Category Archives: graphic novels

‘The Snake and the Lotus’ review: Darker and more inviting

With the latest in the Halahala series of graphic novels, Appupen has arrived as an illustrator

Visual artist and comics creator Appupen has been building up the mythical world of Halahala in a series of graphic novels that started with Moonward in 2009. Halahala is a far-off planet in the distant future which resembles earth in the many struggles that are its lot.

It can be viewed as a mirror world that allows Appupen to explore earthbound environmental issues: at the same time, it can be seen as a mechanised, dystopic space. Halahala is a surreal setting that lets Appupen give his imagination a free rein. In the latest in the Halahala series, The Snake and the Lotus, Appupen continues to play with the superhero genre, while steadily embellishing the landscape of Halahala.

Layers of shadow

There is much that is new in this edition of the Halahala stories. The old Halahala as the readers knew it is coming to an end and a new age is dawning. Human excesses have led to an over-dependence on machines and while the said humans cannot figure it out as yet, their very existence is under threat.

One of the ‘good’ characters, The Silent Green, sends out a call for allies who can save Halahala from ruin. Among the proposed helpers is a girl who is chosen for her connectedness with the old ways. Is she the chosen one? Can she restore the balance?

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Bologna 2017: Varied Perspectives from Asian Publishers

And imagination, Huang added, is something that children’s book writers and illustrations have in abundance. Take Julia Liu and Leo Tang’s Tony Bunny: A Rabbit with Short Ears (CommonWealth Education Media and Publishing Company), which has been published in Korean, Russian, Thai, and Turkish. The story is is inspired by the spike of children with microtia (small ears) and a desire to boost their confidence; a follow-up title, featuring the courageous short-eared bunny and his timid elephant friend, has the same goal. “In fact, illustrator Leo Tang created a piggy bank featuring the bunny and elephant to encourage children to save their coins and donate to their peers with microtia,” Huang said. “One cannot help but be inspired by these unique and uplifting titles.”

Picture books, said Huang, “transcend barriers—cultural and societal—and now, it is time for the picture book to transcend its traditional format, to move beyond print into other forms. That is the mission of this pavilion with its 45 illustrator exhibits. We want our content creators, and those from other parts of the world, to think beyond the printed pages, and to think differently.”

Pushing Technology- and Membership-based Programs

For Kyowon, one of the biggest publishers in South Korea, its picture books continue to sell well, especially new series such as the 30-volume World Folktales and 24-volume Smart Science with Book TV (which incorporates QR codes that link to videos, animations, augmented reality experiences, and virtual experiments).

…. Trend-wise, activity, counting, and game-based titles were popular three to five years ago, according to Nonoka. “We had great success with Toshio Iwai’s 100 Stories series. Then the popularity of Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinska’s Maps threw the spotlight on illustrated nonfiction, and that category became very popular. This year, we are seeing a return to titles with beautiful illustrations and unique storylines.”

Interestingly, Kaisei-sha has been working very closely with industry counterparts Fukuinkan Shoten, Iwasaki Shoten, and Kodansha to produce a series of tactile picture books with Braille for Japanese children. “We share the technology so as to defray the production costs, and we market the books—currently at around 62 titles—together as a part of our social responsibility and awareness campaign. We believe that visually impaired children should be able to read and enjoy the same picture books that are available to others. While we are not promoting these titles to overseas publishers, we are exhibiting them at this fair to show that Braille can be applied successfully and effectively to picture books.”

Working on Social Responsibility and Beyond

Responsibility is also a major topic at Beijing-based Children’s Fun Publishing Company, a joint venture between Egmont Group and Posts & Telecommunications Press. “We are talking about social responsibility that goes beyond worker welfare and environmental protection. Sustainability when it comes to printing and selecting the correct printing partners is equally important,” said general manager Ao Ran.

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Tiny Tragedies: A poem by Eliza Victoria

Tiny Tragedies


Eliza Victoria is the author of several books including the Philippine National Book Award-winning Dwellers (2014), the novel Wounded Little Gods (2016), and the graphic novel After Lambana (2016), a collaboration with artist Mervin Malonzo. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in several online and print publications and have won prizes in the Philippines’ top literary awards. Visit her at

The Art of Charlie Chan Hocke Chye

CharlieChanTHE ART OF CHARLIE CHAN HOCK CHYE (Pantheon, $30)presents itself as a coffee-table victory lap. It purports to be a graphic biography of “Singapore’s greatest comics artist,” punctuated by examples of his work from 1944 (a childhood drawing of Donald Duck) to 2012 (an oil painting of Singapore’s prime minister Lee Kuan Yew). In fact, it’s something entirely different: a hugely ambitious, stylistically acrobatic work by the Singapore-based cartoonist Sonny Liew.

Charlie Chan Hock Chye is Liew’s invention, and his fictional life story is the vehicle for both a political history of Singapore’s past seven decades and Liew’s visual homages to comics’ most commercially successful innovations. Early on, when we see teenage Chan Hock Chye caught up in Singapore’s 1954 National Service protests, the narrative is abruptly supplanted by an excerpt from a story he published around that time, “Ah Huat’s Giant Robot” — supposedly a fantasy inspired by the young artist’s experiences, but also a parody of Osamu Tezuka’s early comics (complete with yellowed newsprint textures and typeset English lettering).

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