The 2017 Life Power List

Art of venturing into new genres


5 Sonny Liew, 43, comic artist and writer

Liew put Singapore on the comics world map in July by sweeping three awards at the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for his graphic novel, The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.

He became the first Singaporean to win an Eisner, considered to be the Oscars of the comics world.

He hopes the book can present a more complex, nuanced view of Singapore to readers from elsewhere. "Many may not know anything about Singapore or have encountered only limited narratives about it.

"So whether it's our history or economy, it would be good if everyone realised that things are more complex than a superficial or biased reading would allow."

He first made the Life Power List in 2015, when the book came out. Published by Epigram Books locally and by American imprint Pantheon overseas, it looks at Singapore's political history through the eyes of a fictional comic artist.

The book has spent 19 weeks on The Straits Times' bestseller list for fiction, which is compiled from major bookstores in Singapore.

It had already attracted attention in 2015 when the National Arts Council withdrew a grant for it, citing its "sensitive content".

"If being part of the Life Power List really conferred any actual power, I would use it to make the arts here freer and less constrained by the needs of any one political ideology," says Liew, who was born in Malaysia and became a Singapore citizen five years ago.

He is now working on his next book, which is tentatively set in 1980s Hong Kong and explores capitalism, as well as projects such as the artwork for miniseries Eternity Girl, under DC's Young Animal imprint.

This year, he also ventured into theatre with Becoming Graphic at the Singapore International Festival of Arts, which experimented with bringing a graphic novel to life onstage.

He is not likely to return to theatre, but is considering exploring other fields such as animation.

He admits to slight concern that the fame of The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye may overshadow his future work, but adds: "I see it more as a challenge than a fear. I'm excited to do and try new things."

Olivia Ho

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 03, 2017, with the headline 'Art of venturing into new genres'. Print Edition | Subscribe