Wednesday, August 17, 2022

On the Coffee Table: Sonny Liew

Title: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye
Writer and Artist: Sonny Liew

via Amazon

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is an extraordinary project.  Liew tells the history of Singapore from the perspective of a fictional comic book creator, Charlie Chan Hock Chye.  Charlie claims Japanese master Osamu Tezuka as his early inspiration, though the project itself, with autobiography and modern national history running parallel, is patterned more on the work of Shigeru Mizuki.  Over the course of his (fictitious) career, Chan incorporated the artisic and narrative styles of numerous comic enterprises: Walt Kelly's Pogo, Disney comics, Spider-Man, Mad Magazine, Frank Miller's Batman, etc.  Chan's (again, Liew-invented) comics are presented alongside historical annotations, sometimes also in cartoon form, further blurring the distinction between fact and fiction.

The scope of the book is breathtaking.  Liew shares a history most outside of Singapore (or even within, under a certain age?) don't know and his seemingly encyclopedic mastery of the comics medium is impressive.  The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye has been a best-seller and won numerous awards all over the world, including three Eisners.  It was the first graphic novel to win the Singapore Literature Prize.


  1. Interesting. What do they say about World War 2? Singapore is an interesting city

    1. He doesn't spend a lot of time on the war - more on the aftermath. Suffice to say, neither the Japanese nor the British come off well. Invaders and colonialists rarely do.

      If you're interested in the Pacific Theater, I can't recommend Shigeru Mizuki's work highly enough. His Showa series encompasses the entire Hirohito reign. The second and third books cover the war, including Malaya.