I don't really have a clear influence anymore - it's mostly a jumble of things that more or less gesture at a general vision or mode I want my work to fall into. These are things I return to time and time again, to remind myself why I love art (making and appreciating).

If I had to describe my taste, I like stuff that embraces the warm of humanity - in the works itself or the author's touch. This doesn't preclude blood, darkness and guts though. It's just that I prefer a "this is how we are, messy and weird and that's something to laugh about" kind-old-person mood rather than something fatalistic or cynical. I also appreciate the sublimity and vulnerability behind devastation.

Favourite Films

  1. The Prince of Egypt
    Visually epic to match the literally epic story - they really went all out with the backgrounds, colours, art direction, and research. Prince of Egypt is the Platonic ideal I envision whenever I make my historical fiction comics.
  2. The Spiderverse series
    Another visually epic art direction to match an equally great story... and they just keep exceeding themselves. What I love about this series is how humanist its core is - there's such a reverence for heart in the character arcs, themes, and visual execution - every single piece is in harmony. A tribute to comics, animation and all of us working in the commercial arts.
  3. The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet)
    Quite a melancholic, subdued, small film... but that's what I love about it. The visual style is cozy and rich; they captured the atmosphere of Scotland with such high levels of immersiveness, in nothing but pen and watercolours.
  4. Satyricon
    There's a pattern here with my love for visual epics. This is an odd film (which I like): the strange, almost theatre-esque set pieces that go along with the loose, dream-like, stream-of-consciousness writing stick in your head. This film is a fantastic audiovisual  translation of the spotty strangeness of classical literature.
  5. Amelie
    Whimsical to the max. Cute, personable characters; a storybook vibe; a funny, charming lens into mundane living. Whenever I make books for kids - or to be honest, for adults - that are in contemporary settings, I think of this.
  6. The Fall (Tarsem Singh)
    Another one of these films that I have as my Platonic ideal whenever I make historical fiction (or a work similar to The Fall. ATM, the Alexander comic is a combination of those two things). Such an ambitious and indulgent film, with these fantastical sets located in the real world.
  7. Millennium Actress
    Another Platonic ideal. Satoshi Kon is a master of editing and telling these erratic, linearity-bending stories. I really like this one because of the focus on a singular character's life and how it merges into her film career.
  8. Tokyo Godfathers
    A Satoshi Kon classic. More rooted in reality than his other works. This one is funny and cute with three strongly-characterised flawed characters.
  9. Blood Tea and Red String
    Stop motion is one of my favourite genres in animation for how unique and charmingly eerie their aesthetics can be. This one is whimsically gothic, unabashed in its weirdness. I haven't made gothic stories in a long time, but this is a piece that reminds me just how deeply I connect to it aesthetically and narratively.
  10. Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
    This is similar to another film I like, Tampopo, a Japanese comedy centered around food and how the characters are affected by it, but I put Eat, Drink, Man, Woman here because it's one of those rare films where I am taken aback by how familiar everything is. The way the characters act and relate to each other, the foods featured, the props and settings... I lived those cultural details and it made the film more visceral than most things.


Favourite Books

  1. Captain Corelli's Mandolin, by Louis de Bernieres
    This is prime example of a subgenre of literary novels that I enjoy most - "a community of ensemble characters living their lives in a visceral setting across the ups and downs of history". The drawn-out, chaste romance between the two main characters is expertly done.
  2. The House at the Edge of Night, by Catherine Banner
    Another one, a more recent release. It's been awhile since I last read it; I just love how divinity is so woven into the lives and arcs of the cast.
  3. The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy
    Also another one, but it stands out in my mind for its playful, vernacular use of language and sensual imagery. The Indian-English is essential to the world view and messaging of the story, and I am always wondering how I could convey a similar effect through my own works. (As a Malaysian whose original accent and use of language is Malaysian English/Manglish)
  4. House of Spirits, by Isabel Allende
    And another. What strikes me the most about this is how Allende was able to get me to understand and pity a terrible, conservative man who kept burying his own hell.
  5. Anything written by Alexander McCall Smith
    McCall Smith's novels are sort of the same subgenre, but funnier and casual. He has such a kind, warm, accepting touch with his characters, even when they are messy. Reading his books is comfort food.
  6. Hugo Pepper, by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
    The children's version of the above subgenre, and definitely my first exposure to it.
  7. The Epic of Gilgamesh, Andrew George translation
    My favourite piece of classical literature. The shift towards the themes it's best known for in the second half is beautiful. Really love the increasing vulnerability of Gilgamesh as he experiences grief.
  8. The Odyssey, Emily Wilson translation
    I admire Wilson's approach to translating this work: accessible, thoughtful, frank and subversive. It's an approach to historical objects that I share and appreciate in other creatives.
  9. The Journey of Ibn Fattouma, Naguib Mahfouz
    This reminds me a lot of The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Prophet, The Convocation of the Birds, The Alchemist and Invisible Cities - not to say it's a rehash, but it falls within the same sort of literary space: of a spiritual journey through places and themes that gesture at the morals of society, living and civilisation. I haven't thought of how to offer my own piece in this space, but it's percolating in the back of my mind.

Favourite Comics

  1. Nevertheless, by Jordi Labrere
    The story working backwards across the lives of two star-crossed lovers, from their old age to their first youthful encounter, is so expertly done. I'm such a sucker for mature love stories.
  2. Beauty, by Hubert and Kerascoet
    Visually ambitious dark fairytale. The use of colours (flat and narratively-driven) is incredible.
  3. Wandering Island, by Kenji Tsuruta
    Tsuruta's rendering of the female form that somehow balances sexuality with plain, old naturalness is admirable. I wish I could draw people like he does.
  4. Pictures that Tick, by Dave McKean
    One of my first exposures to experimental comics (this could be considered an early influence?). I return to it to remind myself of how much I could do with comics.
  5. Witch Hat Atelier series, by Kamome Shirahama
    Among the best children's literature coming out today. Beautifully drawn with strong characters and themes.
  6. The Rabbi's Cat, by Joann Sfar
    Another that could be considered an early influence. Sfar's organic lines and lettering convinced me that hand-drawing as much as possible is the best approach to making comics.
  7. Rebetiko, by David Prudhomme
    Strong colours and lovely pencilwork. Another argument for the 'organic rendering is better' camp.