Saturday, 1 December 2012

Spotlight on: Epigram's Spring Comics Catalogue

Settle yourself in for a deluge of art and comic goodness, as I bring you excellent comic news from across the seas in the form of shiny upcoming releases and juicy previews. Lots of gorgeous pictures in this post, so it may take a while to load, but bear with me- it's worth it, I promise. Epigram Books are a independent book publisher based in Singapore, who began life as a division of the Epigram design company, then branching out to source and champion local writing. The company currently publishes all types of books and genres, and earlier in the year announced the superb news that 2013 would be the year in which they begin to also publish comics. They have 5 books in their spring catalogue, all by  incredibly talented Singaporean artists, writers and creators. As part of my vow to read comics from all around the world, I'm highlighting each one here, with a synopsis and a few preview pages. It helps that they all look of true quality and rather fantastic (a bonus of being a division of an award winning design company, I guess!). Epigram are offering something different with each release: not only in terms of style, but genre: historical biography, horror, humour, observational, cultural commentary- a real good mixed bag.
First up, a book compiled by someone you may have heard of: Mr Sonny Liew (of Malinky Robot, amongst others, fame). Here's a synopsis of the book:  

'The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a biography showcasing the life and work of Chan Hock Chye, pioneering but largely forgotten comic artist in Singapore. With a career spanning more than five decades, from pre-independent Singapore through its three Prime Ministers, Chan’s work reflects the changing political and economic environment in Singapore. Containing Chan’s original illustrations, painting and sketches, this is a groundbreaking work and labour of love aimed at recapturing the portrait of an artist, whose deep passion for comics and country is given a fitting tribute by award-winning comic artist Sonny Liew.'
The book begins with a lovely introduction/interview illustrated by Sonny where Charlie Chan talks a bit about how he came into comics. I'm not sure if this is taken from a real-life interview or transcript, but Sonny infuses it with his signature charm and wit.  And then we move straight on to showcase some of Hock Chye's work itself, which looks sublime, doesn't it?  I did a quick search to see if I could find out anything about Hock Chye, but couldn't dig up much, to be honest. This preview has made me eager to see more, though.

You can view a larger preview from the book here
Next up is a long form comic story, Ten Sticks and One Rice, by Koh Hong Teng and Oh Yong Hwee: 
The art in this brings to mind a more fine-lined Renee French, combined with someone whose name I can't recall (which is helpful). Again, a brief synopsis, with more details and a longer preview here:
'Illegal bookie. Secret society member. Street hawker. Neo Hock Seng is all these, and more. As Singapore transforms from a kampong to a cosmopolitan city, Hock Seng struggles to make sense of life and eke out a living, even as he finds his old ways and values increasingly challenged.'

Then we have Monsters, Miracles and Mayonnaise by Drewscape (aka Andrew Tan), which is a collection of shorter stories. More here.

'What would you do if a tiny monster were to slip out from your sleeve one day? Or if the water in your water bottle suddenly turns into Ribena? And what if you find that you just can’t move, no matter how hard you try? Monsters, Miracles & Mayonnaise is a collection of short comic stories by drewscape, where tales of unexpected encounters with strange beings from another world sit alongside amusing anecdotes based on bewildering real-life encounters and childhood memories. Imaginative and whimsical, this collection will surprise and amuse even the most cynical reader.'

This one looks really lovely- a pictorial commentary in the form of editorial cartoons on the people, idiosyncrasies and place of Singapore- entitled Scengapore by journalist and cartoonist, Miel. Longer preview and info here. Synopsis below.

'A character who looks suspiciously like the author takes a walk through time, visiting the key milestones of Singapore’s history—from the time Sang Nila Utama spotted the Merlion, through the streets of newly-founded Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles, up to the present day. Join in this humorous jalan-jalan which offers a unique perspective on a range of topics, from education, health and food to politics, National Service, public transport, foreign talent, technology and other subjects close to the Singaporean heart.'

And finally, the one I'm most excited about- just check out this great cover- The Girl Under the Bed by Dave Chua and Xiao Yan (more here):

'During Hungry Ghost Month, the gates of hell open and out pour the dead spirits. Jingli, a Seconday One student, finds a ghost named Xiaomei sleeping under her bed. The two develop a friendship and, together with Weizhong, a boy who is also a medium, set about to solve the mystery of Xiaomei’s haunting. Set in modern day Singapore, The Girl Under the Bed is a coming-of-age tale that will thrill readers, while sending chills down their spine.'

I think you'll agree that's a very impressive line-up for a first endeavour of a newly launced comics line. I really admire the commitment to the curating and promoting of Sinagporean talent- more people should follow this model. What's all the more exciting for a heathen like me, is that the books are all in English, so there's no need to wait around for translation rights to be bought. There's no UK distributor as yet, but they will be available through the deity of our times, Amazon. All  five books are due for release around March/April next year.
UPDATE: Although Ten Sticks, Scenegapore and Monsters, Miracles and Mayonnaise are currently listed on, all show up as out of stock, hopefully they'll be added on soon. Liew's Charlie Chan retrospective and The Girl Under the Bed are slated for release later in the year.


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