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Best Comics of 2017: An International Perspective Part 1:

Year in Review

You know, there’s an awfully big world of comics out there! And it’s that time again to invite my International Correspondents, connoisseurs across the planet - Juan Manuel Dominguez, Harri Römpötti, Christian Gasser, Adrian Kinnaird, Pedro Moura, Lim Cheng Tju, Žika Tamburić and Nakho Kim - to recommend to you their favourite comics and graphic novels created and (in most cases) also published in each country they know well during last year. This annual International Perspective remains vital in my view to broaden our knowledge and appreciation of the diversity of this truly global medium.

ARGENTINA - GERMANY - INDONESIA  - MALAYSIA - NEW ZEALAND -  SERBIA - SINGAPORE - S. KOREA - SWITZERLAND - THE PHILIPPINES


Argentina

Selected by Juan Manuel Dominguez

Juan Manuel Dominguez wanted to be a superhero. Now, the Batman-Gorey lover drowns his dreams of saving the universe with comics and film criticism - the Clark Kent answer to reality - and believes his folks and friends contribute to the most super factor of his professional and non-ultra-powered life.


DisTinta - Nueva Historieta Argentina
by various artists, curated by Martin Pérez & Liniers
Random House

It sounds like cheating: choosing a mainstream publishing house anthology over literally hundreds of self-published comics in Argentina? Precisely, DisTinta, curated by journalist Martín Pérez and by world-famous cartoonist Liniers, tried with sense and sensibility (and beautiful production) to knock down the same old walls which Argentina’s comics have been bumping into for decades now. The curators have chosen over 30 artists that define (as any other selection could do, and they make this clear in the intro) the Argentinian landscape, as well as the road that led to this particularly critical moment, when a steady production doesn’t seen to be able to create a new audience. This anthology mixes new and already published work and becomes a statement, a gentle yet fierce one: Argentina comics are as powerful as ever, as you can see from the names here: Liniers himself, Ernan Cirianni, Fran Lopez, Lucas Nine, Berliac, Sole Otero, Fer Calvi, Gato Fernández and many more. And it was about damn time someone, Random House and the curators in this case, showed this on a mainstream level. 


Futuro Total
by Ariel López V.
Hotel de las Ideas

Pop culture has become so many things at the same time: a selling point, a nostalgia shelter, a luxury, a true phenomenon and a rusty way of not daring to read new tales. And, of course, as it has has been and as it should be, a beautiful home for those things that dare to say, gently or not, “Fuck You” to mainstream tics, miracles and shenanigans. Ariel López V.‘s Futuro Total blend all that pop can be right now and it crushes it to its very core. A Zip-file of savagery and fun, Futuro Total shows López V.’s pop pedigree (sci-fi carved in VHS, classic storytelling, savage absurd ideas) in a story that mixes Roger Corman playfulness, a DIY nervous vibe (mainly present in the never-quiet line of Ariel) and a lysergic 70’s movie pulse. It’s a sci-fi story that’s ironic, heartfelt and cheerful at the same. And, logically, it feels like a nice future for comics.

Germany

Selected by Christian Gasser

Christian Gasser is a Swiss fiction-writer, journalist and lecturer at the Lucerne University of Art & Design. He reviews comics for various newspapers, magazines and radio-networks in Switzerland and Germany. He is the co-editor of the comics-magazine STRAPAZIN, the co-curator of the Graphic Novel Days in Hamburg and a member of the “Max und Moritz Preis”-Jury of the Erlangen Comic-Festival. His latest books: animation.ch. Vision and Versatility in Swiss Animated Film (2011, as an enhanced e-Book in 2016), Comix Deluxe (2012), Rakkaus! (finnisch: Liebe) (novel, 2014).


Das Hochhaus. 102 Etagen Leben (‘The High-Rise. Life on 102 Floors’)
by Katharina Greve
Avant Verlag

The high-rise as microcosm of society. It may not be the first time this metaphor has been used, but Katharina Greve’s Das Hochhaus. 102 Etagen Leben (‘The High-Rise, Life on 102 Floors’) is definitely a particularly unique version of it. The German comic-artist and cartoonist (and, by the way, graduate architect) Katharina Greve originally built her high-rise on the internet by adding a new floor every week. With the accuracy of technical drawing, she designed a model apartment consisting of a kitchen, an entrance hall, a living-room and a balcony. The plan of the apartment of course resembles the structure of a comic strip with three, sometimes four panels.

In her 102 strips, Greve allows us a look behind the walls, and while we climb the stairs, we meet arguing couples, demented old folks, clueless teenagers, we observe routines, boredom, homework, compulsive hoarding, anti-social behaviour thanks to social media, arguments, hatred, unhappiness and so forth. “If you don’t die soon”, the old woman on the 15th floor tells her husband, “I’ll get a divorce.” Greve of course tickles the Peeping Tom in her readers, but above all she condenses all kinds of (Western European) life situations into her 102 strips. The weekly publishing rhythm allowed Greve to tie current events into her narrative and to fuse the mundane with world-affairs: climate change, terrorism, unemployment, refugees, Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize … – all these events are perceived through the narrow-minded perspective of the High-Rise’s inmates. On the 67th floor, a mother plays with her little son while talking with her visiting friend: “Postfactual era, fake-news, Trumpism – how shall I explain this world one day to my Ole?” The friend replies: “Lie to him.” Greve adds an additional level by cannily connecting certain floors with each other: The husband from floor 48, for instance, isn’t buying a leek, as his wife thinks, but, as the attentive reader already guessed, is having fun with his lover on the 32rd floor, whose husband isn’t visiting his parents on the 7th floor, but is getting an enjoyable whipping from the dominatrix on the 16th floor… Das Hochhaus is a clever, funny and light human comedy of our times, whose humour is black, nasty and gloomy – in other words, very enjoyable.


Wie ich versuchte, ein guter Mensch zu sein (‘How I Tried To Be A Good Person’)
by Ulli Lust
Suhrkamp Verlag

Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, Ulli Lusts autobiographical account of her dramatic trip through Italy as a teenager, was an international sensation. With Wie ich versuchte, ein guter Mensch zu sein (‘How I Tried to be a Good Person’), Lust reveals another chapter of her youth, dealing with an explosive ménage-à-trois which culminates in an attempted murder. In this graphic memoir, Lust is in her early twenties and dreams of becoming an artist, although all Austrian art schools reject her. Her private life is no less complicated. She loves two men: Georg, an actor, about twenty years older than her and sexually rather disinterested; and Kimata, an illegal refugee from Nigeria whom she picks up at a party and gets involved with in a passionate sexual relationship. In the background, there’s a third man, her five-year-old son, who lives with his grandparents in the countryside and whom she visits only irregularly. This tangled web of relationships has great potential for a story, and thanks to her direct, sketchy drawing style, Lust develops an urgency and a drive you can’t possibly resist. Recklessly and without any taboos, she dives into the darkest abysses of this experience and puts it into a wider context: love and sex across age- and ethnic differences, polygamy, the sexual self-determination of a young woman, (single) parenthood, ethnic prejudices, refugee policies and the utopian dream of another society.

Wie ich versuchte, ein guter Mensch zu sein is convincing, because Lust presents herself neither as victim nor as offender, but simply as a young, often rather naive, selfish and sexually hungry woman who is, in the end, overstrained by the situation and the responsibility for her son. One has to acknowledge Lust’s courage to deal openly with cultural prejudices and cope with the ambivalences of her own perception of Kimata instead of smoothing them out in a politically correct way. Her African lover has more and more difficulties with her independence, and his jealousy and claims over her end up in bursts of violence which scare the young woman – but nevertheless she lets him into her bed again and again. Lust’s attempt to become a good person must be considered a failure. At the end of her autobiographical account we don’t see her necessarily as a good person, but at least she is free and has found her self-determination again. The quality of this memoir lies in the forthrightness with which Ulli Lust reflects her failures and her complicity.


Indonesia

Selected by Lim Cheng Tju

Lim Cheng Tju writes about history and popular culture in Singapore. He co-authored The University Socialist Club and the Contest for Malaya: Tangled Strands of Modernity (Amsterdam University Press/NUS Press) and co-edited Liquid City Vol 2 (Image Comics), an anthology of Southeast Asian comics. He is the country editor (Singapore) for the International Journal of Comic Art and his articles have appeared in the Journal of Popular Culture and Print Quarterly. He writes comics sometimes too.


Indonesia 1998
by Mice
Octopus Garden

The Indonesian protests of 1998 (a result of the 1997 Asian financial crisis) brought down the strongman president, Suharto. Accounts still differ over what actually happened – who were the blackguards behind the riots? What was the role of the militia? And did anyone instigate or coordinate the mass raping of Chinese women in the cities? Popular Indonesian cartoonist Mice has no answers to all these. All he could do is to offer his perspective of Indonesia 1998, a time when he wondered what would it be like to have freedom from the rule of Suharto’s New Order. Well, he and millions of Indonesians got their wish by the end of the year. But they were only replacing one form of repression with another. Times were still bad, if not worse. Hyperinflation wiped out families’ savings. Conservatism entrenched itself in Indonesian society. This series of cartoons which Mice drew in 1998 has long been out of print. It was finally repackaged in 2014 by new publisher, Octopus Garden (obviously a Beatles fan), and last year, the English edition, ably translated by Casey Hammond, was released. Through his alter ego, Rony, Mice expressed the hopes and frustrations of Reformasi and its tragic aftermath. Probably one of the most significant comic book to be released in Southeast Asia last year.

Malaysia

Selected by Lim Cheng Tju


My Giant Geek Boyfriend
by Fishball
Maple Comics

Some prefer their comics all serious and dealing with weighty issues. I like these kind of comics too, like Mice’s Indonesia 1998 (see review above). But I like all kinds of comics including those that seek to entertain more than anything else. For 2016, I selected Evacomics as one of my best reads. For 2017, the most fun book is the unlikely couple adventures of Fishball and her giant geek boyfriend. I have met the former – she is quite small size. I have not met the boyfriend – she assures me he is huge. I take her word for it. The amazing thing is that Fishball’s cartoons is an internet sensation. She can be found on webtoons and her stuff is widely popular and much shared. The book is a bestseller. Even Heidi MacDonald at The Comics Beat, and The Huffington Post wrote about her. Now if only we get to meet her giant boyfriend…


New Zealand

Selected by Adrian Kinnaird

Adrian Kinnaird has been involved in the New Zealand comics community as a cartoonist, writer and blogger for almost two decades. He is the author of From Earth’s End: The Best of New Zealand Comics published by Random House NZ in 2013, and is co-founder of Earth’s End Publishing, a boutique publishing house dedicated to producing New Zealand comics and graphic novels. For more information, you can visit his blog here… 


Crow of Whareatua: A New Zealand War Story
by Sid Marsh
Lasavia Publishing

Set in 1869, Te Kooti Arikirangi te Turuki is the founder of the Ringatū religion and commander of the deadliest Māori guerrilla force of the nineteenth century. Te Urewera is the battleground: a wilderness of forest, bird, mountain and waterway. Crow of Whareatua brings to life a one-month period of a brutal war, one which was to shape New Zealand’s destiny. Originally self-published in 1999, Marsh’s comics adaptation of Te Kooti’s clashes with colonial forces in the New Zealand Land Wars was something of an oddity. At the time, graphic novels were still looked down on in literary circles, and comics were on a downward spiral following the collecting bust of the 90’s. There was no audience looking for an historical NZ graphic novel, told in stark black and white artwork reminiscent in its layout of the British war comics like Commando. Which is why it’s great to now see Marsh’s overlooked graphic novel getting a second life from Lasavia Publishing. Crow of Whareatua is well researched and unconventional - Marsh’s artwork is raw, sparse and uncluttered, which might turn off some traditional comics readers, but it rewards a closer reading. Marsh’s passion for his subject is undeniable, making this a welcome addition to any respectable NZ graphic novel bookshelf.


Dreams of Here, Far from Home
by Alex Cara
Self-published

‘O! Fortunate reader; you will find within these pages nine settler narratives, fun for ‘New Chums’ and ‘Gone Natives’ alike, and rendered in extravagant colour. Thrill to the fears and fancies of these exotic intruders, with their night-terrors and naiveties, and dreams of here, far from home.’ With Dreams of Here, Far from Home, cartoonist Alex Cara has created a collection of early New Zealand colonial cartoons - appearing here as Settler Comics - that perfectly homage the newspaper cartoons and illustration plates of that bygone time, while infusing it with her own distinctive style and sly sense of humour. For an artist still in her twenties this is a remarkable book. Building on the confidence of her first published work on the graphic novel, Nothing Fits, with writer Nate Tamblyn, from 2014, this publication announces the arrival of a fully fledged cartoonist destined for great things. If you like the historical and stylistic remixing of Moore and O’Neill’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, you’ll love Dreams of Here, Far from Home. Right now it is only available directly from the author on her website, but this deserves a wider audience - so seek it out, you won’t be disappointed.


Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People: Diary Comics
by Bryce Galloway
Pikitia Press

Bryce Galloway second zine-derived book, Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People: Diary Comics pulls together nine years of Galloway’s diary comics, first published in his zine of the same name. Within these entries you’ll witness Bryce’s ongoing sprint to catch the morning bus, see his children grow, watch Bryce deal with back pain and diarrhoea, meet his ‘DW’ (de facto wife) who halfway through this book becomes his wife. Actually, if you read closely, you’ll find lots of personal growth taking place on the page, from getting a cellphone to a promotion to Senior Lecturer at Massey University. Unlike James Kochalka or John Porcellino’s more conventionally styled diary comics, Galloway does away with panel boarders and (most) speech balloons to capture the notable moments of each day in an organic free-flowing style. The line-work is confidant and loose, capturing the energy and feeling of his memory of events rather than a more detailed rendering. Although this comes with its own unintended side effects: at one point DW calls him out on his depictions of her (which at times looks like a maniacal zombie). And that’s one of many enjoyable layers of this book, watching Galloway share his utterly fearless depiction of his daily life through his diary comics, while also having to consider his family’s involvement and participation. Should he focus more on the ‘sweeter moments’? He could, but as any reader will tell you, suffering makes for far more interesting art. Warts and all, this is a hugely enjoyable read. You’ll come away feeling like you know a great deal about Galloway’s day-to-day life, and perhaps be inspired to create a diary of you’re own…if only we could all be this brave.


Moa
by James Davidson
Earth’s End Publishing

‘When a sacred Maori treasure is stolen by the dastardly Otto, it’s up to the Moa Rangers, Kiwi Pukupuku and Possum Von Tempsky, to return the taonga and save the day. Ride along with Kiwi and Possum on their side-splitting adventures battling mythical creatures and dangerous hunters in colonial New Zealand!’ The latest release from Earth’s End Publishing is a collection of James Davidson’s acclaimed children’s comic book series, Moa. Set in colonial New Zealand, Moa chronicles the wild adventures of the Moa Rangers, Kiwi Pukupuku and Possum Von Tempsky, defenders of our native forests. Moa combines the fun and humour of classic Disney comic books with New Zealand’s historical past and Maori mythology to create a classic adventure series sure to delight and entertain readers of all ages. This deluxe treasury collection contains the complete Moa story in a hardback edition. Author James Davidson is also an educator, serving as the Head of the Arts Faculty at Opunake High School in New Zealand. Moa has been a way for him to explore the layered history and mythology of New Zealand through the medium of comics, and to create stories that can entertain and educate kiwi kids about the land they live in.


Out of the Woods
by Brent Williams with Korkut Öztekin
Education Resources Ltd

In 2009 Brent Williams was a successful lawyer in Wellington, New Zealand, when he became unwell. He didn’t know why he could no longer bring himself to work, see friends, or connect with family members. It was like he had fallen into a deep pit, from which there was no return. That pit was depression and anxiety. Brent’s father, well known property developer and philanthropist Sir Arthur Williams, had been a ruthless, overbearing force in his life. Publicly, Sir Arthur was a respected leader of NZ society, but behind the doors of Williams’ home in Karori, domestic violence was a daily occurrence. Fast forward 40 years, Brent’s past has caught up with him and held him in a vice-like grip. Denial, shame and a misguided belief he had to fight these illnesses on his own made his situation worse. Not until he acknowledged that he was ill and accepted help could his recovery begin. Out of the Woods is Brent’s story of realisation and recovery, told entirely through the watercolour illustrations of Turkish artist Korkut Öztekin. A highly original graphic memoir, it aim is to help people understand and overcome depression and anxiety.


The Tea Dragon Society
by Katie O’Neill
Oni Press

Christchurch based cartoonist Katie O’Neill has quickly become one of our most successful cartoonists on the world stage, having gained fans and recognition for her award-winning graphic novel Princess Princess: Ever After, and locally for her contributions to the Faction and High Water comics anthologies. After concluding her webcomic series, The Tea Dragon Society was published last October as a large format hardcover from US publisher Oni Press. The Tea Dragon Society is a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons. After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

Serbia

Selected by Žika Tamburić

Žika Tamburić is a long-time comics collector, historian and critic from Belgrade and London. He is also an editor of graphic novels published under Modesty Comics (e-books in English) and Modesty stripovi (paper books in Serbian).

The comics scene and comics publishing in Serbia continued their strong progress in 2017, with more than 10 festivals in the country, more than 15 publishers and more than 200 new books. This extensive trend is in contradiction to the small market and print runs of around 500 copies. It is uncertain how long this enthusiasm will continue, but in the meantime Serbian comic fans are enjoying a lot of events and great titles. However, in the last year there were only a few books by domestic authors. It seems much more expensive for publishers to pay for new artwork than to buy the rights for foreign books. The following is a selection of the most interesting original titles by domestic authors:


111 recepata za ekstremno srecan zivot (‘111 Recipes for an Extremely Happy Life’) 
by Mileta Poštić
Komiko

This book contains Mileta Poštić’s 111 recipes for an extremely happy life, which are funny and bizarre, but at the same time very thoughtful, unveiling the contradictions and frustrations of contemporary life. We are living on the border between media pressure about the things ‘which are important for us’, political democracy which calls democratic only things which are in the interest of particular individual, group, political party or country, and our sanity and what really matters to us. This frenzied situation is picked up in this book, providing advice how to cope with it, through humour and rejection of any involvement in manipulation. The book is drawn in an appealing realistic and illustrative style (think of Ripley’s Believe It or Not), which makes it easy to follow, but not easy to swallow, as it opens many serious thoughts about the life we are in. Another unexpected gem from a hardworking editor, Vuk Marković from Komiko.


Linije Fronta 4 and 5 / Vekovnici 9 / YU Tarzan 7
(‘Front Lines 4 and 5/ Endless 9 / YU Tarzan 7’)

by various  
System Comics / Darkwood

It is worth noting that two of the most active Serbian publishers have continued to publish serials by domestic authors. At the present time, with the growing popularity of one-off graphic novels, keeping serials alive is very important in an attempt to keep the audience interested and connected to the characters. Front Lines 4 and Front Lines 5 are compilations of stories by Serbian and French artists and writers who narrate tales about the First World War, from the front lines, but also from the homefront, where humanity was struggling for their mere existence. Endless 9 is a mind-boggling saga of historical personalities and endless creatures (vampires, werewolves, dog-headed beasts, and others), produced over many years as a magnificent achievement by a single scriptwriter, Marko Stojanović, and numerous artists from the Balkans. Tarzan 7 collects the works produced in Serbia in the ‘80s and ‘90s under the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ licence.


Singapore

Selected by Lim Cheng Tju


Singapore Pok Kai Zai: Book 10
by Ye Zhen
Self-published

For the last 10 years, Ye Zhen has been putting out his Singapore Horror Hip Hop series on an annual basis. It’s almost a tradition to see him at his booth at the Singapore Toys Games and Comics Convention with a new stack of books and when you ask him at the end of the con how many did he sell, it’s almost heart breaking to hear him say, “Only you buy, man.” Nonetheless he soldiers on (fortunately he doesn’t need to contribute to the household income) and his latest, Singapore Pok Kai Zai: Book 10, is still the most far-out Singapore comic of 2017. Skateboard P and his posse (Snoop Eastwood, Spacegirl and Kate Li, etc.) are still defending Earth from alien enemies. The new super villain is Nonpander Yingjie (where does Ye Zhen get the names from? His enemies in real life? People who stole his girlfriends in the past?), who is instigated by Skateboard P’s archenemies, the time-traveling Warbabies, the main troublemakers of the series. Since 2008 when Ye Zhen released the first four volumes of his horror hip hop epic at one go, comic readers have been trying to figure him out. Where did he come from? Where did he study comics? (Savannah College of Art and Design) Why is he doing comics? And why this type of comics? Singapore Horror Hip hop is totally different from the stuff put out by Sonny Liew, Troy Chin, Koh Hong Teng (circa late 2000s), which are more autobiographical and ‘serious’ in nature. Ye Zhen is simply doing his own thing and you can say he does not quite fit in with the other comic creators or what readers expect of comics from Singapore. His books are the outsider art of comics in Singapore. Artwork-wise and in terms of pacing and storytelling, Ye Zhen has improved. This is evident since the last book. If you have been following the series, it is getting more fun to read. Even if you are a new reader, you will be impressed by the verve and energy of his lines and strokes. There is a confidence at play here and it is one hell of a read especially if you like Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventures and Hong Kong kung fu comics. Singapore Pok Kai Zai is emotionally charged with kinetic energy and almost non-stop fighting.


Final Resting Place
by James Tan
COSH Studios

There are two dominant trends in Singapore. One is autobiographical (see this article in The Kyoto Review. The other is history / heritage comics. While both strands predate the multiple-award-winning publication of The Art Charlie Chan Hock Chye (2015), the success of Sonny Liew’s magnum opus has shone a spotlight on Singapore comics both locally and overseas and it has spurred interest in both genres as Liew’s book is part biography and part historical. A new series of Singapore comics has proven this to be a winning formula. COSH (Comics of Singapore Histories) Studios is a new comic collective set up to produce speculative comics about Singapore histories and alternatives. The first three titles of the series have gained media attention and traction in Singapore. James Tan’s Final Resting Place is a poignant story of a little boy getting lost in an old colonial cemetery and learning things about himself. Done in a style reminiscent of Yoshiharu Tsuge, Tan’s next book will be something to look out for. Now only if he pays more attention to the details and final touches for his take-it-or-leave-it loose art.


Coalition of the Savoury Spare Parts
by Oh Yong Hwee and Koh Hong Teng
COSH Studios

Coalition of the Savoury Spare Parts is a quite a mouthful for a comic title, but it is about food after all, which Singapore as a tourist attraction is famous for. Done by heritage comics veterans, Oh Yong Hwee and Koh Hong Teng, their new book is a fun ride filled with aliens, demi-gods, cooking face-off and cliché evil corporation types in their ‘80s suits no less. Oh and Koh are sons of hawkers, so you can literally smell the slightly pungent aroma of recycled oil hawker food as you breeze through the story. (Declaration of interest: the third COSH book, Guidebook to Nanyang Diplomacy is written by me and drawn by Benjamin Chee. It is about the Sepoy Mutiny of 1915 in Singapore. I’m also the editor of the series.)


Kitsune: Assassin For Hire
by Derek Chua
Irrational Comics

Kitsune: Assassin For Hire is Derek Chua channelling his love for Lone Wolf and Cub and other assassins-for-hire manga. The art is very different from Chua’s other series like Roleplayers and Socute. It is more nasty (tits falling out of kimono, evil daimyos getting their just deserts) and it has some stunning page layouts. Page 3 from the first issue is a fine example: four rectangular panels fill the page, one stacked on top of the other. A white fox is running through the forest to reach its mistress who is bathing in the river. The movement of the fox breaks the boundaries of the panels, and the perspective is crazy. Panel 3 makes the fox look like a huge animal while the last panel at the bottom of the page has the naked Kitsune towering over the fox. When I first saw the preview of this page, I thought both Kitsune and the fox were giants like those in Attack On Titan. I have always argued for more genre works in Singapore comics, as diversity can only be a good thing. Chua is one of the few who are embracing the challenge of trying different genres to see what sticks with the readers. Bravo.

 

South Korea

Selected by Kim Nakho

Nakho Kim is a Korean comics researcher. He writes reviews and columns for book journals and other periodicals, has worked as the editor-in-chief for the comics critic webzine Dugoboza, and curated the special exhibition on manhwa or Korean comics at the Angoulême Festival in 2003.


Myoneuragi 며느라기 (‘Daughter-in-law Period’)
by Sooshinji
GyulPress

Life as a daughter-in-law in a society with still largely patriarchal culture can be stressful. Even when no one is trying to be mean, the deeply ingrained expectations subtly require the bride to lead a second-class life to the groom’s side of the family. By depicting the easily overlooked small family moments in a contemplative style, the artist successfully reveals the abnormal. Through its serialisation on Facebook and Instagram, which was done in character (e.g. made to look like the protagonist’ is posting on her own account), this work was lauded for its detailed sketches of lingering gender inequality in modern Korea.  



Pul 풀 (‘Grass’)
by Kim Keum Suk
Boribooks

Sexual slavery for Japanese military during WW2, misleadingly called “comfort women” in its time, left serious scars on those who were exploited. However,while their pain did gain more attention over time, the stories of how they took control of their own lives were scarce; stories of how they endured inequality ranging from poverty to flat-out misogyny even before that horrible experience, and how they did their best to live normal lives afterwards. Kim fills that gap brilliantly based on her interviews with one of the survivors, with an impeccable brush style and story transitions.



Honjareul Gireunun Bub 혼자를 기르는 법
(‘Ways to Raise Yourself’)

by KIM Jungyeon
Changbi

Seoul, the mega-city with its dense networks of people, only a narrow personal space and pressure to work excessively, is a weird environment to live and grow in. This story is about the everyday life of Lee Shida, an editor who lives alone with her hamster in a tiny apartment. With clear-lined iconography and ample dry humour, the readers are presented with a poetic glimpse into the working and living conditions of young female urban workers today.

 

 



Majuchutda 마주쳤다 (‘I Met Her’)
by Ha Ikwon
Naver (online only)

Honourable mention to another experimental feature, that infuses smartphone technology into the trendy romance genre. The reader is accidentally pulled into the world of a romance web comic (think a-ha’s seminal music video Take on Me), and becomes involved with a normally neglected minor character. Take a picture of yourself, and it will become the character in the work. Pat her hair beyond the screen. Look around with your phone and find her in a corner. Surprisingly, it is not merely a demonstration of technologies; the story has lots of heart and humor, as a well-established romance comedy. You just happen to be in it.

Posted: April 14, 2018

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