Comics Lowdown | Zunar is in trouble again

Plus: A new graphic novel looks at Japanese Americans who resisted internment.

Zunar’s cartoon critiquing the minster of the state of Kedah, who canceled the festival of Thaipusam. The cleaver says “No Thaipusam” and the caption on the right reads “Kedah’s inhabitants lived in peace until he came.”

The Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar is in trouble with the law again. Police in the state of Kedah have summoned him to appear before them on May 7 (the original date, given in the linked article, was May 2 but it was rescheduled) for violating the country’s sedition law, a much-criticized relic of its colonial past, with a cartoon criticizing the Kedah state minister’s decision to cancel the traditional Tamil Hindu festival of Thaipusam.

Zunar got into lots of trouble during the tenure of Prime Minister Najib Razak, whom he mocked endlessly for his corruption; Razak was not amused and his government repeatedly raided Zunar’s studio, confiscated his books, banned him from traveling, and brought charges against him that could have led to lengthy prison sentences. The pressure eased once Najib was voted out.

Ironically, Zunar’s latest skirmish coincides with World Press Freedom Day, which was Monday; several national and international groups have criticized the Malaysian government for its repressive stance.

Awards: Bishakh Som’s Apsara Engine has won the LA Times Book Prize for Best Graphic Novel.

Events: DC has announced plans for another DC FanDome, which will take place Oct. 16.

The internment of Japanese Americans has been well documented in graphic novels recently, including George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy and Kiku Hughes’ Displacement. Now a new graphic novel from Seattle-based Chin Music Press takes a step further into that history with We Hereby Refuse, an accounts of three Japanese Americans who actively resisted the internment: Jim Akutsu, Hiroshi Kashiwagi and Mitsuye Endo. Writers Frank Abe and Tamiko Nimura and artists Ross Ishikawa and Matt Sasaki are the creative team on the book, which covers a piece of this history that the other books only hint at:

Each of their story arcs reveal the various ways Japanese Americans resisted as the U.S. government declared the community guilty until proven innocent. Akutsu refused to be drafted into the military, claiming the government technically classified him as an “enemy alien” after stripping his rights, therefore making him ineligible for the draft. Kashiwagi refused to sign the loyalty oath at the Tule Lake incarceration camp and renounced his U.S. citizenship. And Endo filed the lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court’s 1944 decision declaring Japanese Americans could not be incarcerated without explicit proof of disloyalty.

More history that resonates in the current day: At Truth or Fiction, Arturo Garcia looks at the history of a vintage anti-vaccination cartoon.

Interviews and Profiles

At The Beat, Jeff Smith talks about his latest comic, Tuki, how COVID-19 affected his creative process, and why it went from webcomic to comics to its current incarnation, two volumes that he is crowdfunding on Kickstarter.

Melanie Gillman, creator of As the Crow Flies and Stage Dreams, recently spoke about queer representation in comics at the University of California, Riverside, and reporter Alexandra Esteban covered not only Gillman’s talk but their conversations with the audience.

On the Lakes Festival Podcast, Rachael Smith talks about Quarantine Comix.

Reviews and Commentary

At The Comics Journal, Robert Kirby reviews Darryl Cunningham’s Billionaires: The Lives of the Rich and Powerful.

Robert Ito reviews Cyclopedia Exotica, the new graphic novel from Woman World creator Aminder Dhaliwal; in this new book, she takes on anti-Asian hatred.

The Guardian’s Rachel Cooke reviews Alison Bechdel’s new graphic novel The Secret to Superhuman Strength.

At WWAC, Louis Skye asks Does the Chaos in The Marvels #1 Have a Point?

J. Caleb Mozzocco reviews Shang-Chi Vol. 1: Brothers & Sisters at Good Comics for Kids.

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