PODCAST: Cartoonist Sonny Liew's next work will explore capitalism

(PHOTO: Tom White)
(PHOTO: Tom White)

LISTEN: Use the player above to hear our full interview with award-winning Singaporean cartoonist Sonny Liew

SINGAPORE — Five years after putting out the critically-acclaimed graphic novel, The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, Singaporean cartoonist Sonny Liew has a new personal project brewing.

Just as Charlie Chan took a deep dive into a controversial period of Singapore’s history, his upcoming work looks to tackle another daunting topic: capitalism.

During a half-hour interview with Yahoo News Singapore’s “On The Mic” podcast, the 46-year-old explained his choice of subject matter:

“I would say that I am personally more left-of-centre, or left-leaning in my views. But I think it’s too easy to repeat those arguments without looking deeply at them.

“What I’m trying to do here is research enough to try and understand the other side first and try to present a view that’s not just preaching to the choir, but trying to incorporate multiple viewpoints,” he said.

Liew’s fans may have to wait some time to get hold of the yet-untitled work, as he plans to take the next year and half to research and produce it.

Luckily for them, however, he does have another project called Red Lines – done in collaboration with media scholar Cherian George – coming out in the first quarter of next year. Describing it as taking on a “zine” format, Liew said the book explores cartoon censorship around the world.

He said it was George who approached him to work on Red Lines, and that he was drawn to it due to his interest in issues such as freedom of speech and efforts to curb it. “There’s a chapter about his and my own experiences facing censorship,” said Liew.

Some pages from "Red Lines", an upcoming collaboration between cartoonist Sonny Liew and media scholar Cherian George. (Images courtesy of Sonny Liew)
Some pages from "Red Lines", an upcoming collaboration between cartoonist Sonny Liew and media scholar Cherian George. (Images courtesy of Sonny Liew)

Indie vs the big leagues

Asked if the success of Charlie Chan, which earned three Eisner Awards in 2017, had brought him a new level of fame, Liew said it has earned him some attention both locally and overseas but noted that it is nowhere near “Sandman level”, referring to the comic series by Neil Gaiman.

While he has also worked for the biggest names in the comics industry – Marvel and DC – Liew said he is torn between which he prefers: producing his personal projects or playing in the big league.

“Some part of me would love to draw Batman and Superman all the time but, at the same time, another part of me wants to do my own personal, independent comics. I think my career sort of reflects that...

“Given a choice, I suppose I would like to get to a stage where the two things can come together; like they’ll allow me to do my own Batman story with no constraints whatsoever. But I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon,” he said.

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