One of several things to look forward to at the Singapore Toy, Games and Comic Convention 2010 (STGCC) was the launch of Gone Case: A Graphic Novel Book 1. Based on the 1996 award-winning novel by Dave Chua, this is the first of two books, the second of which will hopefully be ready before the year is over.
Gone Case: A Graphic Novel showcases the talents of two very observant individuals, the poignancy and unsentimentality of writer Dave Chua and the starkly intense social realism style of artist Koh Hong Teng, both of whom have made their mark showcasing Singapore life in ways few others have. In particular, any child of the 80s would recognise the scenes as being integral parts of their growing up years, even though we would tend to take them for granted over time.
But why take our word for it? Grab a copy for yourself and then get it signed by Dave and Teng. The next opportunity to do so will be at Books Kinokuniya this Saturday, 8th Jan 2011 from 2pm to 3pm, where they will start with a short discussion on the book. Kino is selling the graphic novel at $18.90, and you can also get the original 1996 novel by Dave for $16.05.
Excerpts from the graphic novel under the cut, as well as a short review.
All images from the official site at http://gonecasecomic.wordpress.com/
I will admit that I’ve never heard about Dave Chua before this year, despite his accolades, but that’s the beauty of this man – he doesn’t make himself the centre of attraction. Having been in Singapore since he was 10, his keen eye observed and captured the essence of HDB living as it had evolved by the 1980s, with all its quirks like having red charcoal braziers outside flats, laundry hanging from clothespoles or neighbourhood playgrounds with swings and sand. Yes, sand.
The protagonist is Yong, a 12-year-old boy preparing for PSLE. The excerpt above is brilliant in its simplicity – showcasing the relationship between father and son that hit very close to home because I had an uncle almost like that. As a child, you don’t always know what exactly is going on but as you grow up – and as the story progresses, it becomes clearer. Teng’s artwork is brilliantly brought to the fore here, from crucial details like the almost uniform wall tiling in all HDB flats, to the way Yong’s father gingerly walks out of the bedroom backwards so as not to wake Yong’s mother – these are aspects of the art that augment the story, bringing it to a whole new level.
According to Dave, this sequence was based on his own experiences, but I found it so familiar even though I went to an shop run by Indian barbers instead. The barber chairs, the seating area, the magazines, having them talking to me even though I did not say a word in reply – these are the aspects that are so accurately captured by Dave and Teng. The key here is that while you’re reading about Yong’s life, Teng’s artwork doesn’t overwhelm your memories, but complements it, allowing you to bring your own senses to bear – something that’s I can never do with anything that the mainstream comic publishers put out.
Of course, for readers of Gone Case the novel, the graphic novel adaptation naturally takes its liberties and there are times when events in both books don’t exactly match. That being said, both complement each other very well and I encourage you to get the original 1996 work, in addition to the graphic novel, if you can at Kino this Saturday. See you at the book signing event!