SINGAPORE - In this monthly feature, The Sunday Times lines up five hot-off-the-press home-grown books for readers to dive into
By Myle Yan Tay, illustrated by Shuxian Lee
Checkpoint Theatre/ Paperback ($9.90)/ E-book ($6.90)/ 20 pages/ Checkpoint Theatre's website
Through The Longkang #1
By Myle Yan Tay, illustrated by Shuxian Lee
Checkpoint Theatre/ Paperback ($10.90)/ E-book ($7.90)/ 20 pages/ Checkpoint Theatre's website
Last year, as the pandemic shuttered performance venues, one Singapore theatre company made an unusual pivot - into comic book publishing.
Checkpoint Theatre has kicked off its line of comics with two titles by writer and actor Myle Yan Tay.
Both have a whiff - or more - of the supernatural. In Putu Piring, the narrator encounters the ghost of a wild boar. In Through The Longkang, the first of a series, a teenager climbs into a longkang to retrieve a football and finds himself in a sinister otherworld.
Checkpoint's joint artistic director Huzir Sulaiman, 47, is a long-time comics fan. "For me, this is much less a pivot than it is a fulfilment of a lifelong dream," he says.
While the closure of theatres last year was an existential threat to most arts groups, he says it presented Checkpoint with an opportunity to commit time and energy to other disciplines.
"Because we work with living creators who make original Singapore work, our process always starts with an idea and a blank page, and the idea can go into whichever format suits it best."
Putu Piring's first print run of 250 copies sold out quickly, leading to a second run of 500. Through The Longkang started with a run of 500.
Tay, 26, previously wrote comic book scripts, but for his own enjoyment, "like fanfiction".
His comic ideas come from experiences, such as cycling to buy putu piring from Haig Road, or even single images, like a swing going back and forth without anyone on it.
"A running idea across both comic books is the way Singapore's urban development manifests visually," he adds.
The second and third issues of Through The Longkang will be released in June and September, while another title, Rebranding For Sea Monsters by Luke Somasundram and Ethan Sim, will be out later this month.
"We want to tell the types of Singapore stories that haven't previously been told," says Huzir.
Tinhead City, KL
By Stuart Danker
Epigram Books/ Paperback/ 229 pages/ $20.22/ Available here
In a dystopian Kuala Lumpur where the air is toxic and the city is overrun by cyborgs, 19-year-old Zachary Ti is abandoned by his father and has to learn how to fend for himself. When he accidentally kills two cyborgs, he becomes a wanted man and winds up joining a morally questionable rebel faction.
Stuart Danker, a Malaysia-based author whose previous jobs have included hairdresser, auditor, insurance salesman and roadie, made the Epigram Books Fiction longlist with this debut.
The Northern Village
Edited by Godfrey Robert
Naval Base Secondary School 1963 Book Project Committee/ Hardcover/ 121 pages/ $29.96/ Available here
This collection of 30 essays by the 1963 class of Naval Base Secondary School, now septuagenarians, captures life in the 1960s in the northern region of Singapore that comprised Chong Pang Village, the British Naval Base, Sembawang and Nee Soon - a place "steep in history, drowned in geography", as the book puts it.
The cohort of writers it features graduated in a significant year, when Singapore joined the Federation of Malaya.
The book is edited by Godfrey Robert, 73, a Naval Base clerk's son who later became The Straits Times sports editor, while poet Oliver Seet, who taught the class English and literature, penned a poem for his ex-students.
"What is noteworthy is that they all studied in a village school deep in the heart of Bah Tan Road," Seet, 83, writes in a foreword, "which was notoriously pitted with potholes and rugged laterite road surfaces that the teachers, most of whom car-pooled, dreaded driving on. It was a daily challenge to axle, car-suspension and backbone.
"The alternative was to take a pirate taxi; walking in from the bus stop was untenable as it was both hazardous and arduous especially on wet days."
He adds of his former students: "Teaching them was a privilege, educating them a prerogative."
Ace Agent Spycat and the Mayonnaise Mayhem
By Darren Lim
Epigram Books/ Paperback/ 220 pages/ $13.80/ Available here
The feline agents of Lim's Ace Agent Spycat series return on a mission to stop master thieves Mac and Cheese, or The Finders Keepers, from stealing famous landmarks around the world.