Jason Shiga


I am a big fan of Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile.

It’s a mistake to go into this book thinking it’s a “chose your own adventure” book. This book is a puzzle. There is a complete picture, a complete understanding of the world, that you can put together, and what you are doing is exploring this world by making choices. If you’re expecting an adventure you might get a little frustrated when you find yourself looped back in the story and rereading a scene. Keep investigating. Solve the mystery. I was obsessive with this book. It took me about a week, but I went through the whole thing, and I will say that the ultimate revelation of the world of Meanwhile is epic and even disturbing. After you know what this story is about, even going back to the beginning and choosing vanilla instead of chocolate ice cream turns out to be a kind of disturbing ending. I think this is truly an important comic book. 

Empire State by Jason Shiga.

For those who have the Empire State hardcover, Shiga hid a secret message in the end pages of the book. I would’ve never known about it unless Gene Luen Yang hinted about it on his site.

Even then, it look me about 45 minutes to find it.

When I saw Shiga at a signing at Meltdown Comics, apparently I was the first person who was not his friend to find it.

If you find it and message me what it says, I’ll tell you the rest of the story :)

Jimmy is a stereotypical geek who works at the library in Oakland, California, and is trapped in his own torpidity. Sara is his best friend, but she wants to get a life (translation: an apartment in Brooklyn and a publishing internship). When Sara moves to New York City, Jimmy is rattled. Then lonely. Then desperate. He screws up his courage, writes Sara a letter about his true feelings, and asks her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building (a nod to their ongoing debate about Sleepless in Seattle). 

Jimmy’s cross-country bus trip to Manhattan is as hapless and funny as Jimmy himself. When he arrives in the city he’s thought of as “a festering hellhole,” he’s surprised by how exciting he finds New York, and how heartbreaking—he discovers Sara has a boyfriend! 

Jason Shiga’s bold visual storytelling, sly pokes at popular culture, and subtle text work together seamlessly in Empire State, creating a quirky graphic novel comedy about the vagaries of love and friendship.


Catchup with the record of my September and October reads. All absolutely brilliant in different ways. 

Empire State by Jason Shiga.  Library Call Ref 741.5 973 SHI-[Art] - A touching story where much of it is told by the facial expressions, body language and silences of the characters.  This made me feel a lot.  So much more is said by that which is not said.  Having growing up in a traditional north-asian inspired context, “down” in multi-racial/cultural South-East-Asia, much of Jason’s experience is very familiar, both painfully and laughingly so.  


Fun Home: a Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel.  Library Call Ref 741.5973 BEC-[Art] - This book surprised me.  It’s highly studious and literate, full of literary references some of which I had only a faint knowledge of. Despite the “scholarlyness” of the content, it was also a very very good piece of storytelling.  The reader gets to piece the story together, from different sections taking place in different places and times, some of which overlap, and this brings a richness to one’s understanding as well as the opportunity to predict how the whole turns out from little visual clues, throwaway lines.  Much more satisfying than a straight linear timeline narrative.   Parallels, Contrasts, Circles, Cause-&-Effects, Overshadowings, Rhymes. Given it’s content, I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy in the Singapore National Library.  This is a very beautifully plotted and presented book, and should be read by as many as possible.  


Asterios Polyp - David Mazzucchelli.  Library Call Ref 741-5 973 MAZ-[Art] - There is a LOT in this book.  Ideas about design.  Ideas about ideas.  Ideas about thinking.  Ideas about relationships - with ourselves, our surroundings, and with others who exist and some who do not.  My experience with Mazzucchelli was limited to his brilliant pencils for Batman Year1 and Daredevil BornAgain mini series’.  This was a different side of the storyteller that his Marvel and DC work simply did not hint at.  It’s a surreal story, but very human at the same time, very real and grounded, in a metaphysical sort of way.  My last sentence does not seem to make any sense, and that’s probably because I’m trying to put in words something that should simply be read, experienced.