Saturday, July 30, 2016

Meet Elvin Ching, Artist of Singapore NDP 2016's Comic About Local Superhero, Badang!

The fortunate people who scored tickets to the National Day Parade (NDP) 2016 rehearsal parades last week and this weekend will get to watch a preview of re-enactment about the legend of Badang.

Badang was a local and hunky (he must be, right?) Malay superhero around about the 14th century. Story was that, he defended his village and Singapura from many challengers, including the ruler of India and Java. From one of the notable challenges, Badang managed to throw a large rock into the sea, near the mouth of the Singapore River.

One of the fragments, consisting of ancient inscriptions, resides in the National Museum of Singapore. It is called the Singapore Stone.

Included in the goodie bag for attendees of the parade rehearsals and NDP 2016, there will be a little comic adaptation by well-known writer Michael Chiang ("Army Daze"/ "Beauty World") and illustrated by a talented local artist named Elvin Ching, who has done artwork for the MacDonald's "Samurai Burger Returns" commercials.

Also, check out his bicepstuous cover artwork of the "The Legend of Badang" comic above. Red Dot Diva loves the way he made Badang looked determined and gallantly heroic.

Red Dot Diva knows people who knows Elvin Ching. So, she tracked him down and inflicted a list of her trademark nosy questions on him.

Red Dot Diva: As an introduction to RDD's readers, tell us something about yourself in 5 sentences.
Elvin: Hello RDD readers,
1. I’m Elvin and I currently work as a freelance storyboard artist and illustrator.
2. I am actually a dog person even though I have 2 cats. Don’t tell my cats. Please.
3. I make it a point to watch Kill Bill and Transformers the 1986 animated movie once every year at least.
4. My gravestone will say “Here lies Elvin. He tried his damn best to make it. Have a nice day :D”
5. I hate drawing bicycles. I just do haha...

Red Dot Diva: As a storyboard artist, do you feel that your skills in that area translates more easily into comic book sequential art, compared to other artistic styles and fields? What were the challenges you faced?
Elvin: It was actually my interest in being a comic artist that led to me doing storyboards. But over the years, storyboards in turn, have contributed back to my comic art. Being a bit of a film buff, drawing storyboards helped me to pay attention to mood and coherence in visuals. In a sense, laying out a comic page does feel similar to directing a film except that I’m taking on all the roles of cinematographer, director and actor at the same time. Other than that, commercial illustration and graphic design has never really affected my comic work greatly except in introducing me to some tools. It’s always been the other way around - I try to incorporate some element of comic art into my projects if there’s allowance for it.

I think the challenge I face in drawing comics is that I always feel untrained. Everything I know I learnt by throwing myself into the thick of it and of course, some say that’s the best way to learn. But then the theory of comics does matter and that’s a department I’m lacking in.

That, and drawing bicycles. I will die cursing bicycles.

Elvin's "Girl and Dragon"

Red Dot Diva: I love your linework in your art. The images seem alive on paper. I wonder if your style has organically evolved with the kind of work that you did, or there was a conscious practice on getting to a particular style that you felt that you could call your own.
Elvin: Thanks a lot, I’m glad you like the art! I think I’ve been influenced by many styles since I started drawing haha… the problem with me is that I get bored of drawing one style quickly because there’s just too much good art out there. To me, it feels like a waste not to explore anything and everything that catches my interest. 

I’m still evolving actually, and I don’t know if this is going to be a style I stick to for long. I guess it would depend on the kind of story I’m interested in drawing at the time. But what matters isn’t the style but the determination to produce good art. There are artists known for drawing one style and that’s fine, but I’m one of those who want to try all kinds of styles and genres. I would say that generally, I’m drawn to dynamic and/or intricate linework.

Red Dot Diva: So fill us in on how you scored this momentous NDP comic gig called "The Legend of Badang"?
Elvin: I got a call from Michael Chiang who was helping out with NDP. To promote the theme of NDP this year (The story of Badang), Michael came up with this brilliant idea of doing a comic book to be distributed to the attendees of NDP. And it wasn’t just going be a comic book, it was going to be a superhero comic book! It was just one of those lucky breaks where my name was dropped and the project was pointed in my direction.

Red Dot Diva: What was it like working with Michael Chiang? Were you nervous? Any funny anecdotes from your experience working with him during this project?
Elvin: Working with him was incredibly fun! Actually it was mostly stressful due to the tight deadline (nobody’s fault, it was just the circumstances at that time) but we just bitched about it and that helped a lot haha… I loved that in spite of the deadline we were handed, and in spite of how flippant both of us seemed to be on the outside sometimes, we were always in serious work mode inside and fighting hard to make this happen because we believed in it.

I think it’s a shame that people don’t know some of the behind-the-scenes stuff we tried to pull off but failed haha… Like for instance, the cover you see now isn’t the original cover. And we had planned to make the NDP logo look more like DC Comics.

Red Dot Diva: What were the thought processes when into creating the look for our first badass superhero, Badang?
Elvin: I didn’t really need to think too far into inventing a look because I wanted him to remain true to his Malaysian/ Indonesian origins. So I kept him as a simple fisherman. The superhero element would easily come through in the artwork, especially when he “hulks” out… Okay, the other thing was that I kept him topless because I wanted to draw muscles for him to show off haha…
Red Dot Diva: (blissful grin on face) Absolutely no complaints about Badang-toplessness there!

Red Dot Diva: What's your favourite music jam when you're working on your art?
Elvin: I don’t play music when I work, I play horror movies on youtube… is that weird?
Red Dot Diva: Ooooo. So what's your favourite horror movie jam then?
Elvin: Arrgh you can't make me name a favorite because there are too many! I love Vampire films. The original Fright night series is still awesome. And right now I'm digging anything and everything James Wan puts out like "Insidious" and "The Conjuring" movies.
Red Dot Diva: Oooh. James Wan. I'm digging your horror movie choices.

A page from "Badang" comic
Red Dot Diva: How can folks get hold of an issue of "The Legend of Badang"?
Elvin: I’m afraid the only way you can get an issue of “Badang” now is to attend NDP2016 or one of its rehearsals. Or you could ask anyone attending to keep their copy for you if they don’t want it.  

I’m hoping that it will be reprinted in the future and be more available to the public. The response to it has been encouraging. I’ve had friends and acquaintances tag me in pictures whenever they managed to score a copy at the rehearsals. One guy even prepared protective comic book packaging!
Red Dot Diva: I'm really hoping they will do a reprint! It would be a good collectible, especially for those who like comics of localized folklore and stories. Such comics are quite rare to come by.

Red Dot Diva: What's up for you next? Any new projects that you're flexing your biceps for?
Elvin: I’m considering retiring my cape… haha. I couldn’t even if I wanted to! 

I’m still working on an ongoing comic project with Kelly Bender called “The Drift” which has been interrupted due to my hectic schedule. But it’s a really exciting project and I’m determined to see it through! Coming up in awhile is my small contribution to “LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction”, a 10-pg short graphic story called "Falling". Other than that, I’m still working on illustrating the new Danger Dan and Gadget Girl book series. The project I’m really passionate in doing right now is a fantasy story that I have written in my head. But due to a full schedule, it’s going to have to wait. I’ll definitely let you know about it if it happens!
Red Dot Diva: For your sake, I hope there are no bicycles in those projects! Do spaceships with Elvin, people. Or maybe, a Time Travelling Dragon!


Elvin's drawing of Harley Quinn. Love this!

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Can't get hold of a physical copy of "The Legend of Badang" comic? Don't worry.
6 pages of the comic are available in the Gallery section of the NDP 2016 official website.

Go check out the energetic story and artwork at https://www.ndp.org.sg/gallery
Scroll all the way down to view.

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Also, here's NDP 2016's video featurette about the legend of Badang using graphics and wayang kulit ("shadow puppets"):




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