City of fluid tales
Liquid City Volume 3
Publisher: Image Comics
If you knew the world was ending, what story would you most want to tell?
That’s the question Sonny Liew and Joyce Sim, editors of Liquid City Volume 3, asked their contributors when preparing for the latest volume of stories from comic creators from all over South-East Asia.
Founded by Malaysia-born, Singapore-based editor and artist Liew (Malinky Robot and Shadow Hero),Liquid City is an anthology that aims to showcase the diversity of comic creators from the region.
The first volume was published in 2008; in 2011, the second volume was nominated for an Eisner Award in the Best Anthology category.
Published by Image Comics, Liquid City Volume 3 collects 22 stories and eight pin-ups from 31 creators from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, all of whom were tasked with telling the story they would most want to tell if they knew the world was ending.
The result isn’t quite what you would expect, though, as it turns out artists and writers from this region have a pretty strange concept of the end of the world.
A Malaysian’s tale of a strange encounter with a deity (Disappearance, by Aks Kwan); a Singaporean’s journey to becoming a man through National Service (Boy, by Elvin Ching); a Vietnamese’s account of life growing up on a pig farm (Pig When Small, Cow When Big, by Nguyen Thanh Phong); an Indonesian’s memories of her grandmother (Bloemen Blij Plukken Wij, by Tita Larasati) ... these are hardly your typical “end of the world” stories.
They may not be the apocalyptic epics you expected, but there is a certain charm and wonderful diversity to be enjoyed from the tales told here.
Take, for instance, the wonderfully whimsical Living The Last Day Of Everyone’s Life, by Malaysian/Australian Jin Hien Lau, one of three semi-autobiographical stories collected here. A tale of a 10-year-old who is convinced that the world is about to end after watching a bizarre emergency news programme on TV,
Jin’s contribution is a comical tribute to childhood innocence with a streak of poignancy that somehow got me thinking about MY own childhood and how blissfully carefree those days were.
Equally amusing is iPocalypse, by Singaporean artist Adrian Ngin, who imagines the old uncles and aunties frequenting Singapore’s neighbourhood coffeeshops as superheroes with special powers like shooting organic tomatoes out of their armpits. Don’t ask.
Not all the stories are set in the creators’ homes and cultures though – there ARE others that are more far out and imaginative.
One of these – Light, by Singaporean Dominique Fam – is a fairy tale about a lamp maker’s pursuit of a star and her light that immediately stands out thanks to Fam’s gorgeous illustrations.
Another, 10010110 by Malaysian Sam Seen, is a trippy, somewhat surreal story told entirely in binary code about an alien being called back from Earth as the planet is dying.
Besides the stories, there are also several “pin-ups” contributed by Malaysian artists such as Baba, Billy Tan, Chong Fei Giap, Reimena Ashel Yee and Tan Eng Huat.
While these are little more than one-page posters, they do serve a purpose in this book, highlighting the diversity of artwork in the region.
It’s a testament to the adversity and flexibility of the medium that a simple subject like the end of the world could produce so many different interpretations, and produce such a diverse range of comics and artwork.
Since its first volume, Liquid City has been a wonderful champion of the creativity, originality and diversity of South-East Asia’s comic creators, and Volume Three continues the fine job of highlighting the quality of work coming from this region.