Once upon a time, I did political cartoons for a newspaper six days a week. I later put them together in a book called Memoirs of a Love-Hate Relationship with Taiwan that detailed the political and social events of the time. They were also motivated by my own turmoiled relationship with Taiwan, the place of my birth that I had difficulty getting used to but still learned to love.
The publisher in Taiwan, Classic Communications, stopped printing it, but here it is on Amazon with my blessings.
Right after I published the cartoon book, I came up with the idea of writing a book that used my cartoons to teach English to the people of Taiwan. Titled EQ180, as in “English Quotient 180”, it was published by the same publisher, and used by teachers in cram schools that gave people a fun way of learning about political events in English. It even came with two CDs that narrated the contents.
How I came about doing political cartoons started out this way: I had gone back to Taiwan after my master’s degree. I applied for the position of reporter at an English-language daily newspaper in Taiwan, and sent in the mail along with my resume some hastily drawn cartoons of “When You Know You’ve Been in Taiwan Too Long” (which to my regret I can’t find to this day).
The managing editor thought they were very funny and showed them to his editors. I received a phone call from them asking me to not only work as a reporter, but also to submit a weekly cartoon for the editorial page. I was stunned, and thrilled.
To employ my love for both writing and drawing — and develop visual comedy at that — was a completely unexpected opportunity — the chance of a lifetime that I certainly appreciated then but much, much more so now. In the beginning, I had a lot of help from the managing editor and others at the office, all of whom I’m grateful to. I couldn’t have done it alone at the time as I didn’t have the experience or skill yet. The difficulty for me lay in the fact that the cartoons had to be on a current topic that held popular interest, they had to make a valid point while throwing a punch, and they had to elicit amusement if not a chuckle.
The English-language cartoons were the first of their kind in Taiwan during the country’s tentative and budding steps toward democracy, thus received feedback both positive and negative. This was considered by the chief editor to generate more readership. So I was eventually asked to produce cartoons six days a week instead of just once a week. Looking back, I rank this gig up there as one of the most unique things I’ve ever done — a gift that sort of fell on my lap. Here’s to the cartoon gods.