Sonny Liew leads Eisner Awards with six nominations

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew (left) is a satirical retelling of Singapore's journey to nationhood through the eyes of a fictional comic artist.
The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew (above) is a satirical retelling of Singapore's journey to nationhood through the eyes of a fictional comic artist.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Singaporean hopes the nominations for his graphic novel, The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, can change the perception of Asian comics overseas

Singaporean graphic novelist Sonny Liew has topped the shortlist for this year's Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards with six nominations.

The prestigious Eisner Awards, the nominations of which were announced on Tuesday by United States organisation Comic-Con International, are considered the Academy Awards of the comics world.

Liew's graphic novel, The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, is nominated in the categories of Best Graphic Album - New, Best US Edition of International Material - Asia, Best Writer/Artist, Best Colouring, Best Lettering and Best Publication Design.

The Art Of Charlie Chan, which was published in Singapore in 2015 by Epigram Books and internationally last year by American imprint Pantheon, is a satirical retelling of Singapore's journey to nationhood, from the 1950s to the present, through the eyes of a fictional comic artist.

Liew, 42, a Malaysia-born Singapore citizen, says: "I guess the Eisners are the sort of thing you semi-dream about in an unrealistic way because it never quite seems possible, so it all feels a little surreal at the moment.

"I'm caught between steeling myself for disappointment and just enjoying the moment, and seesawing between those feelings every other minute."

The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew (left) is a satirical retelling of Singapore's journey to nationhood through the eyes of a fictional comic artist.

He has been nominated in the past for works such as Liquid City, Wonderland and The Shadow Hero. This is, however, the first time he - or a Singaporean artist, for that matter - has led the charge on the Eisner nominations.

He comes in ahead of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples' space opera Saga and Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips' series on vigilante violence Kill Or Be Killed, which have four nominations each.

Liew hopes his nominations can change the perception of Asian comics overseas. "Manga from Japan is probably what most readers in the US think about when they think of Asian comics, so hopefully this will shine some light on the sheer diversity of comics from the region."

The book is already trailing a string of accolades. Last year, it became the first graphic novel to win the Singapore Literature Prize and also climbed to the top of bestseller lists for Amazon and The New York Times.

It sparked controversy in 2015 when the National Arts Council withdrew its $8,000 publishing grant for the book, which went on to become a bestseller.

The annual Eisner Awards are named after Will Eisner, the pioneering artist and writer behind the classic comic series The Spirit.

Professionals in the comic book industry can vote online soon at www.eisnervote.com until June 16. Results will be announced on July 21 at Comic-Con International in San Diego.

This year's nominees include more than 120 titles from some 50 publishers and by creators from all over the world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2017, with the headline 'Sonny Liew leads Eisner Awards with six nominations'. Print Edition | Subscribe