Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: The Prince of Persia (First Second)

This one is an oddity. It is supposedly based on the original video game of the same name. However, the only connections to the source material are a prince and Persia. The book is not even mainstream, which is probably one of the reasons why First Second was willing to publish it. The other reason is quality.

As I mentioned; not mainstream. Action is relatively low; no acrobatic jumps, no complex sword fights, but lots of mysticism. The copy I had, a library one, was in rather good condition. You are less likely to see mainstream books in such conditions.

The Prince of Persia looks to Arabian Nights (or One Thousand and One Nights) for inspiration. And this is what you get; a throwback to old Arabian tales. Like most books published by First Second, you can expect this one to be of similar quality, that is if you know what that is. I know I am not being explicit, but given the kind of books I read, I doubt anyone who reads only mainstream comics would bother with it. For those who read alternative comics, I suppose I have written enough. Just knowing the book is in the style of Arabian Nights and not the video game is enough to get me to pick it up.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Unfortunate Lives Still

I attended the book launch of Teo Soh Lung's Beyond the Blue Gate over the weekend.

This is a little-known story related to Teo Soh Lung. In 1989, Eric Khoo released his first graphic novel, Unfortunate Lives. The last story in that collection is about a woman who was detained for many years for her political beliefs. The woman in that story was inspired by Teo Soh Lung.

Soh Lung is the sister of Teo Eng Seng, who had taught Eric Khoo art when he was studying at United World College. However, due to objections from the publishers, Eric had to change the story to be set in South Africa. However, if you look at the art, it is still a Chinese woman who is been portrayed in the story.

Unfortunately, the shadow of 1987 still hangs over us today.

Those who love us best...

Have been listening to Big Star and The Replacements since Alex Chilton passed away some months ago. It all comes together when I listened to Bastards of the Young on my ipod while walking down Tenjin looking for Mandrake.

"God, what a mess, on the ladder of success
Where you take one step and miss the whole first rung
Dreams unfulfilled, graduate unskilled
It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten

We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
The daughters and the sons

Clean your baby womb, trash that baby boom
Elvis in the ground, there'll ain't no beer tonight
Income tax deduction, what a hell of a function
It beats pickin' cotton and waitin' to be forgotten

We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
The daughters and the sons

Unwillingness to claim us, ya got no word to name us

The ones who love us best are the ones we'll lay to rest
And visit their graves on holidays at best
The ones who love us least are the ones we'll die to please
If it's any consolation, I don't begin to understand them

We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
We are the sons of no one, bastards of young
The daughters and the sons"

As working adults, we can all identify with the lines "Those who love us least are the ones we die to please."
It's sad that "Those who love us best are the ones we lay to rest. Visit their graves on holidays at best."

We should spend more time with our loved ones and appreciate them. Even if the time is short, it's about cherishing the moment at hand, making every second counts.

Eternity or a day? Sometimes, a day is all we need to last a lifetime.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Review: Token

Token (Minx) is a rather generic, coming-of-age, teenage girl tale. The lead, Shira, is your usual troubled teen without a mother; the kind who is unpopular in high school. But then a Latino boy comes around to heat things up.

Shira is pretty average for the genre, getting all emo and whiny when problems occur. But the interactions between her and the supporting casts remind me of Bendis; fast, snappy dialogues. Then there is the Shira’s interesting neighbour, Minerva, who acts as a mother figure, filling in a void Shira’s father cannot. Generic, but well executed, except may be the resolution is a little uncomprehensive.

This is the third Minx book I have read to date. And if you are a guy, I really recommend trying out books from the imprint, unless you are only attracted to sex and violence when it comes to comics.

The last post

The Free Press, 11 August 1951, Saturday.

The Free Press, 18 August 1951.

That's it. The only 2 cartoons for 1951.

This is the end of the Kwan project. A total of 53 cartoons from 1946 to 1951.
1946 - 27
1947 - 11
1949 - 12
1950 - 1
1951 - 2

As a bonus, this is how Kwan looks like in cartoon. He is the mer-man in the centre. Taken from My Singapore by Morgan Chua.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review: The Good Neighbors: Kin

For those who are familiar with Holly Black, The Good Neighbors volume one: Kin (Graphix) is sort of like Spiderwick Chronicles for teens. I was expecting myself to read a few pages of this comic, get bored and move on to something else. But those few pages got me hooked.

Besides the usual character introductions for a first volume, the main presentation is two mysteries side by side. By the end of the volume, both mysteries are solved. Even with faeries, the comic never lets fantasy elements run all over as other comics of the same genre would do. Mysteries in fantasies are difficult to solve because usually, someone does hocus pocus which no one can ever imagine. Example: Jean Loring in Identity Crisis. With The Good Neighbors, there is no such cheating.

Manga is dangerous!

From The Japan Times, 18 June 2010, Friday front page news:

"A censure motion was also presented in the Upper House against new Prime Minister Naoto Kan and national policy minister Satoshi Arai, who has admitted his now-defunct political body inappropriately booked costs for comic book purchases as official expenses."

Dr Benham

"Like Patience on a monument, smiling at grief." - Shakespeare
(Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 4)

The Straits Times, 17 Jan 1950, Tuesday.

The only cartoon for 1950.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Municipal Musical Chairs

The Straits Times, 3 Dec 1949, Saturday.

The last cartoon for 1949. 12 in total for the year.
This project is coming to an end soon. A few more to go.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Music Travelogues

Pounding the streets of Tenjin to The Replacements. What a great band they were and still are.

Nick Cave telling me to hold on to myself while we are zooming to Beppu.

And getting that Tetsuo moment when listening to Merzbow on the way back to Fukuoka.
(Kodansha just released the DVD Book of Tetsuo The First Cut - 10 minutes more of footage!)

Finally, a question that I've been thinking about - what does it feel like to be a jug?
Miles up in the air and listening to Les, Vin, Stan and Dan...

Joget Modern in the Colony

The Straits Times, 5 Nov 1949, Saturday.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


The Straits Times, 10 Oct 1949, Monday.

The planter is Malcolm MacDonald, I presume. Check out the wordings on the trees. UM was a modernist project by the British to cultivate local leaders to take over from them. And to be friendly to them after they leave.

Think about this in the context of what happened soon after - the first student arrests of 1951, the setting up of the University of Malaya Socialist Club and the Fajar Trial of 1954.

Here's the original article courtesy of Chee Kien.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bus Ride

The Straits Times, 27 Sept 1949, Tuesday.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Resident Good

Resident Tourist is probably one of the best local comics. Considering how many local comics take the fantasy route, Troy Chin’s work shows that with technical skill, no fantastic idea is required to make a good manga. One flaw with many local manga is the use of kawaii humour which always falls far from its intention. The problem is probably a result of Singaporeans trying to imitate Japanese humour without understanding it.

Chin however succeeds with his humour. In a way, the humour stems from his personality (if his stories are to be believed) and not something he forcibly conjured up. Resident Tourist is, as Americans would call it, an OEL manga. The Japanese influence is there, but the way Chin emphasizes his individualism, his sense of humour; western.

I remember coming across Resident Tourist at the Toy and Comics Convention in 2008. Chin’s booth was not very attractive. Nevertheless, reading a few pages of his work already impressed me, although back then I was quite unsure of my taste in and judgement of comics. So my impression was right, or at least I hope so.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Comics and their readers: Library observations

This I have to point out regarding comics from the library, because it really is quite common. Whoever the culprits are, how many of them there are, I don’t know.

Ever noticed how the alternative comics tend to be in better condition than the mainstream ones, say Marvel or DC. One can usually find pages with boogers or biscuit crumbs in the mainstream stuff. It is very likely that mainstream comics are borrowed more than the alternatives, hence the difference in conditions. Then may be, it reflects on the character of readers each kind of comic gets. A possibility: the mainstream comics attracts people with a lack of courtesy and care for public property, and that alternative readers are perhaps more likely to be educated in social graces.

What do you think?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Review: Wonderland (SLG)

A licensed sequel to Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, Wonderland (Slave Labor Graphics Publishing) continues the story where Alice left off……without Alice that is. Enter the white rabbit’s maidservant Mary Ann who, like all the other inhabitants of Wonderland, is eccentric.

The best thing about this book is the superb art, done by you-should-know-who. The story however, is a different story. For one, in the original Alice, be it the Disney film or two books, Wonderland was explored through Alice’s perspective. A normal girl, thrust into a world where logic and ration is turned upside down. Wonderland however, uses an inhabitant of Wonderland as its protagonist. That is an instant lost of connection with many readers.

As a follow up to the Disney animation, Wonderland does okay.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Something risque

The Straits Times, 21 Sept 1949, Wednesday.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Educating Father

The Straits Times, 10 Sept 1949, Saturday.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

UM fundraising

The Straits Times, 3 Sept 1949, Sat.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Local comics no good?

A question was posed on the discussion board, asking whether Singapore comics were generally poor in quality. And of course I have been asking myself whether I should be honest in my opinion regarding this, because so far, no one has really criticized our local productions, and someone should at least tactfully do so. Tactful and art criticism do not go well together.

Of course, the first thing a critic can do, I suppose is to not compare Singapore comics to foreign ones. But considering the fact that a significant number of local comics take inspiration from foreign comics, comparisons are bound to occur.

Take Dream Walker (TCZ Studio) for example. It is similar to Bleach in a number of ways. In addition, the creator admitted to coming up with the idea last minute, which implies things. Dream Walker: The Dreamscape reads like it is scripted by someone who took pointers from a “How to Write Graphic Novels” book, that is my opinion. Given how much mainstream manga has developed in Japan in artistry and technicality, Dream Walker is not very well executed. I actually wrote a detailed critical review of the series, but decided to hold it back.

Resident Tourist on the other hand is a different story. Autobiographical comics have been around for a long time. Troy Chin may not earn much points for creativity, yet, his work is well executed. It is readable and enjoyable. He knows what events in his life to highlight and how to highlight them. There is technical skill involved. Resident Tourist displays a better grasp of manga than Dream Walker, in their respective genres. And no one else in Singapore has gone as far as Chin has, so it is always refreshing to read his work.

More Talk of the Week

The Straits Times, 30 Aug 1949, Tuesday.

Makes you wonder about this sudden turn of events towards humour. Kwan was very critical of the British in 1946 and 1947. There were no cartoons in 1948 (the year the Emergency was declared) and they only returned in 1949.

Monday, June 7, 2010

More Talk of the Week

The Straits Times, 23 Aug 1949, Saturday.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Countryman's Journal

The Straits Times, 20 Aug 1949, Saturday.

Less political and more humourous. The man is catching specimens for the Raffles Museum.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Oases in the Cultural Desert

The Straits Times, 16 Aug 1949, Tues.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Talk of the Week

The Straits Times, 9 Aug 1947, Tuesday.
A new feature, Talk of the Week, which features several events in one cartoon.
GCS = Government Civil Servant. The character looks like GKS = Goh Keng Swee!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Back Pay

The Free Press, 22 Feb 1947.

That's it for 1947. 11 cartoons over 2 months. There were no cartoons in 1948. Tomorrow we'll start on 1949.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kino Bestsellers May 2010











Japanese Farewell

The Free Press, 12 Feb 1947.

The strikes must really be bad in 1947.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


10 Feb 1947.