Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sir Fong on National Library's Top Ten Most Borrowed chart!

 This is rather unexpected!

Sir Fong 2: Fur-o-cious, a Sir Fong book of student and teacher humour released in 2006, is the 7th Most Borrowed Book on the Young People English Title (Singapore Collection) chart!

Looking at a local chart dominated ghost stories and Ho Mingfong books (that's MOE appointed literature text), this is quite a happy achievement!

Especially if mine is the only comic book to break into that chart!

Word-of-mouth is very important in the National Library circuit. If someone likes your book, he/she will recommend it to others. Since Fur-o-cious was released in 2006, that means readers have been recommending my book to friends slowly but surely for the last 3  years plus!

I am also surprised because based on my regular visits to National Library's online on-loan site, "Sir Fong's Adventures In Science Book 1" is clearly more popular than "Fur-o-cious". I have several theories as to why "Book 1" haven't yet made it but "Fur-o-cious" did, including the fact that "Book 1" is only available in the library for less than 1.5 years while "Fur-o-cious" was there for 3+ years. But those are just theories and not worth dwelling over without facts!

Nevertheless, this is a piece of wonderful and encouraging news! And I can do a Happy Countdown tonight!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year!

One more piece of good news before I join my friends for the Countdown to 2010:

Malaysia's China Press ran a story of Sir Fong on 29th Dec 2009! China Press's "U Edu" section runs stories for students and education, and the front page headlines "Looking Forward to Local Pictorial Books". Sir Fong shares the center spread with Malaysian comic book "Sea Turtle Here We Come"!

If you can read Mandarin, and click on the photo below, you can read the detailed page:

( Click on image above to see full page of article! )

Another piece of good news is that I did very well at the Popular Book Fest! I was given 30-mins stage time, but made the most of it and engaged families and parents fully about the benefits of Sir Fong books.

The Book Fest visitors were very supportive after they saw how important a good comic is in their kids' understanding of Science. So I sold a healthy amount of books there! XD

I also made two standees for visitors to pose with:

2009 has not been an easy year - H1N1 and poor economy - and I am so grateful for those of you who believe in the work I am doing, and gave me your support, time and love!

So, as I take a day off to tend to my fish tank, walk my dog and get ready for countdown to 2010 with my good friends, I would like to thank you. I'd also like to say "Happy New Year!" to you, and may we all have a better year in 2010! 

Thank you! Otto

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sir Fong's first appearance in Malaysia's newspaper!

"Singaporean Comic Artist Otto Fong: Giving Out Light at Every Turn of His Life" - Kum Ying Zi, Oriental Daily News, Malaysia

On 18th December 2009, Friday, Sir Fong and Totto the bunny made it to a newspaper in Malaysia.

This marks another milestone in the journey of my comic book series. Reporter Kum Ying Zi spent several hours interviewing me in Kuala Lumpur, and the headline she chose was poetic and beautiful. I never saw my life in that light - all I knew was I made some strange turns in life. I was an engineer, teacher and video editor. I worked in film and theatre, before I finally became a full-time publisher and comic artist.

Ms Kum generously saw it as my contributions. She gave me a great new point of view!

Indeed, in life, we take turns which were sometimes necessary and unexpected. In these twists and turns, our plans were often thrown into disarray. But wherever life puts us (or our own decisions land ourselves), we have a choice: a choice to shine or shrink into our shells feeling sorry for ourselves.

Take the example of a great scientist Stephen Hawking:

Hawkings have Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease took away most of his motor skills, including the use of his hands, his body and most of his speech. It did not stop him from writing one of the most popular bestseller in science "A Brief History of Time", and being hailed as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein.

As 2010 comes closer, it marks the end of the first decade of the 21st Century. For you, my readers, and for myself, it is simply the beginning of our choice to shine. Or shrink. The choice is always ours. May we all choose powerfully!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I'm a comic book artist. My dad's a comic book hero/villian!

For my "Sir Fong's Adventures In Science" friends, here's something else you don't know about me!

If you didn't Google "Fong Swee Suan" after reading my last blog, here's one more opportunity to find out: he is now a character in a new graphic novel (aka, comic book) called The Illustrated Men In White. This book is a illustrated version of the recent best-seller of the same title (below):

When New Paper reporter Lediati Tan interviewed my father and myself on 22nd Nov (Sunday), she showed us a copy of the upcoming graphic novel. I was thrilled!

You see, when I was growing up, I only saw my dad portrayed as some vicious, angry villian (see two examples below):

This image is taken from the excellent Morgan Chua's My Singapore, published by Marshall Cavendish. My dad is top right.

This image also taken from Morgan Chua's same book - my dad is in the middle.

You can imagine how bruising it was for a son to see something like that about dad (kind of like Luke Skywalker finding out that his dad is the galaxy's super villain Darth Vader - "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!").

Now, I saw artists Kelvin Chan, Chng Choon Hiong, Jonathan Roberts and Celesto Gulapa's portrayal of dad differently (Ng Tze Yong is the writer of the graphic novel). Well, he's still somewhat fierce-looking in some scenes, but it's pretty cool. I thank them!

So if you pass by the grocery store downstairs, buy a copy of The New Paper (22nd Nov/Sun). Or go get The Illustrated Men In White!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thank You MM Lee!

A friend of mine on Facebook said this of MM Lee Kuan Yew:

Chor Pharn Lee: "Seems like LKY's sense of mortality, and the urgency to wrap up loose ends is accelerating. Closure through Men in White, hectoring the USA to stay its course while receiving some award, now public atonement for killing the Chinese language in Singapore. In balance, he has done more good. Like how they sum up Mao's achievements as one third bad, two thirds good. I think I'll be more generous."

Here's the link on MM Lee about his education policy:

Personally, I have had my own prejudices about MM Lee. Afterall, my father is Fong Swee Suan (google him, or "Hock Lee Bus Riots"), one of the main opposition leaders during the early days of PAP.

But I am also a product of MM Lee's Singapore. I had a great bilingual education (it's not perfect, but it's still great!). I benefited from growing up in a multi-racial, multi-lingual country. I can live my life without fear of racial or religious prosecutions, or being shot down in the streets, or in fear of the triads.

MM Lee took ownership of his triumphs, and more importantly, he took ownership of his failures. It takes a great man to do so. And I want to acknowledge him for creating a great country that allows me to go after my dreams.

So, to MM Lee, THANK YOU! You're a great man! I love you as I love my father!

Here's an old song about giving credit - for those of us who didn't get it when we first heard it:

Otto Fong

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Discovering Water On the Moon: Who Deserves the Credit?

This week, online headlines screams: "Tons of Water On the Moon!" (To be accurate, 25 gallons were discovered.)

 The implications are incredibly exciting, just as exciting as when the first human being - an American - left his footprints on the moon. Suddenly, everything was possible . . . for Americans, at least. 

When I was young, a popular television series called "Space: 1999" depicted a moon base, where humans work and live. For my last birthday, my partner bought me a die-cast metallic model of the Space: 1999 ship - that's how dear the series was to me.

Now, the discovery of water on the moon is re-igniting our possibilities for the Moon - water implies that we can sustain life!

However, most news on the discovery of water credited NASA, and neglected to mention that it was India's first mission Chandrayaan-1* that carried the equipment which discovered the water in the first place.

While due credit may not be interesting to some, I felt it really makes a big difference whether the headlines say "India discovers water on the Moon" or "NASA (aka America) discovers water on the Moon". Why?

It makes a difference to young kids in India and Asia. When I read that an American walked on the Moon, I told myself that only in America, dreams could come true. When I read about Einstein and Newton in school textbooks, I told myself that only Westerners could be great scientists. 

It is a little tricky at the moment: while the moon probe belonged to India, the equipment that detected water belonged to NASA. Regardless of the final verdict on who found water on the Moon, I hope young people all over the world are inspired by the possibilities - not just for human kind, but for yourselves as great scientists.

Can an Indian, Chinese, Malay or Thai be great scientists? Why not? 

* In Sir Fong's Adventures . . . Book 2, I faced a problem while plotting the story: "How can an Earth satellite take clear pictures of the Moon surface?" I posed that question to Professor Lui Pao Chuen (the ex-Chief Defense Scientist who is featured in the book as Professor Thunder). He gamely suggested that a moon satellite can take clear pictures. And in fact such a venture was undertaken by Indian space scientists. 

And wah lah! The rest is comic book history!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rabbit Institution and How Sir Fong looks on your furnitures!

 Ever wondered how a simple drawing of a simple comic artist ends up being plastered all over the world, on mugs, calenders, toys, bed sheets and other merchandise? My family have been ultra-supportive the last two years as Totto and his friends (mainly Izak Nooton and Abby Nooton) were in their infancy. 


In my family home, I looked and looked at how the creation appeared on the walls and dining table. And that helped me see what areas of improvement are needed to move the designs forward.



Friends also play important roles. As I shared with my good friend Miel about the name of Totto's school (Rabbit Institution), he immediately sketched out how the school compound might look like. 


Finally, here's a few really fantastic comic works from students of Coral Secondary School!

Monday, November 2, 2009

To the Class of 1D, Shu Qun Secondary School, 2009

When I was teaching, being Form Teacher to a class was my favorite appointment.

At the beginning of each year, a form class was assigned to me: 30-plus amazing kids - each of them the greatest jewel in their parents' hearts - was entrusted to my care. Everytime I discovered a talent, a leader, a kind soul, a brilliant mind - I felt pride. Nothing compares to the joy of making a positive difference in a child's life. My students made me a better person.

So I was really touched when another form teacher shared about his class. It brought back vivid memories of the bond I made with my students.

So here's a valuable glimpse of one form teacher and his special class: Mr Elfie, and Class 1D of Shu Qun Secondary School, 2009:

"If you are my student once, I am your teacher forever."

"Aiyoh . . . Joo Kian, wipe your mouth lah! Got something white white at the corner of your mouth!
And for goodness sake, straighten out your collar!"

"From 8 o'clock to 4 o'clock: Feiqing, Wu Zi, Liu Kun and Vivian -
nourishing their cells with McDonalds Extra Value Meal!"

"Ranjan! Why you lean away from me? OK, smile everyone! Nice shot! Naizirul, Firdaus, very photogenic!
Joo Kian, you in the previous shot already! Kay-poh for what? And wipe your mouth!"

"Arfan (left) and Garda feeling frenched on a tray full of fries! BURP!"

And here's something Mr Elfie wants to say to his international students:

"Thirty seven students in this class of mine,
Seventeen raised abroad, my kids so fine.
Lucky Plaza four, Mao Zedong three plus three,
Petronas Tower two, and one eats kim-chi.
Three survived 2004 tsunami, they're ok!
One last gem from the land of Mandalay.
Last twenty from the land of five stars and a moon,
These are my pearls, my strength, my baboons!"
Mr Elfie

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Finally Found The Name of Totto's School!

It is amazing what you can get when you really, really listen to other people!

If I look back on this November 2009, I would call it my "I Just Realised I Never Listened to Anything or Anybody In My Life" Day!

Remember what your mom said when you were young? "Listen carefully!"

Remember what your teacher said everyday in primary school? "Listen up!"

When I talk to my friends, all I wanted was to talk. I wasn't interested in what they had to say. I was more interested in what I want to say to them!

Since I already knew what I was going to say, my conversations were usually quite boring to me.

Starting last week, something changed. I decided to start conversations by opening my ears instead of my mouth. When I gave a talk at Tanjong Katong Secondary School about comics, I said to myself, "I am going to listen to what the students say to me!"

I asked the students this question: "Do you know why I drew my first batch of students in RI as bunnies?"

Here's what I heard:

To that brilliant girl who gave me that incredible answer, I have this to say: "thank you! You just named the school that Totto and his pals in 'Sir Fong' studies in!"

Henceforth, Totto, Abby and their classmates study at Rabbit Institution. :>

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Win the new Sir Fong from What's Up online!

What's Up interviewed me on their current issue here:

And you can win a copy of the new book if you can answer their questions about Inventors here:

Also, thank you to those of you who wrote to me about my previous blog post. (As some of you have read, I was upset when I found out that a Manga Guide to Physics is now in the market.) Your perspectives on the subject are valuable:

1. Competition shows that there is a good market out there for Science comic books!

2. It raises awareness to parents and students - reading such books at an earlier age is very useful to building a good foundation in Science learning!

3. My books have strengths that the other books do not have: a. it is drawn by a person with 8 years' experience in teaching Science, b. the same artist has years of experience drawing comics and c. he also wrote theatrical plays for many years so the story-telling in Sir Fong is strong.

4. Their books don't have Totto the Killer Rabbit!

5. Great artists have put in much more hard work before making it. For example, James Cameron slept 4 hours a day to complete the Titanic movie! Why am I complaining when all I have to do is to work harder for my dreams?!?

Last Thursday, I was invited by a Science teacher to give a talk to his form class at Shu Qun. He personally bought each of his form class students a book of mine. This teacher went out of his way to organise something special for his students, and they also get a permanent reminder of his care for them in the form of my autographed books. They are lucky to have him as their teacher. I am lucky to have him take the effort to invite me to his class. And that really pulls me out of my self-pity mode!

Thank you all!

Yours sincerely,

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Doom of Sir Fong?

Dear readers,

Sometimes, it seems pointless to draw comics in Singapore.

Why bother? Americans have the cultural advantage. They can reach millions via their superior technology ala Facebook, iPhones, Hollywood CGI and XBox. So Spiderman and Iron Man can be rejuvenated via amazing movies, and the franchise is kept alive by really cool toy lines.

The Japanese have their Manga. It's all the youngsters want to emulate nowadays. Japanese manga is drawn by armies of artists tapping into the winning formula of big doeful eyes and school girl uniforms.

I can't tell you how long it took for me to find an idea that the Americans or Japanese have not uncovered. From creating Totto the bunny in 2001, to publishing the first Sir Fong and finally redirecting the whole creation into Science adventures, it has taken me 8 years.

Yesterday, my friend went to Kinokuniya.

"I saw that they brought in this Manga Guide To Physics," He told me, "And I said to myself: oops, there goes Otto's monopoly on Science comics."

Was he almost gleeful when he said that, or was it just my imagination?

Today, another friend brought me a copy of the book. Her school is buying them. Shouldn't all schools snap up my Sir Fong titles instead? 

How can I, one person, fight an army of Manga creators from Japan?

It's moments like these that make me question the road I am taking. It's moments like these that  doubt creeps in, and suddenly one feels very tired and defeated. Yet, when I quit my teaching job, I knew my determination would be tested. 

I know I'm not supposed to whine. I made my bed so I should sleep in it. I should know the odds of reaching for the stars. I should strong and forge ahead. I should . . . but don't you have moments like this?

Hopefully, when I update this blog again, I have renewed faith in my path. Not tonight. But thanks again for reading my blog . . .


Friday, October 16, 2009

Thank you to Wellington Primary and Radin Mas Primary!

Before this update, I'll just share a little comic humour with you. This is me and another friend at a Hari Raya open house by a friend. I took the picture, added a few eyes and 'food splatter' with Photoshop, and walah! Instant fun. :D

I've had a great time visiting two primary schools this month: Wellington Primary and Radin Mas Primary.

I gave an assembly talk at Wellington (it's located in the North-most of Singapore nearest to Johor Bahru). The whole school was just amazing. The students listened aptly, and responded enthusiastically to my questions. Not once did I have to raise my voice, because everyone listened intently. I concluded that Wellington must've some pretty good teachers, administrators and leaders. My biggest regret was that my time there was short, and I did not get an opportunity to take any photos of my visit. But thank you to all who bought my books - I hope you've found them enjoyable and useful!

The other school I visited was Radin Mas Primary (they are in Bukit Purmei). I didn't give any talks, but fliers were distributed. The response was amazing. I was busy signing books throughout the recesses!

Between recess and end-of-school, I had time to walk around the canteen. The school has a great emphasis on using cartoons and comics to communicate with the students, and also they encourage students to use the comic medium to showcase their ideas and messages. From "Conserving Electricity", "The Importance of Hygiene" to just students expressing themselves using digital art, this school really knows how to speak to the students using a language the kids love and understand. My friend Miel's works about public hygiene are prominently featured to remind kids to wash their hands before a meal.

I also noticed that the school sends out festive greetings to the community via the students' drawings. That not only foster a closer relationship between the school and the surrounding residence, but it reminds us that the different cultural festivals are reasons to celebrate Singapore's diversity and multi-cultural/ethnic population.

Thank you again to students of both schools! May your stay in your respective schools be full of happy memories and proud achievements!

Otto aka "Sir Fong"

17th Oct 2009

Cover of Sir Fong 2

Cover of Sir Fong 2