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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A Refugee’s Journey: Adapting Nick Sousanis’ “Grid and Gestures”

During the second lesson of the “Imaginative Communication” course [a Comparative Media course in which we explore the theme “To Say the Unutterable” by analyzing and comparing the depiction of Psychic Trauma in various visual media, from comics to animated & live-action movies, tv series or choreographies], I asked my Thai & exchange students at the Faculty of Communication Arts (Chulalongkorn University) to do the “Grid and Gestures” exercise developed by Nick Sousanis, professor of Humanities & Liberal Studies at San Francisco State University, and author of the groundbreaking comics dissertation Unflattening published by Harvard University Press in 2015.

[Course: Imgt Comm, 2800217, International Program, CommArts, Chulalongkorn University, 20 January 2020, with 35 students]

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Above and below: CommArts students at work on the “Grid and Gestures” exercise

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The purpose statement for the exercise provided by Nick Sousanis is as follows:

 “So here’s how to think about Grids & Gestures. Quickly, have a look at your ceiling tiles or other grid-ish things around you. If you then imagine putting these features to music, you might have regular long notes on the tiles, some shorter notes, and maybe rapid staccato beats on a ventilation grill. Ok, now come back to a comics page – and think about the idea that in comics, time is written in space. Comics are static – and it’s in the way we organize the space that we can convey movement and the passage of time. Unlike storyboards, to which comics are frequently compared, in comics we care not only about what goes on in the frame, but we care about the size of the panel, its shape, orientation, what it’s next to, what it’s not, and its overall location within the page composition. The way you orchestrate these elements on the page is significant to the meaning conveyed – there are some strong correspondences between comics and architecture in terms of thinking about the way the entire space operates together.

Having briefly thought about this, I want you to take a single sheet of paper (any size, shape will do) and drawing with a pencil or pen, carve it up in some grid-esque fashion that represents the shape of your day. It can be this day, a recent day, a memorable day, or a typical/amalgamation day. And then inhabit these spaces you’ve drawn on the page with lines, marks, or gestures that represent your activity or emotional state during those times represented. The emphasis here is to do your best to not draw things. (You can always do that later!) And also, you can leave space blank on your page – but that has to mean something. This isn’t writing where you can finish a final sentence mid-page. Every inch of the composition is important in comics – so be aware of that as well. Finally, when I do this in class or with groups, I give people about 5-10 minutes to do it, so they have to make decisions quickly. Try to give yourself a similar limit.”

Nick Sousanis (excerpted from this page)

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Above: CommArts student at work on the “Grid and Gestures” exercise

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“Grid and Gestures” by Thai student Nanz. Description: “(1) I wake up late so I started the page with the cloud shape which refers to my dream. Then I have to hurry to take a shower and prepare myself to go to the University. I go to university by BTS [skytrain] and the station is crowded. When I arrive at the station near the campus, I notice that the sky is gloomy. (2) Suddenly, it starts raining. I’m stuck at the station and I’m worried I’ll be late in class. Moreover, I’m hungry since I forgot to eat something this morning. I have to figure out the way to reach my Faculty on time. I try to book a Grab taxi but there is no response. I have to walk under the rain to try to catch a taxi. (3) Finally, I reach the Faculty and I’m in class on time. When the course is finished, I come back home and take a shower. Before going to bed, I watch a movie on Netflix. Then I go to sleep. :)”


Adapting the exercise to depict a refugee’s journey

After this first exercise was completed, I asked the students to draw a second “Grids and Gestures” page but, instead of depicting a personal day/travel/experience, they had to draw the perilous travel of Syrian refugee Rania Mustafa Ali, 20, who had filmed her journey from the ruins of Kobane in Syria to Austria.

“Her footage shows what many refugees face on their perilous journey to Europe. Rania is cheated by smugglers, teargassed and beaten at the Macedonian border. She risks drowning in the Mediterranean, travelling in a boat meant to hold 15 people but stuffed with over 50. Those with disabilities are carried across raging rivers and muddy fields in their wheelchairs.” (The Guardian).

During the 22′ footage, some students drew the “Grids and Gestures” of Rania as her narrative was unfolding while other students preferred to take some notes and draw Rania’s grid right after the end of the film.

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Students watching, drawing and/or taking notes during the projection of Rania’s footage.
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Student Paar drawing Rania’s “Grid and Gestures” during the projection.
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Student drawing Rania’s “Grid and Gestures” during the projection.

The outcome has been positive as students focused [more than usual] their attention on the emotions and struggles experienced by the refugees, trying to capture Rania’s emotional states, and discovering -as they were drawing on a limited space- the physicality and volume of incessant ups-and-downs (hopeful/hopeless…) and turns of events (wait/treks/dead ends/returns) faced during these precarious and usually dramatic odysseys. I’ll try to find time to study the results of this experiment in detail, and see if it tends to raise awareness/mindfulness (Sati/สติ) and empathy towards refugees. A promising exercise.


Here are some of the “grids and gestures” depicting the journey of Syrian refugee Rania Mustafa Ali and composed by CommArts students:

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Ranias’s journey by Thai student Nanz.
Palmmy 02
Ranias’s journey by Thai student Palmmy.
Rika 02
Ranias’s journey by Japanese student Rika.
Paar 02
Ranias’s journey by Thai student Paar.
Meg 02
Ranias’s journey by Dutch exchange student Meg.
Por 02
Ranias’s journey by Thai student Por.
Ink 02

Ranias’s journey by Thai student Ink.
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Ranias’s journey by Japanese exchange student Pure.

 

“No Escape” by Patrick McEown, CAN, 1999

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“No Escape” by Patrick McEown. Click on pic for full size. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown


No Escape by Patrick McEown (CAN), in: Dave Cooper’s Weasel #1, Fantagraphics Books, US, August 1999.

©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown

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Excerpt of a 10-page non-linear/loop/polyptych comics. Pages 4, 5 and 6 of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. Arrows not in the original. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown

To read the story in diaporama:

 

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To read the story in a full-size continuous polyptych, click on the picture below:

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“No Escape” by Patrick McEown. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown

By two pages:

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Pages 1 & 2 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 3 & 4 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 5 & 6 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 7 & 8 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown
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Pages 9 & 10 (out of 10) of Patrick McEown’s No Escape. ©1999 Fantagraphics/McEown

“Glenn Ganges in: ‘Time Travelling'” by Kevin Huizenga, US, 2006


Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga (US), in GANGES #1, Fantagraphics Books, USA, 2006. More on Kevin Huizenga’s website (over here) and blog (over there).

Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga

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Page 1/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 2/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 3/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 4/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga
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Page 5/5 of Glenn Ganges in: “Time Travelling” by Kevin Huizenga. Copyright ©2006 Fantagraphics/Huizenga

The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012


The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin (aka Mathieu Baillif, CH), in SplendeuRs et MisèRes du VeRbe, L’Association, France, 2012. More on Ibn al Rabin over here.

Copyright ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin

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Page 1/6 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin
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Pages 2 & 3 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin
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Pages 4 & 5 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin
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Page 6/6 of The Prophetic Word (“Le Verbe Prophétique”) by Ibn al Rabin, CH, 2012. ©2012 L’Association/Ibn al Rabin