Our Writer’s Festival featured a couple of “top” writers. The rest of us have been sidelined. Not surprisingly, not many readers and potential book buyers are even aware that there was even an event like that. But make no mistake, Singapore did see a golden age in publication. It was meaningful to hold book-signing sessions back then. At the book fairs I attended some 20 years ago, Mr Kiasu comic books were reported to be selling at one copy per minute. Yes, it was really that good. But for any book in Singapore today, that can only happen in our dreams.
When the National Library Board (NLB) broached his revival with Mr Lau as part of its ongoing information literacy campaign about six months ago, Mr Lau’s reply had been: “No, no, no. Sorry, he’s retired.”
NLB staff asked Mr Lau, 48, to reconsider and presented him with modern-day scenarios where Mr Kiasu’s antics and mass appeal could contribute to the initiative.
Since even the not-so-famous authors like yours truly are making a comeback, there is no reason why Mr Lau shouldn’t continue producing comics. But two questions instantly come to mind.
1. Why Mr Kiasu again? Why not a new character?
2. Why work with an established comic artist? Why not give new artists a chance?
Perhaps NLB is just trying to be cautious by working with an established/familiar character and artist. Let’s not forget a piece of history.
The revival of Mr Kiasu has not been without friction. After his comeback was announced last month, one of the co-authors of the previous comic books, Mr James Suresh, wrote to the media questioning why he and two other co-authors were not acknowledged.
When Sherlock Holmes was killed by it’s author in the aptly named story, The Final Problem in 1893, there was a public outcry in the UK. Why? Because Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was sick of the character and Sherlock Holmes was at his most glorious moment during that time.
Mr Kiasu was not killed off in his most glorious moment. Those of us watching the industry will remember that after James Suresh (the team’s storyteller) left the team, Mr Kiasu wasn’t funny anymore. Sales were down, readers got bored and it’s really tempting to infer that that was the reason for Mr Kiasu’s retirement. Frankly, I’m doubtful that readers would like Mr Kiasu even if the old team comes together again. I certainly wouldn’t bet my money on the new Mr Kiasu.
Let’s look at another telling part of the report.
With the worthy-cause checkbox ticked, the cartoonist then requested that the campaign’s message not be blatant in the comic book.
Does that not sound paradoxical? We all know what “worthy cause” means in this case, especially when “campaign message” is mentioned. I have my predictions, but let’s wait and see. The article can be read here.
© Chan Joon Yee