Friday, June 08, 2007

Chinese Comics Part 1

Rather than post this on my China-Manley Blog I thought I'd post this here since this blog is about comics. One of the things I was interested in seeing when visiting China was what the comics situation was there. My Fiance Echo had done some comics for a publisher in Beijing before she moved to the US, we even passed that publisher one day riding to the Forbidden City in a cab. The only Chinese comics (manhua)I had been exposed to previously were some I had picked up downtown in China town here is Philly. They were basically comics where dudes were fighting each other, like some kind of Dragonball crossed with Fist of the North Star. Echo said these are comics from Singapore, Korea or Tiawian.

The father of Echo's friend Summer, ran the dorms for international students, and he was able to hook us up with a dorm for a week for a rediculus price of about $170 US. The dorm wasn't bad and had airconditioning, something none of the other far more expensive hotels we stayed at had. Being near several universities like the Schools of Language, Geophysics etc., had a lot of benefits as ther were many internet cafes, book stores etc. One day after having breakfast at the local McDonalds Echo and I noticed a sign for a comic shop called Cool Comics.

Echo said that there really wasn't much done comic wise in China as the publishers didn't last long and most Chinese readers wanted Japanese comics. That the government would crack down on anything that was deemed too far fetched, lewd, etc., and there really wasn't the local fan support.

A shot of the closed shop .

A shot inside of the closed shop showing that it pretty much looked like a shop here in the US, except it's all animae.

The shop was located in the small mall in the bottom of the same shopping complex at the McDonalds at a busy intersection about a half mile from our dorm. There was also a jewelry store, music store and a caligraphy shop where some artist did signs and gave lessons. When we showed up the comic store wasn't open yet. We peered into the dimly lit shop, which reminded me of the trips my parents took us on to Ann Arbor from Detroit as kids. Before we moved to Ann Arbor we visited often, and always on a Sunday as that was my dad's day off. We'd often pass a comic shop which was always closed, I'd longinly staer into the door wanting so bad to be able to go inside. years later I did after we moved to Ann Arbor. Echo's comments about there not being many if any local Chinese comics seemed to be proven true when we looked around the shop. I didn't see one local Chinese comic as I scanned the shelves and walls filled with figurines, buttons, cosplay costumes, book bags, backpacks, many featuring Nightmare before X-mas characters. maybe there was but i didn't see any and we asked the shop manager and he said he didn't really sell any. The only other comics I had seen on the trip were a few bagged Disney comics in the local newstands. The Chinese LOOOVVEE Disney.

We both looked around the mall a bit then to wait till the shop opened at 9:30. Our hours were pretty screwed around still as beijing is 12 hours difference from Philly, so we'd waked up at 4 AM and be sort of out of sorts as noting was open yet except for places like McDonalds as it was 24hr.

Soon the shop owner came by and we were able to go into the shop. It was pretty much just all Japanese stuff, in fact the same stuff you'd see here in the states, translated into Chinese of course. I didn't see one single American comic, no Hellboy or Sin City even, though I did see a TMNT figure. As we perused the shop a few more teenagers came in a shopped. I had Echo introduce me to the shop owner who's name was Lai Yongxiang or translates to something like Eternal Peace. They did have some managa drawing supplies so I bought that up, zip-atone, paper, pens, inks just to try and for presents for friends back home.

One of the things that happened comic wise that we noticed was on the CCTV English channel we had on the cabel in our dorm, a news story about Death Note. As I reported on my blog from China, it seems the popularity of both the manga and the movie have caused a little controversy in Beijing at least. It seems the local authorities had become upset over the comic, especially I think the liscensing, specifically the Death Note Notebook which had been made. I guess the idea of disgruntled teens writing down the names of people they wanted to "punish" didn't sit well with someone. The funny thing was in the news story they showed books being taken off shelves, DVD's confiscated and they were interviewing little kids, kids under 10, who he book certainly isn't written for nor woruld I imagine appeal too. i had to laugh, it was the sort of chinese version of the lame old story we see here "Bang! Zap! Comics are not just for kids anymore".

I asked the manager about this, or had Echo translate for me. I asked him why he still had copies as I had seen on TV that the local authorities had been removing copies from stores all over. He said that they really only wanted the note books, not the comic. He had a full set in his comic shop. I've read many of the volumes so far and have enjoyed the story, and I was curious why it was so popular with the Chinese fans. So I asked one who was shopping who appeared to be in his early 20's. He said that he liked the story because it required thinking and strategy over super powers or some other type of magic ability. That thought was also echoed by the manager and the other teen shopping. It seems that the more cerebral approach really appealed to the readers. This wasn't the Narruto crowd, though clearly he seems as popular there as here in the US, they even had a ready made Cosplay Narruto costume hanging from the ceiling of the shop. This store was part of a chain and when Echo mentioned we were traveling to Kunming, the manager gave us a card and said they had a sister store there which we did visit and I'll talk about that in my next post.

A pic of me and the manager.

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