DELAY: A Comics Anthology

Update (24 May): Round 1 results are out and shortlisted creators have been notified.

LOOMING MILESTONES, AND MISSED CONNECTIONS.
RESISTING MAINSTREAM EXPECTATIONS, AND DOING LIFE AT YOUR OWN PACE.
A BOOK OVERDUE, A POSTPONED RENDEZVOUS.
A SINGLE MOMENT, SUSPENDED AND SEPARATED.

WHAT DOES DELAY MEAN TO YOU?
SEND US YOUR STORIES NOW.

Difference Engine invites writers and illustrators to submit story pitches to our comics anthology, which will be published in 2025! DELAY: A Comics Anthology is an initiative to develop and showcase the talents of local and regional creators. Coming on board as guest editors are Charis Loke and Paolo Chikiamco, both veterans in the Southeast Asian comics industry.

We’re looking for comics that:

  • Are original fiction of any genre in the theme of “delay”.
  • Are inspired by Southeast Asia.
  • Can potentially be developed into a finished comic of 10–20 pages.
  • Are in black & white.
  • Are written in the English language. Where integral to the story, the use of non-English languages in dialogue or as sound effects is welcome.

Creators must be:

  • Living in Southeast Asia.
  • Of Asian descent.
  • Aged 18 and above upon submission.

There will be two rounds of selection: Round 1 (Call for Submissions) and Round 2 (Final Selection for Publication).

Stories selected for publication will receive a page rate of US$30.

Submission Guidelines: Round 1 (Call for Submissions)

Submissions must include:

  • A written story pitch (500-800 words) outlining the plot, including the ending, typed in Arial, font size 11, single-spaced.
  • One page of thumbnails or one page of concept sketches of characters/settings.
  • A portfolio sample of three illustrations. 
  • A short biography of each creator (50-100 words).
  • A completed and signed entry form.
  • All of the above needs to be compiled into a single PDF file no more than 10MB.
  • Label the PDF file with the title of the story.
  • Email the file to submissions@differenceengine.sg with the subject header “DELAY Submission: [title of the story]”.
  • All submissions must be in soft copy. Difference Engine will not accept any hard copy submissions.

The deadline for Round 1 (Call for Submissions) is 26 April 2024, 11.59pm GMT +8.

For more details, read our rules and regulations at the bottom of this webpage, or download the PDF (they’re the same!).


DOWNLOAD

Entry Form (PDF) / Entry Form (Word Doc)

Rules and Regulations (updated 29 Feb 2024)


OUR GUEST EDITORS

Photo: Goh Choon Ean

Charis Loke

Charis Loke has been found drawing book covers, fantasy maps, board games, street protests, in the jungle, on a boat, and by a glacier. As an editor and curator, she’s worked with close to a hundred Southeast Asian comic creators and artists, including co-editing SOUND: A Comics Anthology, published by Difference Engine. She’s illustrated for Netflix, Orbit, Macmillan, Subterranean Press, and Mekong Review, among others, and has an MA in Visual Sociology with an interest in mapping as arts research.

“I’m excited for stories that use relationships between text and visuals to craft specific sensations of time on the page. Make us feel! Make us wonder! Make us see the world differently, without being didactic about it.”

Paolo Chikiamco

Paolo Chikiamco, from the Philippines, is a writer of prose, comics, and interactive fiction. His prose has been published in anthologies such as The Sea is Ours and The Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction, and his interactive wrestling novel Slammed! was released by Choice of Games. As an editor, he put together Alternative Alamat, an anthology of stories that reimagine Philippine myth and folklore. As a comics writer, he has co-created titles such as Mythspace, Muros, and A Sparrow’s Roar, and has been a Category Judge for the Graphic Literature category of the Philippine National Book Awards.

“I’d like to see stories that are comics stories first and foremost, submissions that are created with an eye to the strengths and capabilities of comics as a medium, with modes of expression that simply wouldn’t work anywhere else.

On a similar note, I’d like to see Southeast Asian stories that revel in that identity, where creators don’t feel a need to over-contextualise or simplify for a hypothetical “global” audience. DE is proudly Southeast Asian, this anthology is proudly Southeast Asian, and we want your stories to be as well.”

OPEN CALL INFO SESSIONS

Interested in submitting but need more details first? Join the editors for a virtual info session! Facilitated by the DE team, the sessions will cover the following, and more:

  • Introductions to Difference Engine, the DE team, and the anthology’s editors.
  • What the theme DELAY means to us, and inspiration for potential stories.
  • Insight into the editorial process contributors can look forward to.
  • Tips on preparing a compelling and comprehensive submission.
  • Q&A.

Who knows, you might even find a potential collaborator amongst your fellow attendees!

Both sessions will cover similar content. However, the Q&A segment will vary based on the questions raised by attendees.

Session 1: Wed, 20 March 2024, 8pm to 9pm GMT + 8, via Zoom (Register here)
Session 2: Sat, 6 April 2024, 3pm to 4pm GMT + 8, via Zoom (Register here)

Please sign up for a session using the respective links above. The Zoom link will be sent to you closer to the session’s date.


RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR DELAY: A COMICS ANTHOLOGY

1. Theme

The theme of this comics anthology is “delay”. The stories must be inspired by and/or take place within Southeast Asia. The theme could be interpreted 

  • As an element of the plot and/or
  • As a comics technique.

2. Content Eligibility

Content must be:

  • Original fiction of any genre, and not currently under review or previously published by a publisher. We accept stories that have been self-published on personal blogs, personal social media accounts, personal websites, platforms like Webtoons and Tapas, e-newsletters like Substack, Patreon, or elsewhere. We will also accept excerpts from longer work if they can be understood as a standalone without the need for additional context.
  • 10–20 pages long.
  • Black & white.
  • Written in the English language. Where integral to the story, the use of non-English languages in dialogue or as sound effects is welcome.
  • Suitable for readers aged 13 and above, containing no explicit content, including but not limited to graphic language, depictions of violence, drugs, and sex.
  • Content that appears in the submission must not be output from any generative AI tools that draw from copyrighted material.

Creators/creative teams whose stories are selected will be working with the anthology editors to prepare it for publication. Selected creators/creative teams should expect – and look forward to! – a professional and highly collaborative editorial process intended to support the development of the story to its full potential.

3. Creator Eligibility

Creators must be:

  • Living in Southeast Asia, of Asian descent.
  • Aged 18 and above upon submission.
  • Creators can submit as an individual or as a team.
  • Multiple submissions are accepted, up to a maximum of 3 submissions per creator.
  • Creators/creative teams must own all copyrights to their submitted work.
  • Difference Engine reserves the right to request for verification of eligibility.

4. Submission Guidelines: Round 1 (Call for Submissions)

Submissions must include:

  • A written story pitch (500-800 words) outlining the plot, including the ending, typed in Arial, font size 11, single-spaced.
  • One page of thumbnails or one page of concept sketches of characters/settings.
  • A portfolio sample of three illustrations. 
  • A short biography of each creator (50-100 words).
  • A completed and signed entry form.
  • All of the above needs to be compiled into a single PDF file no more than 10MB.
  • Label the PDF file with the title of the story.
  • Email the file to submissions@differenceengine.sg with the subject header “DELAY Submission: [title of the story]”.
  • All submissions must be in soft copy. Difference Engine will not accept any hard copy submissions.

Timeline for this round:

Round 1 Call for Submissions closes on 26 April 2024, 11.59pm GMT +8.

Shortlisted creators will be informed by 24 May 2024 if their submission has been selected for Round 2 (Final Selection for Publication).

5. Submission Guidelines: Round 2 (Final Selection for Publication)

Creators/creative teams will be requested to submit:

  • A full script with page and dialogue instructions.
  • Five pages of thumbnails.
  • One page of finished comics.

Timeline for this round:

Round 2 submissions close on 16 August 2024, 11.59pm GMT +8.

Final creators/creative teams whose stories are selected for publication will be informed by 27 September 2024.

6. Publication Details

Creators/creative teams selected after Round 2 will be offered a contract in September 2024.

DELAY: A Comics Anthology will be published in print and digital formats.

Estimated Publication Date: September 2025

7. Payment

Stories selected for publication will receive a page rate of US$30 (or the creators’ local currency equivalent). Creative teams may determine the payment division between them.

Each creator will receive two complimentary copies (up to a maximum of six copies per submission).

8. Rights Requested

Exclusive first world anthology rights for one year from the date of publication in both print and digital formats.

Continuing non-exclusive rights to print and reprint as this anthology for 10 years from the date of publication in both print and digital formats.

Copyright to the published work will remain with the creator(s).

9. PDPA

Difference Engine will take all reasonable efforts to ensure that your personal data is securely handled according to the guidelines set out by the Personal Data Protection Act of Singapore.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Q: Which countries are considered part of Southeast Asia?

A: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam.

Q: I am of Asian descent but not living in Southeast Asia. Am I eligible to submit to the anthology?

A: Unfortunately not. DELAY: A Comics Anthology was initiated to offer opportunities to creators who reside in Southeast Asia. Therefore, all members of the creative team must also reside in Southeast Asia.

Q: How do I show proof of residence in Southeast Asia?

We accept documents that have both your legal name and residential address printed on it, such as your recent utilities or telecommunications bill (not more than six months old). You will need to scan your documents and email them to us when requested.

Q: If I am not eligible to submit to this anthology, will there be other opportunities to pitch my work to DE?

Yes! If you have a story that you would like to see published, please head over to our general submissions page here.

Q: Do the portfolio samples need to be linked to the story I am pitching for DELAY?

A: They do not need to be linked.

Q: Do the portfolio samples need to be in black & white?

A: They do not need to be in black & white.

Q: Can I submit AI-generated content for the pitch?

A: No, you may not submit AI-generated content in your submission. Difference Engine reserves the right to request to view working files in cases where a submission is suspected to include AI-generated content.

Q: How many stories will be included in the anthology?

A: Similar to SOUND: A Comics Anthology, there will be 13 to 15 stories in DELAY.


DOWNLOAD

Entry Form (PDF) / Entry Form (Word Doc)

Rules and Regulations (updated 29 Feb 2024)


Updated 29 February 2024

Difference Engine reserves the right to amend these rules and regulations at any time without prior notice. We will take reasonable efforts to communicate key changes.

Magical Sweet Gula: Gula Gulali discovers that variety is not the spice of life at school where her magic makes for sour grapes

Wouldn’t it be magical if we could just wave a wand and fit in? Unfortunately, in Magical Sweet Gula, that reality seems to be pie in the sky for Gula Gulali. Born part-Magi, Gula sticks out whether she wants to or not, with her cotton candy pink-hair and pointed ears in her Terran-majority school. Which, in turn, makes her the low-hanging fruit target of her school’s insatiable bullies.

To add salt to her wound, even amongst the general school population, Gula finds herself in an uphill battle against the rampant sensationalised stereotypes that inundate the media her peers consume. Even when she walks on eggshells, all it takes is one untimely discharge of her magic, and she is dropped quicker than a hot potato by her schoolmates.

Gula’s constant calibration to find the perfect measurement of “normal” amidst her mixed Magi and Terran heritage is a quandary that is especially close to the heart of the title’s co-creator Johanes Park. “Even though this comic book is a work of fiction, the story is inspired by my own experience living in a multicultural Indonesian society as a mixed child,” he shares. Born to a Korean father, and a Chinese-Sundanese mother, Johanes recalls feeling lonely and outcasted. It was from this vantage point of trying to find harmony in cultures and perspectives that Magical Sweet Gula was first conceptualised.

Jessica Leman, the other pea in this husband-wife creator pod, elaborates, “Books or graphic novels with narratives about searches for identity usually portray people who live outside the country of the ethnicity they are descended from, and how they struggle to integrate after.” Noting a lack of multiracial characters in transmigrant stories, she continues, “In Magical Sweet Gula, we tried to share a story of the next level of identity searching – where the character is of mixed ancestry. Being multiracial, the character has a unique struggle where neither ethnic group will wholly accept her as a part of them.”

Both creators are well aware that the desire to fit in, to get along like peas and carrots with your peers in school despite being different, is a concept that many children are familiar with. Magical Sweet Gula offers its young audience food for thought on the ways in which multiracial children may experience prejudice. To make the subject more accessible to younger readers, the creators made Gula immediately visually distinct from her peers. “Since Manakarta is based on Jakarta, where people have naturally dark hair, we found the most eye- catching way to show contrast was through one’s appearance, especially using colour,” Jessica explains.

Besides using bright colours and a very generous sprinkle of magic as visual markers for Magi in Magical Sweet Gula, Johanes also highlights how spicing up the pages with Peranakan desserts extends the metaphor of fitting in. “I believe in “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” which means “even if we have many differences, in the end we can still have the same feeling”. I think this philosophy is also reflected in Peranakan culture, especially their foods.” The creators go on to explain how food recipes in Indonesia often draw their history from multiple heritages—the antithesis of “too many cooks spoil the broth”. When researching on jajanan pasar (market snacks), Jessica and Johanes found further inspiration for Gula’s growth and journey in how these snacks were often served together in a single tampah (flat woven bamboo basket), even when they come in multiple flavours.

Commenting on Difference Engine’s decision to publish Magical Sweet Gula, Publisher Felicia Low said, “A core tenet of Difference Engine is to support the amplification of stories and voices that may not have the same reach and platform as that of the majority. Magical Sweet Gula is earnest in its exploration of a multiracial character coming to terms with their identity, and holds both sweet and bitter halves of Gula’s experiences. While concepts like bullying and self-perception might seem intimidating to younger readers, Jessica and Johanes’ vibrant colour palette and humorous panels do wonders to ease readers into these topics.”

Magical Sweet Gula is now available in bookstores in Singapore and Malaysia. It is also available for purchase online with local and international shipping options. The book retails at SGD15.90 (w/o GST).

Purchase the print or ebook at bit.ly/magicalsweetgula.

For enquiries about the book, contact: readcomics@differenceengine.sg.

Magical Sweet Gula is the first of a two-volume series, with Book 2 scheduled for release in 2024.

Pangolin: A Critically Endangered Mammal Like No Other

What marvellous mammal has armour that will make a knight envious, and can curl up into a near-perfect sphere?

It’s the pangolin!

If this is your first time hearing about a pangolin this World Pangolin Day or World Wildlife Day, it might seem like a render from a video game. A mammal – nope, not a reptile – covered in scales? It looks almost like a waddling pinecone or a less flamboyant dragonfruit!

Pangolins are unlike any other mammals. That’s not a hyperbole. They are currently the only mammal discovered that is fully covered in scales! That brings us to our first phenomenal pangolin fact:

1. Pangolins are covered in pinecone-like tough scales made of keratin.

While we may not see any similarities between our bodies and the impressive scale mail pangolins don, believe it or not, the sturdy coat of overlapping scales is actually made of keratin – the same thing our nails and hair are made out of.

Keratin renders the scales hard and durable. Each scale is made of tightly compressed hair finished in a sharp tip for that extra offensive edge. (Although your mileage may vary with a tub of hair gel and a tail comb.) These scales are arranged in a partially overlapping lattice to provide optimal protection without compromising on flexibility.

Equipped with a coat that will give Colossus a run for his money, how does the pangolin utilise it against its natural enemies?

2. Pangolins curl into balls when frightened.

Let’s just say they get all dressed up with nowhere to go. Deliberately.

You see, pangolins have one weakness: Their soft underside.

To protect their tender tummies, they cover their head, tuck themselves into a tight ball, and let their scales do the rest of the work. It’s nature’s way of giving the pangolin an instant “nope” button whenever they feel stressed or frightened. So recognisable is this ability that the World Wildlife Fund explains the name “pangolin” is derived from penggulung, the word for roller in Malay.

Pangolins can also weaponise the sharp scales on their tail if they perceive a Big Bad Evil Guy, but their poor vision does not do them many favours.

Against its natural predators like big cats or hyenas, this defensive bunker tactic works. Really well.

Ever seen photographs of lions pawing or chewing frustratedly at a balled-up pangolin? The scales make pangolins nearly impervious to bites and uncomfortably prickly to those who try to unroll it. It may look hilarious, but more importantly, it is a testament to how effective this evolutionary trait is.

Against a human hand however, that’s a different story. (We’ll get back to this later.)

If it’s not already obvious from their preferred type of engagement with predators, pangolins are quite shy. Part of it is due to this third phenomenal pangolin fact:


3. Pangolins have no teeth.

You read that right. Like boy bands of the early 2000s, pangolins devoted all of their spikes to their head and ‘fits, while hiding their true docile nature from hungry pap-, predators.

Another name that pangolins are commonly known by is the scaly anteater. (No prizes for guessing their favourite bites.)

A typical day of a pangolin sees it in its burrow or on trees with its nose set on the nearest ant colony or termite mound. Once settled into their selected buffet of the day, pangolins utilise their very long, very sticky, very thin, saliva-coated tongue to slurp up their meal – with adults vacuuming up to a suggested 70 million insects each year according to Singapore’s National Parks Board! (Try getting your exterminator to go up against this ant-agonist’s scoreboard.)

As a very nice bonus, the action of vacating insects from their tunnels lends to aerating the ground, thus improving soil health in the area. Given their current repertoire, they probably have greener thumbs than most of us city dwellers!

Wait, if pangolins can’t chew, how do they digest their food, hard exoskeletons and all?

The answer is rock ‘n’ roll. Literally.

Pangolins eat rocks. To make up for their lack of teeth and their penchant for ants over bean sprouts, pangolins intentionally ingest small rocks, called gastroliths, for storage in their gizzard. As the gizzard contracts, the rocks roll and churn, which in turn grinds down the food.

A simple and effective solution by nature. But sadly, this lack of teeth is a handicap against humans. (Starting to see a pattern?)

Artwork from Marvellous Mammals: A Wild A to Z of Southeast Asia

4. Pangolins are currently the most trafficked mammal in the world.

Unfortunately, this last fact about pangolins isn’t very fun at all.

There are eight pangolin species in the world. Three of the four Asian species, including the Sunda pangolin that calls Singapore its home, is Critically Endangered.

For most of their existence, pangolins have been a solid contender for predator-prey relationship manager of the year. (Considering how even their most enterprising enemies struggle to take a literal bite out of them, they were doing pretty well.)

Then everything changed when greedy humans attacked.

The spherical fortress that pangolins have evolved is excellent against most threats… Except traffickers, with their dexterous, grasping hands and voracity for greed, aren’t most threats. Spook the pangolin, wait for it to roll into a ball, and simply carry them away – like Gen Z in a macabre medicine ball fitness class.

That is precisely what many poachers boil these unique mammals down to: Very expensive and very high-value literal medicine balls.

In Asia, some traditional medicine practitioners fight tooth and nail to continue touting the supposed curative properties of pangolin scales and blood. Pangolins: Science, Society and Conservation announced that approximately 195,000 pangolins were trafficked for their scales alone.

Nevermind that it has been scientifically debunked that pangolin scales have no medical properties, and chewing fingernails has never proven effective in any quest to cure inflammation/lactation issues/cancer/what-have-you.

And those who don’t use pangolin scales for pseudo-medicine, use it to scale up their leather fashion products in the United States and Mexico.

That’s not all: Another big driver for pangolin trafficking is meat. (Notice how it is reported as meat, and not food.) Hunting pangolins for bushmeat is not new – pangolins have been a food source in Africa and China historically. But with the proliferation of food supply chains worldwide, pangolins are no longer necessary as a staple food source. So, why the demand for pangolin meat?

In this age of abundance and accessibility, having suckling pig or duck confit daily no longer signals wealth and exceptionalism. You need something more exclusive, something rare, to really get tongues wagging.

Introducing the delicacy du jour of parts of China and Vietnam: The pangolin.

If the thought of sampling a pangolin does not make you baulk, the price tag surely will. In a paper by Wang et.al. (2021), the price of a whole pangolin can fetch anywhere from 2,000 to 3,400 yuan (~290USD to 495USD) per kilogram.

Even though the population of wild pangolins in Asia has declined by over 50% in recent years according to the Center for Biological Diversity, the demand for their flesh and scales remains insatiable. Can’t find pangolins in Asia? Just take them from Africa and ship them over. This hunger for pangolins is so strong that from 2015 to 2021, almost half of all pangolin derivatives confiscated in Asia are found to have been brought over from Africa.

Since 2019, there has been a global consensus in banning pangolins from commercial trade internationally. While that has led to more seizures and discoveries of illegally trafficked pangolins, poachers still find ways to circumvent law enforcement. Money, it turns out, is a great motivator for… creativity.

This World Pangolin Day and World Wildlife Day, especially if your days are spent roaming in metropolises, the predicament of pangolins may feel removed from your lives. But wait: How can we get pangolins from the depths of our forests, to the nouveau riche trying to be the next photocopied version of the Kardashians in cities?

The answer is that it is inevitable for pangolin traffickers – and a lot of the illegal wildlife trade – to funnel a considerable amount of their operations through urban areas. In 2019, World Wildlife Fund Singapore reported that a staggering 35 tonnes of pangolin scales (around 40,000 pangolins) were seized by port authorities.

What can I do to help?

As individuals, all this may seem overwhelming. It is. And if you – understandably – do not intend to go up against international criminal organisations, can you really do anything of meaningful impact then?

The short answer is: Yes.

Although the pangolin is no Billie Eilish of the endangered animal world, they are charismatic enough for children and adults alike to pause and go, “hey, that’s one cool mammal!” That is a good, even great, first step.

For context, in ‘Generally ignored’ species face twice the extinction threat, warns study by The Guardian, it was shown that the extinction rate in insects is eight-fold more than birds, mammals, and reptiles, and receive nearly 500 times less funding for each species than vertebrates. In other words, the more you like something, the more funding it receives. (Usually.)

The next step is simple: Talk, share – shout, even! – about all you know about pangolins! Tell them to your friends and family, use your knowledge as a potential ice-breaker for conversations, or even showcase your knowledge at your next quiz night; chat about them to those who are willing to listen.

When your conversation ends, and everyone goes their separate ways, that’s when the ball really gets rolling. All these phenomenal pangolin facts no longer exist in isolation – they instead live in voices, echoed in the people we have met, and finding new homes in the places we have travelled through.

Two decades ago, you may not have heard of the pangolin. Now, it is a marvellous mammal that is starting to be recognised even outside of Asia and Africa.

The next time you, or someone you have spoken to, encounters a pangolin, this knowledge will guide their encounter. Spotted a lost pangolin in the city? Found medicine shops illegally selling pangolin scales? Spied someone in a bad Solid Snake cosplay setting traps in forested areas? Things that could have unintentionally slipped by one’s radar can now find anchor in one’s knowledge of pangolins.

(For those wondering what to do in the aforementioned scenarios in Singapore, the answer is to call the National Parks at 1800-471-7300.)

We will leave you with two adages at the end of our World Pangolin Day and World Wildlife Day piece: “Knowledge is power” and “sharing is caring”. While global lawmakers and conservationists are working to tighten regulations and protection for these marvellous mammals, we can help them on the ground by keeping a literal eye out for pangolins, especially those in plight.

The scales are not tipped in favour of the pangolins, but it is not too late for us to prevent the final nail in their potential coffin.

Bearing Witness: A moving graphic novel memoir about a woman in her 40s who comes to terms with pregnancy loss

Difference Engine is honoured to have had the opportunity to work with writer Vinita Ramani to tell the story of her son Mithra and her experience with pregnancy loss. Their story is illustrated by Griselda Gabriele in Bearing Witness, and is published under our DE Shorts imprint.

Almost one quarter of all pregnancies are estimated to end in pregnancy loss, either a miscarriage or in stillbirth. Despite that, those who fall into this quartile rarely find themselves part of the conversation about pregnancy and childbirth.

Bearing Witness, with its unfiltered and sincere retelling of writer Vinita Ramani’s and her family’s experience with the loss of her second child, Mithra, offers parents affected by pregnancy loss a shared space to have their experiences recognised. More importantly, it creates a conduit through which families who have experienced such loss are able to share and amplify their voices and grief.

Shailey Hingorani, the Head of Advocacy, Research, and Communications at AWARE, the Association of Women for Action and Research, commented on the direction of Bearing Witness, “Through immensely affecting visuals and writing that is precise yet visceral, author Vinita Ramani and illustrator Griselda Gabriele have created a work that delves deep into a topic that many find too harrowing to even mention. They capture how overwhelming it can be to undergo the physical and mental toll of experiences like postpartum depression and pregnancy loss, without passing judgement on any choices made. There is a deep sadness here, but there are also moments of acceptance, support and even joy. This comic is vital for any number of readers — whether you relate to the author’s experience intimately or have little knowledge on pregnancy loss.”

By choosing to set the story in Vinita’s lived moments, Bearing Witness makes the heavy nature of pregnancy loss accessible to all through the proxies of her thoughts and emotions; family and faith. Moments of her loneliness are always surrounded by the presence of her family and friends, especially her husband Mahdev and daughter Sahana. Her family acts as guides not just to Vinita, but also for the readers – lifting from the weight of Vinita’s grief to the memory of familial comfort of the readers’ present.

Vinita explained why Bearing Witness is an important narrative to share not just with mothers, but to the wider audience, “This is a story about what it is to be a mother, to both the children we have and the ones we have lost. And it is not just a story for women: fathers will relate to the husband portrayed in this comic. A vital narrative that should be widely read, talked about, and made more visible.”

Departing from the traditional route of broaching the topic of pregnancy loss through the lens of medical facts and statistics, Bearing Witness is unapologetic in featuring the emotional nuances of Vinita’s pregnancy loss and artefacts of her spirituality against the backdrop of Southeast Asia, and invites the audience to experience every raw ebb and flow of Vinita’s emotional state.

Illustrator of Bearing Witness, Griselda Gabriele elaborated, “Vinita’s story and ways of coping with grief are very closely linked to spirituality in her daily life. In fact, this spirituality was also what allowed Vinita to see her miscarriage not only as a loss, but also a way for her to return Mithra to the universe. Most comics on miscarriage I’ve seen focus on the medical aspects and come from Western countries, which rarely depict this kind of spirituality (and positively, even more rarely). Meanwhile, it’s a norm in many parts of Asia!”

Jason Erik Lundberg, author of A Fickle and Restless Weapon, shared his experience after bearing witness to Mithra’s story, “The loss of one’s child is tragic under any circumstances, but especially so before it has had the chance to be born. Vinita Ramani’s devastating account of pregnancy loss, sensitively illustrated by Griselda Gabriele, is unflinchingly honest and allows us to bear witness ourselves to such a painful event without judgement. Your heart can’t help but break in sympathy, then find a measure of peace that comes with acceptance. An urgent and necessary work of sequential art.”

The story of Bearing Witness holds within itself the unique trauma Vinita experienced with the loss of her son Mithra. Yet that pain is simultaneously universal to all other parents who have gone through their own pregnancy loss or infant death. This graphic novel is not meant to be definitive; instead, Vinita and Griselda hope that it would be a safe space for families to share their own stories and experiences with pregnancy loss – be it the grief of losing a child, or the joy of having been able to momentarily be a home for one.

Natalie Tan, a pregnancy loss awareness advocate, expressed her appreciation for the book, “Raw, honest and poignant. Bearing Witness enables readers to live through the highs and lows of a surprise pregnancy, and feel the depths of Vinita’s heartbreak when it ends abruptly. Where there is loss, there is almost certainly grief and pain. Yet, there is also beauty, strength and hope that emerges through the darkness; through the never ending love of a parent.” As a mother of four including a set of angel triplets she had miscarried, she echoed the sentiment of finding support with others who had experienced the same loss, “This book opens our eyes to the experience of a miscarriage – a topic few have the courage to share so openly about. Bearing Witness is not simply about sharing the trauma of pregnancy loss, it is also a great reminder to all women who have miscarried that we are not alone.”

When asked why she wanted to publish Bearing Witness, Publisher Felicia Low said, “Difference Engine’s imprint, DE Shorts, is about opening up conversations about topics that are difficult to talk about, and in turn encouraging discussion and the fostering of community bonds for individuals who find themselves isolated. Pregnancy loss continues to be a topic that eludes polite dinner table conversation despite being more common than one might imagine. We hope that Vinita’s story can serve as a starting point to ignite more sharing and further discussion about pregnancy loss and infant death in Southeast Asia, away from stigma and shame.”

Bearing Witness is now available in bookstores in Singapore, or purchase the book online with local and international shipping options. The book retails at SGD17.00 (w/o GST).

Interested parties can purchase the book and the bundle at bit.ly/bearingwitnesscomic.

For enquiries about the book, contact: readcomics@differenceengine.sg

Work-life Balance: A seamless blend of comics and prose where even familiar Southeast Asian creatures are trapped in modern-day work culture’s cycle of duplicity

Difference Engine is proud to announce the launch of Work-Life Balance: Malevolent Managers and Folkloric Freelancers – and just in time for Halloween season!

In a world where even the supernatural are faced with the super natural quandaries of ceaseless corporate commotions, Work-Life Balance: Malevolent Managers and Folkloric Freelancers expresses the familiar, yet often suppressed, sentiment of unbalanced modern-day work culture – anchored against the distinct backdrop of Southeast Asia.

Paul Levitz, DC Comics President & Publisher from 2002–2009 said, “Think you’re stuck working with monsters in your office? Rée and Chee’s Work-Life Balance takes a whole new look at the possibility, using an interesting text/comics balance rarely seen.”

Work-Life Balance uses a harmonious merger of comics and prose to delineate the dichotomous parallels between past and present, work and leisure, and self and community beyond the constraints of a single medium.

Paolo Chikiamco, Editor of Alternative Alamat anthology and Co-Creator of Mythspace, echoed, “The power of juxtaposition is one of the strengths of graphic novels, and here comics are placed alongside prose to further provide a layered tale of identity, culture, and how we choose to define ourselves. Wayne Rée and Benjamin Chee have created a fine fantastical examination of the way communities reflect us, shape us, bring us together or tear us apart – something that isn’t very pleasant even for creatures that can segment their bodies into two.”

 

 

Creators Benjamin Chee and Wayne Rée examined how a confluence of their respective halves can help bring nuance, depth, and colour to the story. Wayne elaborated, “Work-Life Balance is a celebration of storytelling. It shows the unique strengths of prose and comics, but also how those mediums work towards the same goal: telling stories that resonate with an audience.”

Throughout the book, Wayne’s prose eases the audience into the recognisable cadence of Southeast Asian modern metropolises with all its unspoken tensions and expectations, while Benjamin’s art evokes equal parts wonderment and longing by drawing from the region’s history with his intricate settings and costume designs.

Meihan Boey, Author of The Formidable Miss Cassidy (Epigram Books Fiction Prize Co-Winner 2021), detailed her first impression of the book, “Wayne Ree’s gleeful, irreverent storytelling, matched with Benjamin Chee’s vibrant, exuberant, and undoubtedly eeee-so-cuuuute art style, come together in this funfair of a book. This is a tongue-in-cheek paean to the supernatural world of Asia and beyond, lovingly recreated in Chee’s breathtakingly intricate set pieces and character designs. The story is full of fun, fast-paced action; taking a breath now and then to ponder upon all the things we (not just momoks) have to sacrifice in pursuit of making a living.”

 

 

Elvin Ching, Creator of The Woodsman, voiced his appreciation for the book’s direction, “Work-Life Balance weaves a stunning tale blending familiar Southeast Asian folklore with office politics and drudgery to create a fresh new world that can’t help but elicit both chuckles and awe. Coupled with lush art that is at times supportive, complementary and argumentative to the story, this is a can’t-miss-it for fans of alternative fantasy!”

As much as the book is about the struggles of balancing our professional lives with other aspects of our existence, Work-Life Balance also takes much care to pay homage to the mythological influences of the region beyond the superficial.

Benjamin explained, “I hope this book is a warmer, more empathic approach to ‘ghost stories’, where the spirits and hantu featured feel more like people than a force of nature. And like people, I would like to imagine that they have preferences to the way they are being treated by others, and would certainly dislike being exploited.”

Reflecting on the conception of a book, Publisher at Difference Engine Felicia Low said, “Work-Life Balance, with its multilayered play on duality, adds to the wider conversation about the difficulties of navigating professional boundaries by providing an accessible regional perspective. By putting the spotlight on creatures that typically live in hushed whispers, Benjamin and Wayne lean into the dissonance of encouraging readers to find affinity with these beings to build a more nuanced appreciation for this aspect of our region’s culture and beliefs.”

Work-Life Balance: Malevolent Managers and Folkloric Freelancers is now available in bookstores in Singapore and Malaysia, or purchase the book online with local and international shipping options.

The book retails at SGD26.90 (w/o GST). The Work-Life Balance Starter Pack retails at SGD52.90 (w/o GST), with pre-orders open from 3 October to 21 October 2022.

Interested parties can purchase the book and the bundle at bit.ly/wlbcomic.

For enquiries about the book, contact: readcomics@differenceengine.sg

Amazing Ash & Superhero Ah Ma Returns: Southeast Asian Children’s Graphic Novel Introduces Young Readers to Topics of Ageing and Dementia

Difference Engine is proud to announce that Amazing Ash & Superhero Ah Ma is back for a second run. Book #2 of the series, Amazing Ash & Superhero Ah Ma: Coming of Age launches on 20 May.

Gripping and heartfelt, this full-colour graphic novel series introduces topics of ageing and dementia to young readers, while still being relatable and age-appropriate. Book #2 finds Ash dealing with changes in her life as she grapples with Ah Ma’s worsening dementia, along with her new superhero responsibilities and additional team members. Educators and parents may find the series useful to start conversations with young ones about the illness, andhow children can learn to connect with affected elderly family members and loved ones.

Digital resources are also available to help young readers understand dementia and age-related issues with a companion website, Amazing Ash & Superhero Ah Ma: The Unforgettable Adventures. Featuring a free series of bite-sized comics and interactive activities, the website teaches young ones more about dementia, tips on how to cope when a relative has the illness, and more. Visit this website to view these digital resources: superheroahma.differenceengine.sg

Written by Melanie Lee, a Crystal Kite Award recipient from Singapore, and illustrated by Arif Rafhan, a prominent comic artist, illustrator and pre-production artist from Malaysia, the comic book series is set in Southeast Asia, and first launched in 2020.

Writer Melanie Lee said that she wanted to create a story that featured an unusual granddaughter-grandmother duo, while keeping in mind that children might witness their grandparents decline in physical or mental health as they age. “I wanted to show how people of different ages can work together happily,
and portray Ah Ma as someone who is so much more than her dementia — she is still someone who enjoys fun and adventure, and is willing to adapt to unexpected circumstances.”

Illustrator Arif Rafhan agreed and explained he hoped that the story would encourage young readers to bridge the generation gap and show them that family is important. “Nothing is cooler than loving your family,” he said.

The series has received praise from notable writers and artists around the region, and earned kudos from those who work with people with dementia. Said Gavin Aung Than, NYT bestselling cartoonist and creator of Zen Pencils: “Amazing Ash & Superhero Ah Ma: Coming of Age is a fun and heartwarming superhero adventure that also introduces children to the important topics of ageing and dementia. Go team ASH!”

Social Workers from AWWA CREST, Nicodemus Ching and Lucian Toh, said that this issue was a powerful one that highlights the care and affection that persons living with dementia have for their loved ones. ”We thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Action packed, bite-sized, and relatable for children, there is never a dull moment! At the same time, it is accurate to the experiences that persons living with dementia and their caregivers face.”

Felicia Low, Publisher and Co-Founder, at Difference Engine, said that keeping this accuracy was a deliberate choice. “Sometimes when we talk about the elderly, all we see is their age and their illness—we forget who they are as people. One of the best things about Amazing Ash & Superhero Ah Ma is that all the characters in the story are people we might encounter at the kopitiam, at the supermarket, or at our void deck. They are
recognisable because they are us.”

With this series and microsite, the Difference Engine team hopes that young readers will be able to learn about dementia in a format that is appealing and fun.

Amazing Ash & Superhero Ah Ma: Coming of Age (Book #2) is now available in bookstores in Singapore and Malaysia. The book retails at SGD17.90 (w/o GST). Purchase the print or ebook at bit.ly/team-ASH-2.

For enquiries about the book, contact:
readcomics@differenceengine.sg

 

Worlds Apart Comic Book Hopes To Spark More Mental Health Conversations

Singaporean creators Wayne Rée and Nurjannah Suhaimi look to encourage people to start more conversations about mental health with their latest comic book, Worlds Apart: A Conversation About Mental Health, which will be published on 9 May 2022.

The story takes cues from popular culture and comic book genres such as sci-fi and superheroes, confronting the myths and misconceptions of mental health issues in a relatable and digestible medium. Rée and Nurjannah hope that readers will be inspired to start open and frank dialogue with others about the realities of mental health.

Mental health is a topic that has gained greater prominence over the last decade, and even more so since the pandemic. But despite increased awareness, these conversations can be plagued with misconceptions—especially for those who are new to the topic.

According to the Parliamentary Secretary for the Ministry of Health in 2021, about 49,800 Singapore residents received treatment for mental health issues every year on average from 2016 to 2019. This means that a sizeable portion of the population may face challenges relating to their mental health, or as a caregiver to someone with a mental health condition.

Since not everyone facing mental health difficulties seek professional care, there may be many more who need help. For those with mental health conditions or their caregivers, one obstacle they may face is the stigma of opening up about their experiences. Worlds Apart: A Conversation About Mental Health aims to address this and provide a stepping stone to share about their experiences.

Writer Wayne Rée explains that the story was born out of his experiences with people who live with mental health issues, and those who are, in contrast, not as familiar with the difficulties that mental health conditions can pose.

“The idea for the story took shape as I watched my partner navigate her existing mental health condition, while taking on the role of her mother’s primary caregiver. Her advocacy for greater awareness of mental health moved me to do the same, in my own way,” said Rée.

While writing the comic, Rée researched the more common mental health conditions in Singapore. To understand what people who live with those conditions go through, he spoke with people who have tried to talk about mental health with their friends, family, or colleagues.

“It’s their stories and perspective that form the heart of this comic,” he said. “This book is not about treatment. It is about broaching the topic of mental health, which is also a heavy responsibility that requires and deserves a great level of emotional honesty.”

Illustrator of the comic, Nurjannah Suhaimi, said: “The more conversations we can have about mental health, the less taboo it becomes, and the less lonely we feel, because at least, we know that we’re not the only one’s going through this mental health journey.

“While working on this project, I myself learned that none of us are really ‘perfect’; we all have a struggle that we’re going through. By understanding this, it creates more empathy in the community. We can help pick each other up, as we can recognise the signs when someone is not doing too well.”

Worlds Apart: A Conversation About Mental Health has received support and praise from Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH). A spokesperson from SAMH said: “This comic delivers a significant message – breaking the silence and stigma around mental health cannot be left solely to the professionals. Everyone can play a significant part in normalising it. Every conversation matters and we need to overcome it as a society.”

This comic book will be the second issue of DE Shorts, a new imprint that publishes self-contained stories on a wide range of social issues.

Felicia Low-Jimenez, Publisher of Difference Engine, said: “Conversations about mental health can create a more open, just, and caring world. We hope that Worlds Apart: A Conversation About Mental Health reminds people living with mental health conditions that they are not alone. We would also like the comic to encourage those who might be unfamiliar with these challenges better understand how they can reach out and help. To facilitate more conversations, we’ve included a specially designed postcard and envelope for anyone who wants to drop a note to someone and say, ‘How are you, really?’”

Worlds Apart: A Conversation About Mental Health will be available on the Difference Engine Online Store from 9 May 2022, and ships locally and internationally. The book, with the postcard and envelope set, retails at $15 SGD without GST.

Each copy of Worlds Apart: A Conversation About Mental Health comes with a postcard and envelope set that readers can use to reach out to those they care for.

Purchase the book online at bit.ly/WorldsApartMH.

For enquiries about the book, contact readcomics@differenceengine.sg.

image of the book and the book launch event details

JOIN US AT THE BOOK LAUNCH OF WORLDS APART: A CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH

Join writer Wayne Rée and illustrator Nurjannah Suhaimi as they share their experiences and inspirations creating this comic book, and how the book can be a tool to encourage people to have more conversations about mental health issues.

We’re also pleased to welcome guest speaker Deborah Chen from Singapore Association for Mental Health, who will share more about mental health resources, and how to facilitate a culture of openness and care.

Difference Engine is partnering with Singapore Association for Mental Health (SAMH) to raise funds for mental health services. We will match all ticketing proceeds from this event (after a 5% cut per ticket from Peatix), and donate these funds to the Singapore Association for Mental Health.

Your support will enable SAMH to provide rehabilitative, outreach, and creative services and programmes to persons with mental health issues, and aid their recovery and reintegration back into the community. It will also contribute to raising public awareness about mental well-being and resilience, and promote acceptance and respect for persons who face mental health difficulties. To learn more about Singapore Association for Mental Health, head to this website:
www.samhealth.org.sg.

Date: 19th May 2022 (Thursday)
Time: 7:15pm – 8:45pm
Venue: Common Ground, Lounge
21 Bedok North Street 1, Common Ground Civic Centre
Singapore 469659

Register for the event at worldsapartmh.peatix.com.

A peek into the beautiful wildlife of Southeast Asia

Dive into wonderful Southeast Asian landscapes and discover their incredible wildlife with the beautifully illustrated alphabet book Marvellous Mammals: A Wild A to Z of Southeast Asia, which launched on 15 September 2021!

The first alphabet book featuring the mammals of Southeast Asia, Marvellous Mammals is researched and written by expert wildlife ecologist Debby Ng, with art by well-known local illustrator Darel Seow. Over two years in the making, it boasts full-colour illustrated spreads of mammals native to the region that both kids and adults will love.

The hardcover book features crowd-favourites such as the Orangutan and the Pangolin, as well as lesser known animals like the Annamite Striped Rabbit, an elusive jungle rabbit that lives in the mountains of Laos and Vietnam, and the Xoong Xor, a shy mammal that has been nicknamed the “Asian Unicorn” by some scientists.

Easy-to-read descriptions and bite-sized facts accompany the illustrations so readers can learn more about these unique mammals’ habitat, behaviour, and food choices, and their relationship with humans. These quirky facts are sure to delight the animal nerd in everyone!

Readers will also discover more about what makes the forests of Southeast Asia and its residents so special, and how humans can help protect the flora and fauna of the region.

Debby Ng, writer of Marvellous Mammals, shared this about her process of researching and writing the book: “While working on this book, I learned that there is still so much to be discovered about wildlife in Southeast Asia. This region is so very special, yet we do not have as many books and stories about these animals. These stories are so important to how we perceive our relationship with the natural world.

“To research this book, I consulted everything from the latest scientific papers, historical records by both colonial explorers and local explorers, local literature, and field scientists that are currently doing research in the field.

“Choosing which to feature and what interesting facts to share was very challenging. We wanted to represent as diverse a group of mammals as possible, while including some familiar mammals, and introduce some rare and strange animals like the Zaglossus.” Debby is a biologist, photojournalist, and National Geographic Explorer, and is currently pursuing her PhD at the NUS Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions.

Illustrator Darel Seow, who has worked with several museums and cultural institutions worldwide, said: “Growing up, I was obsessed with nature in any form, whether personal encounters or from documentaries and books. It’s a pity that we know so little about the wonderful creatures we share this region with and I hope this book starts readers on an adventure of learning about and how to live alongside our unique Southeast Asian wildlife.”

Using a geopolitical approach that aims to create awareness of what animal and wildlife habitats exist within or across national borders, Marvellous Mammals: A Wild A to Z of Southeast Asia has been praised by scientists and experts around the region. Dr. Yong Ding Li from BirdLife International, and author of The 125 Best Birdwatching Sites in Southeast Asia, remarked: “Marvellous Mammals is a beautiful compendium on Southeast Asia’s remarkable animals, many endangered, little known, an perhaps never before captured in a children’s book! Darel and Debby’s book could not have come at a better time when more than ever before, we need to take better care of all these wonderful species and their disappearing rainforest homes here in Southeast Asia.”

Difference Engine hopes that Marvellous Mammals will be able to inspire children and adults to appreciate the diverse wildlife that live in our neighbourhoods.

“Southeast Asia is home to many unique animals, and there is much we have yet to discover. We are incredibly proud to publish this tribute to the fascinating wildlife around us and to add to the small-yet-growing collection of titles focused on Southeast Asian animals,” said Felicia Low-Jimenez, Publisher at Difference Engine.

 

 

Marvellous Mammals: A Wild A to Z of Southeast Asia will be available in Singapore and Malaysia, in-stores and online, from mid-September 2021.

Purchase the print or ebook here.

For enquiries about the book, contact: readcomics@differenceengine.sg

 

 

Synopsis: 

We know that dogs bark, cats meow, and cows moo. But do you know dholes whistle “whee-whee”, wild boars grunt “grrt-grrt”, and siamangs call out “ooh-wow-wow”?

The Southeast Asian forests are full of incredible wildlife waiting to be discovered. In the humid nature reserves of Singapore, high up the mountain forests of Papua, and in the tropical waters of the Irrawaddy, a multitude of mammals live their unseen lives. They await a bold explorer to learn their secrets. Could that explorer be you?

In this beautifully illustrated alphabet book, wildlife ecologist Debby Ng and illustrator Darel Seow part the leaves to showcase lesser-known animals of Southeast Asia! Readers will learn about these unique mammals’ habitat, behaviour, food choices, and their relationship with humans.

 

 

About the Creators: 

Debby Ng is a biologist, photojournalist, and National Geographic Explorer. She has begun exploring jungles since she was five years old, before she realised she was an explorer, and has been reaching out to audiences about climate change and wildlife conservation since she was 14. She is the founder of pulauhantu.sg, a marine conservation organisation based in Singapore, and co-founder of himalayanmuttproject.org, which mobilises local communities to protect wildlife health in Nepal’s Annapurna Conservation Area. She is a Duke University Global Fellow in Conservation Biology and Policy, and studied geography and zoology at the University of Tasmania. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the NUS Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions.

Darel is an illustrator and educator who loves creating stories about the marvellous flora and fauna that we share this planet with. Inspired by a childhood filled with pets of every shape and form, he has been bringing nature to life on paper ever since he could hold a pencil! An illustration graduate from Central Saint Martins in the UK, he believes that storytelling and play are the best way to connect with others. He especially enjoys working with museums and cultural institutions worldwide, and has illustrated three picture books detailing Singaporean stories. He continually endeavours to make learning a fun adventure through stories, and hopes this book invites others to share in his wonder for nature. Discover more of his work at darelseow.com!

Book Launch: The Makers Club: Starting Up!

Why do makers make what they make? How do makers handle successes and failures? These questions and more drive the heart of Difference Engine’s newest original graphic novel, The Makers Club: Starting Up!, the anticipated prequel to the compelling The Makers Club: Game On!.

 

This full-colour graphic novel is written by Eisner-nominated Malaysian creator Reimena Yee and Philippines-born comics artist Tintin Pantoja, and illustrated by Tintin. The book is suitable for readers between the ages of 9 and 14, and features educational resources such as inspiring interviews with entrepreneurs, discussion questions, and more!

Join secondary school students Aqilah and Yong Qiang as they embrace their inner makers and embark on their own journeys of creative growth, confidence, and self-acceptance. Even as they change as individuals and contend with their own struggles, their friendship and presence in each other’s lives allow them to achieve their own independence and take steps to actualise their best selves.

 

Created specially for the 21st century student, The Makers Club: Starting Up! addresses one of the biggest challenges students face: Solving complex problems that cross standard subject lines. In the book, readers can follow Aqilah and Yong Qiang as they solve real-life problems for themselves and those around them. By including themes that encourage interdisciplinary knowledge, critical thinking and creativity, The Makers Club: Starting Up! presents approachable ways to apply knowledge beyond traditional classrooms that are sure to inspire children and students of today!

Beyond broader themes, educators and students also get an intimate glimpse into the personal growth and the struggles of the two main characters.

 

Entrepreneurial and creative Aqilah is talented and hardworking in all things artistic and inventive, yet she struggles with self-doubt and the painful dips and highs that come with the ebbs and flows of inspiration.

The gently upbeat and independent Yong Qiang seeks to be a brave and supportive friend for everyone, even at the occasional cost of his own space to heal with the reality of living with muscular dystrophy.

Their friendship guides these two into a voyage of making, entrepreneurship, and design thinking. Guided by supportive mentors, both friends discover more about their abilities and vulnerabilities, and actualise their paths of independence and self-esteem throughout the course of The Makers Club: Starting Up!.

 

The processes of creation and growing up are rarely taught – they might seem effortless or intuitive, but they rarely are. When exhaustion and burnout strike, most young creators don’t know how to process these experiences of fatigue, and it is often hard to find understanding and support from others. In showcasing Aqilah and Yong Qiang’s struggles, we hope that readers will find affinity in these relatable experiences, and that the The Makers Club: Starting Up! will provide them with the strength to conquer their fears and reach new heights

For teachers, parents, and mentors who wish to gain insight and empathy into this experience of teens growing up and striving to make sense of the 21st century, The Makers Club: Starting Up! presents an approachable glimpse into the mind, heart, and world of young makers and their communities! Our team at Difference Engine hopes that young creators and entrepreneurs will find camaraderie with Aqilah and Yong Qiang’s stories in The Makers Club: Starting Up!, and be inspired to achieve their dreams!

Find out more about The Makers Club: Starting Up! here. Now available in print and ebook formats!

Why Adults Should Read Comic Books Too

While comics play a great role in getting younger students to develop reading habits – both by meeting individual reading needs and to help form a love for reading – we are finally moving past the misconception that the medium is just for kids. Comics are for all ages, whether you are new to the medium or have loved it for years. Here’s why.

 

Comics are fun to read

Maybe the best thing about comics is that almost any topic can be found in a comic book – nothing is too far-fetched as a subject matter! Aliens, man-eating slugs, vampires, ghosts, post-apocalyptic nightmare realms…the list goes on. Comics explore topics that stretch far and wide, and are a medium where imagination runs wild, and not just in terms of the story, but the art as well. 

Other times, certain subject matters need to be made riveting. Comics can be used as learning tools across a wide range of subjects, such as languages, science, and even mathematics. Oftentimes, when it’s in a comic, it is easier to digest.

 

Smashed: Junji Ito Story Collection entwines scary and strange in a collection of horror manga. The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA is a nonfiction science comics for adults, while The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer is inspired by the lives of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage.

 

Comics were first intended for adult readers

While young readers are naturally drawn to comics (think comics series like The Adventures of Tintin and Mr Kiasu), comics can be used to tell stories of any content, in any style, and for any audience. Japanese, European and American comics each evolved differently, but generally speaking, comics were used to depict cultural and historical events, satirical or otherwise. Even today, with many child-friendly comics targeted at very specific age groups and market segments, more than half of comic book readers are still adults. So it is entirely possible for the children and adults to be visiting a comics shop together, each absorbed by the variety of content on offer in separate corners of the same shop.

 

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, When the Wind Blows and Watchmen

Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, When the Wind Blows and Watchmen are satirical works that encapsulate feelings on war, politics, and life.

 

Comics provoke deep-thinking

Comics make readers engage on a plane that extends beyond words on a page. The process is active: Text and images come together, but the reader makes meaning out of the combination, filling in the gap between panels, gutters and speech bubbles. When we read comics, we’re not only looking at the text but also at the spatial cues, the colours, the visual cues between objects, and all the other elements in the panel. When all of these elements are combined, they can invoke the sense of passage of time, the space of the story, sounds, and action. As the reader’s inference skills and visual literacy improves, comics also pave the way for a deeper understanding of metaphors, symbolisms, and point-of-views.

 

Furthermore, creators can pack a lot of tiny details into one single panel or page just by how they portray their work. Even a character’s personality traits can be shown in a panel by highlighting an object. For example, a character’s love for a certain movie franchise can be shown entirely through background illustrations; maybe there are movie posters in the room, or memorabilia peeking through their bag. There are so many visual cues that artists use to convey plenty of information – all in just a few panels.

 

trese-ten-sticks-liquid-city

Trese, Ten Sticks and One Rice, and Liquid City are beautifully crafted graphic novels that encapsulate characters’ emotions and settings.

 

Comics are used to discuss heavy topics

Oftentimes, narratives in comics also mirror real-world events. X-Men, for example, reflected racial tensions, and Captain America was created during World War II to serve as motivation and inspiration for troops. Similarly, a lot of stories in comics, even now, mirror our ever-changing world and current social issues, offering intellectually stimulating, empowering stories. There are also comics that deal with topics like grief, growing up, and other hardships of life – and sometimes, these heavy topics can be expressed more poignantly in this widely-accessible medium.

 

Sound-Persepolis-Dancing-at-the-pity-party

SOUND: A Comics Anthology, Persepolis, and Dancing at the Pity Party are graphic novels that poignantly discuss topics that can be difficult to breach.

 

Comics transcend language and cultural barriers

Ever wondered how the instructions in an IKEA manual can guide anyone, anywhere? As visual learners, in contrast to prose, pictures can help a wide range of people with understanding, which can go on and on for pages…this is something that could just be displayed in a couple of panels!

Often in prose, a reader can also lose concentration when there are unknown words. Yet, comics don’t generally have this problem. The story can still be followed by its art and other elements. In fact, comics are a good resource to learn more vocabulary – this could especially help those learning a new language.

More than just expanding one’s vocabulary within the English language, the visual accompaniment inherent to comics allows readers to follow the story even if they aren’t speakers of the language the comic is printed in! Manga is a great example of this – known as a representation of Japanese culture and history, manga started gaining traction with a new generation of non-Japanese people around the world who were interested in learning the country’s culture and language. Today, manga has become synonymous with Japanese popular culture, and is enjoyed worldwide by readers of all ages.

arrival-number-unocean

The Arrival, The Number 73304-23-4153-6-96-8, and Un océan d’amour are examples of graphic novels that do not feature any dialogue, yet tell compelling stories through visuals and other elements.

 

Comics is a unique medium that encourages reader participation, and when immersed in a comic, you are in charge of your (reading) journey. What are you waiting for? Once you set foot in this vast, inviting realm, to quote the magical words of Dr Suess, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

 

Psst! Remember to check out all the books mentioned in this post! DE recommends them to ages 18+.