When abandoned by words, muted or silenced, Comics Art allows for different strategies to represent -or allude to- ‘invisible/invisibilized’ inner wounds, health and mental issues. These -usually overlapping- meaning-making strategies include, but are not limited to, the narrative use of colors, art/line style, textures and techniques (pencils, ballpoint pen, digital paint…), graphic embodiment of the characters, space-time interplay (space as time; contiguity of various moments/spaces/panels), braiding of visual motifs and visual metaphors, panels’ sizes and shapes, page composition (segmentation, layout, negative space…), text spatialization, speech balloons’ shapes and lettering, multi-modality (text-image dynamic; anchorage/relay, intertextuality), abstraction or suggestion (closure, gap between the panels). More on ‘the interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare’, and the representation of (psychic) trauma, can be found on the website Graphic Medicine, and books such as Documenting Trauma in Comics: Traumatic Pasts, Embodied Histories, and Graphic Reportage (Palgrave Macmillan), Hillary L. Chute’s Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form (Harvard University Press), Harriet E. H. Earle’s Comics, Trauma and the New Art of War (University Press of Mississippi) and Eszter Szép’s Comics and the Body: Drawing, Reading, and Vulnerability (The Ohio State University Press) among many other publications.
Harriet E. H. ‘Earle suggests that comics are the ideal artistic representation of trauma. Because comics bridge the gap between the visual and the written, they represent such complicated narratives as loss and trauma in unique ways, particularly through the manipulation of time and experience. Comics can fold time and confront traumatic events, be they personal or shared, through a myriad of both literary and visual devices. As a result, comics can represent trauma in ways that are unavailable to other narrative and artistic forms.’
The following 17 ‘Traumics’ (comics on trauma) or Graphic Medicine narratives were produced by Thai or exchange students from various faculties (Psychology, Architectural Design, Language and Culture, Communication Design, Communication Arts, Engineering) at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, during the Covid-lockdowns in 2021 and 2022 as the final creative projects of two of my courses: Imaginative Media, a comparative course on the representation of Refugee Narratives and Psychic Trauma in various media (literature, comics, movies, tv series, dance/choreographies, paintings…), and Visual Media Studies, a ‘General Education’ course mostly dedicated to the study of Graphic Narratives and Comics Art. Both courses include the study of Psychic Trauma and its representations through a series of lessons based on the seminal works of psychiatrists François Lebigot, Louis Crocq and Sándor Ferenczi, and on my conferences on Comics as a Language of Symptoms of Psychic Trauma. All students were made aware of the challenging nature and content of the courses on the first lesson (and could choose to drop the course, or skip the triggering content/lessons); they were free to select their graphic narrative’s topic, but it had to be related to psychic trauma or any other mental/health issues, and to change their topic at any point, if the ‘graphic’ composition felt too challenging. Some stories are based on personal experiences, other are based on research by the students. In preparation of the composition of their graphic narratives, we’ve analysed pages from a dozen trauma-related short comics or graphic novels from the US, Canada, Taiwan, Vietnam, Belgium or France. Along the semester, students worked on various (constrained/experimental) comics composition assignments. During the last weeks of the semester, individual consulting sessions with yours truly were held, one to discuss the first layout and a second to improve some elements of the advanced draft of their comics. Most of the students had no prior art/comics training, and the following stories are usually their very first comics narratives. Most stories reveal the crushing weight of social pressure/conformity in Thailand (and Asia), and that -if comics studies were rightfully considered and fully integrated in the university curriculum- students would be able to produce many more sophisticated and meaningful graphic narratives on social issues and as a means of self-expression and of mindful communication.
My deepest thanks to all my students as they were always fully dedicated to the ‘unconventional’ content of my courses and to the comics assignments they were given. More comics have been produced during these two courses, but some were either redundant with the stories presented here or need some additional editing before publication. More graphic narratives should be published online soon.
These ‘graphic’ narratives contain depictions of domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment, child abuse, self-harm, suicide, eating disorders, body shaming, [cyber-] bullying, disasters/mass shootings, discrimination, nudity, offensive language, and more…
Reproduced with permission. All rights remain to the authors/artists.
I’m pleased to announce the publication, on December 2021, of the second issue 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 second issue, cover art is signed by talented artist Darnis Vimonthammawath aka Narsid, with one-page ‘loop comics’ by TUNA Dunn (in both EN and TH versions), 12-page comics by Arty Nicharee (bilingual EN/TH), 4-page ‘parallel storyline’ colour comics by Bamie Paopanlerd with Winnie Thaitrakulpanich and Best Chantharamethikun (bilingual EN/TH), 4-page silent comics by Sanprapha Vudhivorn and 2-page autobio comics by special guest Freddy Nadolny Poustochkine (in both EN and TH versions). The GAP title is designed byKhwansubhanut Banlunara. The A-5 format and 28-page zine is limited to 200 copies, with a cover price of 120 baht (3 EUR; 4 USD). Orders within Thailand: 120 baht + 20 baht for registered mail. For international orders; money transfer via ‘Wire’; delivery fee, please inquire via the FB shop page The Thai Comics Bookstore.
Dedicated post for the first issue of GAP/ช่องว่าง: click here.
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 #01 backcover and artwork by Arty Nicharee
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
Autobiographic GIF comics by student May
Autobiographic comics by student Por (with some help from Peera Tayanukorn)
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
Autobiographic comics by student G.
Autobiographic comics by student Pin
Autobiographic graphic narrative by student Paint
Autobiographic comics by student Plai
Pages from exchange student Meg Hoogendam’s digital comics book on HSP
On the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of Friendship between Belgium and Thailand, and to explore the ability of comics to tackle social and political issues with much effectiveness and immediacy, 8 students at the International Program in Communication Design (CommDe, Department of Industrial Design, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand) were asked to create 2-page comics starring the Marsupilami -an imaginary animal created by Belgian cartoonist André Franquin (for Belgian publishing house Dupuis in 1952)- and addressing the recent story of a construction company mogul charged with six poaching-related crimes (including the killing of a black Indochinese leopard/panther) in a Thai Wildlife Sanctuary. High-resolution pages are displayed at the end of this post, after an introduction to the historical context and the guest-lecture on André Franquin.
1. Historical context
The Secret Chronicles of Thungyai [Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary](in Thai: บันทึกลับจากทุ่งใหญ่) is a journal published in 1973 by a group of students against elephant hunting (and other animal poaching) in Thailand in the aftermath of the crash of a military helicopter in the Thung Yai forest revealing an illegal hunting party of senior military officers, businessmen, family members, and a filmstar. The ‘zine’ documented “the ecological value of the area as well as the incident” (The Nation, 2018), and was accompanied by satirical illustrations from various influential cartoonists (with an introduction, and two illustrations, by the “King of Thai Cartoon” Prayoon Chanyawongse; see figure above). 200,000 copies of the student journal were sold in 2 weeks (Eawsakul, 2015), fuelling nationwide public outrage. “In a time of great political unrest the incident became a focus for the prevailing discontent with the military rule” and “a rallying cry for the pro-democracy movement” (Seub/Stewart-Cox 1990:34), triggering public protest and demonstrations. “The protests were suppressed on October 14, with scores of killed, followed by a great number of students fleeing to the forest to join communist groups” (The Nation, 2018). The bloody crackdown ultimately led to the fall of the Thanom-Prapas regime. “The area finally was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1974 under a new democratic government” (Buergin, 2001).
“Premchai Karnasuta, far left, sits in the campsite where he was found with the remains of a leopard, panther and other wildlife Monday in the Thungyai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Kanchanaburi province” (Photo: khaosodenglish.com).
“Authorities found two rifles, a double-barrelled shotgun, various bullets, the body of a Kalij pheasant, a muntiacini deer carcass, a skinned and salted black leopard and a black panther skull in the camp” (Photo: khaosodenglish.com)
44 years later (on February 5, 2018) in the same Wildlife Sanctuary, construction company mogul Premchai Karnasuta -the 63-year-old president of Italian-Thai Development- and three other men were charged with six poaching-related crimes after they were caught with “two rifles, a double-barrelled shotgun, various bullets, the body of a Kalij pheasant, a muntiacini deer carcass, a skinned and salted black leopard and a black panther skull”. (Thaitrakulpanich, Khaosod English, 2018a). “Investigators examining Premchai’s camp site found cooking equipment they believe the rotund CEO used to consume the animal. The black leopard, commonly called a black panther in Asia and considered a vulnerable species, was killed by gunfire” (Thaitrakulpanich, Khaosod English, 2018b). Mr Premchai and other suspects still deny the charges against them, which include illegal hunting and possessing firearms in a sanctuary.” A ranger and his coworkers have told police that the powerful construction magnate they arrested on suspicion of poaching a rare black panther tried to bribe them” (Thaitrakulpanich, Khaosod English, 2018c). “The case has sparked a fierce outcry from environmental groups, celebrities and the public in general” (Bangkok Post, 2018). “As people following the case have shown dissatisfaction with the slow pace of the investigation, many have expressed their feelings regarding the case, and the hunting of endangered big cats in general, in many ways.” A campaign calling for the prosecution of a construction tycoon over “his alleged killing of a black leopard and other protected animals has expanded, with people expressing their grief and anger in essays, poems, paintings and, in the latest development, street art” (Chimprabha, The Nation, 2018). It was just about time to address the issue in #ArtOfThePanther comics form…
(Note: sources at the end of this post).
#Artofthepanther by Thai cartoonist Puck
#Artofthepanther by Thai cartoonist Tumz Horriziny.
Art by Thai cartoonist Puck
#Artofthepanther by Thai cartoonist Puck
Alex Face’s “artwork depicted the artist’s famous graffiti character Mardi wearing a black-leopard costume and a mask with a Pinocchio nose” (Marisa Chimprabha, The Nation).
#Artofthepanther by Thai artist Zing.
2. “From Harvey Kurtzman to André Franquin” guest lecture
Contextualizing Harvey Kurtzman and Bernie Krigstein’s stories, and MAD magazine.
Analysis of Harvey Kurtzman’s classic Korean War story “The Big ‘IF’!”.
Contextualizing Jijé, André Franquin and René Goscinny’s milestones, and “Spirou” and “Pilote” magazines.
E.C. Segar’s character Eugene the Jeep (that Marsupilami creator André Franquin liked as a child).
The lecture also included an analysis of the comics masterpiece Master Race by (Al Feldstein &) Bernie Krigstein (Impact #1, EC Comics, April 1955), and a presentation of the seminal role of French comics writer René Goscinny (The Adventures of Asterix) and Belgian cartoonist Jijé (figurehead of the Marcinelle School, author of seminal semi-realistic comics series Jerry Spring and mentor of André Franquin, Smurfs‘creator Peyo, or Jean Giraud/Moebius) in the development of humour, realism, and more adult content in Franco-Belgian comics (influenced partly by American cartoonists such as Harvey Kurtzman and Milton Caniff).
Original artwork (detail) and panel from “Spirou: Les Petits Formats” by André Franquin (and Roba), Dupuis, 1960.
Influence of the Atom Style on the Marsupilami’s tail (and other designs in comics from the “Marcinelles School”).
Belgian cartoonist Hergé, creator of the Adventures of Tintin, stated: “Franquin is a great artist. Next to him, I’m only a mediocre pen-pusher”. Fantagraphics’ Kim Thompson agreed with Tintin’s creator, writing that “in terms of ultra-classic greatness, Hergé has that abstract line but Franquin has something else. He created the most complete, the most alive, the most absolute cartooniness in comics history” (source: The Comics Journal).
Cover of the upcoming English translation of André Franquin’s classic “Les Idées Noires” (under the title “Die Laughing”, from Fantagraphics).
On 31 January 1952, the first appearance of the Marsupilami in the adventure of Spirou et les Héritiers (Spirou and the Heirs) in the weekly Spirou magazine marked a generation of readers. The myth did not need decades to settle permanently (MarsuPro). The original Marsupilami was found from the jungle of Palombia, a fictitious South American country, by adventurous journalists Spirou and Fantasio and their squirrel Spip. The marsupial was taken to Belgium, where he was shortly kept in a zoo (Comic Vine). The Marsupilami will later accompany Spirou and Fantasio in many adventures, before returning to Palombia and have adventures of its own. The Spirou et Fantasioalbum Le nid des Marsupilamis (1956) is mostly concerned with female reporter Seccotine‘sdocumentary-within-the-comic about the life of a family of Marsupilamis still living in the wild in Palombia. Marsupilamis have a long, strong, flexible, prehensile tail, used for almost any task. They are able to use their tail as a weapon, by tightening the end into a fist and the remainder of the tail into a spring-like spiral for maximal force (see figure above). Marsupilamis must regularly defend themselves against poacher Bring M. Backalive and his associates…
Tribute to André Franquin by Belgian cartoonist René Follet. With Spirou, Fantasio, and the Marsupilami.
Pages from “Spirou et les héritiers” (“Spirou and the Heirs”) by André Franquin, serialized in “Le Journal de Spirou” (Dupuis) in 1952. Set in Palombia, a fictional South American country, and introducing the Marsupilami character for the first time.
Original artwork (half-page) for a “Gaston Lagaffe” strip by André Franquin.
Original artwork for “Les Idées Noires” (“Die Laughing”) by André Franquin.
Marsupilami tribute by René Hausmann, and screenshot from the Marsupilami live action movie.
Cover of “Spirou and Fantasion: The Marsupilami Thieves” available in English from Cinebook.
Cover of “The Marsupilami #01: The Marsupilami’s Tail” available in English from Cinebook.
3. Presenting 1940s-1970s issues of Spirou magazine
After the lecture, CommDe students had the opportunity to flip through a collection of 1940s-1970s classic and rare issues of the Franco-Belgian Spiroumagazine (with Spirou/Marsupilami pages by André Franquin, Jerry Springpages by Jijé, Johan and Peewit pages by Smurfs creator Peyo, etc.), and issues of the Spirou magazine mythic supplement Le Trombone Illustré. I would like to thank warmly Philippe Capart, owner of the bookstore La Crypte Tonique in Brussels, who helped me to select and acquire the issues of this invaluable collection used for my comics courses in Thailand.
CommDe students flipping through 1940s-1970s issues of the “Spirou” magazine (with some Spirou/Marsupilami stories, Jijé’s Jerry Pring pages, and “Le Trombone Illustré” supplement).
CommDe students flipping through 1940s-1970s issues of the “Spirou” magazine (with some Spirou/Marsupilami stories, Jijé’s Jerry Pring pages, and “Le Trombone Illustré” supplement).
Yours truly showing anti-Japanese propaganda in a Superman page published in an issue of the British “Overseas Comics” (issued during WWII, only to members of the Allied Armed Forces by arrangement with the War Office). And “DNA-tracking” the influence of American cartoonist Milton Caniff’s chiaroscuro and realistic style on Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese (then Frank Miller’ Sin City), Belgian cartoonist Jijé (1914-1980; then Jean Giraud/Moebius), and American cartoonists Harvey Kurtzman and Wally Wood…
Students were given one week to develop the layouts of their Marsupilami and the Black Panther two-page comics. During the following lesson, ajarn Oat Montien -with the assistance of yours truly- gave comment and advice on the comics layouts (see figures below).
Marsupilami sketch by CommDe student Arty.
Marsupilami comics layouts by CommDe student Darnis.
Marsupilami comics layouts by CommDe student Zam (and commented by ajarn Oat Montien).
Marsupilami comics layouts by CommDe student Proud.
Ajarn Oat Montien supervising the layout composition of the Marsupilami comics developed by CommDe students.
4. “Marsupilami and the Black Panther” tribute comics
One week after presenting their layouts, the 8 students of the Visual Narrative courses submitted the final version of their comics! Enjoy!
Bangkok Post (2018, March 7). Black leopard soup confirmed in poaching case. Bangkok Post.
Buergin, R. (2001). Contested Heritages: Disputes on People, Forests, and a World Heritage Site in Globalizing Thailand, SEFUT Working Paper No. 9, University of Freiburg, p.5.
Chimprabha, M. (2018, March 8). Art breathes life into black leopard campaign – despite repeated attempts at suppression. The Nation.
Eawsakul, T. (2015), Cartoon Thai Tai Laew (catalogue expo, “การ์ตูนไทยตายแล้ว”, “Is Thai Cartoon Dead?”). Bangkok: PUBAT, The Publishers and Booksellers Association of Thailand, n.p.
Seub N., Stewart-Cox, B. (1990). Nomination of the Thung Yai – Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary to be a U.N.E.S.C.O. World Heritage Site. Bangkok: Royal Forest Department.
Thaitrakulpanich, A. (2018a, Feb 6). Italian-Thai President Charged with Poaching Wild Animals. Khaosod English.
Thaitrakulpanich, A. (2018b, Feb 8). Rangers: Premchai ate the Leopard in a Soup. Khaosod English.
Thaitrakulpanich, A. (2018c, Feb 8). Forest Ranger: Poacher Premchai Offered Bribe. Khaosod English.
The Nation (2018, Feb 7). Hunting arrests recall events leading to 1973 uprising crisis. The Nation.
“More good stuff from [Bangkok], thanks for sharing!” Nick Sousanis (February 9, 2018), assistant professor of Humanities & Liberal Studies at San Francisco State University. He received his doctorate in education at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2014, where he wrote and drew his dissertation entirely in comic book form. Titled Unflattening, it argues for the importance of visual thinking in teaching and learning, and was published by Harvard University Press in 2015.
January 2018. Fifty (1st year) Thai students at the International Program in Communication Design (CommDe, Department of Industrial Design, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University) received 2 pages displaying 7 scattered panels (with erased text) taken from various pages of the graphic novel Big Questions by American cartoonist Anders Nilsen. Within 90 minutes, they had to produce additional panels (if necessary) -and add dialogues- in order to bridge the imposed panels and weave a cohesive and convincing graphic narrative. Following brief comments provided on their comprehensive layouts, students finalized the artwork at home. See below for 20+ of their #BiggerQuestions constrained comics.
Inspired by on a constrained comics exercise used atPierre Feuille Ciseaux international comics residency-lab.
CommDe students working on a “exercise in style”… with style!
CommDe student bridging the gaps between Anders Nilsen’s incomplete and scattered panels.
CommDe students bridging the gaps between Anders Nilsen’s incomplete and scattered panels.
Fifty CommDe students bridging the gaps between Anders Nilsen’s incomplete and scattered panels.
“Nailed” is a silent graphic narrative by Thai student Rattanakorn (Mim) for the IMGT COMM course (2800217), November 2016. In response to a video (see below) where a young child is the victim of a cruel joke perpetrated by adults, her comics captures how the child’s inner world is shattered by the traumatic psychological abuse and how it will affect his late life.
Description of the Imaginative Communication course: “Methods of conversing emotions, feelings, ideas, values, beliefs and meaning of life through the languages of the imaginative world in the form of poetry, music and songs, literature, drama, film or other creative works of Thai and foreign artists; relationship between science and art of communications; media design for imaginative works; analysis of images and narratives.” Thissemester’s theme: “Psychic Trauma; To Say the Unutterable”. Communication Management, International Program, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University.