“Prayoon Chanyawongse’s Cartoon Likay: Amalgamating Likay Theatrical Form and Comics into a Unique Thai Genre” Scholarly Paper

Figure 1 (New)
Inaugural strip of the Cartoon Likay adaptation of Chanthakorop by Thai cartoonist Prayoon Chanyawongse, published in late 1938 in the newspaper Suphapburut. Reproduced from the 1940 collection Katun Likay Rueang Chanthakorop Phak 1, Samnak Ngan Nai Metta, Bangkok. Illustration provided to the author by Soodrak Chanyavongs. © Prayoon Chanyawongse Foundation.

On June 1, 2018, The Comics Grid published my first open-access scholarly paper dedicated to a lost chapter in the History of Comics Art; the creation in 1938 -and 30-year development- of the Cartoon Likay signature comics genre by Thai Comics master khun Prayoon Chanyawongse.

Paper abstract: “By launching in 1938 a series of adaptations of folktales in comics form, Thai cartoonist Prayoon Chanyawongse established the Cartoon Likay genre which places the reader as a member of an audience attending a Likay performance. The local theatrical form frames his graphic narratives where scenes of a play performed on a stage continuously alternate with sequences taking place in the vast realms of epics set in the Ayutthaya period. By introducing key Likay conventions such as recurring humorous interruptions and asides, Chanyawongse could effectively address contemporary social issues and political topics within traditional folktales. This paper explores several Cartoon Likay narratives in the context of the Likay theatrical form and the local folktale repertoire to discuss the nature and development of Chanyawongse’s signature comics genre.”

If I had to compare Prayoon’s Cartoon Likay comics to a better-known comics, it would be to René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo‘s Franco-Belgian series The Adventures of Asterix for their shared humor centered on puns, caricatures, anachronisms and modern-day allusions in period adventurous tales. If Cartoon Likay predates Asterix for about 20 years and if Prayoon’s social & political criticism and aesthetic of disruption (through fascinating fourth-wall breaks yet to be fully explored) are more apparent, Prayoon Chanyawongse and René Goscinny do share a love of language, of often-disregarded ‘common folks’, and such a playful & witty (and kindred) spirit. So much more is to say about the Cartoon Likay comics genre (and about the “Lost Continent” of Thai Comics), as a complete exploration of sophisticated Likay rhymes and play of words is yet to be undertaken, not to mention the dozens of other folktales adapted in comics form by Prayoon Chanyawongse.


My thanks go to The Comics Grid, and the Research Funding  Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to my former and wonderful research assistants mesdemoiselles Tanchanok Ruendhawil & Suttiarpa Koomkrong for their invaluable help and commitment, to Dr. Sukanya Sompiboon for introducing me to Likay, to p’Soodrak Chanyavongs for her time and insights, and to my better-half. My thanks also go to Colin Cheney & Dr. Jirayudh Sinthuphan for suggestions to the content of this paper.

Nicolas Verstappen

Full paper is available in open access on this page of The Comics Grid: Journal of Comics Scholarship.

Figure copyright 02
The twenty-fifth strip of the Cartoon Likay adaptation of Chanthakorop by Thai cartoonist Prayoon Chanyawongse, published in the late 1938 in the newspaper Suphapburut. Reproduced from Sooklek/Prayoon Chanyawongse (Chanyavongs and Chanyavongse, 2015). © Prayoon Chanyawongse Foundation.
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The Arrival: launching the Comics Studies section at the Library of the Faculty of Communication Arts

Comics Studies Chulalongkorn
Launching the Comics Studies section at the Library of  the Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University, with a first selection of comics-related essays and graphic novels.

It was about time to launch a modest Comics Studies section at the Library of the Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. First part of the inaugural order has already arrived with Hillary Chute’s Disaster Drawn: Visual Witness, Comics, and Documentary Form and Graphic Women: Life Narrative & Contemporary Comics, Barbara Postema’s Making Sense of Fragments: Narrative Structure in Comics, Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style, Nick Sousanis’ Unflattening, Thierry Smolderen’s The Origins of Comics: from William Hogarth to Winsor McCay, Thierry Groesteen’s Comics and Narration and The System of Comics, Neil Cohn’s The Visual Language of Comics: Introduction to the Structure and Cognition of Sequential Images, and the comics Deserter’s Masquerade by Chloé Cruchaudet and The Arrival by Shaun Tan. These books join the dozens of comics, manga, graphic novels and essays already available in Chula libraries; most of them are listed on THIS PAGE of our blog. More to come soon!

#LetMeSeeYourEyes text substitution constrained comics exercise

 #LetMeSeeYourEyes; substituting the dialogue of a comics/manga page with imposed lines excerpted from Norwegian cartoonist Jason‘s Why Are You Doing This? (Fantagraphics, 2005; Editions Carabas, 2004, for original French version).

BLURB!

“Great idea for an exercise (the source is impeccable, of course!). The examples work really well, and the Peanuts page shows how this principle can be expanded on and could even be used for a book-length work made up of quotes, borrowed page layouts, mash-ups, etc.” Matt Madden (February 17, 2018), cartoonist and teacher best known for his book 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style (Penguin), as well as a member of Oubapo (Workshop for Potential Comics), and later a French knight in the Order of Arts and Letters.

January 2018. The sixty-two (3rd and 4th year) students in the Creative Writing for Printed Matter course (sections 10 and 11; “Graphic Writing”) at the International Program (BA) in Communication Management (Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok , Thailand) were provided with a series of imposed lines excerpted from Jason’s comics Why Are You Doing This?: “So… Did you do it? / Sorry? / Was it you who killed that man earlier today? / No. No, it wasn’t. / Let me see your eyes. / All right. Follow me.” After being shown an example (Tintin in Tibet; see below) and as a home assignment, students were given one week to find a comics/manga page in which the dialogue might fit -with the least possible alteration- by substitution.

“The function of relay is less common (at least as far as the fixed image is concerned); it can be seen particularly in cartoons and comic strips. Here text (most often a snatch of dialogue) and image stand in a complementary relationship; the words, in the same way as the images, are fragments of a more general syntagm [sequence of linguistic units] and the unity of the message is realized at a higher level, that of the story, the anecdote, the diegesis […].” Roland Barthes, Rhetoric of the Image (translation S. Heath), in: Image, Music, Text, 1977.

Goals of this warm-up exercise; production of new comics pages by students without any particular artistic training; browsing of dozens of comics pages, and development of the  “image reading” skill by focusing students’ attention on visual motifs in pictures and sequences; development of multimodal literacy through the combination/confrontation of visual (drawings), aural (speech, tone), linguistic (delivery of both “written and spoken” text), gestural (facial expressions/body language/postures) and spatial (spatialisation of text & sequences of adjacent panels) modes; exploration of text/image relationship (anchorage/relay); to stress out the importance of eye contact in drama.

Inspired by a constrained comics page from American cartoonist Matt Madden‘s 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style (2005). And from Will Eisner‘s illustration of “facial postures with a parallel set of statements” (in Comics and Sequential Art). See below.

99 ways template and different image
Left: original template. Right: text from original template, but different images. From Matt Madden’s 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style (2005)”.
EISNER facial expressions
“Expressive anatomy” in Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art, page 110. Poorhouse Press, 1985. ©1985 Will Eisner.

 “[Comics] doesn’t blend the visual and the verbal – or use one simply to illustrate the other – but is rather prone to present the two non-synchronously; a reader of comics not only fills in the gaps between panels but also works with the often disjunctive back-and-forth of reading and looking for meaning.” Hillary Chute, “Comics as Literature? Reading Graphic Narrative”, in: PMLA, 123(2), 2008


WAYDT original
Page from Jason’s comics Why Are You Doing This? (Fantagraphics, 2005). Imposed lines for the exercise were excerpted from panels 6 to 12.
tibet subst original
Example provided to the students: original (half-) page of Tintin in Tibet by Hergé; before text substitution.
tibet subst Jason
Example provided to the students: (half-) page of Tintin in Tibet by Hergé after text substitution (by yours truly) of the imposed lines excerpted from Jason’s Why Are You Doing This?.

Commenting on  Gunther Kress’s Multimodality, Jacobs notes that linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, and spatial elements combine in comics narratives and that, “[taken] together, these elements form a multimodal system of meaning making.” (“More than Words: Comics as a Means of Teaching Multiple Literacies”, in: The English Journal, 96(3), 2007.


1. Text substitutions by CommArts students; without any order/speech balloon alteration (except for an additional ellipsis, or “…”, in a couple of pages)

00 SHERLOCK subst
Text substitution by CommArts student Mint (Sirivadee) in a page from the manga adaptation (Titan Comics) by mangaka Jay of the TV series Sherlock.
Sherlock Original
Original page (before text substitution).
00 POKEMON subst
Text substitution by CommArts student Golf (Sorasak) in a page from the manga Pokémon Adventures v.34 (VIZ Media) by mangaka Hidenori Kusaka (script) and Satoshi Yamamoto (art).
POKEMON Original
Original page (before text substitution).
00 ZITS subst
Text substitution by CommArts student Ben in a Zits comic strip by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman.
ZITS original
Original page (before text substitution).
00 CONAN subst
Text substitution by CommArts student Prim in a page from the manga Case Closed (or Detective Conan; VIZ Media) by mangaka Gosho Aoyama.
CONAN original
Original page (before text substitution).
00 DISNEY subst
Text substitution by CommArts student Erin in a page from the Disney fan comic, or doujinshi, Disney High School (featuring Rapunzel and Quasimodo as siblings) by Morloth88.
MODEL DISNEY
Original page.
00 UZUMAKI
Text substitution by CommArts student WIN in a page from the manga Uzumaki (VIZ Media) by mangaka Junji Ito.
UZUMAKI original
Original page (before text substitution).
00 ONE PIECE subst
Text substitution by CommArts (Taiwanese exchange) student Edd in a page from the manga One Piece (VIZ Media) by mangaka Eiichiro Oda.
One piece original
Scanlated page (before text substitution).
00 SIMPSON Subst
Text substitution by CommArts student Plawan in a page from the comics series Bart Simpson’s Treehouse of Horror (Bongo Comics).
Simpson Original
Original page (before text substitution).
00 Batman bernet
Text substitution by CommArts student Yaiyaa (Creative Writing, 2016) in a page from the comics Batman: Blackout (“1940’s Catwoman”, DC Comics, 2000) by Howard Chaykin (script) and Jordi Bernet (pencils).
Original Batman bernet
Original page (before text substitution).
00 Cyanide.jpg
Text substitution by CommArts student Mark in a strip from the webcomic Cyanide and Happiness (written and illustrated by Rob Den Bleyker, Kris Wilson, Dave McElfatrick and formerly Matt Melvin).
MODEL Cyanide
Original strip (before text substitution).

2. Text substitutions by CommArts students; respecting the order of the imposed lines but not their strict succession (distribution of the imposed lines before and after text  retained from the original comics page). 

00 SNOOPY Subst
Text substitution by CommArts student Por in a Peanuts comic strip by Charles M. Schulz. Retaining the two original speech ballons “Right” in panels 9 and 10.
Snoopy Original
Original page (before text substitution).
00 BONBONZAKA KOUKOU
Text substitution by CommArts student Sean in a page from the manga Bonbonzaka Koukou Engekibu (1992) by mangaka Takahashi Yutaka. Retaining the two original speech ballons “Damn” and “Da…” in panel 3.
MODEL BONBONZAKA KOUKOU
Original scanlation (before text substitution).
00 Mickey
Text substitution by a CommArts student (Graphic Writing, 2015) in a page from Mickey Mouse and the World to Come: The Sinking of Illusitania (Boom! Kids, 2010) by Andrea Castellan (aka Casty). Retaining various two original speech balloons.
Mickey Original
Original page (before text substitution).
00 Wotaku ni Koi ha Muzukashii subst
Text substitution by CommArts student Nymph in a page from the manga Wotaku ni Koi ha Muzukashii (It’s Difficult to Love an Otaku) by mangaka Fujita. Retaining various speech ballons, and adding an ellipsis (“…”).
Wotaku ni Koi ha Muzukashii original
Original scanlation (before text substitution).
00 CEREAL
Text substitution by CommArts student Pat in a page from the webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach WeinersmithRetaining various speech ballons.
Original Cereal copy
Original strip (before text substitution).
Was it you, comics
Text substitution by CommArts student Boss in a page from the comics Immortal Iron First issue 16 (Marvel Comics) by Matt Fraction (writer) and David Aja (penciller). Retaining the original speech ballon “Noooooo” in panel 4.
Was it you, comics
Original page (before text substitution).
00 KINDAICHI subst 2
Text substitution by CommArts student Poon K. in a page from the manga The Kindaichi Case Files (Tokyopop) by mangaka Yōzaburō Kanari and Seimaru Amagi (writers) and Fumiya Satō (art). Retaining the original speech ballon “I’m amazed by your work” in panel 4.
KINDAICHI original
Original page (before text substitution).
00 Grumpy Cat
Text substitution by CommArts student Tip in a page from GRUMPY CAT AND POKEY (Dynamite; writers Ben Fisher, Derek Fridolfs, Ilias Kyriazi; and artists Ken Haeser, Ilias Kyriazis, Steve Uy). Retaining various speech balloons, and with additional ellipsis (“…”).
Original Grumpy Cat
Original page (before text substitution).
00 Superman
Text substitution by CommArts student Mos (Creative Writing, 2016) in a page from Superman #14 (The Invention Thief, DC Comics, 1942), by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster, and Leo Nowak. Retaining various original speech balloons.
Original Superman
Original page (before text substitution).
00 NARUTO subst
Text substitution by CommArts student Mon in a page from the manga Naruto (VIE Media) by mangaka Masashi Kishimoto. Retaining the original sound effect “SHWUUU” in panel 5.
NARUTO Original
Original scanlation (before text substitution).
00 TinTin and Alph-Art
Text substitution by CommArts student Mo (Creative Writing, 2016) in a page from Tintin and Alph-Art, inked and colorized by Yves Rodier based on (unfinished) pencilled page by Hergé. Retaining the original speech balloon (“?”) in panel 6.
Original TinTin -24- TinTin and Alph-Art - 01
Original scanlation (before text substitution).
00 QUEST subst
Text substitution by CommArts student TG in a page from Edmund Finney’s Quest to Find the Meaning of Life – Volume 2 (EQ Comics) by Dan Long. Retaining various original speech balloons.
Original Quest
Original strip (before text substitution).

 

3. Text substitutions by CommArts students; without order alteration, but with additional bubbles.

 

00 cat vs human
Text substitution by CommArts student Note in a page from Cat versus Human by Surovec Yasmine. Retaining various original speech balloons, and with additional bubbles.
Original cat vs human
Original page (before text substitution).
00 SAPHIE
Text substitution by CommArts student Pitchii in a page from the webcomics Saphie the One Eyed Cat by Joho. Retaining various onomatopoeiae, and with additional bubbles.
MODEL SAPHIE
Click on the page to reach the original webcomics.

 

“Comics” Field Trip and Lectures at the National University of Singapore (Dec. 2017)

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It was an honor and a pleasure to visit the prestigious National University of Singapore  with khun Cue and 15 junior students in the International Program of Communication Management (Faculty of Communication Arts, Chulalongkorn University), and to give a short lecture on the development of Thai Comics during the first half of the 20th century. Our warm thanks to our host Associate Professor Dr. Ian Gordon, Head of the Department of History (NUS), and to Associate Professor Dr. Titima Suthiwan, Director of the Centre for Language Studies (NUS). We also want to thank Singaporean comics scholar Lim Cheng Tju for his presentation on “Consumption of Manga and Anime in Singapore”! Glad we were able to share perspectives on South-East Asian Comics, Manga and… Superman (as Dr. Ian Gordon is the author of Superman: The Persistence of an American Icon)!

This faculty field trip also gave me the opportunity to prepare our CommArts students for next semester’s Creative/Graphic Writing for Printed Matter course! Comics Shopping Day in Singapore!

Selection of Thai Comics Art for the “Mangasia” International Exhibition

Mangasia

Thai Comics (comic books & rare original artworks) are on display at the Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics exhibition, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy. Curated by Paul Gravett and a team of over twenty advisors, and developed by The Barbican Centre, the 5-year world-touring exhibition presents the largest ever selection of original artworks from Asian comics. For the first time at an international level, Thai Comics are well represented; original artworks from Thai master cartoonists p’Tawee Witsanukorn (and classic 5-baht ghost comic books of Krasue Sao, 1968), p’Raj Lersroung (Singh Dam), p’Padung “Aoh” Kraisri (Noo-Hin), and p’Suttichart Sarapaiwanich (Joe the Sea-Cret Agent); comic books by p’Hem Vejakorn (Ngo Paa), p’Sawas Jutharop (Phra Apai Manee), p’Pakdee “Tai” Santaweesuk (PangPond); issues of the famous KaiHuaRoh magazine; rare issues of “one-baht comics”; as well as various video clips (Noo-Hin: The Movie, Noo-Hin animated clip, Joe the Sea-Cret Agent animated clip). My heartfelt thanks to Paul, the Barbican Center, and all the Thai publishers and artists involved in this meaningful project. Special thanks to Chulalongkorn University students Birdme, Suttiarpa and Kaikaew for your invaluable assistance; I could not have fulfilled my role of “advisor on Thai Comics” without your help! Aj. Nicolas Verstappen

Mangasia Krasue
Rare original artwork & classic 5-baht ghost comic books of Krasue Sao (1968) by Thai master cartoonists p’Tawee Witsanukorn (ทวี วิษณุกร). Mangasia exhibition (Rome, Italy).
image005
“From left to right: Thai cartoonist p’Tawee Witsanukorn’s Krasue Sao original artwork, Azisa Noor‘s Kalasandhi, the Krasue Sao collection, four Thai one-baht horror/folklore comics, a page of artwork from
Al Sanchez for the Filipino comic Maling Akala, five-baht comics of Krasue Sao #1 and lastly Daijiro Morohoshi’s Mud Men“. Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics exhibition, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy. Picture credit: Paolo Darra.
Mangasia Krasue 2
First issue of the classic 5-baht ghost comic book series Krasue Sao (1968) by Thai master cartoonists p’Tawee Witsanukorn on display at the Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics exhibition, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy. Picture credit: Hashimoto Izumi.
image007
“From top to bottom: Eldo Yoshimizu‘s Ryuko artworks, and Thai cartoonist Raj Lersroung’s Singh Dam artworks (commission for Somboon Hormtientong‘s exhibition).” Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics exhibition, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy. Photo credit: Paolo Darra.
Mangasia Raj
Two original pages of the classic adventure comics series Singh Dam (“สิงห์ดำ”, 1960s and 2013) by Thai master cartoonist p’Raj Lersroung (ราช เลอสรวง) on display at the Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics exhibition, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy. Picture credit: @diegotheghostt.
Joe NooHin Mangasia
Original page of Joe the Sea-Cret Agent (the first Thai alternative comics, launched in 1998) by cartoonist p’Suttichart Sarapaiwanich on display (next to an original Noo-Hin cover art by p’Padung “Aoh” Kraisri) at the Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics exhibition, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy. ©Suttichart Sarapaiwanich. Picture credit (detail): Palazzo delle Esposizioni.
Mangasia noo
Original Noo-Hin cover art by p’Padung “Aoh” Kraisri, published by ขายหัวเราะ (KaiHuaRoh magazine, Banluesarn). Mangasia exhibition (Rome, Italy). Picture credit: Daruma View.
Mangasia Noo 2
Clip of Noo-Hin: The Movie (top right). Mangasia exhibition (Rome, Italy). Screenshot from a video by Daruma View.
Joe 01
Original page of Joe the Sea-Cret Agent (the first Thai alternative comics, launched in 1998) by cartoonist p’Suttichart Sarapaiwanich on display at the Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics exhibition, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy. ©Suttichart Sarapaiwanich Picture credit: Nicolas Verstappen
image008
“From left to right: Jim Fernandez artwork for Casa Negra, Thai cartoonist Sawas Jutharop’s adaptation of Phra AphaiManee, Thai one-baht sleep rape comic, and Indonesian Neraka’ hell comic.” Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics exhibition, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy. Picture credit: Paolo Darra.

Visit of the Department of Animation at K’Arts, Seoul (CommArts Faculty Seminar, June 2017)

Day 4 June 13_170615_0026
Faculty of Communication Arts (Chulalongkorn University) members welcomed by the School of Film, TV and Multimedia (Korean National University of Arts) at K’Arts, Seoul.
20170613_112051
It was a pleasure and honour to meet Professor Lee Jungmin, Course Director of the Department of Animation (and Comics/Manhwa) at the prestigious Korea National University of Arts (K’ARTS), during our Faculty Seminar. With a private tour of the Department, and a quick look at the students’ animation screenings! Thank you so much! 고맙습니다! Eager to meet you again soon! Aj. Nicolas
IMG_4749
Wall drawing at the Department of Animation, K’Arts, Seoul.

“When Manga, Franco-Belgian and American Comics Collide; Or the Genesis of Thai Alternative Comics”; a lecture at Gakushuin University, Tokyo (Dec. 2016).

During our 5-day field trip in Tokyo with coordinator P’Pum and 17 students of the Faculty of Communication Arts (International Program, Chulalongkorn University), we were welcomed by the prestigious Gakushuin University (Tokyo, Japan) to hold a lecture on the History of Thai Comics.

Suttichart

The lecture at Gakushuin University (Tokyo) was titled “When Manga, Franco-Belgian and American Comics Collide; Or the Genesis of Thai Alternative Comics.” It focused on presenting why I consider that the composite style of Thai pioneering alternative cartoonist Suttichart Sarapaiwanich on the series “Joe the Sea-Cret agent” is concurrently at the crossroads of American, Japanese and Franco-Belgian comics traditions and yet a remarkable artistic expression of ‘Thainess’ (and of the globalized and eclectic modern Thai way-of-life in the aftermath of the Tom Yum Goong crisis).

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Following Professor Natsume Fusanosuke-sensei to a beautiful building of the prestigious Gakushuin University, Tokyo.
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“Konban-wa. Gakushuin Daigaku no minasama, Fusanosuke Natsume-sensei, Shiina Yukari-san, soshite Kensuke Noda-san, konkai no event o kaisai site kudasari. Watashi, Pum-san to Thai no gakusei nittote, totemo kouei na koto desu. Arigato gozaimasu”. My heartfelt thanks again to Gakushuin University for the warm welcome, to Natsume-sensei for the invitation, to Yukari-san for translating my messy sentences, and to Yukari-san & Kensuke-san for the organization! It’s been a wonderful evening!
And Arigato gozaimasu Watanabe Kanako-san for the text in Japanese! ありがとうございました! Photo by P’Pum.
Note 000
Presenting the work of highly influential Thai cartoonist Eakasit Thairaat. Photo by Note.
Note 005
So tired… Can’t understand Natsume-sensei questions anymore… Sumimasen!!! Photo by Note.
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Delicious buffet organized by Gakushuin University after the lecture for all our CommArts students and attending audience. And honor, again, to be invited, to meet and to discuss with Natsume-sensei! ありがとうございました! KANPAÏ! Photo by P’Pum.
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ありがとうございました! KANPAÏ!
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Deeply honored to meet and discuss with Ono Kosei-sensei, a leading authority in Manga, Comics and Film criticism! ありがとうございました