A COMIC SPIN ON LOCAL HISTORY

Published on 4 December 2017

Singapore’s history receives a colourful treatment with this new series of comics by COSH Studios.

By Melanie Lee

Comics of Singapore Histories (COSH Studios) is a collective of comic artists and writers who have put together a comic series that highlight little-known facets of Singapore’s past set in fun, fictional settings. The first three books in the series were recently launched at this year’s Singapore Writers’ Festival with some fascinating premises – a ghost story in Bukit Brown, a supernatural battle to curb Indian Sepoy mutineers, and a kway chap competition at Old Changi Airport Road Food Centre involving aliens, deities and politics.

“Genre and action works are missing in our comic scene. This is a deliberate attempt to reach out to all Singaporeans and get them excited about comics and Singapore history,” says educator, writer and COSH member Lim Cheng Tju.

Adds artist Benjamin Chee and fellow COSH member, “It’s a fun way to learn history with historical setting and incidents as a backdrop to the comic. ‘Remixing’ history this way shows how people might have been and what their stories are. Comics give a sense of time and movement to tell these stories, and is much cheaper to make than a movie.”

Let these COSH creators tell you more about their first three books!

COALITION OF THE SAVOURY SPARE PARTS

In a nutshell: Mdm Lam is training her intergalactic kitchen helper for the annual Fifth Milestone Kwa Chap Competition while also setting up a new political Harkwers’ Party and dealing with her nemesis from Quek Kee Fishballs.

“We planned this story as the beginning of a new series set in a hawker-themed alternative Singapore. We’re still in the midst of worldbuilding, so do watch out for our next story. Most people are familiar with aliens and deities – here, we localise them while featuring real life places and chronicling how hawker food came about. I really craved for kwa chap while writing this!” – Writer Oh Yong Hwee

“While illustrating this book, I told the Yong Hwee that we should make the interactions between the various alien, deity and hawker characters as imaginative as possible, while still keeping the characters recognisable in their appearances. I also did get a couple of ideas on what to eat for my next meal.” – Artist Koh Hong Teng

GUIDEBOOK TO NANYANG DIPLOMACY

In a nutshell: In 1915, a special colonial agent with her mysterious servant is sent to Singapore to put a stop to the Sepoy Mutiny and other rebellious elements.

“I studied, wrote about and taught Southeast Asian history. The Sepoy Mutiny is a part of Singapore’s history that is largely forgotten, but lately, historians are relooking at this incident as birthing the Asian Underground of the early 20th century. I also wanted to feature a heroine as there are too many male heroes in popular culture,” – Writer Lim Cheng Tju

“There’s a lot of storyboard work done to break down the action into readable chunks. It’s important to maintain a rhythm of movement and find suitable panels and camera angles to communicate both the action and the voice of the characters involved in the action sequence.” – Artist Benjamin Chee

FINAL RESTING PLACE

In a nutshell: A boy who is abandoned by his parents in Bukit Brown cemetery has to find his way out, relying on his wits and resourcefulness and the help of a mysterious guide.

“The boy in this book is a combination of me, my nephew, and other children I’ve met. There’s also a real-life story of parents who abandoned their son in the forest to teach him a lesson. I’ve been to Bukit Brown to draw as part of an Urban Sketchers’ trip a few years ago, and I was drawn to the natural charm of the place, along with its rich heritage. It’s not as clinical-looking as the parks and gardens. I hope my story creates a little awareness of Bukit Brown and readers would want to check out this place after that. Sometimes, the dead have more stories to tell than the living.”  – Writer and artist James Tan

These graphic novels can be purchased here or at major bookstores. Do also look out for four more titles coming out in 2018.  

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