“GRAPHIC NON-FICTION IN ASIA” – ONLINE SEMINAR

I’m pleased to announce the online seminar “GRAPHIC NON-FICTION IN ASIA: THE ROAD AHEAD”, a roundtable with comics creators and editors from South and Southeast Asia to discuss their works and the challenges they face in their respective countries. Guest speakers: Bambi Eloriaga-Amago [Philippines], Charis Loke [Malaysia], Sreejita Biswas (Solo) [India], Tanis Werasakwong (Sa-ard) [Thailand] and Adoor Yeh [Taiwan], and moderated by yours truly. On Thursday November 25th, 2021, 4PM (GMT+7) [2:30PM Delhi; 4PM Bangkok; 5PM KUL, MLA & TPE]. Seminar duration: 2 hours. Organized by the National Research Council of Thailand and the Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University.
Inscription to the Zoom session via this link: https://forms.gle/5Gzw3eqpMwqQ2qkMA
[Poster illustration from “taskun mudaan” by Adoor Yeh, 慢工出版 Slowork Publishing, 2021]

Thai Ghost Comics Documentary & Exhibition

DC NAROK: Collective Hellxibition poster by Philippine artist Louie Cordero

Here are the first pictures of Thailand’s Krasue [กระสือ] ghost-witch and of vintage “one-baht ghost comics” displayed at the international DC NAROK : COLLECTIVE HELLXIBITION in Marseille, France. My thanks to our fresh.wo.men students at the Faculty of Communication Arts (International Program, Chulalongkorn University) for their assistance. As part of our “Thai Culture for Communication” course, students translated and composed subtitles for Thai director Santi Taepanich’s 40-minute documentary “ไอ้ผีเล่มละบาท: Damn Ghost Comics” screened during the exhibition (and also available online). The documentary explores the massive -and disregarded yet highly relevant- horror comics production in Thailand from the mid-1970s onward, as well as the precarious status of its pioneering creators.

Students also composed biographies of the exhibited Thai artists. It is also a first international collaboration with our Thai Comics Archives; lending 40 vintage KatunLemLaBaht (one-baht comics), two original artworks and a papier-mâché sculpture by Ajarn Tode Kosumphisai as well as selecting artworks by Ajarn Tawee Witsanukorn, Bangchong Kongjak, Orn (Apichat), Chatree Sungwornsilp or Jeard Mahaked for wall projections. Original covers by Dan Sudsakorn were also lended by Myrtille Tibayrenc.

The exhibition gathers the works of 50 international artists exhibited on 600 sqm, exploring the Thai/Buddhist Hell [นรก] Gardens [see “Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden” and Stephen Bessac’s Narok monograph). With thanks to Pakito Bolino, Le Dernier Cri, Benrisa Yencham and PaX Atakito.

DC NAROK : COLLECTIVE HELLXIBITION at La Friche la Belle de Mai, Marseille, France; Nov 13, 2021-Feb 13, 2022.

DC NAROK : COLLECTIVE HELLXIBITION. Pic credit: Hadrien Alvarez

Comics Zine ‘GAP/ช่องว่าง’ #01

GAP/ช่องว่าง #01 cover by MM. Kosum

Delighted to announce the launch of the bilingual (EN/TH) comics zine series GAP/ช่องว่าง, edited by yours truly. The main purpose is to offer a new/regular creative space to young -or seasoned- Thai cartoonists, showcasing critical, autobiographical and/or experimental narratives. Each issue will also feature a foreign guest, sharing about his/her bond to Thailand. For this first issue, the cover art is signed by talented artist MM. Kosum, with GAP title designed by Khwansubhanut Banlunara, and with stories by Applesoda, Ping Sasinan, Sasi Tee & Namsai K., and illustrations by Arty Nicharee and Brussels-based guest artist Abdel de Bruxelles. The A5-sized and 24-page zine is limited to 200 copies, and with a cover price of 100 baht (3 EUR; 3.5 USD).

For orders within Thailand: 100 baht + 20 baht for registered mail. Orders outside Thailand: 3.5 USD + 6 USD for registered mail [or 3 EUR + 5 EUR for registered mail]. Contact me at Nicolas.V [at] chula.ac.th

Comics submissions, from Thai artists, are welcome too at the same email address. Nicolas

GAP/ช่องว่าง #1, art by Applesoda
GAP/ช่องว่าง #1, art by Ping Sasinan
GAP/ช่องว่าง #1, art by Sasi Tee
GAP/ช่องว่าง #1, art by Abdel de Bruxelles (left) and Namsai K. (right)

GAP/ช่องว่าง #01 backcover and artwork by Arty Nicharee

Thai Autobiographical Comics (feature)

Le Dessableur #2, CBBD. Cover art by Thai cartoonist Sa-ard (pic by Greg Shaw)

The second issue of the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée [Comics Art Museum – Brussels] magazine Le Dessableur has been released on June 2021, with a 10-page special feature on “Thai Autobiographical Comics” (composed by yours truly). Autobiographical graphic narratives are almost absent from the Thai comics production -even from its alternative scene- for various cultural and political motives. The feature -in French with Dutch translation- explores these constraints through the rare, remarkable and counter-cultural examples of Thai autobiographical comics. It spans from Sem Sumanan’s first self-representation in a 1924 Siamese comic strip and Isaan cartoonists’ regionalist memoirs, up to the contemporary zine scene and Sa-ard‘s 2020 daring and brilliant self-published graphic novel “Kan Sueksa Khong Krapong Mi Fa” (The Education of a Tin Can who had a Dream). Thanks Sa-ard for the cover art and the enlightening interview! And thanks Greg Shaw for the invitation; it was a pleasure! N.

Order information on: https://www.cbbd.be/fr/cbbd/le-dessableur

1924 comic strip by Sem Sumanan and paintings by Preecha Raksorn. In: Le Dessableur #2, CBBD.
Pages by Triam Chachumporn, Songwit ‘Seng’ Seakitikul and Wisut Ponnimit. In: Le Dessableur #2, CBBD.
Artworks by Tookkata, Prayoon Chanyawongse and Guinfalls. In: Le Dessableur #2, CBBD.

#MeanwhileHereComics #การ์ตูนที่นี่ Challenge 2/2

As an assignment for the “Visual Media Studies” course (GenEd course offered by the Faculty of Communications ArtsChulalongkorn University, Thailand), students from various faculties and departments (Architecture, Communication Design, Psychology, Engineering, Literature…) were asked to explore the concept of “windows on time in a single place” developed by American cartoonist Richard McGuire with his two stories titled “Here” (1989 in the pages of RAW, and 2014 as an extended graphic novel). The complete groundbreaking graphic narrative can be read on this post: “Here” by Richard McGuire.

Here are some of the results, tackling topics such as Thai political turmoil, adoption, Black Lives Matter, but also time travel, family ties and… cats. Many more results from the CommArts students are also posted on this page.

PS: click on the comics pages for higher resolution.


Comics by June (Malisa), student at CommDe Y3.
Comics by Nat, student at INDA (Archi) Y3.
Comics by Nattamon, student at INDA (Archi) Y2.
Comics by Palmy (Thanita), student at JIPP (Psycho) Y2.
Comics by Kaohom (Nannapat), student at INDA (Archi) Y2.
Comics by Prim, student at CommDe Y3.
Comics by Levi, student at INDA (Archi) Y2.
Comics by Khem, student at INDA (Archi) Y3.
Comics by Pang and Tawan, students at CommDe Y3. Page 1/2.
Comics by Pang and Tawan, students at CommDe Y3. Page 2/2.
Comics by Nina (Namida), student at INDA (Archi) Y2.
Comics by Grace & Win, students at CommDe Y3. Page 1/2.
Comics by Grace & Win, students at CommDe Y3. Page 2/2.

Non-Fiction Comics Composition Course [part 2/2]

After several preparatory assignments [see dedicated post for details], CommArts students from the Creative Writing: Non-Fiction Comics Composition course [Chulalongkorn University, Thailand] were asked to produce their final assignment: an autobiographic comics. As mentioned in the previous post, the two main challenges were to compose a short comics without prior art training, and to write an autobiographic narrative in a country where the autobiographical genre is almost absent from local literature (and comics) as it is seen as ill-mannered in Thai culture to talk about oneself, and as shortcomings or mishaps are not to be disclosed in a context where [to save (i.e. preserve)] the face or self-image is essential. Their final and individual comics projects weren’t limited in size, length or technique; each student had to pick the best fitted format to convey his/her autobiographic narrative. The stories were composed over a period of one month, instead of two due to the pandemic outbreak. Individual comment sessions were held weekly via the Zoom platform.

Here are some of the resulting graphic narratives! More coming soon!

[All artworks are reprinted with the consent of the students, and remain their property. Some nicknames have been changed at student’s request].


Autobiographic comics by student B. (with some help from her sister).


Autobiographic (GIF) comics by exchange student Alex


Autobiographic comics by student Smile

Page 8/8 of student Smile’s autobiographic comics.


Autobiographic GIF comics by student May


Autobiographic comics by student Por (with some help from Peera Tayanukorn)

Student Por’s autobiographic comics. Click on pic to enlarge.

Autobiographic comics by student Pranang (a handheld game console format containing a long comics strip that can be scrolled manually and with a main character -Pranang’s alter ego- which can be moved up and down).


Autobiographic comics by student Jay

Page 4/4 of Jay’s autobiographic comics.

Autobiographic comics by student G.


Autobiographic comics by student Pin

Page 3/3 of student Pin’s autobiographic comics.

Autobiographic graphic narrative by student Paint


Autobiographic comics by student Plai

Student Plai’s autobiographic comics. Click on pic to enlarge.

Pages from exchange student Meg Hoogendam’s digital comics book on HSP


Autobiographic comics by student Eve

Click on pic to enlarge.
Click on pic to enlarge.

Autobiographic comics by student Rika


Autobiographic comics by student Frongki


Autobiographic comics by student Pop


Autobiographic comics by student Namfon


Autobiographic comics by student Pecky


MORE COMING SOON…

PS: I’m so proud of you all ! #ProudAjarnNicolas

Non-Fiction Comics Composition Course [part 1/2]

As of January 2020, undergraduated students at the International Programme in Communication Management [Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University] are able to choose between two Comics Composition sections as part of their Creative Writing curriculum: experimental/fiction comics composition and non-fiction comics composition. The latter is a new 16-week [3 credits] section open to 30 students without any drawing/art training. I’m introducing in this post the preparatory assignments of the “non-fiction comics” section, meant to facilitate the composition of the semester final project; a short autobiographic comics. The two main challenges were to compose a short comics without prior art training, and to write an autobiographic narrative in a country where the autobiographical genre is almost absent from local literature (and comics) as it is seen as ill-mannered in Thai culture to talk about oneself, and as shortcomings or mishaps are not to be disclosed in a context where [to save (i.e. preserve)] the face or self-image is essential. However, in a globalizing world and because of the “international” nature of the programme and of the students’ education [often in international schools], I considered these challenges worth facing.

The class was composed of 34 students [29 female students and 5 male students], and included 6 exchange students from abroad. All artworks are reprinted with the consent of the students, and remain their property.


ALL-SEMESTER ASSIGNMENT: GRAPHIC DIARY

On the first week of class, students were asked to acquire a notebook and draw an entry related to their daily life every day and over the complete 16-week semester. The goal was to help the students to familiarize themselves with the act of drawing and the observation of their surroundings and inner thoughts and feelings. Progress was checked in the classroom every two weeks, then online when the Faculty closed its doors due to the pandemic. At times, the graphic diaries revealed the frustration, the angst and sometimes the isolation experimented by the students during the lockdown.

Pages from student Paint’s graphic diary. In January 2020, before the spread of the Covid pandemic, face masks were already worn due to the high level of PM 2.5 air pollution.
Page from student Eve’s graphic diary. On February 3, French cartoonist Freddy Nadolny Poustochkine was our guest to talk autobiography, comics, time/space and memory, and show us pages from his own notebooks.

WEEK 01 ASSIGNMENT: SELF-PORTRAIT

After a first short lecture introducing non-fiction comics [autobiography, confessional comics, graphic medecine and comics journalism; with examples from Julie Doucet, Wimmen’s Comix, Robert Crumb, Joe Matt, Yoshiharu Tsuge, Neeske Alexander, Jennifer Hayden and Joe Sacco), students were asked to draw their self-portrait “in situation” in a Chas Addams’ cartoon from which the upper part had been blanked out.

Left: Noisy Neighbor by Charles Addams, The New Yorker, circa 1950. Right: edited version provided to the students.​
Self-portrait by student Gam.

WEEK 02 ASSIGNMENT: 10 MEMORIES

Students were asked to write down 10 memories, 10 crucial moments -positive or negative- that still impact/haunt/enlight their lives up to this day. I discussed individually with each student to know which memory he/she is eager and confortable adapting into a comics narrative [narrative/graphic potential]. Two memories are sometimes related [theme/period/figures] and were selected to be merged into one narrative. This list/thematic approach comes from Tom Hart‘s guide The Art of the Graphic Memoir (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2018). Numerous references and resources were borrowed from his useful book.


WEEK 03 LECTURE: CHARLOTTE SALOMON

We explored, among others, the work of German artist Charlotte Salomon and her series of nearly 800 goauches Life? Or Theatre? produced between 1940 and 1942.


WEEK 03 ASSIGNMENT: TEXT SUBSTITUTION

Each student was asked to develop -at home and in written form- his/her selected memory over an A4 page. In class, we analyzed Chris Ware’s short comics I Guess [click on link for full story] in which the written text [the sensitive memories of a child] is imposed -seemingly arbritrarily- in the captions and speech/thought balloons of a six-page Golden-Age-style superhero adventure. However, beyond the “disjunctive form of verbal/visual interplay”, some words or sentences seem to echo drawn elements and to form a braiding of motifs; Chris Ware plays here with the fact that comics readers are drawn to look for meaning in the interaction of the pictorial and the linguistic.

After the analysis of I Guess, students were asked to compose a graphic narrative using the same concept by simply imposing the text of their ‘selected and extended memory’ [A4 page] in the emptied captions and speech balloons from three pages of French cartoonist Xavier Mussat’s autobiographic comics Sainte Famille. The latter book was selected as Xavier Mussat extensively plays with visual metaphors and allegories and because these could become generative of unexpected and accidental resonances with my students’ written memories.

Page 1/3 of student G’s autobiographic text laid down over Xavier Mussat’s comics pages.
Page 2/3 of student G’s autobiographic text laid down over Xavier Mussat’s comics pages.
Page 3/3 of student G’s autobiographic text laid down over Xavier Mussat’s comics pages.
Page 1/3 of student Dear’s autobiographic text laid down over Xavier Mussat’s comics pages.
Page 2/3 of student Dear’s autobiographic text laid down over Xavier Mussat’s comics pages.
Page 3/3 of student Dear’s autobiographic text laid down over Xavier Mussat’s comics pages.

WEEK 04 ASSIGNMENT: DIFFERENT TONE

In order to further explore the memory selected by each student, I asked them rewrite their text but as if written by their younger self -in a personal diary- at the age they were when the chosen event took place. The text was to be written on black and white photocopies of some pages from French-Canadian cartoonist Julie Delporte‘s pencil-color and organic diary Journal (Koyama Press, 2013).


The following pages show student G’s memories [to be compared with her version on Xavier Mussat’s pages above], written down as a personal diary, along with Julie Delporte’s drawings on which G added watercolor.

Text and watercolor by student G over drawings by Julie Delporte’s Journal.

The objective of the “text substitution” and “different tone” assignments is to lead the students -without prior art training- to get a sense of the graphic potential of their stories as a comics narrative, to consider the use of visual metaphors, allegories and motifs, as well as the narrative use of color and ‘voices’, and to trigger new and unexpected (and maybe forgotten) elements to feed their narrative through additional layers.


WEEK 05 ASSIGNMENT: WAIT! STOP, YOUNGER VERSION OF ME!

Now that students have been drawing in their daily graphic diary for a few weeks, and that they have played with their written texts in relation to pictures through various substitutions, they were asked to draw their first comics (in the classroom). The assignment is to draw a comics over 4 pages with imposed regular grids, and with an imposed speech balloon (containing the sentence: “Wait! Stop, younger version of me!”) in the third panel of the first page. The balloon was borrowed from American cartoonist Jess Fink’ sci-fi graphic memoir We Can Fix It! (Top Shelf, 2013) where the author goes back in time with a time machine to warn her younger self of -and thus try to avoid- mistakes she made in her past. Students were asked to write such a meeting with their younger selves.



Student Paint meets her younger self, pages 1 and 2 (out of 4).
Student Paint meets her younger self, pages 3 and 4 (out of 4).

Student Por meets her younger self, pages 1 and 2 (out of 4).
Student Por meets her younger self, pages 3 and 4 (out of 4).

“Like how does something happen, and… how does it reverberate through time? And that act of memory is important, and comics are great for memory. Like even when you have a short comic, like a three-panel comic, you’ve got a past, a present and a future as soon as you look at those three boxes. And that allows you to reflect and compare times.”

Art Spiegelman, in: Conan, N. (2011). MetaMaus: The Story Behind Spiegelman’s Classic; radio interview, Oct 5.

WEEK 05 LECTURE: COMICS, TIME AND SPACE

We explored the interplay of Time, Space and Memory in comics narratives by Richard McGuire, Lilli Carré, Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons & Rick Veitch, Frank Miller, Kevin Huizenga, Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, Matt Madden, Nick Sousanis and Kiriko Nananan.


WEEK 05 – SPECIAL GUEST: FREDDY NADOLNY POUSTOCHKINE

On February 03, we were honoured to welcome French cartoonist Freddy Nadolny Poustochkine as a guest. We talked time, space, the fabric/material of memory and comics art in his creative process from his autobiographical comics La chair des pommes (ego comme x) to his Cambodia-set La colline empoisonnée  (Futuropolis) and his ongoing project; and of the seminal importance of (his) sketchbooks. More pictures on this dedicated post.

Guest talk with French cartoonist Freddy Nadolny Poustochkine, here discussing the importance of his sketchbooks in his creative process.

WEEK 06 ASSIGNMENT: THE MEMORY TREE

Based on works by Chris Ware and ideas borrowed from the previous lecture and Freddy’s talk, students were asked to map their memory on an A3 page, adding photographs of themselves, of related places and characters, and of artworks (posters, paintings, quotes…) echoing the emotions they experienced during the ‘life-changing’ event they will tell in comics form as their final project.

A lifetime: example of non-linear storytelling by Chris Ware.
Assignment brief.

Student Frongki’s memory tree.

WEEK 07: ORAL PRESENTATIONS ON NON-FICTION COMICS

Students were asked to form 10 groups and to read and discuss 10 challenging non-fiction graphic novels [and zines] by introducing their classmates to remarkable features (technique, narrative voice, topic, layouts..). The oral presentations were held online, due the Covid outbreak. The books I proposed them to tackle were: Les Têtards (and zines) by Pascal Matthey and Badaboom Twist (and other zines) by David Libens, Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi, Sunny by Taiyo Matsumoto, Becoming Unbecoming by Una, Piero by Edmond Baudoin, Daddy’s Girl by Debbie Drechler, Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle, Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow and The End by Anders Nilsen, and Rosalie Lightning by Tom Hart. Diversity of topics, techniques, origins informed my selection to provide students with a large array of references and approaches.


WEEK 08 [MIDTERM] LECTURE: COMICS ESSAY COMPOSITION

The composition of comics essays in small groups was originally considered as an assignment during the semester. Sadly, due the Covid outbreak, group projects were canceled at midterm. As we weren’t yet aware of that fact, one early lecture was dedicated on [non-fiction] comics essay composition; I explained the process of creating a comics essay based on a two-pager I wrote for a special issue of KaiHuaRoh magazine with art by Ployjaploen “Bamie” Paopanlerd. I went through the various stages of composition, from the first idea [informed by numeorus influences] to thumbnailing and other schaffoldings leading to a clear non-linear narrative (with much help from the artist).


WEEK 08 [MIDTERM]: COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS

As for examples, a useful reference was Rob Stolzer‘s students work from his Graphic Narration class.


After reading the students ‘memory trees’, I suggested to each student various approaches, comics references or motifs/connections worth exploring before adapting his/her selected memory into a comics narrative.




WEEKS 09 TO 16: INDIVIDUAL [ONLINE] CONSULTING AND FINAL RESULTS

The autobiographic comics composed by the students will be published in an upcoming post! [Their final and individual comics projects weren’t limited in size, length or technique; each student had to pick the best fitted format to convey his/her autobiographic narrative]. More soon!

Because it’s sweet… Thanks mademoiselle Plai!

Thai Black Lives Matter: “Maniq not Sakai” knowledge comics

As part of the “Thai Culture for Communication: Graphic Narratives” course, fresh.wo.men at the International Program of the Faculty of Communications Arts (Chulalongkorn University, Thailand) were asked to compose a knowledge comics on the usually-derogatory representation of the indigenous Maniq ethnic group in Thai culture. Known asNgo Paa’ in Thai (and sometimes referred to as Negritos or Sakai), the MAniq people live in the forests of Southern Thailand and were essentiliazed as a dark-skinned traditional folktale figure. The following graphic narrative -composed by students Tiara, Prim, Name and Praewah- offers an interesting insight on this Thai population, and on the cultural biases and unfair treatments they suffered, as well as a message of understanding and hope. Because #BlackLivesMatter in Thailand too.


A portrait of Kanang, a Maniq orphan welcomed by King Chulalongkorn at the court in the early 20th century.

“During the period that Kanang lived with King Chulalongkorn, he was generally considered as the King’s adopted son (Duangjan 1988). At the court, Kanang was taught how to dance and play the part of the Negrito in the Sangthong play, and he became the regular actor of this role in performances before the king’s guests. The sensational moment in the drama is when Prince Sangthong takes off his ‘ugly’ Negrito mask to reveal his beautiful noble self. The audience was shocked to see that under the mask was a real live Ngo Paa.” ​Nathan Porath [“Developing indigenous communities into Sakai in South Thailand and Riau (Indonesia)”, 2003]


Les Idées Noires [Dark Thoughts] #60, Feb. 1982, by André Franquin [BE, 1924-1997]

A pandemic premonition:

“They were right on the radio. Don’t panic: ‘The authorities will impose all measures necessary’.” (February 1982)

Les Idées Noires [Dark Thoughts] #60, Feb. 1982, by Belgian master & visionary cartoonist André Franquin [1924-1997]. Anthology available from Fantagraphics Books under the title Die Laughing“, or at my office when Faculty reopens…
English translation ©2018 Fantagraphics Books.
Comics ©2018 Editions Audie/Franquin Estate

Les Idées Noires [Dark Thoughts] #60, Feb. 1982, by André Franquin. Translation “Die Laughing” ©2018 Fantagraphics Books. Comics ©2018 Editions Audie/Franquin Estate.