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Credit: Tom White

Sonny Liew on leading the Eisner Awards: I’d probably carry the statuette to sleep that night if I win!

Beyond the local fame that has made graphic novelist Sonny Liew much loved in Singapore, the author has also found his footing on an international platform.

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

To top it off, Liew's hit graphic novel, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, is leading the distinguished Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, more commonly known as the Eisner Awards, with the most number of nominations this year.

This isn't his first time being nominated for the prestigious award however. Liew had been nominated three times for the Eisner Awards, the comics industry's Oscars and won the arts council's 2010 Young Artist Award in Singapore.

The novel, which tells the story of Singapore's political history through the fictional character of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, is nominated in six different categories, namely, Best Graphic Album–New, Best U.S. Edition of International Material–Asia, Best Writer/Artist, Best Coloring, Best Lettering, and Best Publication Design.

Charlie Chan Hock Chye uses different forms of comic illustrations to depict the life of a Singaporean artist which spans across 60-odd years of Singapore history. The first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong, co-founder of People's Action Party and former Secretary General of now-defunct Barisan Sosialis are depicted side by side within the book.

In an interview with TOC, Liew said,

"I'm hopeful that I'll actually win one of them, but also realistic enough to be prepared not to. Overall a little flabbergasted because it was something totally unexpected; one or two you'd maybe hope for - if anyone told me there'd be 6, I'd have told them to pull the other leg."

In 2015, the Malaysia-born Singaporean cartoonist noted that the book took about two years to complete – the research and bulk of the writing and drawing took about 18 months, followed by another six months or so of editing and polishing.

But despite its much-acclaimed success and just before the peak of his recognition, the publication had its approved $8,000 publication grant withdrew by National Arts Council (NAC) under the reason of "sensitive content" depicted in the 324-page comic book.

Liew has achieved several awards for his graphic novel, having bagged the Singapore Literature Prize, and winning Book of the Year accolade at the Singapore Book Awards in 2016. His comic also became the best-selling local fiction title in 2015, and went on to make it to the bestseller lists at Amazon and The New York Times when it was published in the US.

Liew is being nominated alongside other notable authors, some of whom have at least three nominations, such as Brian K. Vaughan, Ed Brubaker, Tom Gauld, Tom Hart, Erica Henderson, Ryan North, Sean Phillips, Fiona Staples and Sana Takeda.

"All the books and creators nominated have done top tier work - so to be listed amongst them really is an honour, so I'm very glad for the recognition," Liew said.

TOC asked Liew what would the first thing he'd do if he wins any of the six nominations he's up for, or if he tops all six of them. Liew candidly said, "I don't know what the first thing is, but I'd probably carry the statuette to sleep that night!"

The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards will announce its winners for the different categories on 21 July. The winners are chosen via online voting by registered comic book professionals.