Meet The 12-Year-Old Comic Book Artist Taking The World By Storm
Ryan, like any school going boy, loves his daily comic dose of Calvin & Hobbs, Mutts, Peanuts and more. But what separates this soon to be 12 year old from other boys his age is that the love of comics does not just end with reading them.
Boy Wonder – Ryan Lee
Ryan Lee. The name may not mean much to you. Yet.
Ryan, like any school going boy, loves his daily comic dose of Calvin & Hobbs, Mutts, Peanuts and more. But what separates this soon to be 12 year old from other boys his age is that the love of comics does not just end with reading them. This Singaporean child has a published comic book to his name entitled, ‘The Zoo’.
Ryan, the oldest son of parents Nicholas Lee, CEO of an innovation consulting company, and Tan Li-Cheng, a kindergarten principal, blends maturity with humour in ‘The Zoo’. With support from his parents, am adoring 9 year old sister and grandparents who save newspaper cartoon strips for him, this boy wonder enjoys doing what he does, embraced in an abundance of love and support. Brilliant quips and adorable sketches fill ‘The Zoo’ and make it extremely hard to put down till you’re done with all 125 pages!
Ryan has been drawing cartoons since he was seven (2004) but he started ‘The Zoo’ around early 2008. It’s hard to believe but every single page is drawn by him and the humour is all his, without any help from anyone. But how did this begin and where does young Ryan draw inspiration from? TheAsianparent sat down for an interview with Ryan’s biggest fan and supporter – his father, Nicholas Lee.
TheAsianparent (TAP) : How did Ryan get started?
The Lee Family
Nicholas Lee : Ryan has been drawing even before he could walk. It was not intentional but we used to bring this sketch pad everywhere we went. So at every opportunity, we would be drawing on it and he would try to copy whatever we sketched. Over time, Ryan’s interest in drawing moved on to comic strips.
TAP : ‘The Zoo’ possesses a charm that seems fitting of an adult cartoonist yet it’s the work of an 11-year old boy. Ho do you explain that?
Nicholas Lee : Despite being only 11, Ryan is an old soul who loves music from the 60s and 70s. In any case, his humour could be considered quite mature for his age although it wasn’t always that way. Ryan had 2 or 3 other cartoons he had been working on since he was 7 years old but those weren’t as funny and seemed child-like from an adult’s point of view which irritated him when he got unconvincing positive feedback from my wide and me. He desperately wanted his cartoons to be funny and one day, it just clicked for him. He suddenly understood humour and how to make use of it in his cartoons.
TAP : How does Ryan fit in a society that prides itself with its dedication to academics?
The Zoo By Ryan Lee
Nicholas Lee : There is no running away from the fact that education is an important part of any child’s life. But one of the goals of education must be to expose our children to as many different things in life as possible so that they, in their own time, will be able to discover the things that they are passionate about, the things that they will want to do as serious hobbies, or perhaps even as careers. In that respect, Ryan is lucky because he believes he has found his passion.
TAP : Ryan will be sitting for his P.S.L.E soon. Will you be expecting him to give up ‘comic drawing’ time for more preparation time for the exams?
Nicholas Lee : We have been preparing him in terms of being exam-smart. But I don’t think we have necessarily changed the balance between his studies and his ‘play time’. He still does his cartoons, plays on the computer, watches TV, and reads his Harry Potter books.
TAP : If one day, he decides that this is something he doesn’t want to do (even though he clearly has the talent for it) and has had enough of it, what would you tell him?
Nicholas Lee : I think I would tell him that I love him regardless of whether he chooses to pursue this talent. I think it is important for children to know that their parents love them for who they are and not for what they are able to do.
TAP : Can readers expect a sequel of ‘The Zoo’?
Nicholas Lee : That’s quite possible. Even after we published this copy of ‘The Zoo’ in March 2009, Ryan hasn’t stopped drawing more pages for ‘The Zoo’. I can already see a stack of about 40-50 pages of new strips for ‘The Zoo’ in the in-tray on his desk!
TAP : The artistic nature of Singaporean children seems either absent or shadowed by academic stress. Any advice to parents who want to unleash this creative side of their children and create a balance?
Nicholas Lee : I think that while it is generally recognised that there is a danger of parents going overboard with their children in terms of academics, there can also be an equal, albeit less obvious, danger of going overboard in terms of overloading them with ‘creativity'.
Many parents today send their children for extra classes, from piano to ballet to art. If the intent of sending them to these extra classes is to expose them to the different creative art forms, then it is probably the right thing to do. In exposing them to it, there is the potential for discovery and in that discovery is the hope of finding a passion. But if the intent is to fill up their resumes so that they can show their next prospective school or employer all the things they have accomplished, then I think the parents need to reflect on what they are doing to their children.
Eager to get your hands on ‘The Zoo’? Drop Nicholas an email at [email protected] and you’ll be mailed a copy. The book retails at $30*. (* Nett proceeds go towards helping the less fortunate).