Sonny Liew wants Eisner wins to boost arts scene
Graphic novelist Sonny Liew hopes his Eisner wins will ultimately lead to "a push for more dialogue and communication between the authorities and the arts community" here.
Asked for his reaction to netizens who had criticised the National Arts Council (NAC) for not mentioning his award-winning book The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye in its congratulatory message, Liew, who won the three awards in San Diego last Friday, told The New Paper: "... it would be too easy otherwise to form antagonistic tribes caught up in conflicts no one actually wants to be in, instead of having everyone work together to nurture artists and the arts here in Singapore."
In 2015, the NAC withdrew an $8,000 publishing grant for the book. Mr Khor Kok Wah, senior director of the NAC's literary arts sector, said at the time that the novel breached funding guidelines as it "potentially undermines the authority or legitimacy of the Government and its public institutions".
Liew, 42, who was born in Malaysia, got his start more than 20 years ago by creating comic strips for TNP.
Frankie & Poo was the first comic strip that earned him money. He was paid $30 a day for the daily strips, which were partly inspired by Bill Watterson's Calvin & Hobbes.
Liew was a student at Cambridge University and on summer break in Singapore when he sent in his samples to TNP.
He said: "It was the first time I got paid for drawing comics, and that whole process of thinking up ideas and stories, of fleshing them out with ink on paper, and having readers see the results in print afterwards... it was such an engaging experience.
"I knew after that I wanted to try to do something art-related as a career."
The black-and-white comic, which revolved around a Frankenstein-lookalike named Poo and a bear named Frankie, made its first appearance in TNP on Oct 3, 1994, and ran for about a year.
But it was teen comic book romance My Faith In Frankie, his co-creation with writer Mike Carey for Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics, that proved to be a springboard for his career, he said.
Liew, the first Singaporean to win an Eisner, said he is "happy, but disbelieving" about how far he has come.
He added: "Like most life experiences, it can feel like a blink of an eye but also a lot of hard work when you really stop to think about it."
Next month, Liew will use the superhero genre to examine ageing and mortality issues in a new graphic novel for the stage for a Singapore International Festival of the Arts programme.
Liew, who is collaborating with theatre-maker Edith Podesta, will be demonstrating live drawings during the 90-minute performance called "Becoming Graphic".