Tagged: Sonny Liew

Joe Corallo: “It’s Only A Sailor Moon…”

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Recently I’ve been reading through the Sailor Moon manga that my friend David has generously been lending me. I used to watch the anime when I was kid and had been curious about tackling these books for a while. Reading through these books made me reflect on the greater world of comics and an aspect of it that I haven’t addressed here yet: branching out beyond American comics.

I love American/Western comics. It’s certainly the bulk of what I’ve read. Not just the superhero stuff, but comics and graphic novels like Stuck Rubber Baby, Fun Home, March, Blankets, The Sculptor, and many many more. Many of the comics I go out of my way to read are either from women, LGBTQ, or minority creators or they at least tell a unique story from a perspective that makes it stand out. However, I have a big gap in my knowledge and familiarity with materials outside of Western comics.

Over the years I’ve made it a point to try and read comics and graphic novels that have really made an impact on the medium and influenced creators for decades to come. In my preteen years that involved Archie Comics. In my high school and college years I tackled the works of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Neil Gaiman. Since then I’ve gone back and read comics predating the Golden Age of comics like Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo strips through to classics like Maus, A Contract With God, and It Rhymes With Lust.

While some of these stories did tackle things outside of my life such as the Jewish experience, I was finding that I wasn’t reading a lot of stories from women, queer, or minority creators. It would take effort on my part to look for those stories. I’ve made myself more aware of comics with more diverse people working behind the pages, and for a little while I thought that might be enough. It’s not.

Diversity in comics isn’t just in the characters on the page and the talent behind the pages. It’s also where the pages come from. Manga is a huge portion of comics’ sales across the globe. One Piece alone has 82 volumes and has sold over 300 million copies. Dragon Ball and Naruto have both sold over 200 million each. Astro Boy has sold 100 million copies. Sailor Moon, which I’m currently working my way through, has sold 35 million copies. All these sales from comics originating in Japan.

uojlg8dsdr0 Art of Charlie ChanThese are huge numbers. This is a portion of the comics world that should not be overlooked by fans of the medium, but it’s something I put off for too long. Sure, I’ve read the occasional manga here and there. If you haven’t read Akira, stop reading this column and go read it right now. That’s still a pathetically small amount of reading in such a large segment of the comics world.

Other countries have big and growing comics markets as well. Singapore based artist Sonny Liew had his graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye premiere here in the states earlier this year. I was lucky enough to meet him when he was in town for MoCCA Fest and get a signed copy. It was an absolutely fantastic read blending in the unique history of comics in Singapore with Sonny Liew’s creative narrative supported by his brilliant art which I fell in love with last year as I started reading his work on Doctor Fate at DC Comics written by Paul Levitz.

Graphic-India-1-600x338Another big and growing market for comics is India. Graphic India has been gaining more visibility here in the states as you’re seeing more of their comics on the shelves. They even got talent like Grant Morrison to write for them so more of us will give it a try.

After I finish Sailor Moon I fully intend to start reading comics from Graphic India. I’m going to put more effort into reading comics from outside America and the Western world. There are a whole lot of stories and ideas I’ve been missing out on by not branching out sooner.

Don’t make the same mistake I did.

Joe Corallo: A ComicCon Of Many Flavors

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This past weekend was MoCCA Fest 2016, or for those of you unfamiliar, the Museum of Comic and Cartooning Art Festival. Since 2014 it has been put on by The Society of Illustrators. Once again it was held at a new venue, the Metropolitan West next to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museu. Highlighted guests included Sonny Liew (Doctor Fate, The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye) and Rebecca Sugar (Adventure Time, Steven Universe). As with the past few years, I attended both days.

noelle.mocca_final2I was fortunate enough to get into both Sonny Liew’s Spotlight discussion on Saturday and Rebecca Sugar’s on Sunday. Both of these discussions were eye opening not only in the words that were said, but in who was listening to them.

On Saturday, Sonny’s discussion was moderated by his Doctor Fate collaborator, Paul Levitz. And you know that it’s an important discussion when people like Columbia University’s Karen Green and legendary storyteller David Mazzucchelli are sitting front row center for it. Sonny Liew was introduced to me through his work on DC’s most recent efforts to reintroduce Doctor Fate. Being a fan of Paul’s and following his Legion run in the New 52 as well as part of his World’s Finest run, I was looking forward to checking out Doctor Fate when it premiered last year. What kept me going on Doctor Fate was more than just Paul’s ability to craft a story, but Sonny Liew really knocking the art out of the park.

Another important element of this all was the diversity in Doctor Fate. After some 75 years, Doctor Fate is Egyptian in the main DC continuity. Granted, James Robinson and Brett Booth beat Paul and Sonny (not by much, but still) in Earth 2 continuity, but that Doctor Fate didn’t have his own solo title. And Doctor Fate is a character that really should be represented by someone of either African or Middle Eastern heritage. It was a (too) long time coming, but I’m glad DC got there.

Even then, that might not even be most important element of the diversity in Doctor Fate. Sonny Liew is. On the Friday before MoCCA Fest, Sonny and Paul were signing at Midtown Comics Downtown. Sonny Liew is a Malaysian-born artist residing in Singapore that was in town for MoCCA Fest. He’s had worked published on and off for over a decade at both Marvel and DC. His latest works with Doctor Fate as well as new hit creator-owned graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye have increased his profile. It’s how I became aware of him, despite loving Marc Hempel’s work and not realizing he also worked on My Faith In Frankie with Marc.

The point I’m getting at is at both the signing at Midtown Comics and the discussion at MoCCA, many people in attendance were of Asian heritage. A young man sitting by me was furiously taking notes and anxiously awaited his turn to ask Sonny Liew a question about how to be a better artist. Non-white women and men were excited by Sonny Liew and engaged in the discussion. This is important. This is the only way comics (and any entertainment medium) can have a future. Different people with different backgrounds and different stories to tell need to feel not only welcomed, but encouraged to participate. Sonny Liew is not only putting out great work on his own, but he’s inspiring other people to as well.

Rebecca SugarSunday was about all about Steven Universe creator Rebecca Sugar. If you were in attendance, you saw some people wearing their red t-shirts with a yellow star in the middle just like Steven Universe’s shirt. Sunday, however, such apparel was a phenomenon. Many people were decked out in Steven Universe merch or homemade creations. A line wrapped around the Ink 48 hotel where the panels were held. I was able to get into the discussion moderated by Ryan Sands, but by then it was standing room only. It was packed to the absolute limit. The excitement was contagious, and if you scanned the room, there was a smile on everyone’s face.

From the moment she began talking, the room hung on to every word she said. She talked candidly about her life and her creations in a way that’s rarely scene at these sort of conventions. She talked with an immense appreciation to all of her fans, and humbly about her roles at Adventure Time and Steven Universe at Cartoon Network. All of the points she made were encouraging ones. She pushed people to create. To always strive to be better. She talked about how Steven Universe is for her brother who is not only her best friend, but someone who helped her to strive and be a better artist. She took out her ukulele at one point and played the song “So This Is Love” from Disney’s Cinderella which meant a lot to her and she only played before in front of Ian, her boyfriend. You can watch that here. It was moving. You could barely hear a pin drop. She even mentioned she wrote some poems and wasn’t planning on reading them, but when everyone in the audience could be heard gasping in delight when talked about her poems, she read one anyway.

Once it came to the audience questions, people of all different ages, races, orientations and gender identities were given a chance to ask her everything from how to be a better artist to how can I geek out in front of you without being scary. It was honestly one of the most diverse groups of people I’ve ever seen at a convention discussion before, if not the most that wasn’t specifically about diversity.

You know why that is?

It’s because the audience Steven Universe has is that diverse. Rebecca Sugar unapologetically explores gender politics, alternative families, queer romance, and much more in a sci-fi cartoon that offers something for a wider audience than most television ever has before, if not offering the most for a wider audience. She also has the honor of being the first woman to solely create a show for Cartoon Network, proving once again that diversity works for everyone. It lifts us all up.

Rebecca Sugar also had advice on comics, the medium in which she started out. She suggested to any artist that wants to break into cartooning, that doing your own comics is the best way to start. No one can stop you from making them. She warned that doesn’t mean people read them, as she states from her personal experience, but it’s the only way you’ll get better. The same holds true for writing. No one can stop a writer from writing writing a script, a poem, a song. The only person stopping you is you. So stop it.

I left MoCCA Fest this year feeling inspired, and I don’t seem to be the only one. Which is good. I even felt less cynical. Having coffee with Molly Jackson after the show, the song “It’s All Been Done” by Barenaked Ladies came on. And you know what? I didn’t believe it this time. I’m never going to believe it again. It hasn’t all been done. So many voices have never been heard. More than we can even comprehend. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. Just you wait.

We need more Rebecca Sugars in the world with a creative voice. A lot more. I wish I was more like her. A lot of people do. And that’s what we all need. This is only the beginning.

 

Mike Gold: A Simple Twist Of Fate

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For the past several weeks my friend and comrade Paul Levitz has taken to the so-called social media to promote his brand-new comic book, Doctor Fate.

Of course, this is his right and more power to him. But I don’t recall Paul doing so much promotion for his work during a writing career that goes back to when he was a small child. Now that he’s well into being a small adult, I’m taking this effort as a sign of his pride and enthusiasm for his latest project. I would have read this book anyway as the lead character has long been a favorite, but I really wanted to see why he’s so enthusiastic this time around and so the book took the top position on my week’s reading pile.

Doctor Fate 2Doctor Fate #1 is capped by an interesting and unusual mosaic-pattern cover, drawn by interior artist Sonny Liew in DC’s newer, looser style. If the idea of the cover being drawn by the interior artist confuses you, there’s a variant cover available if you can wrestle it from your retailer. I stared at it for a while, found the hidden bunny rabbit head, and moved inside.

The story is a continuation from the Sneak Peak giveaway made available last month, although if you haven’t read that and you’re not interested in reading it on DC’s website, that’s cool. The story makes perfect sense without it. It is properly apocalyptic, with Anubis, the jackal-headed Egyptian Lord of Dead with the Greek name, preparing his own personal sequel to the big wet Noah Event. Only one young Brooklynite of Egyptian heritage can save the day – or so we presume; it’s a continued story and not a mini-series – and he wants no part of it. He’s about to start pre-med classes and he’s got a girl friend or something. But… dare I say it… Fate has other plans.

I’ll admit I was disappointed that they fussed with the traditional Doctor Fate costume. This did not come as a surprise as I actually pay some attention to the New New Fifty-Two as I eagerly await the inevitable Newer Still New New Fifty-Two reboot. But, who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky and we’ll see some sort of return of what I find to be one of the most interesting and distinctive superhero costumes of the past 75 years. Right now, we get the helmet – to be sure – and the amulet, which seems to have been stolen straight out of Tony Stark’s chest. Not to worry; Tony’s got plenty more.

Paul is one of those writers who carefully plots out the inter-relationship of each story element. This is what made him a superlative Legion of Super-Heroes scribe, a trait he shared with his predecessor, Jim Shooter. It’s clear that he put a lot of effort into this story: damn near every I is dotted, every T is crossed, and the tale is properly nuanced – not an easy trick in a story that, otherwise, could suffer from originitis. To me, it seems Paul is playing to the strengths of his collaborator, the aforementioned Sonny Liew.

Liew has a fluidity of style that makes the story move at a brisk pace. A veteran of Vertigo and Marvel and sundry indy projects, I am told the two met at a toy fair in Singapore. Sonny went to school there. He also went to school in Cambridge, England and Providence, Rhode Island. He’s quite the bon vivant. He’s also one of the best storytellers I’ve seen in a decade.

Doctor Fate #1 places the oft-revived hero on the top shelf of current mainstream superhero comics, right where, my inner fanboy screams, he belongs. I hope DC waits a long, long while before the next reboot.

 

Singapore Arts Council pulls $8,000 grant for Sonny Liew graphic novel

Sonny Liew, artist on the upcoming Dr. Fate series written by Paul Levitz for DC Comics, has published a graphic novel overseas that’s gotten a bit of political attention in his home country of Singapore…

A hot-off-the-press graphic novel seems to be in hot water, with the National Arts Council (NAC) revoking its $8,000 publication grant because of the “sensitive content”.

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by award-winning comics artist Sonny Liew tells the story of a Singaporean artist who represents 60-odd years of local history through his satirical comics.

Founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his political rival Lim Chin Siong appear in the 340-page book in cartoon form.

The 1987 Operation Spectrum, when 16 people were detained allegedly over a Marxist conspiracy to overthrow the Government, is turned into a plot to replace all music in Singapore with the melodies of American singer Richard Marx.

Published here this month by Epigram Books, the comic scored a publishing deal with American publisher Pantheon for an international edition next year.

It was awarded a grant of $8,000 from NAC before publication, of which $6,400 was disbursed, according to Epigram Books’ publisher Edmund Wee. He will return the $6,400 and is printing stickers to cover up the arts council logo in the printed books.

via National Arts Council withdraws $8,000 grant for newly published graphic novel by Sonny Liew – Books News & Top Stories – The Straits Times.

Sonny Liew is also known for his work on My Faith in Frankie together with Mike Carey and Marc Hempel, and Marvel Comics’ Sense and Sensibility adaptation.

Mike Gold: 52 Comics Pick-Up

Nope. This one isn’t what you might think. To paraphrase Li’l Willie Shakespeare, “Not that I loved the New 52 less, but that I loved DC more.”

The New 52 is not dead. Heck, it’s not even coughing up blood. Sure, a great many of the titles they started out with aren’t around any more, and yes, in June they replace a whole bunch of others (although several seem to be excuses for new #1s), and, certainly, they’re dropping the “New 52” branding, but the New 52 is alive and well.

That’s a mixed blessing. As crappy as most of the New 52 was, I prefer to look at this new stunt as an evolutionary change and not as a reboot. You know, just like what Marvel’s doing with their latest Secret Wars event. The one that starts the month before. Super-hero publishing is a pyramid scheme infused with Newtonian physics.

It’s been around for about three and one-half years, so the New 52 is hardly new. And, well, actually, they’re not really publishing 52 DCU books each month. If I’m counting correctly, in June they’ll have 49 – plus whatever annuals, specials, and clutter that may be. Or, maybe, the only reason they’re dropping the tag line is because it leaves a bitter taste… much like, oh, New Coke.

(Hey, Mike! Damn with faint praises much?)

The news sites have been full of the details of what’s missing and what’s coming and who’s doing what, and since ComicMix is an opinion site littered with some of the finest critical minds on Earth-Prime, I’ll cut to the commentary.

Many of DC’s new titles (New 24?) appear to be flop-oriented. Is the world really lusting for a brand-new Prez series? Bat-Mite? Harley Quinn and Power Girl? Bizarro? Maybe Section 8 will click – it certainly has the pedigree – but in the aggregate, the chances for long-term survival for some of these books appears minimal.

The fact is, I applaud many of these decisions. Do something different. Do something a little wacky. They’re not breathing new life into these (and other) characters, they’re breathing new life into the DCU. Original Marvel publisher Martin Goodman thought Spider-Man and the X-Men would flop. Superman sat in the drawer unsold for years. So, history tells us nobody knows what the hell is going to stick to the wall. Marvel’s bringing back Howard the Duck based upon a 10 second post-credit appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy; you’re telling me a Bat-Mite title is a bad idea? Who knows?

I’m looking forward to a few of the titles, although I will sample more than that. Most of all, I’m looking forward to the new Doctor Fate series by Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew. I love the character, Levitz has a solid track record with Justice Society heroes, and the guy is a lot more interesting than your off-the-shelf mystical hero.

On the other hand… I see where we’re getting a new Green Arrow #1 in July. Who would have ever expected First Issue Special would be so influential?