashimon fascinating. A teenager entering an agriculture university and having the ability to see and communicate with microbes and bacteria. A professor wants to work with him to bring about new scientific discoveries to benefit the people. 2 other friends want him to help them ferment sake for sale. In America, he would have joined the X-Men. In Japan, he is as normal as your regular young adult who had diarrhea after eating bad curry rice. There is an anime and live action show for this. The girls in the manga are hot too.

Q: What is the genesis of Moyashimon?
A: Initially, I just wanted to draw a manga with a lot of people, big crowd, in a school setting. There is no bacteria when I first thought of the story.

Q: Why didn’t you do an action or romance manga?
A: Our daily life is not like that. This story is more about students and teachers.

Q: What sort of research did you do?
A: I visited a sake brewery. I talked to professionals, visited a lab and learned that when you put bacteria is a tank, they make sounds! I did not study agriculture as a student. But for this story, I went to the university libraries to do research.

Q: Is there a message behind your story?
A: Manga is for entertainment. The most important thing is that the students enjoy reading the story.

Q: You do not use assistants. Why is that so?
A: It is easier to do it alone.

Q: What advice would you give young artists?
A: Just enjoy trying. Do not get too pressurized. For those who want to be published in Japan, you don't need to study at a manga university. It is better to work under a mangaka as an assistant. Or go straight to the publishers or editors.


An interview with Mine Yoshizaki (Keroro Gunso/Sgt Frog)

Aliens arriving on Earth wanting to conquer us. But they are frogs and were captured by kids to become pets. Invasion failed. No way you can go wrong with this formula. Not when the chief frog, Sgt Frog has delusions of being Gundam, Kamen Rider and Evangelion. The anime is very successful too.

Q: Did you think Keroro Gunso would be so successful when you first started it?
A: I didn’t think from the commercial aspect. It was not something that I thought would sell when I first created it. But I wanted to draw something like this, so I took the risk and started the manga.

Q: Why did you use frogs as the aliens?
A: I was inspired by the Little Grey Man of Area 51. If you look at the silhouette of the Little Grey Man, it looks like a frog. Also when I look at the catalogue of frogs, there are many colours and appearances.

Q: Frogs versus men, who will win?
A: I hope they will make peace.

Q: What advice would you give to young artists in Asia?
A: I feel that the standard of comics is improving every year. Asian comics are approaching the standard of Japanese manga. We can learn from each other.

Japanese artists do not think of foreign market when they draw. They only think of their own market. This is a lack on our part. I think Japanese manga should be more opened and friendly to overseas readers. The themes should be made easier for overseas readers and contain less specific Japanese elements. Local artists are aware of this and they are more international compared to Japanese artists.

Thanks to Ashley, fsc and Sheuo Hui for helping out as translators.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Manga Festival

This is happening this weekend.

Supported by the Japan Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and 10 Manga Publishers, this event will have 3 components:

15 Feb (Mandarin Orchard)
- lecture meetings from 2 pm to 6 pm
- forum/business matching from 6 pm

16 Feb (Kinokuniya, Ngee Ann City)
- autograph sessions with 3 popular manga artists from 1 pm to 5.30 pm
- special session with Hiroyuki Ito (Final Fantasy) moderated by Danny Choo from 5.30 pm. I expect this to be the popular event.

16 - 17 Feb (Arts House)
- manga exhibition

The 3 managka looks interesting. Yaro Abe's Shinya Shokudo is very popular among female adults in HK, Taiwan and Japan. It's a food manga.

Masayuki Ishikawa's Tales of Agriculture is food related too. The artist won the Tezuka award in 2008. 2 volumes of the manga has been translated into English and published by Del Rey Manga. There is also an anime series.

Mine Yoshizaki's Sgt Frog' sounds like a lot of fun with its frogs as alien invaders storyline. The frogs have delusions of being Gundam. There is an anime and Tokyopop used to release the English editions in the US.

CoFesta (Japan International Contents Festival) is also involved. Set up in 2007, CoFesta is an initiative to promote Japanese content abroad. The Tokyo International Film Festival is one of its events. Since last year, CoFesta started its Student Ambassador Programme - getting international students to promote Japanese content in their country and the rest of the world. This is part of the Cool Japan Strategy.

Some details here:

I've been asked to be part of a public forum to talk about manga together with 3 other Singaporean students. We are the 'opening act' for the autograph sessions, between 12 pm to 1 pm at Kinokuniya on 16 Feb.

While it'd be interesting to hear the views of young Singaporeans on the influence of J-pop on local culture, I wish there could be interaction between local artists and the 3 mangaka. Maybe that will happen. After all, one shouldn't just absorb and consume. But it is to learn, transform and create our own content that is important.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

九龙城寨 BL

What makes a comic book BL?
2 criteria: because the artists intend it to be so and when the readers embrace it as BL. I suspect the latter is more important because the fans will do the pairings. We found this popular HK kung fu comic at Sino Centre and apparently it's popular among BL fans in HK. The artists may have no idea about the BL market. After all, male bonding stories is the norm in action comics and movies. Eg. HK gangster movies of the 1980s and Hollywood cop buddy movies like Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours.

What has changed is the pretty boys factor in HK kung fu comics. It is not so much the artists are tapping into the BL market, but they are borrowing images of pretty boys from K-pop (and earlier, J-pop). That is the look now. Not the rough demeanor of Tiger Wong, but even the best street fighters should be using Gatsby facial wash to achieve that Super Junior style.

You can understand why all these appeal to the BL fans whether it's intentional or not. That's the thing about intent - it is very hard to establish. But what is important is that the BL community reads into it and embrace the comic as their own. It is a big fan base and helps the comic to sell more.

Another HK example: The Ravages of Time/ 火鳳燎原

Even Southeast Asian comics have come onboard the BL wagon. A review of Love is in the Bag by Studio Studio in the Philippines talks about the hint of yaoi in the comic. In Singapore, The Resident Tourist?

Enough BL musings on CNY. Huat ar!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The 6.9 question

Given my last few posts on the impact of foreign influences on local culture, this ties in with what is happening in Singapore recently - the 6.9 debate.

More food for thought. By Terence Chong, first uploaded on ISEAS Perspective yesterday and reprinted in Today and also The Malaysian Insider.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Complex Relationship

In my last post, I wondered how the Filipinos felt about the invasion of manga. Especially when you know that the komiks pioneers fought against the Japanese during World War II and supported the Americans to return.

Francisco V. Coching spent the war years as a guerilla with the Kamagong Unit of the Hunters-ROTC resistance organization. It was his unit that conceived the clever idea of smuggling arms in coffins past Japanese checkpoints.

As a boy during the occupation, Alfredo Alcala (Voltar, Conan, Boba Fett) would spy on Japanese installations from a distance, memorized the details and location, hid somewhere to draw it put and passed it on the Americans. He was a spy boy.

The tensions I mentioned are real. Ace Vitangcol, the writer of the popular Pinoy manga series, Love Is In The Bag, hesitated when we asked about the reaction towards manga by some in the komiks community.

He said this was a slippery slope and he has been burnt before by this: the manga backlash.

In the early 2000s, a new group of young Filipino comic artists influenced by manga and anime emerged. These were the people behind Mangaholix and Culture Crash and pretty soon, they were receiving hate mail. When Ace started Love Is In The Bag in 2007, he was warned that he would encounter the same thing. "Some factions were not keen towards us."

"This made me asked what is a Philippine comic? I came to the answer: it is anything done by Filipinos."

"We are not in the Philippine market and we are not in the purely Japanese market as that focuses more on manga from overseas and local doujins. We are in between and filling that gap. Our books are sold in bookstores like the National Book Store, and not at events."

For younger female artists like Columbia Kho, she draws comics because "we love manga and not because we want to revive the komik industry." (Columbia contributes to Oh No! Manga) So in that sense manga allows them to better express themselves as compared to other styles or genres. Kring from Cebu proclaimed herself as one of the newer generation of comic artists influenced by manga. Since high school, she saw the dynamism of manga in telling stories. She found manga to be a deep way of storytelling, especially shojo manga which put a lot of feelings into the story. It is the same for Tin Tin Pantoja. "Manga is a natural way of telling a story for me."

This is similar to the reactions I got from younger Malaysian artists I spoke to a few years ago about being influenced by manga and Western comics when there was already a more indigenous style that has emerged in Malaysia in the 1980s in the form of Lat and Gila Gila. To them, there was nothing wrong if their comics look like a Western or Japanese comic. Maybe they are right. We can't fight globalization.

Diplomacy and politics play a part too. From The Straits Times, 11 January 2013: "Tokyo, Manila to boost ties amid regional changes: Japan offers Philippines help over Beijing's 'threatening' activity in South China Sea".

And 2012 marked the 30th anniversary of Malaysia's Look East Policy introduced by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1982 to improve bilateral relations between Japan and Malaysia. The Look East Policy will continue. (New Sunday Times, 23 December 2012)

In the March 2012 issue of Oh No! Manga, a detective tries to solve the case of Serial Vandalisms of 2896. In this future, the culture of the Philippines is slowly deteriorating because of colonial mentality and dirty politics. The people have forgotten their own history and the vandal is a promotor of nationalistic ideals and relives the past through vandalism. He is sending out a message about the country's dying culture.

The detective has a Japanese name, Ysaganni Ibarra and lives in Neo Manila, which is populated by robot maids from Japan.

I wonder if the irony is intentional.

Manga and the Philippines

A recent trip to Manila got me thinking about manga in the Philippines. Given the long history between US and the Philippines and the strong connection till today, when and why the turn towards manga? Part of the global trend? Any resistance given the traditional stronghold the US comic art style has over the Philippines?

I found my answer in pages 132 to 134 of John Lent's The First One Hundred Years of Philippine Komiks and Cartoons (2009). I will quote extensively here.

Basically, Japanese manga and anime is much responsible for the renewed interest in comics in the Philippines. Anime was a formidable force in the country before Marcos banned it, especially "Voltes V", in the 1970s. (Fans remembered the beloved series well - celebrity cosplay photographer, Jay Tablante, was gushing about "Voltes V" when we met him in Manila)

By the late 1990s, manga and anime had made a comeback with Filipino artists doing their own manga in magazines like Culture Crash and Questor. Other titles like Mango Jam and the Mangaholix series appeal to the Filipino manga consumers - mainly females in the 8 to 25 age bracket and buying their books at specialty comic shops and bookstores.

Not all were happy about the manga invasion. Gerry Alanguilan, for one, felt it was inappropriate to use a style that is so uniquely Japanese and to call it "Philippine-made comics." He said that in 10 years of observing Filipino artists who started out with manga, he did not find any who have evolved their own style. Manga's "danger" is that it has a strong and recognizable group style not found in American comics drawn by artists from other parts of the world. (of course, this is debatable - is the style of Ardian Syaf from Indonesia and Carlo Pagulayan from the Philippines that much different from their counterparts in America?)

Alanguilan went on to say:

"Our culture is defined more by what we create, than by what we consume. We are no less Filipino when we eat Japanese food, and although we are no less Filipino citizens when we use Japanese art to create Filipino comics, it does put into spotlight that we no longer have a voice of our own."

Pretty strong words from one of giants of Filipino comics today.

However, for artists like Melvin Calingo (aka Taga-Ilog), he felt that it was "strange and utterly unfounded" that by accepting manga, Filipinos were accepting and promoting a foreign culture. Claiming the major difference between Japanese and Philippine manga was the audience, Calingo pointed out the unique qualities of Pinoy manga to be:

a) having Philippine cultural and linguistic nuances and local settings
b) being oriented to the youth subculture compared to the mainstream in Japan
c) using Philippine humor, drama and cultural values even in fantasy stories

Calingo felt that manga had been appropriated and transformed into something "quite unlike itself back in Japan." For him, Pinoy manga "suggest an intermarriage of influence between Filipino ingenuity and the usage of Japanese and American aesthetic conventions in creating comics."

Writer Joel Chua said that the decision of Filipinos to imitate manga was pragmatic because more work opportunities opened up for artists working in that style.

As in elsewhere, the Japanese government has promoted manga in the Philippines as a valuable cultural and financial export. Filipino artists have been encouraged to enter international and other manga competitions organized by the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

For more info, see Herbeth Fonddevilla's article, "Contemplating the Identity of Manga in the Philippines" in International Journal of Comic Art, 9:2 Fall 2007: 441 - 454.

I will be writing more about this in the next few posts.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The power of RM$5

Zunar has been selling these at rallies for RM$5. This is to reach out to the rural masses who may not have accessed to information about the coming Malaysian general elections, their 13th since 1957.

Zunar and his artists are breaking it down for the people - how much Najib's wife is costing the individuals.

Ask Zunar about his agit-pop this Friday at Select Books, 7 pm.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Kwan Shan Mei

A friend alerted me that Kwan Shan Mei passed away in Vancouver last year. I remember reading her Mooty the Mouse stories in the late 1970s. I was told she drew cartoons. Anyone got info?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Zunar coming to Singapore

Cartoons and Politics

What is the role of political cartoons in society? Do they merely reflect public opinion or do they shape it? Should they in the first place?

Zulkiflee Anwar Haque (better known as Zunar) is Malaysia's most important political cartoonist right now. His books are banned. He has been arrested and persecuted for drawing political cartoons. He is partisan, has strong views about politics in Malaysia and provides interesting commentary about the state of things up north. Especially with the 13th General Elections coming up in April.

Comics historian Lim Cheng Tju, Straits Times editorial cartoonist Dengcoy Miel and ISEAS Deputy Director Ooi Kee Beng will be engaging Zunar about all these and more.

Location: Select Books
Date: 1 Feb 2013 (Fri)
Time: 7 pm to 8.30 pm

NB: for an interview with Zunar.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Women Manga Symposium in Sydney

Happening this week at University of Sydney and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Organized by friends who did the Women Manga conferences in Singapore (2011) and Hanoi (2012). FSc will be there too.

So if you are in Sydney, do go.'SMangaInAsiaSchedule2012.12.27.xlsx.pdf

Women manga artists


While manga began as an art form specific to Japan, today a global boom in these Japanese style comics is underway. Ever increasing numbers of girls and women are participating as creators and consumers worldwide. In fact, women now dominate the realm of fan-created works, and non-Japanese comics for girls and women contribute significantly to the exploration of gender and sexuality. This program forms Day 3 of an international conference organised by the Women and Manga Project and hosted by the University of Sydney.


12pm Welcome
Dr Rebecca Suter, University of Sydney, Professor Fusami Ogi, Chikushi Jogakuen University, Japan

12.15 Lecture: Girl Power! Exhibiting girls manga
Professor Masami Toku, California State University
A presentation of the work of key authors of girls comics from the 1960s and 1970s as seen in the 2005–08 North American touring exhibition Girl Power! Girls comics from Japan

1pm Break

2pm Artist talks and discussion
Madeline Rosca (Australia), FSc (Singapore), Mika Ikeda (Japan), Queenie Chan (Australia)

4.30pm Close

Image: Queenie Chan, Cover illustration depicting main characters Gold and Jade, Kylie Chan, Small Shen, Harper Collins Voyager 2012 (detail)

Friday 25 January 2013, 12pm – 4.30pm

Free, bookings required

Bookings and enquiries: 02 9225 1740