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  • Writer's pictureGwen Lee

My Failed Ambition as a Comic Artist

About a week ago, Singaporean artist Sonny Liew and his graphic novel "The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye" bagged three Eisner awards for Best Writer/Artist, Best Publication Design and Best US Edition of International Material in Asia. Unless you're the sort who has zero interest in popular culture, you've probably heard of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, or as it's commonly known "the Eisner Awards." Winning an Eisner is like winning an Oscar in the comic industry. So considering the controversy this book had been mired in before its publication, this award is truly an extraordinary validation for Sonny Liew.

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

Before I was a writer, I was an aspiring comic book artist. As a teenager, I used to draw for the local newspapers and even had a weekly comic column in a student papers (though I was nowhere close to being nominated for an award of any sort!). Comic books were a huge part of my life. I spent a large part of my formative years drawing and hanging out with my fellow comic artists. When I was 16, I announced to my Dad my ambition of publishing my first graphic novel before I turn 25. He nodded, vaguely encouragingly.

A character from an upcoming book?

Perhaps he wouldn't have been so supportive if he had known that a large part of my pocket money went to the proprietor of the neighborhood comic bookshop! The thing is, if you get hooked onto a Japanese manga series, you'll stop at nothing to devour the 30-40 books. And don't even get me started on Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, which I discovered as a college student. It's like a drug! And I was a druggie hanging outside that comics bookstore in Leicester Square in London, counting my pennies.

Anyway, I consider those time (and money) spent an investment in my future. Comic books are a major reason why I've become a storyteller. They've given a young girl a window into why humans live and laugh.

Here are some of my favorite books from my growing up years. What are yours?

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