Monday, July 4, 2022

The Comic Embassy - An Interview With Versatile Comic Book Creator Alan Bay

The Comic Embassy, a pop-up artist commnunal space at Tekka Place, is currently in its second month of operation. Every month from June 2022, two artist ambassadors will be in the spotlight, providing ample opportunities for people to meet them, and get to know more about their creative works. In June, the artist ambassadors were Collin Yap and James Leong. This month, local artists Alan Bay and Foo Swee Chin will step into the spotlight.

Alan Bay is a prolific illustrator and comic book creator who is known for his artwork in several high profile projects, including games like Assassin's Creeds: Brotherhood and TMNT, and the comic book “ONCE UPON A SINGAPORE... TRADERS, which was nominated for Singapore Book Publishers Association's Book of the Year 2019.

Red Dot Diva last met Alan Bay when he was busy promoting local fantasy comic book “SACRED GUARDIANS”, published by Asiapac Books. She managed to catch up with Alan for this interview as he prepares for his appearances at the Comic Embassy:

Red Dot Diva (RDD): Hi Alan, how have you been, and what have you been up to since we last met?
Alan: Hi Diva! I have been working on commissioned projects like “GUSS' GUTSY ADVENTURES”, “TREASURE SEEKERS” series and a little side project that I have always wanted to do! I am also working on a new book with Tina Sim, author of “ONCE UPON A SINGAPORE... TRADERS”. Oh, and I recovered from dengue fever back in May, and got bitten by a dog recently. But I am still alive, and drawing! XD
RDD: Oh gosh. I’m glad you are OK now.

RDD: You have been busy doing more comics with Kanme Studios. How did you meet the other creators from there?
Alan: I got to know Siam and Garwin from Kanme Studios from Reddit’s 'ComicBookCollabs' forum a few years ago. It is a place where creators post for hire, collaborations, and self-promo. They are in the US, and both are of Asian descent. They have a love of Asian history and culture, hence one of the stories is about a boy who has been living in the US and returning to Japan to learn about his family history.
RDD: That comic is BOOM SHAKA, isn’t it? I thought it had an interesting premise and story. I enjoyed reading it.
Alan: Yes. It is not too crazy at all to say I play a significant role in Singapore's efforts to harmonize regional cooperation between US and our region, by forming a solid basis for amicable relations between the two countries.
RDD: Wow. Haha.Vote for Alan the politician-artist!

RDD: I see you are also starting a fantasy comic anthology entitled MIGHT, MAGIC and MONSTER-IN-LAWS. What is the process of creating this anthology like, and what we can look out for from the various pitches that you selected?
Alan: It was a daring thing to try, considering my experiences with editing and crowdfunding. It is a great responsibility as the creators commit their trust, effort, and time into it, and I must make sure I try my best to make it a success.

I have had creators asking me if they will be paid, what is the page rate, and it would be horrible if they are not paid, etc. As this is my first call for a submission project, I am not able to promise an amount, but I did state that 90% of the successful budget minus the production cost will be given to the creators.

Reviewing the pitches was definitely fun but it was also a difficult task! Originally, I estimated to receive around 10-20 submissions, and so I thought it will be a quick process. In the end, over 50 submissions were received and I managed to select 18 stories. Most of the stories have some level of humour, although they are not necessarily a comedy story. I would say, the anthology will be a great read for young adults as well as adults.

RDD: Will this book be crowdfunded? And which crowdfunding platform have you had most success with?
Alan: Yes, I am planning to crowdfund this project in December, probably on Kickstarter, since I had some experiences with other creators. The projects that I was involved in or collaborated on Kickstarter include board games with Capital Gains Studio, and a comic collaboration with Chiral Comics. This will be my first solo kickstarter project. Hopefully, there will be a second one as I am working on a mini comic book now!!
RDD: You have been very busy indeed! I really admire your positive outlook and how much initiative you are taking with your creative projects.

RDD: In your opinion, what are the 3 essential qualities a good comic book artist should have?
Alan: These probably apply more for artists that work with others, but generally should apply for everyone too.
(1) Good work ethics. Never over-promise, communicate well, able to follow schedules (or at least know how long you take to finish your own art)
(2) Constantly learning. Able to take constructive feedbacks and criticism, ask when you are unsure.
(3) Self-care. Creating comic is a tedious task, spending 10 to 15 hours a day sitting and drawing is dangerous to your health. Learn to balance work and rest.

RDD: You have done several comic book projects in your career so far. Which has given you the most fun?
Alan: I am grateful that I have been really lucky with my comic projects. I got the chance to work on 'Traders' with Tina Sim, after getting to know her when we both attended a comic workshop by Gwee Li Sui. Tina has great interest with Singapore's history, which inspired her to create and write 'Traders'. I had a lot more creativity freedom with “SACRED GUARDIANS”, as the story was more fantasy-based. It also helped me get through the first year of Covid as I spent 6-8 months locked at home drawing it!

My recent projects are more for younger audiences, like “GUSS' GUTSY ADVENTURES”, which is about good bacteria in your body, which is both fun and informative ( and I learnt so much about our body's organs!)

RDD: This sounds like a local version of the anime Cells At Work, but.. bacteria. Haha. I can’t wait to check out this book.

RDD: What does your dream artist studio look like?
Alan: A room full of automatic robots that I can control with my thoughts. Haha! Currently I am still working in my bedroom, which I hope to improve/ change by next year. I like a studio that is bright and with plants and fish tanks, a full shelf and wall with books, a big table that serves as a dining and meeting place, a pantry full of treats, and of cause, a safe full of money and gold.

RDD: What do you hope to achieve from being one of the artist ambassadors of the Comic Embassy? What can we expect from your participation at the communal space?
Alan: I hope I will get to interact with more local comic readers and creators. Last month, I got to meet Collin Yap, and hang out with long-time-no-see gansta boss James Leong. Even though I have stacks of work and deadlines piling up, I will definitely be there on the 9th, 16th and 23rd of July. Also, 16th July is the official Community Day so, come hang out with me and other artists!

Yes, everyone - do make your way down to The Comic Embassy to meet Alan Bay and Foo Swee Chin this month. (Check out July’s schedule below.) The space is a very cozy place, with shelves of locally published comic books and exclusive merchandise by local artists available for purchase! If you are not participating in any ticketed workshops, admission to the area is FREE!

Where: #B1-01/02 at Tekka Place, 2 Serangoon Road, Singapore 218227
Date: 16 July 2022, Saturday
Time: 3 PM
Admission is FREE



Art Is Community - The Comic Embassy Opens At Tekka Place - 11 June 2022

The Comic Embassy - An Interview With Local Sketch Artist Collin Yap

The Comic Embassy - An Interview With Multi-faceted Freelance Artist James Leong

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