Sonny Liew, the graphic novelist has become the first Singaporean to win at the prestigious Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards 2017, which is commonly known as the Eisner Awards. The annual awards got its name after pioneering artist and writer Will Eisner and are widely regarded as the "Oscars" of the comics industry.
The 42-year-old Malaysia-born artist bagged three awards for his graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye at the prestigious event that was held in San Diego on Saturday during the Comic-Con International. Liew won the award for Best Writer/Artist, Best Publication Design, and Best US Edition of International Material – Asia.
Earlier, the Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye had received the most number of nominations this year with six. It shows the life of a fictional Singaporean from the 1950s to the present.
Liew was nominated for Best Lettering, Best Coloring, and Best Graphic Album – New as well. "It was a mixture of elation and disbelief mostly," Liew told Channel NewsAsia. "(I'm) still processing the idea of winning awards at an event where some of my cartooning heroes like Sergio Aragones were presenting."
When he was asked about the significance of his historic Eisner-winning moment for Singapore's comics scene, he said: "I don't think it's possible to predict... I'm just trying to enjoy the moment for what it is."
More than 120 titles from 50 publishers from all over the world got its nominations in the award ceremony this year. According to reports, the winners were selected via online voting by industry professionals.
Liew had previously been nominated at the Eisner Awards for his efforts on the comics anthology Liquid City and the mini-series Wonderland. Apart from these, he has also worked for the likes of Marvel and DC Comics, including a recent stint for the latter's Doctor Fate title.
The novel was first published in 2015 by Epigram Books in Singapore and was subsequently released in the US by Pantheon Books. "Sonny deserves this. We always believed in this book, and it should be read by all Singaporeans, including schoolchildren," Epigram Books publisher Edmund Wee told Channel NewsAsia.
Ever since it has releases, it has received a number of awards, such as the Singapore Literature Prize and the Singapore Book Award's Book of the Year. Last month, it won best international comic at Denmark's Pingprisen Awards. It has also reached the bestsellers lists at Amazon and The New York Times.
The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye became the centre of controversy after the National Arts Council withdrew its S$8,000 grant after citing "sensitive content".
Liew's graphic novel features personalities such as Singapore's founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, opposition politician Lim Chin Siong and events such as 1987's Operation Spectrum and the Hock Lee bus riots. At present, the artist is working on projects including a live performance piece titled Becoming Graphic, for the Singapore International Festival of Arts in August.