“ABC Supermarket” by Kevin Lai and Matt Huynh
Kevin Lai provides a humorous and witty comic strip about the parents’ Asian grocery store in Cabra (Cabramatta in Sydney). At first it is a place of fun; they enjoy trolley rides and eating to their heart’s content. The comics are full of humour and fun graphically depicting the good times. However, the store is soon declared bankrupt during the economic downturn in 1994-95. He depicts his childhood days and adventures in the store as full of fun and merriment, evident in the kids whizzing around in trolleys and carts.
The images become more sparse and reflect the desolation and misery of closing down. The boy stands with his back to the viewer as he looks at the empty shop. In another image, the parents hug him and only the boy’s sad face is depicted. He explains his difficulties returning to the place, which is full of childhood memories and parental hopes for the future. They are reduced to just $20.
Lai depicts the store as empty and deserted which shows both their bankrupted business and their bankrupted emotions. He depicts the tables which are completely bare to show that they have absolutely no money (only $20) and they have to leave the building. In the middle of one image, the boy looks disappointed and disheartened. He has come home from school to see the boxes in the garage, which he realises means that they must move. He depicts the store as “devoid of customers’
Finally, the cartoonist depicts a very large and black road which he states has very “unnecessary connotations”. This means that he is very fearful of the place because of his unhappy experiences. His mother also has a phobic reaction and only returns “twice”.
Lai’s message is that it is important to “appreciate” the more important things in life other than business and money. He stresses the importance of relationships. Unusually, Lai’s parents declare their feelings of love. “We love you”, which the author finds unusual because “they never said that before”.
Lai retains an optimistic outlook when he humorously states, “but there’s two things I’ve learnt from all that. To appreciate more important things and that eventually things will get better”. He alludes to the fact that at least things cannot get worse. The dominant image of the two-lane highway reinforces the fact that life moves on.
Lai’s reference to the future, and that things “will eventually get better” suggests that their fortunes did improve after they left the shop.
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