Sunday, October 26, 2014

David Hine

British comic writer David Hine is coming next week for SWF.

It will be good to hear from someone who has written for the mainstream in American comics and also worked on his own projects, and how he balanced between the two. While Hine has shared that he encountered changes made to his scripts for DC and Marvel, by and large, he was able to push certain boundaries in some of his stories for Marvel.

Rereading Civil War: X-Men (2006) and Silent War (2007), I noticed both dealt with the issue of American treatment of 'terrorists', which Hine was critical of. I asked him if he encountered any editorial difficulties and he replied that no one at Marvel seemed to notice the Guantanamo references!

But he did have more problems later at DC with depiction of jihadists and the American role in Afghanistan. There were several captions and dialogue balloons which were dropped from his script when the printed version appeared. Still, he managed to get away with depicting the Pope as a demon in Azrael.

(this would not be new in British comics – just see Pat Mill’s Nemesis the Warlock)

In the meantime, do check out these books, my top 3 of Hine’s work:

Strange Embrace (Image Comics)
The Bulletproof Coffin Vol 1 and 2 (Image Comics)
The Man Who Laughs (Self Made Hero)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Marvel Civil War

With the breaking news of the new Marvel movie being based on the 2006 series, Civil War, thought I share this old piece from 8 years ago I wrote for ST. The local example is dated but American involvement in the Middle East is still happening. Homeland Season 4 has just started and it continues to explore this.

British writer David Hine is coming for SWF and the Civil War: X-Men spin-off series he wrote deals with the fallout of American internment of mutant 'terrorists'.

The comic books remain relevant.


AFTER more than 40 years, Spiderman has decided to unmask himself and reveal to the rest of the world that he is Peter Parker. What could be seen as a publicity stunt by Marvel Comics, publisher of the Spiderman comic books, for its annual summer crossover event (meaning you have to buy various series to get the whole story) is actually a clever usage of popular culture.

The revealing of Spiderman's secret identity is part of a larger storyline called Civil War. In this, a fight gone wrong has led to the American public turning against the superheroes. The government quickly calls for the registration and unmasking of all heroes and vigilantes. Battle lines are drawn, with the heroes split into two opposing camps. On one side, you have those in favour of the enactment of the Superhuman Registration Act, seen as the way forward for heroes - led by Iron Man - to do what they have to do. The other side, led surprisingly by Captain America, is against government control of heroism. They start an underground resistance movement. You can guess which side Spiderman is on.

Granted that this is not a new concept in comic books as it has been explored before in Kingdom Come and even the X-Men series and movies, Civil War's take on this 'brother-versus-brother' theme is timely. The only thing more exciting to comic fans than a slugfest between the good guys and the bad guys is a slugfest between the good guys and the good guys. For example, who is stronger - Superman or the Hulk?

Of course, the Civil War series is a throwback to the American Civil War of the 19th century, which forged a new destiny for the United States. It is also a reference to the public divide created during the McCarthy era of the 1950s. But closer to our times, Civil War speaks to Americans of the divisions within their society over the actions of the US government both at home and abroad. A more explicit statement against America's interference in the Middle East is found in The Ultimates, where the tables are turned on the heroes after they cross the line to invade a rogue state, expanding beyond the jurisdiction of what constitutes 'homeland security'. Indeed, in The New Avengers, the bad guys are the government agency for national security. Popular culture has the ability to entertain and reflect public sentiment in the most interesting and accessible manner. Sadly, we see less of that in Singapore.

Last week, as the media was awash with news of Spiderman's unveiling, I visited the Fiction@Love exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum. The show is said to explore the 'concerns related to the satire and fantasy of love' through the contemporary medium of 'Animamix Art' - that is, a combination of comics, graphic design, animation, manga and anime in art. But it didn't quite work. The tension between high-brow art and low-brow pop culture remained in the works displayed. Whatever the message was that the show attempted to convey, it is doubtful if the audience grasped it. Nothing was more telling than the interactive tour, which featured a reading of the exhibits using the texts of Neil Gaiman and Hermann Hesse. No one in the audience of about 20 had heard of either of these authors. This disjuncture between how popular culture is reinterpreted in the Singapore Art Museum and how a popular medium like comic books is used to reflect public sentiment in America provides much food for thought. Recent discussions on Singapore's culture and identity have not considered the role that can be played by contemporary pop culture of films and graphic images. As Spiderman has reminded us, pop culture can be expressions of not just who we are but of what we are thinking about.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Interview with Alan Quah

Some of you would be familiar with the work of Alan Quah, a regular at our comic con. Here's an interview with the emerging pro.

Name: Alan Quah
Age: 46

How did you get started? (eg. first break and first titles?)
I started drawing at a very young age (4+) and got my first break when NST's Daniel Chan (who wrote the biweekly comic column) got a group of young local artists and published APAzine back in 1985.

How important was it to build a fan base in your own home country first, ie. you were already working on comic titles in your own home country before sending your work overseas?
To be honest, I never really had a fan base in my own country when I started out, I did a couple of gigs for local comics like Fantasi and some humour magazines in the 80's. Of course back then my work was very amateurish, I was 15 or 16 then. I quit drawing comics in the 90's, worked in Advertising and eventually formed my own small agency, ET CETERA. In 2005, I decided to come out from my art sabbatical and started drawing again and got my first gig on The Eldrich for Comics Conspiracy, an Indy publisher. And thanks to social media like Facebook, I get to show more of my work to the world and this is when the communication with the fans started. I also got noticed by "important" people in the industry and eventually got myself represented by talent managers to reach out to the publishers.
My real break came last year when I was involved in DC's The Vampire Diaries and Legendary Comics' Godzilla Awakening.

Do you have an agent?
Yes, I am currently represented by Space Goat Productions LLC.

Pros and cons of working in your home country instead of being based in the West? (eg. Working relationship with writers and editors? More/less opportunities to meet fans and receive feedback?)
I would think the pros would be the conversion rate, I earn US dollars which amount to a good pay check here. The cons are definitely meeting the fans and editors face to face, but with the internet it helps a lot, they still get to connect with me almost instantly. I missed out on the opportunity on comic convention appearances a lot, something that I would like to do more often in the near future.

An interesting story that happened to you while working on a title?
When I was working on my Godzilla assignment, I was afflicted with Bell's Palsy, a condition that paralysed the right side of my face. I can't blink and move my the right side of my eye and mouth, that proved to be a burden to draw. I can't stay up straight for more than 20 mins and have to lie down a lot. But deadline is nearing, the publisher didn't know I was sick and because it was a major project I persevered to meet my deadline. It took me longer to draw a page, I stay up till late to keep up with the deadline, drawing for 15 mins, lie down for 20 mins until I complete a page everyday and upload my page as usual. I eventually met my deadline with 3 days to spare and when the publisher found out about my condition they were very happy with my professionalism. That opened a lot of doors.

What are the advantages and/or challenges of being a freelancer?
The biggest challenge is getting regular work, there are times when the gigs don't come for months and I have to keep myself sharp, artistically by drawing commissions and sketches.

Do you do comics fulltime or do you have to take on other assignments?
I am still running my advertising agency while working on comics.

You had an exhibition in Taipei recently. Tell us about it.
The Taiwan trip, is a Joint Venture between Malaysia's Roots Studio (founded by Lau Shaw Ming and Michael Chuah) and Taiwan's Flying Fish Creative, sponsored by the Cultural Affairs Department, New Taipei City. The event is New Taipei City ACG Festival. My exhibition is part of the festival to promote comics and manga art, cosplay, games and toys. It was very well promoted via media coverage, and the exhibition hall was also well designed with 3 rooms dedicated to the exhibition. To date the event has exceeded 20,000 people. The Taiwan crowd is amazing, very well mannered people and I enjoyed my stay there.

Advice for new artists trying to break into the industry?
Don't be lazy! Keep drawing and challenging yourself to draw better than your last piece. Never be satisfied with what you are doing currently and to have an open mind to learn everyday. I am still learning and never plan to stop.