Book: THE ART OF THAI COMICS

The Art of Thai Comics: A Century of Strips and Stripes by Nicolas Verstappen, River Books, 2021

“A revelatory book that changes the global map of comics forever. At last, the histories and mysteries of Thailand’s ever-changing comics can emerge from the shadows into the spotlight.”Paul Gravett, author of Mangasia: The Definitive Guide to Asian Comics and curator of the touring exhibition Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics

DESCRIPTION

After the first Thai comic strip was published in 1907, comics flourished in Siam and developed in uniquely Thai ways. With diverse and leading artists working in each generation there is a wealth of material to consider. Gory horror tales, anti-communist propaganda and socially-engaged graphic novels bear witness to the country’s darker years. From 1990, Thai comics struggled to compete with the sudden influx of unlicensed Japanese manga and went through a hiatus, making a comeback in the late ’90s with a new and alternative scene that deserves wider recognition. Each page of The Art of Thai Comics opens a unique window onto Thai society – a distilled vision of its hopes, fears, delights and horrors. From 20th century interpretations of Jataka tales, which replay the Buddha’s various reincarnations, to tales of modern-day millennial angst. Thai comics past and present offer an entertaining and enlightening viewpoint onto the country’s history, culture and enduring creativity.

With an introduction by Sonny Liew (author of the Eisner-Award-winning graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye) and an afterword by revered Thai artist Om Ratchawej.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

After studying Art History and Film History & Screenwriting at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and while working at the comics bookstore Multi BD, Nicolas Verstappen launched the zine series XeroXed in which he published his interviews with alternative cartoonists from around the world. A radio show co-host for Radio Grandpapier and a regular comics chronicler for Beaux Arts Magazine, his interest in autobiographic comics led him to research comics as a language of symptoms of psychic trauma. Back to the academic world in 2015, he is now a lecturer at the International Program of the Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University (Thailand) where he teaches visual and comparative media courses as well as two creative writing courses; one dedicated to non-fiction graphic narratives and the other to experimental comics. Numerous works by his Thai students are displayed on his website From Dusk Till Drawn. An occasional panel moderator, exhibition curator (V for Vendetta & David Lloyd retrospective; Spirou4Rights & Marsu4Nature), exhibition consultant (Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics; DC NAROK: Collective Hellxibition) and workshop guest/coordinator (Pierre Feuille Ciseaux international comics residency-laboratory), he recently launched the GAP – ช่องว่าง comics zine series and the WIP Thai Comics Archives. He wishes he had more time to read comic books…


Copyright © 2021 River Books / Photographs © 2021 Peeraphat Kittisuwat


ACCOLADES

Nominated in the Best Comics-Related Book category at the 2022 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards

Selected by Bangkok CityCity Gallery‘s Bookshop Library to be part of the Asia-touring art-book exhibition “Book Nomad” launched by Abc Art Book Fair-Art book in China and travelling through Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and ending at the abC Art Book Fair in Shanghai.


REVIEWS & PRAISES

The Art of Thai Comics: A Century of Strips and Stripes, and its Thai edition การ์ตูนไทย ศิลปะและประวัติศาสตร์, were reviewed in the Journal of Siam Society, Bangkok Post, Matichon Weekly (มติชนสุดสัปดาห์), Khaosod English and Khaosod Online (ข่าวสดออนไลน์), Nikkei Asia, Asian Review of Books, Mekong Review, International Examiner (US), Fumetto (IT), among other media outlets.

IN ENGLISH

[The Art of Thai Comics] is a masterpiece, exquisitely designed, comprehensively researched, and interestingly written!” – Dr. John A. Lent, author of Asian Comics and founder of the International Journal of Comic Art.

In the [“exceptionally well designed, comprehensive, landmark book”] The Art of Thai Comics, “Verstappen sensitively shows how cartoonists reflected the domestic situation, whether 1920s political caricatures, nation-building, militarist moralism, Cold War propaganda, devotional royal cartoons, or democratic diversity. All Thai life is here, from lore and lifestyles to business and beliefs.” – Philip Cornwel-Smith, Thai Popular Culture specialist and author of Very Thai & Very Bangkok. Full review on Bangkok 101.

The Art of Thai Comics is a superb and surprising book. It is also the work of a serious and skilled historian. The capsule biographies of the artists are a slice of social history in themselves.” – Chris Baker, co-author of A History of Thailand and recipient of the 2017 Fukuoka Prize together with Pasuk Phongpaichit. Full review on Bangkok Post.

In this lush well-researched edition, comics scholar Nicolas Verstappen illuminates a lesser known facet within the world of comics. This beautiful and important work honors the nation’s complex history as well as Thailand’s multifarious approach to comics. A must-have for any comics scholar.” – Emil Ferris, author of award-winning graphic novel My Favorite Thing is Monsters.

The Art of Thai Comics should “be listed as one of the 100 books that Thai people (and I mean people in general not just children) should read in the 21st Century.” – Piyapong Bhumichitra, founder of graphic design practice Shake & Bake Studio and co-editor of art4d magazine. Full review on art4d.

The thought and subtlety that have gone into [The Art of Thai Comics]’s visuals are matched by the author’s sheer command of his research. Verstappen never fails to note the political and social forces that impacted each phase of comic history.” – Philip Cornwel-Smith, full journal review on Journal of the Siam Society Under Royal Patronage Vol. 110, Pt. 1, 2022.

The Art of Thai Comics is both a coffee-table book with beautifully-reproduced illustrations and a meticulously researched, comprehensive survey of Thai comic history.” – Matthew Hunt, author of Thai Cinema Uncensored. Full review on Dateline Bangkok.

The evolution of Thai comics and the stories they tell show the way in which Thailand changed through the decades. Verstappen has provided a comprehensive narrative to go along with the comics published in [The Art of Thai Comics].” – Susan Blumberg-Kason, author of Good Chinese Wife. Full review on Asian Review of Books.

Beyond escapism, the supernatural or hero worship, The Art of Thai Comics does not shy away from issues of widespread rape, migrant workers, shifting gender roles, harsh village life and periods of dictatorship and censorship. As such, Verstappen’s research stands out as a major contribution to shedding light on the country as a whole.” – John Krich, author of A Fork in Asia’s Road. Full review on Nikkei Asia.

Nicolas Verstappen’s The Art of Thai Comics is an ambitious, aesthetically aware and politically astute history of comic art in Thailand. It is sweeping in focus and rigorous in research […]. The Art of Thai Comics is a rigorous work undergirded by real sensitivity to Thai art and thought.” – Benjamin Tausig, author of Bangkok is Ringing: Sound, Protest, and Constraint. Full review on Mekong Review.

The Art of Thai Comics, a handsomely-produced and colorfully-illustrated volume, offers an absorbing and fun history of a century of Thai cartooning. It would work well as a compact coffee-table book and would be equally at home in an academic library.” – Leonard Rifas, cartoonist, comics scholar and author of Korean War Comic Books. Full review on International Examiner.

Those interested in Thai popular art or even those looking for a new coffee table purchase would find [The Art of Thai Comics] invaluable.” – Asaree Thaitrakulpanich. Full review on Khaosod English.

IN THAI

คุณภาพของหนังสือ ปกแข็ง กระดาษ รูปประกอบ ที่สำคัญคือเนื้อหา […] หนังสือเล่มนี้ซึ่งเขียนขึ้นด้วยนักวิชาการและมีเอกสารอ้างอิงครบถ้วน อันเป็นเรื่องจำเป็นต้องทำอย่างยิ่ง” – Dr. Prasert Palitponganpim (นายแพทย์ประเสริฐ ผลิตผลการพิมพ์), author of 100 Years of Thai Comics (100 ปีการ์ตูนไทยฯ). Full review on Matichon Weekly (มติชนสุดสัปดาห์).

แนะนำหนังสือประวัติศาสตร์​การ์ตูนไทย​ โดยอาจารย์​นิโคลาส​ เวร์สแตปเปิน รู้ว่าเขารวบรวมและเขียนอยู่​หลายปีมาก​ ข้อมูล​แน่น​ ภาพสวย” – Prabda Yoon (ปราบดา หยุ่น), influential Thai writer, director and publisher, and recipient of the 2021 Fukuoka Prize in Arts and Culture. From Twitter.

 “[การ์ตูนไทย ศิลปะและประวัติศาสตร์ ] เป็นหนังสือที่ควรถูกลิสต์ให้เป็นหนังสือ 100 เล่มที่คนไทย (ย้ำว่าคนไทย ไม่ใช่แค่เยาวชนไทย) ควรอ่านในศตวรรษที่ 21” – Piyapong Bhumichitra (ปิยพงศ์ ภูมิจิตร). Full review on art4d

การ์ตูนไทย ศิลปะ และประวัติศาสตร์’, River Books, เล่าประวัติการ์ตูนไทยจากจุดกำเนิดถึงปัจจุบันได้มิติ ครบถ้วนที่สุดเท่าที่เคยมีใครทำ ภาพประกอบหาดูยากเต็มเล่มตื่นตาตื่นใจ” – Wongthanong Chainarongsingha (วงศ์ทนง ชัยณรงค์สิงห์ ), co-founder of a day and The Standard. From Twitter.

การศึกษาประวัติศาสตร์การเมืองและการเมืองวัฒนธรรมผ่านวัฒนธรรมการ์ตูนจึงน่าสนใจและเปิดโลกให้ผู้อ่านเห็นอะไรมากมาย” – Associate Professor Dr. Prajak Kongkirati (รศ.ดร.ประจักษ์ ก้องกีรติ), Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University. As part of his 2021 selection of 10 books on Thai history and politics, available on Decode Plus.

ผู้ที่สนใจวัฒนธรรมป๊อปของไทยหรือแม้แต่คนที่มองหาหนังสือคู่ควรกับโต๊ะกาแฟตัวใหม่จะพบว่าหนังสือเล่มนี้มีค่าจริงๆ” – Asaree Thaitrakulpanich (เอสรี ไทยตระกูลพาณิช). Full review on ข่าวสดออนไลน์.

ผลงานประวัติศาสตร์การ์ตูนไทยที่ผมคิดว่าสมบูรณ์ที่สุดเท่าที่ประเทศนี้เคยมี เนื่องจากผู้เขียนเป็น ชาวเบลเยี่ยม เป็นนักวิชาการที่สนใจศึกษาการ์ตูนจากทั่วโลก งานชิ้นนี้ถึงถ่ายทอดการ์ตูนไทยในมุมมองใหม่ๆ ด้วยออกแบบรูปเล่มและอาร์ตเวิร์กที่สวยงามมากSa-ard (สะอาด; ธนิสร์ วีระศักดิ์วงศ์), influential Thai cartoonist. As part of his 2021 selection of notable books, available on The 101.World.

อภิมหางานขุดค้น รวบรวม และเรียบเรียงที่น่าทึ่ง ปะติดปะต่อก่อร่างสร้างสรรค์ให้การ์ตูน ซึ่งเป็น genre งานเขียน / งานสร้างสรรค์ที่มักจะถูกมองข้าม ให้ผู้อ่านได้หวนกลับมาพินิจพิจารณาในหลากหลายมุมอีกครั้งNakrob Moonmanas (นักรบ มูลมานัส), acclaimed Thai illustrator. As part of his 2021 selection of notable books, available on The 101.World.

Video review Rewind the Review (see below) by ajarn Suttichart Sarapaiwanich (สุทธิชาติ ศราภัยวานิช), alternative comics pioneer.

IN ITALIAN

“[The Art of Thai Comics] è un libro importante e, per i cultori del fumetto internazionale, direi addirittura indispensabile.” – Stefano Bettini, author of Grande realtà immaginaria. Storie segrete dal multiverso dei comic. Review in Fumetto #120, December 2021.

IN FRENCH

Cinq livres de la rentrée littéraire à ne pas manquer en Thaïlande. […] En revenant sur l’histoire de la BD d’hier et d’aujourd’hui, l’auteur offre un point de vue divertissant et instructif sur l’histoire, la culture et la créativité en Thaïlande.” – Catherine Vanesse. Full review on Le Petit Journal.


ONLINE INTERVIEWS

September 2019. For ‘a day’ magazine issue 229 (The Collector), Junior 15, by Pattana Kakai & Molpasorn Shoowong, Pitch Soontharoj & MorkMork Sombuntham, in Thai.

May 2021. For Making + Doing (Design School Asia), by Graham Newman, available as a podcast, in English: The Art of Thai Comics.

July 2021, For The Cloud, by ajarn Oat Montien (โอ๊ต มณเฑียร) with photographs by Tianrasin Suwanrungsikul (เธียรสิน สุวรรณรังสิกุล), in Thai: The Art of Thai Comics.

August 2021. For a day magazine, by Ames Marukatat (เอม มฤคทัต) and with photographs by SeeSan Vadhanasingha (สรรพัชญ์ วัฒนสิงห์), in Thai: เบื้องหลัง The Art of Thai Comics หนังสือประวัติศาสตร์การ์ตูนไทยดีไซน์สนุกที่เขียนโดยคนเบลเยียม.

November 2021. For Le Petit Journal, by Catherine Vanesse, in French: La BD thaïlandaise passée au peigne fin par le Belge Nicolas Verstappen.

December 2021. For Belgian radio show Radio Grandpapier, available as a podcast, in French: L’invité : Nicolas Verstappen.

February 23, 2022. Official Book Launch at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand – FCCT, panel discussion with alternative comics pioneer Suttichart Sarapaiwanich, indie illustrator and cartoonist Namsai K., The King of Bangkok co-author Claudio Sopranzetti, and yours truly; moderated by Gwen Robinson. Video of the event to be uploaded.

April 2022. For Shanghai-based Neocha magazine, by Tomás Pinheiro, in English and Mandarin Chinese (translation by Olivia Li): A Crash Course on the History of Thai Comics.

June 2022. For Coconuts Bangkok, by Nicky Tanskul, in English: Spooky, sexy, political: Thailand’s golden age of comics fading fast.

November 2022. For Koktail Magazine issue 4, by Parisa Inns Pichitmarn, in English: Toons of History.


Copyright © 2021 River Books / Photographs © 2021 art4d magazine/Ketsiree Wongwan


ORDER INFORMATION AND PRESS CONTACT

Orders to yours truly within Thailand through my THAI COMICS BOOKSTORE (FB store; and signed copy on request) or via email at Nicolas.V[at]chula.ac.th

Press contact and orders at the publishing house RIVER BOOKS (Bangkok/London): HERE.

INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION

The Art of Thai Comics and other River Books publications are distributed in Europe and the rest of the world, except Southeast Asia and North American, by Prestel Publishing. In North America, they are distributed by ACC ART BOOKS. They are distributed by Antique Collector Club and by Peribo in Australia. In Southeast Asia, distribution is done by River Books in conjunction with Monument Books in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORES AND LIBRARIES !

My warm thanks to the supportive booksellers and bookstores RIVER BOOKS SHOP (Bangkok), HARDCOVER: The Art Book Shop (Central Embassy, Bangkok), โอเดียนสโตร์ODEON STORE (Pinklao, Bangkok), THE GALLERY SHOP (River City, Bangkok), KINOKUNIYA bookstores (Bangkok), ASIA BOOKS bookstores (Thailand), MULTI BD bookstore (Brussels, Belgium), SKYLIGHT BOOKS (L.A., USA), SECRETHQ BOOKS (PICOF/KOMIKET, The Philippines), and more…

Also available at the Thailand and ASEAN Information Center – TAIC, Chulalongkorn University, under this reference.


SPECIFICATIONS

SPECIFICATIONS (ENGLISH EDITION)

Title: The Art of Thai Comics: A Century of Strips and Stripes

Author: Nicolas Verstappen

Publisher: River Books

Editor: Sarah Rooney

ISBN: 9786164510364

Released: June 2021

Binding: Paperback / softback

Size: H 230 x W 250 mm (9.75 in x 9 in)

Pages: 288 pages

Illustrations: Over 370 color illustrations

Design: Peeraphat Kittisuwat & P. Library Design Studio

Price: USD 45 / BAHT 1495

SPECIFICATIONS (THAI EDITION)

Title: การ์ตูนไทย ศิลปะและประวัติศาสตร์

Author: นิโคลาส เวร์สแตปเปิน

Publisher: River Books

Editor: Sarah Rooney

ISBN: 9786164510531

Released: June 2021

Binding: Paperback / softback

Size: H 230 x W 250 mm (9.75 in x 9 in)

Pages: 288 pages, 370 color illustrations

Translation: Chanida Orrawattananon (ชนิดา อรวัฒนานนท์)

Design: Peeraphat Kittisuwat & P. Library Design Studio

Price: USD 45 / BAHT 1495


And, again, my warm thanks to the wonderful team who worked so hard to make this long-held dream a reality and deserves so much credit: my very patient editor Sarah Rooney [who initiated the book project]; my research kick-@ssistant ‘Bird’ Tanchanok Ruendhawil (and a special shout-out to Suttiarpa Koomkrong, Parima Tang and Mukanda Nakosiri); translator for early research and of the Thai edition ‘Nuchy’ Chanida Orrawattananon; designer Peeraphat Kittisuwat and his team at P. Library Design Studio for the stunning book design and his comics frescoes; and of course publisher Mom Rachawong Narisa Chakrabongse and all her team at River Books (ขอบคุนมากคฺรับ khun Nong Suparat & khun Fon Pioggia). – Nicolas Verstappen