Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chinese Editorial Cartoons in 2016 / 2017: 看点漫画

Back in the late 1990s, when Cherian George was the art and photo editor of The Straits Times, SPH used to put out The Year in Cartoons books, compilations of the ‘best’ cartoons from the paper. They are similar to the Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year book series. Good for teaching of current affairs and social studies, but they get dated real fast. Quality varies and they serve better as visual guides to review the events of the year. Reminder of what happen to who and when.

Sales were probably not very good and The Year in Cartoons books stopped after a few years. The internet has removed the need for such books when news and images are easily found using search engines. So it is surprizing that SPH took another stab at this – a compilation of the cartoons from Lianhe Zaobao. Maybe they are testing the market. This book was launched at the Singapore Book Fair at Suntec City during the June school holidays and only about 500 copies were printed.

A total of four artists’ cartoons are featured and only cartoons dealing with local topics are compiled here. That explains why Heng Kim Song’s cartoons are not included as he draws mainly about foreign politics and not local events. Some of the topics covered: new PSLE scoring system, the maid situation in Singapore, our obsession with our mobile phones, Michelin Star hawker food, HDB flats being too small, aedes mosquitoes, and so on. You get the idea. Even if you read the papers every day, you can still learn something new from perusing this book as there might be some local news that you may have missed out.

If nothing else, this book reaffirms the fact that the best editorial cartoonist is the angriest one. And so Li Tai Li wins over the rest hands down. You can feel the seething anger rising from the lines in some of his cartoons. He does not jump from one trendy topic (eg. Pokemon) to another – he sets his targets and keeps firing. So he is at his most satirical and critical when he takes on issues about education, this whole notion of meritocracy in Singapore and how stressful a society we are. He touches on the unemployment problem we face, structural or otherwise and he saves his best bullets on the useless young adults who are still living off their parents. He is relentless. Li Tai Li deserves a book of his own.

Some suggestions to improve the book: to organize the cartoons thematically, so that it is easy for the reader to find all the cartoons about a particular topic. To include dates of original publication and to provide some context / background to the events depicted in the cartoons. Memory is short these days. Some of these events should be remembered.

Sold at $15 if you can find it. ;)

No comments: