Upfront! With Chew, Comic Artist Of ‘Demon-Cratic Singapore’

This article is concurrently posted on The Kent Ridge Common.

Demon-Cratic Singapore is a growing archive of comic strips that reflect on current socio-political issues. According to its description on Facebook, it is “a totally fictional comic with entirely fictional characters based on wholly fictional events in a fictional country.”

In its litany of disclaimers, the comic strip artist says that “in no way should this imaginary country be confused or mistaken with a real-life country (or some said city-state) on Planet Earth, also known as Republic of Singapore, which is a place [that] its leaders (but not necessarily its people) claimed to be a paradise.”

In short, these comics draw its themes from the imagination and not from everyday happenings on Singapore. With this in mind, we can now turn our attention to some of these comic strips:

The above comic strips are not related to the 26 November 2012 strike by some 171 SMRT bus drivers. To understand what the comics aren’t about, here’s a quick summary of events:

26th November: Some 171 bus drivers from China had refused to go to work on Monday to signal their dissatisfaction with their wages (which were lower compared to the Malaysian drivers) and dismal living conditions.

27th November: 88 drivers did not turn up for work.

28th November: All the drivers returned to work.

29th November: 4 SMRT drivers were charged with inciting an illegal strike.

2nd December: 29 Chinese bus drivers were deported.

Within a span of 7 days, the strike started and ended. This incident marks Singapore’s first labor protest since the 1980s.

Curious about the striking similarities between the Demon-cratic Singapore comics and the strike which actually took place in Singapore, I approached the comic strip artist for an interview and he graciously agreed.
Sir, may I know how I should address you?

You can just refer to me as Chew.

Okay, Chew, so may we know how your creative journey began?

Me? Creative? Hahahahaha!!!

Have you ever felt frustrated by a lack of breakthroughs in your art?

Err… mine is not art. It is just some random rubbish I put together for my own amusement.

Your comic strips seem to be criticisms of Singapore.

It depends on which Singapore you are referring to. Criticisms of the fictional Demon-cratic Singapore that only exists in my mind, definitely! After all, the imaginary ruling party in there is full of evil people. The other one? I don’t really pay much attention to what is going on there. But isn’t that said to be a paradise, at least according to the people who voted for it and the Mainstream Medias? People criticise paradise? Really? Do they have an evil ruling party there too?

Do you ever feel a fear of repercussions from putting your comic strips out in the public?

I have always maintained that Demon-cratic Singapore has nothing to do with the Republic of Singapore, as it is a totally imaginary country that only exists in my twisted mind. So why would there be a fear of repercussions for something fictional?

It is not really my problem if someone fantasized themselves as being portrayed as some fictional characters in my comic right? If they do, they probably should get their head checked. I mean, god knows how many out there people fantasized themselves as Superman or Ironman all the time.

Thanks, Mr Chew, for your candid and concise responses. So, erm, let us look at one more comic that does not bear any relation to the foreigner-local tensions in Singapore.

The characters in the Demon-cratic Singapore comics are drawn with stiff limbs, wide eyes and whimsical expressions. They remind me of a quote by Mary Hirsch: “Humour is a rubber sword – it allows you to make a point without drawing blood.” Despite how imaginary these comics are, they certainly offer interesting alternative perspectives.

More Demon-Cratic Singapore comics are available on the Facebook page.

If you find these comics thought-provoking and well, comical, do consider contributing to its maintenance. Mr Chew is currently raising funds to pay for his wife’s medical fees. Read his request here.

Thanks, Mr Chew, your comics are much appreciated. We hope that your family is well and that you’d continue with Demon-Cratic Singapore, “a totally fictional comic with entirely fictional characters based on wholly fictional events in a fictional country”.