Former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew made an appearance at the Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention (STGCC) over the weekend – in the form of five caricatures.
Titled Lee Kuan Yew Cosplay, the 90-year-old is portrayed as five fictional characters – from Magneto in the latest X-Men movie, to Yoda in Star Wars.
Ms Chan Shiuan, 26, who quit her flight attendant job of five years to become a full-time artist, is behind the idea.
Ms Chan, who graduated from Temasek Polytechnic’s School of Design in 2008, was first inspired to portray Mr Lee as Magneto, one of the characters in the X-Men franchise.
“I was watching the latest X-men movie and was reminded of someone when Magneto came on. I realised it was Mr Lee only after the movie.
“Both (Magneto and Mr Lee) are intelligent people who think they are right in their own ways,” she said.
The two days spent drawing Mr Lee as Magneto for fun at first became a little project, after a friend suggested that she expand it into a series.
As the subject of her choice is sensitive, everyone warned Ms Chan she would get into trouble.
“I am constantly thinking, ‘Do I have enough money for bail?’ or ‘I better eat as much as I can before I go to jail,'” Ms Chan said. She tried to get a good mix of characters and left out the villains.
“I also stayed clear of cartoon characters that would make him look silly, out of respect,” she said.
Ms Chan hopes that by emphasising the element of fun, the general public would accept her caricatures of Mr Lee.
That is also why she decided to call her works Lee Kuan Yew Cosplay.
She said: “At STGCC, people cosplay there all the time.
“To see someone famous like our founding father cosplay – it tickles, it’s funny and it piques your interest.”
The caricatures were so popular with visitors at the two-day STGCC that Ms Chan had to take pre-orders on Saturday.
“Some comments I had were that (the caricatures) are really cute, that they like the idea and that (Mr Lee) fits the characters,” the 26-year-old said.
Lecturer Low Chee Lie, 36, who bought Ms Chan’s prints, thought the caricatures were a salute to Singapore’s founding father.
He said: “I think it’s beautiful how Mr Lee has been reimagined as fictional superheroes we’ve grown up with.”
Singapore Management University’s law professor Eugene Tan sees this interpretation of Singapore’s founding father as something positive.
“You do have people who view the founding fathers somewhat like superheroes, but at the same time, (are) very aware that they will have human frailties.
“So long as the artist doesn’t put Mr Lee in a bad light,” he said.
“Referring to Ms Chan’s interpretation of Mr Lee as someone who thinks he is right in his own ways, Associate Professor Tan attributed it to the era – post-1980s- that Ms Chan was born in.
“There may be aspects of laws and policies which someone born post-1980s may have difficulty trying to appreciate and understand,” he said.