Singapore Shelf: Vampires on the MRT in new manga

SINGAPORE – In this monthly feature, The Sunday Times lines up seven hot-off-the-press home-grown books for readers to dive into, with a special focus on comics this month.

1. Geungsi Vol. 1: Geungsi In The House

By Sean Lam
Comics/Paperback/296 pages/$19.26/Available here

Step aside, Twilight. Western vampire lore may be dominated by the sparkly bloodsuckers of Stephanie Meyer’s romance saga (2005 to 2020), but for Singaporean comic artist Sean Lam, it is the jiangshi of Chinese folklore that reigns immortal.

The reanimated corpse, which hops with outstretched arms and drains its victims of their life force, became popular in Hong Kong comedy horror films such as Encounters Of The Spooky Kind (1980) and Mr Vampire (1985), which Lam grew up watching.

Previously based in Los Angeles, he had returned to Singapore for a break at the end of 2019 and was stranded here by Covid-19 pandemic border closures. He decided to use the time to work on his first local graphic novel.

“I’ve worked with various publishers and writers through the years, but never had a chance to do my own book until now,” says the 43-year-old, who is best known for his two-part manga adaptation of Larry Niven’s award-winning science-fiction novel Ringworld (1970).

Lam, who aspired to be a comic artist from a young age, left Singapore for Japan to intern at a small comics publisher in his 20s. He was later headhunted as an artist by Macmillan Publishing in the United States.

During the pandemic, he wrote, illustrated and self-published the first volume of Geungsi (jiangshi in Cantonese), a horror manga series set in the Singapore heartland.

Shaun, an ordinary salaryman, takes a sneaky photo of a beautiful woman wearing shades on the MRT, only to discover she is a geungsi. Infected by her, he is rescued by Meng, a slayer, and the two become reluctant allies.

Lam’s geungsi are an amalgamation of Western and Chinese vampire tropes – they drink blood instead of draining energy and are able to move around in the daytime.

He plans to expand the series to other parts of Asia, with geungsi and slayers battling it out in Hong Kong, mainland China and more.

If all goes well, he hopes to one day bring his Singaporean vampires to US comic conventions like Comic-Con International in San Diego.

“I’m hoping to bring this Asian folklore to the West and introduce it to the readers there,” he says.

2. The Once-&-Marvellous DKD

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