Ongoing Research: Jamnong Rodari [จำนงค์ รอดอริ], the forgotten Siamese comics master

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“Raden Lundai” [ระเด่นลันได] tier by Siamese artist Jamnong Rodari [จำนงค์ รอดอริ] , c. late 1932

Kingdom of Siam, 1932. If the pre-1960s Thai Comics production is a lost continent, some artists -such as Prayoon Chanyawongse, Sawas Jutharop or Hem Vejakorn– are well-known from local aficionados. To the best of my knowledge and in the literature I’ve been able to access over the past 5 years, only two lines are mentioning Jamnong Rodari (จำนงค์ รอดอริ; brother of best-known illustrator Fuen Rodari), hailed as one of the greatest cartoonists of the 1930s. Not much more on his art; I only saw a fragment of a comics strip at the National Library of Thailand, and two series of beautiful book illustrations. So I was thrilled to get my hands on a collection of comic strips cut from 1932 Siamese newspapers [miraculously unearthed in an attic], and discover his stunning long-form comics which are said to have influenced prominent cartoonists of the late 1930s. Here are two excerpts. First is the upper-tier of his 48(?)-page comics adaptation of then-famous play Raden Lundai; or the Pauper Prince (ระเด่นลันได; a parody of the classic “Inao” play), with additional captions in Klon-16 versification below the panels, probably from late 1932 [there’s an ad for Chaplin’s 1931 City Lights at the back, and American films were usually screened in Siam one year after the US release]. Character design and gestures might be informed by the traditional Nang Talung (หนังตะลุง) shadow puppetry [as was suggested to me by my kick-@ssistant Bird]. Second excerpt [which I edited as I wanted to show the three-panel dance sequence which is allocated over two tiers in the original] is even more interesting as it unveils an example of realist-art long-form comics seven years before Hem Vejakorn’s Sri Thanonchai. Also unusual; the story is set in contemporary Siam -and is a “migrant” narrative- under the title KatunNaiBoPhachoenChok (การ์ตูนนายโบ้เผชิญโชค; The Comics of Mr. Bo who seeks his fortune [in Bangkok]). Drawn in late 1932 [as the newspaper banner was not cut from the first comics installment]. It appears that these two comic strips series -with two different styles and genres- were drawn by Jamnong Rodari in late 1932 or early 1933.

One question is left unanswered. Why was Jamnong Rodari forgotten from Thai Comics History while being hailed as “one of the greatest Siamese cartoonists.” I would venture that, unlike contemporary artists such as Sawas Jutharop and slightly later Prayoon Chanyawongse, Jamnong Rodari didn’t collect his serialized stories in comic book format. Sawas and Prayoon’s comic strips collections are known, and might have helped their names and works to be remembered in the following decades. No trace, so far, of any collected works of Jamnong. Might be a lead. [EDIT: a collection of Raden Lundai was recently sold on internet, so at least one collection of newspaper strips in comic book format was released]. Nicolas Verstappen

PS: These are not my favorite excerpts from the series; the most stunning pieces will come later, in another format [if current COVID-crisis doesn’t shatter this research project].

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“KatunNaiBoPhachoenChok” [การ์ตูนนายโบ้เผชิญโชค] edited tier by Siamese artist Jamnong Rodari [จำนงค์ รอดอริ] , late 1932. Two opium traffickers want to take revenge on Mr. Bo who lost their opium load by accident. As Mr. Bo is in a dance club, they approach him by dancing together but Mr. Bo is saved by the club dancer in a bold move.

#MeanwhileHereComics #การ์ตูนที่นี่ Challenge

As an individual assignment for the “Creative Writing Section 11 [Experimental & Fiction Comics Composition]” (International Program, Faculty of Communications Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand), students 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. Some of our students’ comics are displayed below in this post. More will be added soon.

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First page (out of six) of the short comics Here by Richard McGuire, published in RAW Volume 2 #1, USA, 1989. Full story… here.

The graphic narratives produced by my Thai [and exchange] students were inventive and striking, as some explored not only the COVID-19 crisis but addressed social and political issues in a straightforward way, revealing Thailand’s traumatic decades made of military coups and bloody crackdowns. I guess the assignment came timely, capturing the frustrations of a new generation of young adults, revealing visually the overburduning and endless cycle of coups and sociopolitical struggles. With my students and with Richard McGuire’s approval, we decided to set the assignment as a challenge and invite everyone to take part, as we believe that in these times of self-isolation, it might be interesting to widen the limited and constrained space we now inhabit by exploring it through time.

“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)


OPEN-ACCESS LAYOUT

So here’s the layout that you are free to use [click on the image for larger version], and please add the hashtags #MeanwhileHereComics and/or #การ์ตูนที่นี่ (‘KatunTiNee’ which means “Here Comics” in Thai language) so that we can follow your artworks online.Thank you in advance for joining!Meanwhile Here Template


“Time, as cut into minute sausage slices and laid out on the [comics] page in an array from which larger connections and patterns may be sensed, is the cartoonist’s ‘paint’ or ‘clay.’ […] Trying to communicate the hugely incomprehensible yet indescriptibly fine texture of life in little reconstructions sort of mirrors the way we remember it… Really, when one come right down to it, in the end, that’s all we have: our memories!” (Chris Ware, in: Why I Love Comics. The New York Times , 2015)


OUR STUDENTS’ COMICS

#MeanwhileHereComics pages by students of the “Creative Writing Section 11 [Experimental and Fiction Comics Composition]” course. More will be added soon. In the captions below some pages, I’ve introduced links to some local/Thai events referred to in the graphic narratives. PS: I’m proud of my students’ hard and meaningful works. #ProudAjarn

Meanwhile Here by Jib
Click on page for larger size. Panel 1 [1932]: Siamese Revolution leading from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. Panel 2 [1976]: Student protests and Thamassat University Massacre. Panel 3 [2006]: 2006 Coup d’Etat. Panel 4 [2014]: 2014 Coup d’Etat (and Red/Yellow Shirts conflict). Panel 5 [2030 & 3,000 Years Ago]: reference to 2020 news on the Government giving up part of prehistoric cave painting site for mining. Panel 5 [2020]: ongoing University Students Protests for a fairer democratic system.
Meanwhile Here by Mind
Click on page for larger size. Panel 3 [2019]: waves of harmful [Particulate Matter] PM 2.5 levels in the air.
Meanwhile Here by Palmmy
Click on page for larger size. Panel 1 [1934]: tree growing two after the Siamese Revolution leading from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one. Panel 2 [1976]: reference to the [graphic] photograph of Pulitzer Prize winner Neal Ulevich showing a junta supporter striking the lynched body of a student with a foldable chair in front of a cheering crowd, during the Thamassat University Massacre. Panels 3 and 5 [1976]: reference to the same photograph (lynched student). Panel 5 [2020]: ongoing University Students Protests for a fairer democratic system, with students making the “three-finger [Hunger Games] salute” in a sign of defiance against military rule. Panel 6 [2020]: COVID-19…
Meanwhile Here by Pim
Click on page for larger size. Panel 1 [2012]: reference to the Democracy Monument which commemorates the 1932 Siamese Revolution. Panel 4 [2020]: COVID-19…
Meanwhile Here by Proud
Click on page for larger size. Panel 4 [2020]: COVID-19…


COMPOSITION PROCESS

As these “constrained comics” & concept are quite challenging, composition was achieved over a couple of weeks, and with the submission of several drafts commented by yours truly… via the Line app due to current COVID-19 crisis. If you want to spot the differences, and see how every minute detail [from color to fonts or encapsulation] matters in comics composition where “each element is thus: one with everything” (Nick Sousanis in: Unflattening, comics dissertation published by Harvard University Press, 2015).

MIND HERE PROCESS
Click on picture for larger size.

Guest Talk with French Cartoonist Freddy Nadolny Poustochkine

February 03, 2020. An honour and a delight to welcome our first guest of the semester for the “Graphic Non-Fiction” (autobio/documentary comics) course at the Faculty of Communication Arts (Chulalongkorn University): French cartoonist Freddy Nadolny Poustochkine! 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. After an intro -by yours truly- on the interplay of Time & Space in comics 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. Three challenging but captivating hours! Merci Freddy!

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French cartoonist Freddy Nadolny Poustochkine with the students of the International Program in Communication Management, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University.
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Guest talk with French cartoonist Freddy Nadolny Poustochkine

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“Thai Consent”, guest talk & traumics composition

Bangkok, 11 February 2020. This semester for the “Imaginative Media: [How to Tell the Unutterable]” course at the Faculty of Communication Arts (Chulalongkorn University), our distinguished guest is khun Nana Wipaphan Wongsawang, founder of the Thai Consent platform which aims at providing [testimonial and illustrated] references for victims of sexual abuse who need useful materials to understand themselves better. An inspiring & challenging talk on the critical issues of sexual abuse, rape culture, consent and representation. After studying the mechanisms of Psychic Trauma and its depictions in tv series, movies, choreographies or graphic novels, our students will compose trauma-related short comics [or #Traumics] on sexual abuse, and will present them to khun Nana in a month. Later, students will also propose various [innovative] campaign ideas to promote & support the Thai Consent platform.
Also on FaceBook: Thai Consent
Thank you/merci/khopkhunkhrap khun Nana!

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Khun Nana Wipaphan Wongsawang, founder of the Thai Consent platform, with the students of the International Program in Communication Management, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Khun Nana Wipaphan Wongsawang, founder of the Thai Consent platform, discussing issues of representation.

#ToSomeExtentChallenge

#ToSomeExtentChallenge: in-class creative assignment (“Introduction to Communication” course), at the International Program in Communication Design (CommDe, Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand) on Monday 13, 2020; the 46 fresh.wo.men were asked to create -in teams of 2 or 3 participants- a graphic narrative within an imposed L-shaped layout, and to consider the spatialization of the narrative elements. Duration: 60′.

The constrained comics exercise was developed for the first “student” edition of the international comics residency-lab at Pierre Feuille Ciseaux on January 2019. The L-shaped layout is based on two comic strips dating from 1895 & 1905 (see below) found on the website Töpfferiana.


Idylle Lucy L-shape
Inspiration: two comic strips dating from 1895 & 1905 (see below) found on the website Töpfferiana.

CommDe fresh.wo.men @ work!


YL 3

YL 7

YL 2

YL 4

YL 6

YL 5

YL 1


And if you want to play with us, here are the 4 different layouts (with 4 or 5 panels).

Click on the layouts for larger sizes:

To Some Extent 4b

To Some Extent 4a

To Some Extent 5bTo Some Extent 5a

Polyptych Workshop in Taiwan (Sept 2019)

It was a challenging but wonderful 4-hour workshop on “Polyptych Constrained Comics” in Taipei with amazing Taiwanese and Malaysian cartoonists on Sunday, 22 September 2019. They did great on one of the most complex comics structure [where narrative sequences unfold on a continuous background]. It was such a pleasure to work and share with these talented folks! Thank you all for participating, Huang Pei-Shan and Slowork Publishing for the invitation, Carole Wenyao for translating, and ASW Tea House for hosting!

Workshop 05

Workshop 01

#UltraVioletChallenge – Part 2

The inaugural post explaining the constraints of the #UltraVioletChallenge exercise is available HERE.

For this post, I wanted to display results by students who never pursued any drawing formation. The 3rd and 4th Year Performing Arts students of my “Imaginative Media” course accepted the challenge, and the results are again interesting and varied… and fun!

#UltraVioletChallenge: “Making Sense of Signs (and Fragments)” in-class creative assignment (“Imaginative Media” course, Thai Program, Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University); create a figurative comics based on an imposed abstract comics (duration: 90′). Based on a constrained comics exercise used at Pierre Feuille Ciseaux international comics residency-lab.

 

Imposed abstract comics page #UltraVioletChallenge
Imposed abstract comics page #UltraVioletChallenge
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Day and Prang.
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Mean and Save.
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Mui, Kitty and Dome.
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Kay and Mew.
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Gene and Yongyong.
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#UltraVioletChallenge by Performing Arts students Coon, Earth and June.