Profile: Troy Chin

Published on 24 May 2016

With 13 published comic books under his belt, Troy Chin admits he’s not your typical comic book artist. We draw out the details.

BY PAMELA HO

“I’m a comic book artist who doesn’t like drawing. Isn’t that terrible?” says Troy Chin with a wry laugh. “Most artists grew up loving to draw, I didn’t. I still don’t, because I think it’s tedious.”

It’s not surprising then that this full-time comic book artist wasn’t trained in art. In fact, he holds a double degree in Finance and Communication from the prestigious Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Upon graduation in 2002, he dived headlong into America’s music industry, moving to New York to join Sony BMG as a finance manager.

His foray into drawing came about when his therapist challenged him to confront things he’d forsaken in his life or had decided weren’t important. “Art was one of them,” discloses Chin. “She helped me understand that things you dislike don’t equate to things you’re not good at.”

After a decade in the States, Chin decided to return to Singapore in 2007 and “give this comic thing a go” — for a year. It has been nine years since, and he has published 13 comic books: Liquid City (2008, 2010), Loti (2009-2012), Bricks in the Wall (2012), Forgetting (2013), and the ongoing autobiographic series, The Resident Tourist, which will see Book 8 out this year. In 2011, Chin was conferred the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award.

His style is a marriage of two worlds. “I like the art style and panelling of Japanese manga, but I like the writing style of American alternative comics — like stuff from publishers Drawn & Quarterly,” he says, adding that strong writing is paramount to him. “It’s like putting a prose novel into comic book form. Comic fans may not get it, but I’m trying to develop a form that works for me.”

To aid his autobiographical writing, the storyteller keeps a text file (15 megabytes and growing!) which holds everything that has ever happened in his life. From this, he cherry-picks moments that support the themes he’s exploring. “That’s why the narratives are so tight. Even my characters never say things randomly!”

Coupled with the fact that his comics average 200 pages, he slaves over plotting. “My principle is no redraw,” he states. “So I plan everything perfectly before I draw; because unlike prose, you can’t undo, delete or shift paragraphs around. If there’s a mistake, you have to redo everything!”

Looking back, Chin says superhero comics never interested him. “I think having superhero powers is finding the easy way out. Life is not like that!” he reasons. “And I want to see how people navigate through their tough conditions and deal with stuff — that kind of stories interest me! The ending may or may not be happy, but that is life.”

For more on Troy Chin’s works, visit his website at www.drearyweary.com.

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