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The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  2,918 ratings  ·  484 reviews
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a biography showcasing the life and work of Chan Hock Chye, a pioneering but largely forgotten comics artist in Singapore. With a career spanning more than five decades, from pre-independent Singapore through its three Prime Ministers, Chan’s work reflects the changing political and economic environment in Singapore.

Containing Chan’s or
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published March 2016 by Pantheon (first published May 2015)
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Average rating 4.48  · 
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 ·  2,918 ratings  ·  484 reviews

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Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I literally could not put this book down.

I devoured it, messily, poring through the pages, lifting up my glasses to peer closely with long-sighted age at the details, flipping back and forth, forward and back in time, chuckling at the quiet humour, marveling at the subtle and not-so-subtle homages to style and history, raising it to look at it this way, then that way, at the multifaceted piece of work it is, knowing that repeated readings would throw up even more layers. If you're a comic book r
Dave Schaafsma
Dec 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A kind of amazing fictional biography of a Singapore comics artist, Charlie Chan Hock Chye, that is in part a story of twentieth-century Singapore, and in part a study of comics. Part of that study of comics has to do with the relationships between western and Asian comics, and how they mutually influence/d each other. This big, impressive book employs a very inventive approach, with an amazing range of comics styles representing different periods. Eisner-award nominated. Especially recommended ...more
Mar 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hands down my most enjoyable Singapore literature read ever! I'm glad I know pretty much every historical detail regarding Singapore in this book- I don't think I'd enjoy the book less if I was unfamiliar with the context (it did feel like an info dump at times), but I believe I enjoyed it more because I am SO familiar with it. So many complex themes and narrative devices at play here, I don't know how to start my school essay on this now but I'm excited!!! ...more
I was one of those who bought the book because the National Arts Council withdrew its publication grant. But then I found myself with a truly masterful piece of work – as someone who doesn't usually read graphic novels I was introduced to a whole new mode of visual storytelling, combining a variety of styles, tones and feels.

It's not often that Singaporeans get to see our history – and the rapid transformation of our city – played out in such detail and depth. It's not often that we get to thin
For graphic artists, there are must-reads of the genre that direct the eye to advances in the art, and Sonny Liew’s contribution may well be one of those. Liew shows us many types of comic book art, discusses their genesis and early creators, but also seamlessly melds the story of an artist, Charlie Chan Hock Chye, with the story of the political and economic development of Singapore. It is a masterful work of enormous depth and sensitivity that answers questions I’d had when contemplating the e ...more
Holly Painter
May 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant and subversively educational. I sometimes feel like Singapore is gaslighting me. This book suggests that I'm neither insane nor alone. ...more
Jee Koh
A biography of the artist as a hero, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is full of swagger even as it pays tribute to its comics predecessors. The virtuosic display of different comics styles, the mind-boggling meta-meta-meta narratives, the political satire. The result is an astounding feat, which sets a high bar not only for Singapore comics, but also for Singapore fiction. Yet much remains familiar. Singapore history may be re-interpreted but its periodization is not challenged. The reading of ...more
Joyce Cheng
Jun 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Th best local history book and the magic heightens when it was reported that Charlie Chan was a fictional character! Clever way to educating one of Singapore's history and it leaves you to form your own opinion of the events that have carved Singapore's past. I am in awe of Sonny's research, different strokes of the works presented. I would definitely buy Roachman, Bukit Chapalang and definitely merchandise too!!! ...more
Derek Royal
Feb 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I reread this book in preparation for our Comics Alternative interview with Sonny Liew: http://comicsalternative.com/comics-a.... I had originally read it in proof form, when Sonny asked for my comments and insights before publication. He even thanks me in his acknowledgments page! This is an ambitious narrative: part history, part meditation on comics art, part comics history appreciation, and all faux biography. ...more
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well-worth the wait. Sonny uses several different art styles to tell the story of a fictional comic book artist, creating allegories and alternate histories while confronting the actual events behind the recent history of Singapore.
Jason Lundberg
Phenomenal. Truly an impressive achievement. Very very highly recommended.
Sam Julian
This was kind of nuts. An incredible oeuvre and a tour de force. The fictional biography of hypothetical Singaporean artist Charlie Chan becomes a lens through which Malay cartoonist Sonny Lieu is able to explore the history and development of post-war Singapore in a truly unique manner- a series of period comic homages. Liew's artistry and storytelling prowess is on full display-- he executes picture-perfect parodies of every art style from pulp science-fiction to Pogo to Little Nemo, MAD magaz ...more
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tops, 2015
This is my third reading of what should be called the secret history of modern Singapre reimagined through the eyes of an imaginary icon who happens to be the father of Singapore comics. Should be made available to all who are interested in greater a better perspective of how Singapore came about as the economic miracle it is today.
Feb 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an account of a fictional Singaporean comic book artist. There is a lot of commentary on the politics of Singapore from the 1950s up until today. This is an interesting read for those who are interested in the history and politics of Singapore.
ash | spaceyreads
An amazing work of art and storyteller that is severely (and I don't usually like using this word because it's ironically overrated) underrated. It deserves more celebration! It deserves to be taught in schools or discussed about in book clubs. It definitely does not deserve that disappointing decision from the National Arts Council to revoke their grant of 8000 SGD that they initially agreed to give to help fund this comic because of its 'sensitive' content. Liew commented that the response he ...more
Joanne Tai
As a Singaporean, I'm surprised this book was even published with the support of the local National Arts Council, given that it's got more oppositional political opinion due to the ideologies of Charlie Chan, even if it's more like a strong polite disagreement than an all-out raging rhetoric. The first two pages of comics sets the tone. In this book, you will also understand why Singaporeans don't expect government-run bodies would allow certain types of opinion to be published, let alone suppor ...more
Elizabeth A
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphix, 2016, art
I cannot summarize it better than Kenny Mah of the The Malay Mail, so will simply quote him:

“Part graphic novel, part art book, part narrative essay, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Malaysian-born, Eisner Award nominated comic artist and illustrator Sonny Liew is a look at Singapore unlike any other before. By reflecting on the life and work of a comic creator whose career spanned half a century, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye comments wryly on Singapore’s past and present while honorin
Sathish Murugayah
A surprisingly candid take on the sociopolitical demographics of Singapore, The art of Charlie chan hock chye is an extremely refreshing read. The intricate artistry of the panels on each page and the social commentary that gives pause for thought make this more than just a mere work of art. Beyond the obvious questions of whether we are truly free in Singapore and his satirical take on the moral grandstanding of the governmental instruments in Singapore, Sonny Liew has given us a manifesto that ...more
Yongqing Lin
Jul 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-crush


I have never before realised what it was like to see Singapore and Singaporean characters represented in such a way. Superficially, through comics as a medium, and in the genres of sci-fi and fantasy, and in the kind of style (both artistically, and the humour), I would consider "mainstream". And on another level, to have the contrived narratives of my history/our history *exposed* like that, and rewrapped and retold
Aug 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I actually finished this book in one sitting, which is a very rare thing for me these days, and am belatedly updating Goodreads almost a month later. THE ART OF CHARLIE CHAN HOCK CHYE is a stupendous achievement - a study in history, art, and (fictional) biopic, serving as a superlative example of each, while laced with plenty of humour and pathos as well. Sonny Liew's book is a delight to read and pore over: it radiates a love for comics and a keen grasp of politics and power that is quite blis ...more
Sadie-Jane Alexis Huff

what a ride. This book is like a marriage between a comic artist's journey as well as historical stories of a nation. Both told and drawn with fervour and passion.

loved and appreciated every page... especially the notes which sonny made effort to compile.

it is a representation of another aspect of the Singapore story.. One that many may not know of..

I fought sleep to read it... and as my eyes watered due to the battle between sleep and reading on.. I'm glad I read through the tired tears..
Han Ming guang
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just loved this book.

Written and drawn in an accessible manner, with elements of political satire. This graphic novel takes a more critical look at "The Singapore Story". A shame that the NAC funding got pulled because the government (most likely the MHA) saw it as undermining the government's authority because it is really a fitting gift to SG50.

I would highly recommend everyone to at least borrow the book and have a read.
Michael Rhode
Dec 29, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've gotten an advance proof of Pantheon's edition which comes out in March. A putative history of a cartoonist, Liew's story is actually a history of Singapore and is a tour-de-force. It's subject will probably limit it's North American breakthrough somewhat, but he's done an exceptional job. His use of American cartoonist styles to delineate time periods in Chye's life is brilliantly done. ...more
Judith Huang
So many emotions come to me when reading this book: a longing for Charlie Chan to be a real person, gratitude that sonny liew is, awe at the ambitious scope of the book, nostalgia for a past I didn't live through, hope that more such voices may be heard surrounding Singapores stories. It's the book I wish I could have written. An intricate and multi layered masterpiece. ...more
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graphic-novels
A magisterial piece of work. Highly recommended.
Aug 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A national treasure! Thanks @Gabriel for introducing me to Charlie Chan's wonderful world! ...more
Peter Derk
I complain from time to time about people who pick up a book and don't get what they wanted because they were too stupid to read the description. And I thought that was happening to me here by the end of the book. But this book may be engaging in the tiniest bit of subterfuge.

Here's the Goodreads description:

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a biography showcasing the life and work of Chan Hock Chye, a pioneering but largely forgotten comics artist in Singapore. With a career spanning more t
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh my GOODNESS, this book is amazing. I read this for my English class in college, and I’m so glad this was part of the reading list. This is the first graphic novel that has impacted me so powerfully. At first glance, it’s a colorful, lighthearted autobiography of a sweet, old man who is a comic artist from Singapore (the Charlie Chan Hock Chye character is absolutely endearing). Only towards the middle of the book did I realize (with the help of google) that he’s a whole fictional character. W ...more
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This graphic novel is dense, challenging, and remarkable. The author creates a main character that is an elderly comic artist from Singapore, Charlie Chan Hock Chye. Charlie is reflecting on his life and career. In particular, he's reflecting on the political upheaval of Singapore and its impact on both the general population, and him as an individual. He's lived through independence, a tenuous merger with Malaysia, the waxing and waning power of Chinese culture versus Western culture, and the t ...more
Jun 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comics
Be prepared to be absolutely floored by this book/graphic novel. I picked it out from my fiancé's bookshelf on a Saturday morning as my reading companion for the weekend and expected to take 3-4 days to finish it. I completed the book in a day.

And if I could, like, Char's review, I would love for anyone who lives in Singapore, or who are curious about the 'Singapore Story', to read this. This book forces us to evaluate how much history that we "know" has already been whitewashed by her victors.
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Sonny Liew is a Eisner-nominated comics artist, painter and illustrator whose work includes the New York Times bestsellers The Shadow Hero with Gene Luen Yang (First Second Books), and The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye (Pantheon Books).

Born in Malaysia, he lives in Singapore, where he sleeps with the fishes.

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