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The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye [Limited Eisner Edition]

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Limited hardcover edition, to celebrate The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye winning three 2017 Eisner Awards. In 1954, a young Charlie Chan witnesses a police attack on a peaceful student demonstration. This encounter inspires him to create his first comic about a boy and his Giant Robot, and marks the beginning of his quest to become Singapore's Greatest Comics Artist. The A Limited hardcover edition, to celebrate The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye winning three 2017 Eisner Awards. In 1954, a young Charlie Chan witnesses a police attack on a peaceful student demonstration. This encounter inspires him to create his first comic about a boy and his Giant Robot, and marks the beginning of his quest to become Singapore's Greatest Comics Artist. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye traces his journey amidst the tumultuous times of pre-independence Singapore through to the hyper-modern metropolis the island city-state is today. Bringing together a dazzling array of genres, styles and forms, this is a graphic novel that is by turns exhilarating, funny and moving. Described by the New York Times as "hugely ambitious, stylistically acrobatic" and a "mercurial delight", and by Slate as "a multilayered masterpiece of comic-book and real-world history", it reclaims and reinvents a lost past and pushes the boundaries of the comics medium in a brilliant retelling of the Singapore Story.


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Limited hardcover edition, to celebrate The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye winning three 2017 Eisner Awards. In 1954, a young Charlie Chan witnesses a police attack on a peaceful student demonstration. This encounter inspires him to create his first comic about a boy and his Giant Robot, and marks the beginning of his quest to become Singapore's Greatest Comics Artist. The A Limited hardcover edition, to celebrate The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye winning three 2017 Eisner Awards. In 1954, a young Charlie Chan witnesses a police attack on a peaceful student demonstration. This encounter inspires him to create his first comic about a boy and his Giant Robot, and marks the beginning of his quest to become Singapore's Greatest Comics Artist. The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye traces his journey amidst the tumultuous times of pre-independence Singapore through to the hyper-modern metropolis the island city-state is today. Bringing together a dazzling array of genres, styles and forms, this is a graphic novel that is by turns exhilarating, funny and moving. Described by the New York Times as "hugely ambitious, stylistically acrobatic" and a "mercurial delight", and by Slate as "a multilayered masterpiece of comic-book and real-world history", it reclaims and reinvents a lost past and pushes the boundaries of the comics medium in a brilliant retelling of the Singapore Story.

30 review for The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye [Limited Eisner Edition]

  1. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    I literally could not put this book down. I devoured it, messily, poring through the pages, lifting up my glasses to peer closely with long-sighted age at the details, flipping back and forth, forward and back in time, chuckling at the quiet humour, marveling at the subtle and not-so-subtle homages to style and history, raising it to look at it this way, then that way, at the multifaceted piece of work it is, knowing that repeated readings would throw up even more layers. If you're a comic book r I literally could not put this book down. I devoured it, messily, poring through the pages, lifting up my glasses to peer closely with long-sighted age at the details, flipping back and forth, forward and back in time, chuckling at the quiet humour, marveling at the subtle and not-so-subtle homages to style and history, raising it to look at it this way, then that way, at the multifaceted piece of work it is, knowing that repeated readings would throw up even more layers. If you're a comic book reader, you feel this book as much as you read it, and you can see the heart and mind of the artist, fictional and real, laid - if not quite bare, then at least sufficiently ajar - before you. There is an aura here, the sense of nostalgia, the yearning of a history that never was as well as the timeline that Chan lived through, and an ever-present yearning for things not done, paths not taken, goals never quite achieved, and a soft demand as to why things can't be this way. The current reaction to the book is revolving mainly around the brouhaha caused by the withdrawal of the NAC grant, but to concentrate on that misses the many other layers that this book has to offer. Make no mistake, this book does deal with the political history of Singapore, and political history can always be sensitive, especially when the orthodox narrative or viewpoint is challenged, even if in the most gentle of ways. But The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is so, so much more. When I got to the part where Sonny presents the cover of "Ah Huat's Giant Robot" #1, I had a flashback to a conversation with Sonny at one of the first Singapore Toy Game and Comic Conventions, nearly a decade ago. He talked about the idea for an alternate history of Singapore comics dating back to the 1930s. We never had locally produced comics, but what if we had? What if we had local superhero comics published alongside ones from the United States and England? What would that have looked like? Looking at this volume, I realized that this was Sonny pulling the trigger on that idea, but taking it much further. This is an alternate history, but this is also what happened. This is a political book, but it is also about aspirations and the creative spirit. This is a book of tributes, but it is completely original. This is a personal book, but it is also about a particular culture, a particular society. This is Sonny Liew. This, not to put too fine a point on it, is Art. Kudos not just to Sonny, but to his editor, Joyce Sim, whose steady hand I sense just as much in this. To recap: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is structured like a tribute/biography/showcase of the career of the titular artist who has been drawing comic books since the 1950s and lived through the tumultuous decades surrounding Singapore's independence and up to the present day. The comics he draws evolve, reflecting the styles of the times, and move into political allegory as the stories reflect the events of those years. The conceit here, of course, is that Chan is a completely fictional character. He never existed, and neither did his comics. There was never an "Ah Huat's Giant Robot", or a "Dragon" weekly magazine, or "Roachman", but God, we wish there were. The comic book history he emulates is not your typical one - it would have been easy and too pat to suggest that Singapore would have had an American Golden Age style comic in the 1940s. Instead, Sonny has Chan's style being influenced by what comics were actually available to us in that period, from early Japanese manga in the Tezuka vein, to the Beano, Eagle, funny animal comics and only later going into Kurtzman's E.C. war comics and then the Marvel era and beyond. This is the kind of book that screams for annotations, quite apart from the pages of notes that Sonny provides at the end of the volume. The last but one comic showcased, "Days of August" is said by Chan to be inspired by Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle" but the obvious homage to "The Dark Knight Returns" is not even commented on, for example. "Roachman" predates the Marvel Age by a few years but is definitely a riff not just on "Spider-Man" but the pulpish comics - English and non-English - of the late 50s and a narrative layout and colours reminiscent of Charlton. I could go on, but that would be too geeky and self-indulgent. I have to say though, that I would gladly pay for a full volume of the Pogo-inspired "Bukit Chapalang" strips. I can't say enough good things about it except to grab you by the lapels and demand that you read it and love it as much as I do. This book deserves to get several awards. I understand why the NAC doesn't want to get behind it, but sadly, it's really their loss. I would hold this book up for an Eisner as a sterling example of what the comic book medium is capable of. This is an ambitious work beyond what we would expect a Singaporean comic to be able to do, and Sonny just kicked its ass. You completely blew my mind, Sonny. I'm proud to know you.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    A kind of amazing fictional biography of a Singapore comics artist, Charlie Chan Hock Chye, that is in part a story of twentieth-century Singapore, and in part a study of comics. Part of that study of comics has to do with the relationships between western and Asian comics, and how they mutually influence/d each other. This big, impressive book employs a very inventive approach, with an amazing range of comics styles representing different periods. Eisner-award nominated. Especially recommended A kind of amazing fictional biography of a Singapore comics artist, Charlie Chan Hock Chye, that is in part a story of twentieth-century Singapore, and in part a study of comics. Part of that study of comics has to do with the relationships between western and Asian comics, and how they mutually influence/d each other. This big, impressive book employs a very inventive approach, with an amazing range of comics styles representing different periods. Eisner-award nominated. Especially recommended for students of comics and comics history. Thanks to 2-3 Goodreads friends who recommended it to me. I also liked it because Liew worked with Gene Luen Tang on The Shadow Hero.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Xueting

    Hands down my most enjoyable Singapore literature read ever! I'm glad I know pretty much every historical detail regarding Singapore in this book- I don't think I'd enjoy the book less if I was unfamiliar with the context (it did feel like an info dump at times), but I believe I enjoyed it more because I am SO familiar with it. So many complex themes and narrative devices at play here, I don't know how to start my school essay on this now but I'm excited!!!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    I was one of those who bought the book because the National Arts Council withdrew its publication grant. But then I found myself with a truly masterful piece of work – as someone who doesn't usually read graphic novels I was introduced to a whole new mode of visual storytelling, combining a variety of styles, tones and feels. It's not often that Singaporeans get to see our history – and the rapid transformation of our city – played out in such detail and depth. It's not often that we get to thin I was one of those who bought the book because the National Arts Council withdrew its publication grant. But then I found myself with a truly masterful piece of work – as someone who doesn't usually read graphic novels I was introduced to a whole new mode of visual storytelling, combining a variety of styles, tones and feels. It's not often that Singaporeans get to see our history – and the rapid transformation of our city – played out in such detail and depth. It's not often that we get to think of our politicians as politicians, and to wonder about the many roads Singapore could have gone down. And having this opportunity means a lot... well, it meant a lot to me, anyway. The journey that we go on with the protagonist Charlie Chan is at once familiar, but never told through the rose-tinted lens of nostalgia. You follow him from the pavement libraries to the rental HDB unit, and at the end you feel you have to call him Uncle Chan, he's so much like the uncle who drinks kopi o in your estate's coffee shop. An important book for all Singaporeans, and a beautiful piece of art by Sonny Liew.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    For graphic artists, there are must-reads of the genre that direct the eye to advances in the art, and Sonny Liew’s contribution may well be one of those. Liew shows us many types of comic book art, discusses their genesis and early creators, but also seamlessly melds the story of an artist, Charlie Chan Hock Chye, with the story of the political and economic development of Singapore. It is a masterful work of enormous depth and sensitivity that answers questions I’d had when contemplating the e For graphic artists, there are must-reads of the genre that direct the eye to advances in the art, and Sonny Liew’s contribution may well be one of those. Liew shows us many types of comic book art, discusses their genesis and early creators, but also seamlessly melds the story of an artist, Charlie Chan Hock Chye, with the story of the political and economic development of Singapore. It is a masterful work of enormous depth and sensitivity that answers questions I’d had when contemplating the entwined histories of Singapore and Malaya. I really went down the rabbit hole with this work because it has so many layers and levels of reality and history that I immediately wanted to talk to someone about it or hear an interview. I had been constantly walking way from the piece, trying to realign my thinking about who was telling the story. Sometimes it seemed like it was written from the point of view of this artist and comic-book writer, Charlie Chan Hock Chye, born in Singapore in 1939, and all his life aspiring to be Singapore’s own greatest graphic artist and political commentator. Sonny Liew was merely republishing, or publishing for the first time, Charlie’s un-published work, including a graphic autobiography begun late in his fifth decade of life and left unfinished until his seventh decade. But occasionally Liew would pop in and add commentary since he was showing us only representative pieces and scraps of Charlie’s body of work. Charlie took the writing of episodic and serialized comic novels to the pinnacle of political commentary, making such astute analysis that he was having trouble getting his work published in the conservative political environment of a colonial city-state and its aftermath. A high point for me was the RoachMan comic series which imagined a man in 1950s Singapore whose back-breaking job it was to collect honey pots of night soil from houses in traditional neighborhoods. One day on his rounds he is daydreaming about the resilience of cockroaches when—suddenly— he is bitten! Over the next days and nights he feels delirious and tingling sensations only to discover when he is nearly mowed down by a car at night that he has acquired new physical abilities… Of course, it did occur to me to wonder about the choice of a cockroach as a hero, but Liew tells us that Charlie’s idea was picked up and changed slightly for the Spiderman comics that were popularized in the English-speaking western world the following decade. What looks like formerly scotch-taped examples of his pages are reproduced for us to judge, the artwork changing and so amazingly similar to famous Marvel works that we wonder which came first. All the while, we are experiencing Charlie’s day-to-day reality finding a publisher, and creating characters that reflect the city’s struggle for political leadership. This is no ordinary comic. It is dense with history, drama, commentary, humor, and art. When Liew pops up again to provide commentary—we can tell it is Liew who sometimes writes captions—we need to slow down and ask ourselves which person is talking because it matters to the interpretation—one is concurrent with events and one is long afterward. Spoilers won’t ruin this piece for you, but I just want to say that the ending is terribly poignant and meaningful; we feel as though Liew has given us a great gift to have introduced us to this unknown cartoonist, who finally finished his autobiography. He’d finally travelled to Comic Con in San Diego in 1988 after an entire career in comics, bringing with him representative samples of his work. That episode is included in the final pages. I won’t tell you how it turned out—what Charlie saw or who saw him—but suffice it to say it provided grist for mill. Charlie Chan Hock Chye’s story feels like it has burst onto the scene with the power of a neutron bomb, laying all other artists flat because of its virtuosity and depth. We are intensely curious how Charlie could escape attention for so long, but also wonder about the connection between Sonny Liew and Charlie. The book won three 2017 Eisner Awards at this year’s Comic Con, for Best Writer/Artist, Best US Edition of International Material—Asia, and Best Publication Design Winner. Read the book first, and then get a taste of how it has been received in the U.S. by checking out the Comics Syllabus 008 podcast produced by Paul Lai who interviews Sonny Liew about the book. Also, on my blog I have posted a short Epigram Books clip of Liew talking about the book’s conception and execution. But read the book first. Get the whole experience.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jee Koh

    A biography of the artist as a hero, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is full of swagger even as it pays tribute to its comics predecessors. The virtuosic display of different comics styles, the mind-boggling meta-meta-meta narratives, the political satire. The result is an astounding feat, which sets a high bar not only for Singapore comics, but also for Singapore fiction. Yet much remains familiar. Singapore history may be re-interpreted but its periodization is not challenged. The reading of A biography of the artist as a hero, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is full of swagger even as it pays tribute to its comics predecessors. The virtuosic display of different comics styles, the mind-boggling meta-meta-meta narratives, the political satire. The result is an astounding feat, which sets a high bar not only for Singapore comics, but also for Singapore fiction. Yet much remains familiar. Singapore history may be re-interpreted but its periodization is not challenged. The reading of the historical protagonists may be flipped, but there are still clearly heroes and villains. And the greatest hero of all is the artist, who is depicted as uncompromisingly dedicated to his art. Singapore art needs such a heroic image, perhaps, given its frequent and forced accommodations to authority. Still, the terms of the artist's exaltation are traditional: he foregoes a love interest; gives up having a family; disappoints his parents. Heterosexual love, family, and happy parents are self-evident goods in the graphic novel; they are not subject to the kind of interrogation that the novel applies to political history. The artist is essentially male, as are all the politicians. Women are peripheral characters to the political and the personal stories. Having surrendered his claim to a place in bourgeois, Chinese, Singaporean patriarchy, the hero-artist reasserts his maleness in his art, ending aptly with a page of nine panels, eight of which depict the phallic instruments of his art.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joyce Cheng

    Th best local history book and the magic heightens when it was reported that Charlie Chan was a fictional character! Clever way to educating one of Singapore's history and it leaves you to form your own opinion of the events that have carved Singapore's past. I am in awe of Sonny's research, different strokes of the works presented. I would definitely buy Roachman, Bukit Chapalang and definitely merchandise too!!!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Holly Painter

    Brilliant and subversively educational. I sometimes feel like Singapore is gaslighting me. This book suggests that I'm neither insane nor alone.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Derek Royal

    I reread this book in preparation for our Comics Alternative interview with Sonny Liew: http://comicsalternative.com/comics-a.... I had originally read it in proof form, when Sonny asked for my comments and insights before publication. He even thanks me in his acknowledgments page! This is an ambitious narrative: part history, part meditation on comics art, part comics history appreciation, and all faux biography. I reread this book in preparation for our Comics Alternative interview with Sonny Liew: http://comicsalternative.com/comics-a.... I had originally read it in proof form, when Sonny asked for my comments and insights before publication. He even thanks me in his acknowledgments page! This is an ambitious narrative: part history, part meditation on comics art, part comics history appreciation, and all faux biography.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    Well-worth the wait. Sonny uses several different art styles to tell the story of a fictional comic book artist, creating allegories and alternate histories while confronting the actual events behind the recent history of Singapore.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jason Lundberg

    Phenomenal. Truly an impressive achievement. Very very highly recommended.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sam Julian

    This was kind of nuts. An incredible oeuvre and a tour de force. The fictional biography of hypothetical Singaporean artist Charlie Chan becomes a lens through which Malay cartoonist Sonny Lieu is able to explore the history and development of post-war Singapore in a truly unique manner- a series of period comic homages. Liew's artistry and storytelling prowess is on full display-- he executes picture-perfect parodies of every art style from pulp science-fiction to Pogo to Little Nemo, MAD magaz This was kind of nuts. An incredible oeuvre and a tour de force. The fictional biography of hypothetical Singaporean artist Charlie Chan becomes a lens through which Malay cartoonist Sonny Lieu is able to explore the history and development of post-war Singapore in a truly unique manner- a series of period comic homages. Liew's artistry and storytelling prowess is on full display-- he executes picture-perfect parodies of every art style from pulp science-fiction to Pogo to Little Nemo, MAD magazine and Frank Miller. The story itself is heartbreaking, and fundamentally intertwined with the emotional loss of a national identity has been suppressed. I don't think any dry account of Singaporean politics could ever have made me empathize with their history quite like this novel. This is a dense masterwork worth returning to again and again. Also I just realized that I read a uncorrected proof edition of the book and the published edition is in FULL COLOR. Now I'm definitely going to have to read it again.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kenny

    This is my third reading of what should be called the secret history of modern Singapre reimagined through the eyes of an imaginary icon who happens to be the father of Singapore comics. Should be made available to all who are interested in greater a better perspective of how Singapore came about as the economic miracle it is today.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joanne Tai

    As a Singaporean, I'm surprised this book was even published with the support of the local National Arts Council, given that it's got more oppositional political opinion due to the ideologies of Charlie Chan, even if it's more like a strong polite disagreement than an all-out raging rhetoric. The first two pages of comics sets the tone. In this book, you will also understand why Singaporeans don't expect government-run bodies would allow certain types of opinion to be published, let alone suppor As a Singaporean, I'm surprised this book was even published with the support of the local National Arts Council, given that it's got more oppositional political opinion due to the ideologies of Charlie Chan, even if it's more like a strong polite disagreement than an all-out raging rhetoric. The first two pages of comics sets the tone. In this book, you will also understand why Singaporeans don't expect government-run bodies would allow certain types of opinion to be published, let alone support. (Then again, we do have a few writers and playwrights who have gotten away with a certain level of critique.) I'm gonna assume Charlie's a real person for this review; The book depicts him as such. Charlie's life is presented from a young lad full of hopes for the future and in rising political stars in the days leading up to Singapore's independence from British Rule, to a jaded old man left behind by the changing times and disappointment in his government. Sonny Liew masterfully presents a very accessible narrative that weaves Charlie's own biographic comics, and works, and Sonny's panels both of his interviews with Charlie and explaining the Singapore political, historical and cultural landscapes over the years that informed Charlie's works. Charlie's works were really good by the time he was in his late teens. Together with Bertrand Wong (his friend and writer), they had some good storytelling ideas. This thick graphic novel also contains sketches, oil paintings, and comic works. Sonny Liew's art style is very similar to his, so they weave together pretty well (Hmmm, curious). A Lot of research was definitely put into this book to keep its historical timeline, events and people mentioned accurate. I like it, regardless of my personal views on a few things. It's a really well-done graphic novel. If something moved me, it was when I started sympathising with Charlie's idealistic struggle to become a famous comic artist. I do have my own dissatisfaction with how things were/are done in SG, just like Charlie, but there're not on the same topics as him. Update: The National Arts Council just revoked the funding due to 'sensitive content'. LOL! All the more you should read the book? :D Kinda like watching history in the making or something. News article: http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    I cannot summarize it better than Kenny Mah of the The Malay Mail, so will simply quote him: “Part graphic novel, part art book, part narrative essay, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Malaysian-born, Eisner Award nominated comic artist and illustrator Sonny Liew is a look at Singapore unlike any other before. By reflecting on the life and work of a comic creator whose career spanned half a century, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye comments wryly on Singapore’s past and present while honorin I cannot summarize it better than Kenny Mah of the The Malay Mail, so will simply quote him: “Part graphic novel, part art book, part narrative essay, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Malaysian-born, Eisner Award nominated comic artist and illustrator Sonny Liew is a look at Singapore unlike any other before. By reflecting on the life and work of a comic creator whose career spanned half a century, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye comments wryly on Singapore’s past and present while honoring comics as a storytelling medium.” This is a staggering work from an incredibly talented author/artist, and I often forgot that Charlie Chan Hock Chye was not a real person in history, but an artist that the author created as a device to document Singapore's turbulent history. The versatility and range of artistic styles in this graphic novel are in of themselves worth the price of admission, and I learned some history along the way. An NPR review: http://www.npr.org/2016/03/05/4689413... The only reason I docked a star is due to my own shortcoming. I do not know much of the history described here, so there were moments of confusion as I tried to make sense of it all. With this graphic novel, Sonny Liew has raised the bar of what can be expected from this genre. Highly recommended.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sathish Murugayah

    A surprisingly candid take on the sociopolitical demographics of Singapore, The art of Charlie chan hock chye is an extremely refreshing read. The intricate artistry of the panels on each page and the social commentary that gives pause for thought make this more than just a mere work of art. Beyond the obvious questions of whether we are truly free in Singapore and his satirical take on the moral grandstanding of the governmental instruments in Singapore, Sonny Liew has given us a manifesto that A surprisingly candid take on the sociopolitical demographics of Singapore, The art of Charlie chan hock chye is an extremely refreshing read. The intricate artistry of the panels on each page and the social commentary that gives pause for thought make this more than just a mere work of art. Beyond the obvious questions of whether we are truly free in Singapore and his satirical take on the moral grandstanding of the governmental instruments in Singapore, Sonny Liew has given us a manifesto that clearly outlines the realities of our day to day lives and shows that history depends on the lens you view it through. An enjoyable and illuminating read through and through!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Yongqing Lin

    [[[[[SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER THIS REVIEW GOT SPOILER]]]]] I'm STAGGERED. I have never before realised what it was like to see Singapore and Singaporean characters represented in such a way. Superficially, through comics as a medium, and in the genres of sci-fi and fantasy, and in the kind of style (both artistically, and the humour), I would consider "mainstream". And on another level, to have the contrived narratives of my history/our history *exposed* like that, and rewrapped and retold [[[[[SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER THIS REVIEW GOT SPOILER]]]]] I'm STAGGERED. I have never before realised what it was like to see Singapore and Singaporean characters represented in such a way. Superficially, through comics as a medium, and in the genres of sci-fi and fantasy, and in the kind of style (both artistically, and the humour), I would consider "mainstream". And on another level, to have the contrived narratives of my history/our history *exposed* like that, and rewrapped and retold in many *brilliant* ways. As I made my way through the book, I kept Googling "Charlie Chan Hock Chye", again and again, trying to find out who this man was, if there were any interviews with him, what had happened to him. I watched Epigram Book's teaser trailer featuring an unnamed old man holding a paintbrush and wondered what I should make of it. I kept rereading earlier sections of the book to try identify which had been drawn by Charlie Chan, and which by Sonny Liew, and comparing the illustration styles, where the narrative was by the "real" Charlie, and where it was picked up by Sonny. So I finally reached the end of the book, and tried to find Charlie Chan's name in the acknowledgements, some write-up, or author's note in which Sonny would describe how he'd met the man, interviewed him on several occasions, and how he was now retired in JB, etc. None of the sort. Read through the reviews at the front of the book very meticulously. Flipped through the book again. Some amorphous bubble of suspicion was growing. Read the last page. Spotted this sentence. [[[[[SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER ALL SPOILER]]]]] "This is a work of fiction." *FUCK.* I *don't* ever use that word, in polite company or otherwise. But it's the only way I can, with my limited vocabulary and faculty of language, express how FREAKING STUNNED (okay, I'm just not comfortable with using the eff-word) I am. At how GODLIKE this guy Sonny Liew is. How freaking EPIC this book is. Fuck, really. Fuck!!!! Fifteen THOUSAND stars upon five.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shawne

    I actually finished this book in one sitting, which is a very rare thing for me these days, and am belatedly updating Goodreads almost a month later. THE ART OF CHARLIE CHAN HOCK CHYE is a stupendous achievement - a study in history, art, and (fictional) biopic, serving as a superlative example of each, while laced with plenty of humour and pathos as well. Sonny Liew's book is a delight to read and pore over: it radiates a love for comics and a keen grasp of politics and power that is quite blis I actually finished this book in one sitting, which is a very rare thing for me these days, and am belatedly updating Goodreads almost a month later. THE ART OF CHARLIE CHAN HOCK CHYE is a stupendous achievement - a study in history, art, and (fictional) biopic, serving as a superlative example of each, while laced with plenty of humour and pathos as well. Sonny Liew's book is a delight to read and pore over: it radiates a love for comics and a keen grasp of politics and power that is quite blissful to encounter within the same pages. Seldom has a history lesson been so absorbing - partly because this is an alternative narrative that's largely ignored in Singapore schools, but also because of the way Liew weaves different genres of art and comics (from sci-fi to satire) into the life story of the titular devoted comic book artist who never made it big. Within the political twists and turns is an intimate story of broken dreams and lost hopes, one which serves as quite a good metaphor, too, for the country Singapore might have been in a very different universe.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sadie-jane (Say-dee-Jane) Nunis

    WOW. what a ride. This book is like a marriage between a comic artist's journey as well as historical stories of a nation. Both told and drawn with fervour and passion. loved and appreciated every page... especially the notes which sonny made effort to compile. it is a representation of another aspect of the Singapore story.. One that many may not know of.. I fought sleep to read it... and as my eyes watered due to the battle between sleep and reading on.. I'm glad I read through the tired tears.. WOW. what a ride. This book is like a marriage between a comic artist's journey as well as historical stories of a nation. Both told and drawn with fervour and passion. loved and appreciated every page... especially the notes which sonny made effort to compile. it is a representation of another aspect of the Singapore story.. One that many may not know of.. I fought sleep to read it... and as my eyes watered due to the battle between sleep and reading on.. I'm glad I read through the tired tears.. beautiful beautiful beautiful..

  20. 4 out of 5

    Han Ming guang

    Just loved this book. Written and drawn in an accessible manner, with elements of political satire. This graphic novel takes a more critical look at "The Singapore Story". A shame that the NAC funding got pulled because the government (most likely the MHA) saw it as undermining the government's authority because it is really a fitting gift to SG50. I would highly recommend everyone to at least borrow the book and have a read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael Rhode

    I've gotten an advance proof of Pantheon's edition which comes out in March. A putative history of a cartoonist, Liew's story is actually a history of Singapore and is a tour-de-force. It's subject will probably limit it's North American breakthrough somewhat, but he's done an exceptional job. His use of American cartoonist styles to delineate time periods in Chye's life is brilliantly done.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Judith Huang

    So many emotions come to me when reading this book: a longing for Charlie Chan to be a real person, gratitude that sonny liew is, awe at the ambitious scope of the book, nostalgia for a past I didn't live through, hope that more such voices may be heard surrounding Singapores stories. It's the book I wish I could have written. An intricate and multi layered masterpiece.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Guanhui

    A magisterial piece of work. Highly recommended.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dorcas

    A national treasure! Thanks @Gabriel for introducing me to Charlie Chan's wonderful world!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Peter Derk

    I complain from time to time about people who pick up a book and don't get what they wanted because they were too stupid to read the description. And I thought that was happening to me here by the end of the book. But this book may be engaging in the tiniest bit of subterfuge. Here's the Goodreads description: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a biography showcasing the life and work of Chan Hock Chye, a pioneering but largely forgotten comics artist in Singapore. With a career spanning more t I complain from time to time about people who pick up a book and don't get what they wanted because they were too stupid to read the description. And I thought that was happening to me here by the end of the book. But this book may be engaging in the tiniest bit of subterfuge. Here's the Goodreads description: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a biography showcasing the life and work of Chan Hock Chye, a pioneering but largely forgotten comics 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, paintings 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 comics artist Sonny Liew. Now...at any point does this synopsis point out that Sonny Liew made this and there's no such person as Charlie Hock Chye? Because that is most definitely the case. Here's the thing to know: This book presents a fictional character as a comics artist from Singapore who created a bunch of comics. This character did not exist, nor did his works. It's all the product of Sonny Liew. This character and his work are created for the purposes of exposition and storytelling. Which is, I guess, why ALL characters are created when you get right down to it. Even the space raptor in that Chuck Tingle book existed for this reason. I'm not really one who balks at experimentation and different ways to tell stories. I didn't really get my nuts twisted over the James Frey thing. Which is why, viewed from afar, the structure of this book didn't bother me, and in fact was a drawing factor. I like when books play with narrative and storytelling methods. I don't really mind having uncertainty about what's real and what isn't. I'll also say that Sonny Liew is a fucking incredible artist. Within this book he inhabits so many different styles, and he's a master of them all. Cartoon-y robots a la Tezuka, painted portraits, MAD Magazine styles, Joe Kubert. He can do everything, and the art really is unbelievable. That one person can display mastery of so many styles is really something. What made the book a little less enjoyable for me? I don't know a lot about the history of Singapore. I don't know much of anything, in fact. And I wouldn't say that this book makes for a good introduction. I think that if I'd been more investigative about what I was about to read, I would have read up on politics in Singapore from the last few decades and enjoyed the book a lot more. But as it was, the book lays out the politics of the time by showing the comics of a non-existent artist and then adding in a second layer of comics to explain what the first layer of comics is doing. I know, it's a little confusing. The best way I could sum up what was going on, there were four layers to this book. There were the comics that were created by the fictional character. Then there was the fictional autobiographical comic created by the fictional character. Then there was the fictional modern day interview biography of the fictional character. Then there was the entire book, as a whole, which contains all of these elements. And that's where I got lost. Between the layers and then the complex politics of the time, I went astray at some point. There's a certain devotion to the source material (the fictional comic strips created by the fictional character) that is hard to understand when one realizes that the source material is fictional. It's all a fiction except for the events that were occurring in Singapore, so I do feel there was probably room to alter the structure for clarity. Again, let me just say that I know fuck-all about the political scene in Singapore, so I'm not saying that this book is bad because it doesn't lay it out for us dum-dums. And after reading a few interviews, I feel safe in saying that this was originally intended for an audience in Singapore, and to dumb it down to my level would have made it sooooo slllooooowwww for them. What I will say is that my fellow School District 6 grads, if we're being generous enough to call ourselves "grads," would be wise to read a little bit about Singapore and the characters involved in the 60's before diving into this book. While there is a lot of good in this book, I don't think it's so much an introduction to the politics of this part of the world. It's definitely an artistic achievement, both in narrative and in its art, but I think the depth of experience you could have with it would be much greater if you knew a little bit more about Singapore.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ashwoodmeadow

    Oh my GOODNESS, this book is amazing. I read this for my English class in college, and I’m so glad this was part of the reading list. This is the first graphic novel that has impacted me so powerfully. At first glance, it’s a colorful, lighthearted autobiography of a sweet, old man who is a comic artist from Singapore (the Charlie Chan Hock Chye character is absolutely endearing). Only towards the middle of the book did I realize (with the help of google) that he’s a whole fictional character. W Oh my GOODNESS, this book is amazing. I read this for my English class in college, and I’m so glad this was part of the reading list. This is the first graphic novel that has impacted me so powerfully. At first glance, it’s a colorful, lighthearted autobiography of a sweet, old man who is a comic artist from Singapore (the Charlie Chan Hock Chye character is absolutely endearing). Only towards the middle of the book did I realize (with the help of google) that he’s a whole fictional character. What a clever way to publish the political and social history of Singapore... Sonny Liew makes Charlie Chan Hock Chye a very believable character. It makes you feel like he really is an existing person who is recollecting his memories of Singapore. The political statement is so strong throughout this novel— hidden in brief speech bubbles or detectable satire. Anyone who is unfamiliar with Singapore’s history could (and should) read this as well because Liew effectively explains the course of history. While the characters are very much fictional, the basis of this novel is very much real. There are also certain parts of the novel that evokes sentimental emotions... The countless, silenced victims throughout history, the depreciated cartoonists, the ultimate adoption of practicality over one’s true beliefs, etc... Overall, a highly recommended read. I’ll have to reread this sometime.

  27. 4 out of 5

    ashley c

    An amazing work of art and storyteller that is severely (and I don't usually like using this word because it's ironically overrated) underrated. It deserves more celebration! It deserves to be taught in schools or discussed about in book clubs. It definitely does not deserve that disappointing decision from the National Arts Council to revoke their grant of 8000 SGD that they initially agreed to give to help fund this comic because of its 'sensitive' content. Liew commented that the response he An amazing work of art and storyteller that is severely (and I don't usually like using this word because it's ironically overrated) underrated. It deserves more celebration! It deserves to be taught in schools or discussed about in book clubs. It definitely does not deserve that disappointing decision from the National Arts Council to revoke their grant of 8000 SGD that they initially agreed to give to help fund this comic because of its 'sensitive' content. Liew commented that the response he got from NAC when he asked for a justification for the last-minute backpedaling is that 'a new decision has been made and nothing can be done'. Anyway, I shall not give too much word count to a small setback. The book was still amazing. It's a retelling of the Singapore political history and a Singaporean's personal history through - and this is where I'm in awe - Charlie Chan, a fictional (?) true blue local comic artist's works, dreams an aspirations, and love for his country. Many of Charlie Chan's 'Unpublished' or 'Self-Published' works are featured in the book (as now I sadly know they are all fictional!!! How can they do this to me) - it tells the readers that Charlie is passionate about art and politics and tried his best to get his opinion out there even though he did not publish or had to publish himself. There were also many of his sketches, and you can see a difference between the sketches he made when he was 15 and 50. Through his works, Liew also wanted to provide an alternate telling of our state's history. Growing up where the only history of Singapore I know is the history they teach us in school, watered down for 14 year olds and made blander for the masses, and I hated history. Liew provides a very engaging and interesting story about the details of the merger and split from Malaysia, the PAP's various strategies that made them into the ruling party today, and other events such as Operation Coldstore. There was a few parts of the book where Liew took on 2 voices - Charlie's satirical, criticising comics about certain political decisions he disagreed with, and Liew's own meta comments about it today. I enjoyed that tremendously - it was provoking and layered. This is a richly-layered experience. You are treated to a beautiful artwork in a variety of styles used to depict nostalgia, childhood, satire, experience, and a full life. I am so so grateful that this book exists and that I am around to witness it. An amazing experience.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Cathy

    This graphic novel is dense, challenging, and remarkable. The author creates a main character that is an elderly comic artist from Singapore, Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Charlie is reflecting on his life and career. In particular, he's reflecting on the political upheaval of Singapore and its impact on both the general population, and him as an individual. He's lived through independence, a tenuous merger with Malaysia, the waxing and waning power of Chinese culture versus Western culture, and the t This graphic novel is dense, challenging, and remarkable. The author creates a main character that is an elderly comic artist from Singapore, Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Charlie is reflecting on his life and career. In particular, he's reflecting on the political upheaval of Singapore and its impact on both the general population, and him as an individual. He's lived through independence, a tenuous merger with Malaysia, the waxing and waning power of Chinese culture versus Western culture, and the tension between communism and capitalism. Of primary importance is the emphasis on what is gained and what is lost to become an independent, prosperous nation. Stability reigns in Singapore, despite uncertain beginnings and vast ideological differences, but it is at a cost: freedom is curtailed, dissidence is crushed, and truth is muted. Charlie has a keen political eye and is deeply disheartened by the restrictions imposed on the populace under the guise of necessary methods to maintain the stability of Singapore. He channels all of his angst into his comics, some of which are so tongue-in-cheek and nuanced regarding history that they were beyond me. The book has copious footnotes and explanations to help guide you through, but the history of Singapore is complex and literally foreign to me, so I had to refer back to previous pages to make sure I understood who was who, and who was being lampooned. This is also a story of Charlie himself, a struggling artist with immense talent, a powerful intellect, and distinct opinions that goes unnoticed in a society that prizes business, financial success, and conformity. The graphic novel showcases the artist/author's ability in a variety of drawing styles that are awe-inspiring in their diversity. It is a bittersweet, well-researched story that is bravely told by an artist with the genius and heart of his protagonist, Charlie Chan Hock Chye.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Corinna

    Be prepared to be absolutely floored by this book/graphic novel. I picked it out from my fiancé's bookshelf on a Saturday morning as my reading companion for the weekend and expected to take 3-4 days to finish it. I completed the book in a day. And if I could, like, Char's review, I would love for anyone who lives in Singapore, or who are curious about the 'Singapore Story', to read this. This book forces us to evaluate how much history that we "know" has already been whitewashed by her victors. Be prepared to be absolutely floored by this book/graphic novel. I picked it out from my fiancé's bookshelf on a Saturday morning as my reading companion for the weekend and expected to take 3-4 days to finish it. I completed the book in a day. And if I could, like, Char's review, I would love for anyone who lives in Singapore, or who are curious about the 'Singapore Story', to read this. This book forces us to evaluate how much history that we "know" has already been whitewashed by her victors. And to be aware of the price we've paid and confront if we're ok to continue paying the price for comfort, stability etc. This book explores the could-have-been Singapore Story through the experience of a fictional cartoonist, Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Sonny is equal parts master storyteller and artist. It was a real treat to go through the book and be exposed to different comic art forms but also see him capture the emotion and poignancy of each era. It felt like I was right there reliving my parents' growing years (they were born in the mid-40s) through CCHC - I actually thought CCHC was a real dude along the way. He's not. The art, storyline is top notch and a good book provokes you into thinking, evaluating your ideas and what you stand for. This one does all of that. I can't recommend this enough.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stewart Tame

    Like me, you've probably never heard of Charlie Chan Hock Chye before. There are good reasons for that, as astute readers will discover. So what this book does is give an overview of the history of Singapore from the mid 50's to the present, as reflected in the comics and sketches of the country's most prolific and least known cartoonist. Comics from many countries have made it to Singapore over the years, and echoes of sources as diverse as Osamu Tezuka, Walt Kelly, Frank Miller, and others can Like me, you've probably never heard of Charlie Chan Hock Chye before. There are good reasons for that, as astute readers will discover. So what this book does is give an overview of the history of Singapore from the mid 50's to the present, as reflected in the comics and sketches of the country's most prolific and least known cartoonist. Comics from many countries have made it to Singapore over the years, and echoes of sources as diverse as Osamu Tezuka, Walt Kelly, Frank Miller, and others can be seen in this book. Liew has provided helpful footnotes on the people and politics to aid non-Singaporeans in spotting the parallels in the various strips and comics pages. Along with the history, we also see the story of Charlie Chan Hock Chye's ambition and vision of what comics could become. This is a wonderful book, that works on many levels.

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