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Call it the Streisand Effect, Singapore-style: Sonny Liew’s graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye has sold out at bookstores across Singapore after the National Arts Council pulled its funding from the book at the last minute, citing “sensitive content.”
The book had an initial press run of 1,000 copies, and all 500 of the copies allotted to Books Kinokuniya Singapore are gone. Other bookstores also report a run on the book, and the publisher has no more copies in the warehouse; a second printing is planned. Publisher Edmund Wee of Epigram Books attributed the sellout to a combination of the controversy and Liew’s popularity. To give an idea of the scale of graphic novel sales in Singapore, a typical Epigram book sells about 500 copies a year.
Since a Xeric Foundation grant back in 2002 first allowed him to self-publish, comics creator Sonny Liew has created a series of stories starring Atari and Oliver, two street urchins who steal bicycles, watch giant robot movies and get into trouble in a futuristic city filled with robots. The stories have appeared in various comics and anthologies over the years, and this August Image Comics will collect them into one volume titled Malinky Robot.
Liew, whose body of work includes the Vertigo series My Faith in Frankie and Minx book Re-Gifters with writer Mike Carey, Marvel’s Sense and Sensibility adaptation with writer Nancy Butler, and SLG’s Wonderland with writer Tommy Kovac, shared some details on the new collection with me via the magic of email. Based in Singapore, Liew is also working on a few new projects, as he shares below.
JK: What stories are included in the new collection and where did they originally appear?
Sonny: The collection begins with “Stinky Fish Blues,” which was first conceived in David Mazzucchelli’s Graphic Storytelling class at the Rhode Island School of Design. Xeroxed copies of the story ended up in a couple of comic stores in the Boston area, before a Xeric grant allowed to me to try my hand at self-publishing. Later on a colored version appeared in Liquid City vol 1. “Bicycle” was originally released as a one-shot from SLG Comics, and the other stories, “Dead Soul’s Day Out,” “New Year’s Day” and “Karakuri” appeared in various editions of the Flight anthologies edited by Kazu Kibuishi.