Hellll-o! So, I spent last weekend getting ready for the upcoming Vancouver Comic Arts Festival. I will be debuting my new 24-page comic book My Eurydice at the event, as well as a limited edition (of 50) of Haikucomics, which features -drum roll please – an original monoprint on the cover! Of course, Dear Beloved Stranger will be available for purchase as well. Hope I’ll get to see y’all this weekend!
Last afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a lecture featuring celebrated comic artist Art Spiegelman (of “Maus” fame) in conversation with Bruce Grenville, senior curator of the Vancouver Art Gallery. This event served as a highlight to kick off the retrospective exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery while Spiegelman gave insights to pivotal works and moments of his career.
Very often, cartoonists go through extensive troubles designing each panel meticulously, as if the comic is a Swiss watch, only in the end to cover up trails of their blood, sweat, and tears with a tone of nonchalance as they tell their stories. This is to ensure that the readers are submerged in the storytelling as opposed to being distracted by the mechanics that make the stories work. It was thus a wonderful and rare treat to get a peek beyond the facade of Spiegelman’s carefully designed machines as he explains his thought process and reveals the blueprints to the most important and memorable works of his career.
During the lecture I whipped out my not-so-smart phone and made some finger doodles – for your entertainment 🙂
The vastly knowledgeable and opinionated Spiegelman was also very charming and funny. I admire his ability to draw from literature and fine arts out of his wide range of repertoire. Being able to see the works of a prolific comic artist was a very inspiring experience for a younger artist like myself.
After the lecture Art Spiegelman came back out to sign some books. I giggled like a school girl as the Pulitzer-winning author drew me his iconic character!
“Dino Pai’s sweet and surprising debut works at a number of levels: it is a fairy tale, an ode to lost love, and a young artist’s search for his place in the world. What I find most refreshing and compelling about this debut is the way Dino uses shifting drawing styles and modes of storytelling to a convey the emotional and philosophical turmoil of his young protagonist.” — Matt Madden, author of 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Styleand co-author of Drawing Words & Writing Pictures and Mastering Comics
About Dino Pai – Having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in illustration from Parsons the New School for Design in New York in 2007, Dino is currently working as a children’s art teacher in his hometown Vancouver. His latest comic works can be found right here on Urban-FairyTales.com.
Feel free to download the preview for Dear Beloved Stranger here.
Once I found the motivation to make a new comic, the next question became “what story am I going to tell?” Immediately a story that I once read in an anthology of Japanese folklores came to mind. It went something like this (click to enlarge):
Of course, the original story was written much more elegantly. You may find it at your local library if you looked for this book.
The Western reader may be confused at first. I know I definitely was thrown off by the bizarre structure and unexplained details. What’s the wife’s motivation for leaving? What kind of history do the lovers have? What’s the significance of the bow? The bird? And who the HECK was this “human” that the bird turned into? And as Western storytelling convention advocates, if you put a bow in the first act…
Yet, despite my inability to break down and analyze the story, I found myself remembering and thinking of it from time to time, and each time I do, the story’s charm has but intensified. In an attempt to solve the mysteries of the story’s magical appeal, I started at something relatively tangible – the symbols.
I opened my dictionary of symbols looking for “bow” and hit jackpot. The bow is a very rich symbol, playing important roles particularly in the Greek, Indian, Japanese, and Chinese cultures. It was said that in Japanese folklores, the bow and arrow together form the symbol for love, thus explaining the significance of the arrow-less bow in the story. Not surprisingly, the tandem also projects a strong “phallic-ness”, illustrated by the word “stroke” in the original story, which I have made the point to preserve in my comic translation. Furthermore, the bow has been known to symbolize the sublimation of desire towards spiritual perfection.
The White Bird
The white bird is really two symbols disguised in one. Come to think of it, in a story that didn’t give any details of anything, it was strange that the color of the bird was so particular. We all know that white is a symbol for purity, what we may not know, however, it that it’s also a dual symbol for beginning and end, and thus the concept of death and rebirth.
The bird, on the other hand, is deemed symbol of the link between Heaven and Earth because of its ability to fly, which interestingly corresponds to the pointing-upward-bow.
After reading about the symbols, I have come to an initial analysis of the story: the protagonist’s relationship with the bow is a metaphor for his inner journey through the mourning stages, taking him from the state of sorrow through to that of acceptance, and finally bringing him to reconcile and embrace the memories of his lost love, through the process elevating his frustrated lust towards divine love. As our hero completes this process and his need for the bow diminishes, the bow turned itself into a white bird, symbolizing the protagonist’s spiritual success, as well as the end and beginning of chapters in his life. Meanwhile, that the bird turned into a person implies the death and reincarnation of the beloved wife.
I had always enjoyed the weirdness, the atmosphere, and the colourful symbols of this story, but at this point I realized that another reason I liked it so much was precisely the vagueness and the left out details that open the story up for the readers’ own imagination and interpretation. While simultaneously reading up on the art form of haiku, I came across such a quote: “The haiku that reveals seventy to eighty percent of its subject is good. Those that reveal fifty to sixty percent we never tire of.”* As I read it my eyes lit up and I knew what I needed to focus on next!
*Kenneth Yasuda, The Japanese Haiku, Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc., 1957, p.6
**The symbol book I referred to is called The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols by Jean Chavalier and Alain Gheerbrant, translated from French by John Buchanan-Brown, first published by Penguin in1962.
For as long as I could remember I have been watching a star through my window. I saw it twinkle and I saw it shimmer. I watched it as the constellations told me stories; I watched it as the seasons went by. I saw it shining through my window and lighting up my room, and then I saw it fading away. As the story comes to an end, I knew it was time to say goodbye.
On March 11, 2011, a great disaster struck the Land of the Rising Sun. A monstrous earthquake befell the northeast coast of Japan and triggered a tsunami that would render Godzila a mere puny lizard in comparison. From nuclear bomb to earthquakes and tsunamis, in a land not unfamiliar with disasters, the Japanese citizens were once again confronted to cope with heartbreak. It was then time for them to say goodbye.
Whether it’s husband, wife, child, parent, friend, or lover, whether it’s a breakup, the departure for a journey, or even death – a goodbye is a goodbye. I was curious how the Japanese people said their goodbyes, as a nation and as individuals. And so as the rising sun erased the evanescing star from my sky, I thought I’d make a comic in hope that through the process I could create bonds with other souls experiencing the loss of their loved ones, thus the project Haikucomics was given birth to.
It has been in the works for quite some time, and today I am pleased to present to you the main feature of this project – A Beloved Wife, a Bow, a White Bird. I do hope you find it enjoyable.
Welcome, everybody, to the very first blog post on Urban-FairyTales.com. I will be updating the website with new contents and blogging about my art adventures, so be sure to check in regularly!
I am really thrilled to announce an exciting news in this very first post – my first graphic novel Dear Beloved Stranger has been awarded with the prestigious Xeric Grant for comic self-publishers! When I was six years old I wanted to grow up and become a Ninja Turtle. Twenty years later, Peter Laird’s (co-creator of the Ninja Turtles) foundation gave me a grant to publish my own comic book. How cool is that? You can go to the comics page to learn more about Dear Beloved Stranger and download the preview. Also, don’t forget to check out the latest promotional video I made. spoiler alert: you’ll see me singing a song!
More work remains to be done until Dear Beloved Stranger can hit your local comic book store, but I’m really excited to put on a different hat and make it happen!