The story of Queenie Chan, a manga artist crushing sexism and stereotypes – RN


Posted

October 08, 2018 05:00:00

People are always putting Queenie Chan in boxes that don’t quite fit. This is the story of how she carved out a sense of belonging in a lonely world.

Transcript

I was born in Hong Kong in the ’80s, so I grew up immersed in Asian popular culture.

Years before I migrated to Australia as a child, I was obsessed with the fantastical narratives and kinetic storytelling of Japanese comics, known as “manga”.

In Australia I discovered Western cartoons, but I still kept reading manga.

As a teen I constantly travelled back to Hong Kong, so I was able to keep up with all the latest releases.

When I was 17 I started drawing my own comics. I used the manga style — it was what I grew up with, and what I knew.

However, this “choice” ended up defining me in ways I didn’t expect —particularly in the eyes of others.

The comics fanbase in Australia — like other Western countries — tends to be split down the middle, and there’s not much overlap.

“Sorry, I only read superhero/indie/literary comics.”

“Sorry, I only read Japanese manga produced in Japan.”

These two separate, distinct worlds has led to some irritating comments over the years.

“If you really grew up reading comics, why aren’t you drawing in a Western superhero style?”

“Oh, I don’t read manga at all. I’ve heard it’s only for girls.”

“Manga may be a billion-dollar global industry, but I just don’t know much about it.”

Sometimes I feel like there are white people who think that Asians should like Western pop culture, but they don’t want to learn anything about Asian culture in turn. #condescending

Unfortunately, because manga is relatively new in the West, when I go to Australian comic conventions, I’m often the ONLY manga-style comic creator there.

That can be very lonely and alienating.

It doesn’t help that most Australian comic creators are white men, who draw in a Western style.

This means female creators automatically get shunted into the “WOMEN” box, even if the women in it don’t have much in common.

I’m a prime example of this. Since most of the women also draw in a Western style, as a manga-style creator, I still feel alone even inside the “WOMEN” box.

Thinking about loneliness can make me sad at times.

But then I remember that drawing comics was always a lonely experience, no matter the style.

It’s a creative process that requires working alone in a room for hours.

And besides, many people who work in the arts suffer from loneliness and isolation, so my situation is hardly unique.

We’re all busy within our own little boxes — the labels we place on ourselves, and also the ones others put on us, which can override how we want to be seen.

We may not think of these labels as useful or accurate, but I can’t deny that they have their uses.

Truth is, labels can help us distinguish ourselves from each other, and give the creative landscape a bit of variety.

And however ramshackle and arbitrary they may be, these boxes are the building blocks of a national artistic community.

Which is ultimately what really matters to me — a sense of BELONGING.

Because sometimes, simply knowing that you’re not alone is enough to make a WORLD of difference.

Credits

Topics:

visual-art,

popular-culture,

human-interest,

women,

community-and-society,

australia,

sydney-2000,

japan,

asia



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