• “Writing our Wounds” in HOSTEL OF LOST FUNCTION
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Gami ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    In April of 2016, I lost my mother quite unexpectedly. Immediately, I understood that heartache is not just some abstract description. It can take on many forms: a physiological pain, a violent headache, nausea, vertigo, a knot of tension in the chest. Even when I thought I was too exhausted to cry any more, the tears would start flowing again.

    Because of this calamity, my older brother and I moved out of the house we had shared with our mother, and into a rooftop addition in Taipei. After we settled in, life and work returned to normal, though from time to time I would be seized by a kind of panic. I wondered exactly what this feeling was. Perhaps most of you have had the experience of staying in a dormitory or youth hostel. You might thoroughly enjoy the experience, but the moment you return home a knot of tension releases. The tension and panic I felt was like that – like always living away from home. When I realized this, the phrase “Hostel of Lost Function” suddenly appeared in my mind.



    “That place where you stayed for so long – where you thought you would live forever – that is the Hostel of Lost Function.”

    At first I felt uneasy and confused. “Hostel of Lost Function” sounds so negative. How could I associate it with someone I loved so deeply? Though I continued to work on a number of other creative projects, Hostel of Lost Function stayed lodged in my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. In 2018, while studying illustration in London, I decided to start working on the story. The pictures become my language for re-establishing communication with the outside world. With pencil and engravings I recorded the feelings that my stilted tongue had never been able to speak. After reading the storyboards for Hostel of Lost Function at a mid-term evaluation, some of my classmates began to cry, and when I saw their tears, I cried as well. I felt understood. I realized that writing our wounds has the power to heal others as well.

    Later, in 2021, as I sat in a meeting, listening as the publication of the book was discussed, my thoughts drifted away to the mountaintop where my mother’s ashes are buried beneath a tree. Now, I could finally take the book to the mountaintop and read it to her. “You see? You’re haven’t disappeared. You will always be here in this story.” Now, I can finally tell everyone, “This is the house I’ve been building for so long. It’s called Hostel of Lost Function.” There’s nothing complex about the structure, but my feelings for it are complicated. I’m afraid certain parts were not well made, and won’t hold as much love that they might have. I’m afraid I’ll never be able to build it as it really ought to be, because it is so much better than anything that can be conveyed by words and pictures. I’m afraid people will be disappointed (or perhaps I am the one who will always be most disappointed). But I have built it. Hostel of Lost Function exists for all to see.

    “This strung-together form with no means to express, like a heart with no fixed residence, always living outside and unable to sleep, can finally have a bit of rest.” This is what the Hostel of Lost Function says to me.



    Read more:
    - Gami: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=373
    - Hostel of Lost Function: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=388

  • Where Fantasy Meets Reality: Artist Ticker on Sketching a Supernatural History of Taiwan
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Ticker ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Before I began working on this graphic novel about Taiwan’s supernatural creatures I knew as little about the subject as most readers. My knowledge was limited to the few ghost stories that everyone has heard. As I delved deeper, I came to understand that these supernatural creatures are intimately connected to our people and our land. They are reflections of the complexities of human life. Sometimes they act as warnings. Sometimes they represent forces in society or the natural world. More importantly, these creatures are not bound by ordinary human ethics. Wild and mysterious by turns, I am deeply drawn to these entities at the hinterlands of reality that embody so many imaginative possibilities.

    “The Servant Girl’s Cat” was the first story I completed. In it, a cat who died defending her master’s virtue is reborn as a supernatural creature. When she witnesses Hsiao Chun, a girl working as a maid, being assaulted she begins to realize that though the world may never change, she must still do what she can to avenge the honor of these mistreated women.



    Iakoo was once a little girl who died of abuse at the hands of her sister-in-law. In death, she becomes a god who protects unwed boys and girls. In the graphic novel, Iakoo appears as a little girl who loves to laugh and play, the very joys she was denied in her short, tragic life. This interpretation mirrors the situation of Kuei-mei, a young girl who seeks Iakoo’s help.

    The depiction of women in these stories contrasts strongly with the unfettered nature of the supernatural creatures. Whether it is the suffering Kuei-mei endures due to misogyny, or Hsiao Chun’s attempts at self-determination, or Su’s pursuit of freedom, all of these characters cling to what hope they can muster, despite the cruel hand fate has dealt them. Aside from the stories of these supernatural entities, this is what I most wanted to share with my readers – a window onto earlier times. There’s Wang Ching, who sells roasted wheat mush to support his family. There’s Inspector Li, caught between his personal and professional obligations. There’s Ming-tu, pining for his older brother.



    Through the vicissitudes of life, all of them are seeking some form of peace and contentment. Those times may have passed, but the striving and longing of these characters will elicit familiar resonances for contemporary readers. If even one of these stories or characters, or even one image, stays lodged in the readers mind, impossible to forget, then it was all worth it. This is my small hope now that these stories are complete.



    Read more:
    - Ticker: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=372
    The Sister of the Bamboo Stool and Other Tales of the Supernatural: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=387

  • Drawing Inspiration from the Afterlife: an Interview with NETHERWARRANT Creator Yuzu
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Yuzu ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    What was the source of inspiration for the story? Why did you decide to use King Yama and the Netherworld as source materials?

    When I was a kid I read a martial arts novel that had a kung fu move called “King Yama’s Travel Permit”. It was probably meant to make the move sound particularly devastating, as if it would send you straight to the Netherworld to see King Yama. The phrase left a strong impression, and I started thinking how interesting it would be if there really was a document that permitted one to travel to the Netherworld. Once the idea of the “Netherwarrant” was settled, I threw in a few characters, a few messed up things that happened to me, and a bunch of my personal gripes about life, and that’s the story.



    The gods that figure most prominently in the graphic novel are Black and White Impermanence. Why did you choose to focus on these two characters? Are there any thoughts you can share about the process of designing the characters?

    In folk tales, Black and White Impermanence are gods. One is short, the other tall. One is black, the other white. Selecting them to be main characters meant that the images in the graphic novel would be quite varied. In order to make the graphic novel more appealing, I depicted White Impermanence as a tall, beautiful woman, and Black Impermanence as a small boy. If I had drawn them as they appear in folktales, with the whole plot revolving around their quest to find King Yama, it might have seemed too pretentious. On the other hand, if I had modernized their appearance, the otherness of these folk gods would have been lost.

    After a lot of fretting I finally decided to preserve their color schemes, but otherwise simplify their appearances. For example, White Impermanence should hold a fan of feathers, but a simple folded fan was easier to draw. Black Impermanence should have a black veil over his face, but a mask of white cloth was easier to draw. And White Impermanence should have white hair, but black hair is easier to draw, so once again I took the easy way out.


    The second supernatural incident in the graphic novel takes place in an easily recognizable real-world setting. Was there some real life incident that formed the basis of the story? Are there any other backgrounds in the book drawn from actual places?

    There was no incident on which the story was based. Because the main character is so burdened by high expectations, she can never settle for anything less than perfection. I imagine other people would see this kind of character as leading a charmed life, so when it came time to draw her university, naturally I chose the prestigious National Taiwan University as the backdrop. Other real-world places that made it into the graphic novel are Taipei Main Station, the shopping district around Taiwan Normal University, and a nightlife district in Banqiao.



    You mentioned that you used an ink brush while working on the graphic novel. What’s the difference between working with an ink brush and more conventional art tools? Is there anything interesting you can share about the ink brush?

    The tip of an ink brush is quite soft so at first I had to work hard at controlling it to produce the desired line thickness. But once I got used to it, I found that I could produce any thickness of line I wanted using one tool. That makes it very convenient. Also, I no longer have to keep all this pointy dip pens on my table, which has greatly reduced the number of accidental jabs I receive in the name of art. The downside is ink brush painting doesn’t suit every kind of subject matter, and it is hard to find assistants who can use an ink brush. So in the end, using an ink brush increases my workload.



    Read more:
    - Yuzu: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=271
    - Netherwarranthttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=386

  • Novel, Graphic Novel, and Animated Feature: the Creators of THE EYE OF SARUTAHIKO on the Process of Adaptation
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Han Tsai-Chun & Chao Ta-Wei ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    What were your first impressions of Chang Kuo-Li’s novel, the novel from which the graphic novel is adapted? What left the deepest impression? Why did it move you?

    Chao: I’ve always read Chang Kuo-Li’s novels. When I read The Eye of Sarutahiko in 2018, I loved it because it has Chang Kuo-Li’s warmth and humor. I also identified with the values in the novel. The main character, Hui-sheng, would be considered a loser by most people. But he never gives up. He’s always working to change his life, which creates all kinds of possibilities. Not miraculous changes, but more like the aspiration to create something beautiful. I also like Chang Kuo-Li’s environmental views. He’s concerned about the environment, but he’s not focused on blame.

    Han: I like the gentle tone of the novel. Like the way Hui-sheng is always concerned about the people around him. He doesn’t express his concern as criticism. Instead he works to improve himself and others.


    What made you want to create an animated film and graphic novel based on the novel?

    Chao: I had images appearing in my mind the whole time I was reading the novel. As a director of animated films, I really wanted to see what these characters and settings would look like if they could move. Especially the scenes of the submarine restoration. Another thing is the way the stage of the story is filled with all these props and backdrops familiar to Taiwanese people. This is the kind of story I like to bring to life, so I decided to speak with the author about the rights for graphic novel and film adaptations.

    Han: I wanted to see the characters interact with one another. (The story) brought back memories of my youth.



    What attracted you to the various characters?

    Chao: We both liked Li Wang. There is a lot of the author in him. Witty, honest, broad minded, and a bit mysterious. He’s rough around the edges, but also sharp and meticulous. He supports the kids, but at his own pace, and in his own way. He’s this magical character who is directing things behind the scenes. The character design for Li Wang contains a lot of my feelings from my first meeting with Chang Kuo-Li.

    Hui-sheng has the most depth in the novel. Our emotional journey follows him, and we care about him the most.

    Han: Because Hui-sheng cares about his friends, we, in turn, care about him.


    The plot and characters are altered a bit in the graphic novel. Why is that?

    Chao, Han: The Hui-sheng of the novel is a bit simple-minded and naïve. Hui-sheng in the graphic novel thinks more about things, which makes him feel a bit older. Also, we made Hsiao Lai a tomboy to help with gender balance.

    As for the length, we end the graphic novel when the submarine is discovered, but we also quickened the pace so that most of the story takes place in Laomei. If we were to complete the story it would take three more graphic novels!



    An animated film adaptation is also in the works. What is the relationship to the graphic novel?

    Chao, Han: Animation and comics are two different mediums. The pacing is different, but the atmosphere and feel of the characters are the same. We hope that readers of the graphic novel will be eager to see the movie. We also hope that we will have the opportunity to do three more graphic novels!



    Read more:
    - Han Tsai-Chun: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=370
    - Chao Ta-Wei: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=371
    - Chang Kuo-Li: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=20
    - The Eye of Sarutahikohttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=385

  • The Days of Childhood
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Sung Hsin-yin ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    Before producing the film On Happiness Road, my original intent was to make a Taiwanese version of Chibi Maruko-chan. After so many years of watching Japanese anime, it was inevitable that as a director I would want to make something for my fellow Taiwanese to watch.

    The 1980’s society was still in the closing years of martial law, but there was a wonderful feeling in the air. Things were simpler. If I had taken these everyday tales from the life of eternal first-grader Lin Shu-chi, with all their absurdity and wonder, and turned them into animated shorts, I’m sure the results would have been fantastic. At the time I wrote out the stories, I couldn’t help but be moved, or even laugh out loud when I read them. I was so pleased with myself, I even imagined that these animated shorts would outdo Chibi Maruko-chan.

    However, for a variety of reasons, I later decided to produce a full-length feature. I wrote the script from the perspective of the adult Lin Shu-chi. The stories of her childhood were all there, but when told from the perspective of an adult, these childhood memories inevitably became more sentimental.

    Later, the film toured the world, won various prizes, and received good reviews from a number of critics. I should have felt deeply satisfied and continued on with my life. But what a shame it would be to abandon those short stories that were still sitting on my hard drive! I wanted the world to see these little treasures. Thus, my mind got working on the idea of turning them into a graphic novel. After talking to a few artists I hired Lo He. The reason for my choice was simple. Just as I had throughout the entire process of making the movie, I followed my gut, and my gut believed Lo He was the best person for the job.



    In the end, my gut was right. Despite being twenty years my junior, Lo He’s handling of a story that took place before she was born was pitch perfect. She produced an outstanding work. Her layouts have verve, and her art brings out the absurdity and silliness of Lin Shu-chi’s school days. Being the first reader of this comic universe, I often laughed out loud while reviewing the drafts on my computer screen. Passing by, my husband would ask, “Are you all right?” I’m proud of the graphic novel now that it is finished, but there is also a sense of sadness. What will I do now that there are no new drafts to chortle over?

    Our childhood memories are a kind of eternal homesickness. I wasn’t particularly happy as a little girl, and I sought comfort by immersing myself in manga, movies, and TV shows. Now that I’m an adult, Taiwan is a radically different place, and I’ve become someone who tells stories for a living. Looking back on my childhood, an era of absurdities, of tragicomedies shaped by history, all I see are these wonderful stories everywhere. Recently it has become popular to say, “I laughed until I cried, then cried until I laughed.” To me, a good story has to play things up in this way. As a creator of stories, this is what I hope to deliver to my audience.

    I hope that readers of On Happiness Road will find that their laughter touched with tears, and their tears touched with love.



    Read more:
    - Sung Hsin-yin: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=369
    - Lo He: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=368
    - On Happiness Roadhttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=384

  • Rekindling the Passion for Classic Taiwanese Cinema: Jian Jia-Cheng on Creating Comics with a Purpose
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Jian Jia-Cheng ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    This graphic novel was published in conjunction with the Taiwan Film Institute. Could you describe the process of collaboration? How was the subject of the book decided? How were the historical materials gathered? And how did you organize these materials to create a compelling storyline?

    Actually, it was a very open process. The institute has a large historical archive – film, newspapers, data on actors and movie industry workers, old equipment – pretty much every kind of historical material from the post-war period. It’s a treasure trove. They gave me full rein to choose whatever topic I wanted. The bygone studio back lots setting of the first volume was meant to draw attention to the core work of the institute – film restoration – since this was our first collaboration.

    Film restoration requires a lot of technical knowledge, but (I focused on) the why of it. What makes these old films so important that we need to restore them? If readers don’t understand the lost era of Taiwanese-language cinema, if we can’t generate an emotional connection to these films, they will lose their significance. Then who cares whether they are restored? So the story had to help readers understand the 1960s golden era of Taiwanese cinema. Just setting this premise was already a huge undertaking. I had to acquire a thorough knowledge of the filmmaking process of the era – cinematography, lighting, printing, tracking… Only with this knowledge could I understand the difficulties faced by filmmakers of the time. What were the post-production costs? Why were budgets so limited? Only then could I depict the passion of these characters who persisted in making movies despite living in an era of such limited resources. I hope readers will feel that passion, and perhaps better understand why we should treasure these films. Then maybe they can appreciate why it is such a precious opportunity to see them shown again on the big screen.


    Your previous book focused on the subject of film restoration. The current one focuses on the art of hand painted film posters and billboards. Are there any interesting anecdotes you can share from the process of developing these graphic novels?

    While drawing the previous book I accompanied the Taiwan Film Institute team on a trip to Taichung to better understand the film restoration process. We went to a warehouse on the outskirts of the city, where, along with a bunch of other junk, there were these neat stacks of film canisters. The family of the warehouse owner once ran a business showing open air movies in the squares in front of local temples. That’s why all of this stuff was there.

    The team carried out all these dusty canisters and stacked them in their truck one by one – it was hard physical labor! I thought about everything that would happen next – each would have to be carefully inspected back at the archives and ones that were too badly decayed would be thrown out – so much work. But somewhere in that stack of canisters they might find a lost film. The work of saving old films is so labor intensive, and sometimes you find nothing at all. It’s a bit like panning for gold. But it is still necessary.

    While I was collecting material for the second book, I came across an interesting fact: sometimes the people painting the posters didn’t know what would be in the movie! Because there was a mad rush to produce these Taiwanese-language films, sometimes studios ran short of cash, so they would go to the movie theaters begging for capital. The movie theaters needed to show movies to make money, and generally the movies would be profitable as long as they controlled costs. So the theaters would agree to invest, but they needed some kind of guarantee that the studio would actually complete the film. The movie poster was the guarantee. The studio would take photos of their actors and some preliminary plot sketches to the poster artists, and from this limited information they would have to create a poster as if the movie already existed. The studios could then take the poster to the movie theater to request funding. To me, this was a really interesting way of doing things.



    We’ve heard that the character of the painter in the book is derived from Chen Tzu-Fu, an famous painter of movie posters from the period. How much of the original Chen Tzu-Fu remained once you were finished molding the character? Why did you retain these parts of Chen Tzu-Fu’s life?

    Two painters, Chen Tzu-fu and Juan Ta-yung, supplied elements of the character, though I took greater inspiration from Chen Tzu-fu. Because Chen Tzu-fu was recruited into the Japanese army, and because at the time I was reading Wu Ming-Yi’s The Stolen Bicycle which talks about the experiences of Taiwanese soldiers in Southeast Asia, I started to form this image of a macho, tough-guy sort of painter. Since he lost his arm in the war, the image also became associated with the character of Yang Guo from Legends of the Condor Heroes, and that set the form of the character.



    What’s your impression of Taiwan’s hand-painted movie posters? Can you share with our readers your favorite poster?

    The beauty of hand-painted movie posters can’t be captured in reproductions. The way the text and images are arranged reveal a lot about the careful thought that went into compositions, as well as each artist’s individual style. You can spend a lot of time just admiring this aspect of the art form.

    There are so many that I like, but I’ll share a bit about one from the movie Son which left a deep impression. You see three siblings on the train tracks. The son is blind. The middle sister is mute, and oldest sister leans on the middle sister because she can barely stand. Behind them, you can see the train hurtling towards them. From this image you can get a sense of the tragic character of so many Taiwanese-language films. You break out in a cold sweat seeing what could happen to the three siblings. I think this is a classic example of a poster that can stir the viewer’s curiosity about the movie.


    A number of movie posters make appearances throughout the course of the graphic novel. Is there one that you particularly liked? Can you tell us why?

    My favorite is probably the poster for Heaven and Earth Sword, an wuxia, or martial-arts adventure film. Chen Tzu-fu had a lot of experience painting wuxia posters. He once said painting wuxia posters was second nature to him, and it really shows in his compositions and technique. I wanted to draw something like one of his posters, so for me it was a pleasure to envision this poster and draw it into the graphic novel.



    Read more:
    - Jian Jia-Cheng: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=93
    - The Movie Painterhttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=383

  • A Flash of Recognition: How Go, Manga, and Stefan Zweig Cross Paths in THE LION IN THE MANGA LIBRARY
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Xiaodao ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    One intriguing aspect of the graphic novel is how it brings together two seemingly distant subjects: the strategy game go, and Taiwan’s manga rental industry. Can you share how you came up with this setting for your book?

    I’m obsessed with the idea of rebellious acts, like “escaping from the world”, or “straying from the usual path”, so I decided the main character should be an “escapist”. I made her a professional go player since the game has been an interest of mine for many years. The decline of the manga rental shops makes them a setting that can evoke a lot of stories and memories, and they are just the sort of place an “escapist” would go to get away from the world.


    How did you organize the materials gathered from your interviews and observations and apply them in the graphic novel? Can you use some concrete examples from the book to demonstrate?

    The presentation of the basic information about go and the psychology of the game came from my personal experiences as a player in addition to what I learned from interviews with professional players and my observation of tournaments. The specific game layouts (used in the graphic novel) were taken from recorded professional games in Taiwan, and from the records of AlphaGo games.

    For information about the world of manga rental shops I visited a platform called Zu Meng Wang (Dream Rental Net) where industry people gather, interviewed some shop owners, and did on-site observations of their workflow and working environment. All the details of the process of closing down a shop and the warehouse environment that appear in chapters four and five come straight from my memories of those visits.



    The plot is mostly driven by the two main characters. Could you walk us through your process of developing these characters?

    The model for Winter is Dr. B from Stefan Zweig’s novella The Royal Game. Dr. B developed his prodigious chess ability as a distraction while imprisoned by the Nazis, but when he exercises his abilities in an intense game, it nearly drives him mad. The source of Hsia-sheng’s character is the suffering and pain I’ve witnessed in people around me. He is a composite image of all victims of abuse, bearing witness to the intergenerational trauma, and the deep and seemingly irresolvable resentment that results.


    Your graphic novel has go scenes drawn in the style of shonen manga (action comics targeted at teenage boys), the emotional content of shojo manga (sentimental manga targeted at teenage girls), and the real-world observation and detail of workplace manga. Taken together, it becomes hard to categorize. How would you define your work, or, how would you suggest that readers approach it?

    My creative work always contains elements that are rearrangements of my own experience. But because I am limited by what I know, I also have to draw from others. This graphic novel grew out of the life experiences of quite a few different people, incorporating them into a collage of life-fragments. Within these somewhat arbitrary experiences, I hope that readers will feel a flash of recognition, a resonance of feeling that lingers even after they put the book down.



    Read more:
    - Xiaodao: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=367
    - The Lion in the Manga Libraryhttps://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=382

  • Easy on the Eyes: Comic Book Maestro Ren Zheng-hua on Mastering the Art of Visual Storytelling
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Ren Zheng-hua ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    This humorous comic is a light read. For the most part I avoided using screentones, kept the linework simple and clean, and eschewed distorted perspective and composition, the goal being to make it easy on the reader’s eyes. My hope is that it can easily be read while seated, or lying down, or lying flat on ones stomachs, or on the toilet… or maybe even while stuck in traffic, or while the colors of sunset melt into the sea, or while taking a break from playing mahjong, or at anytime it might help you thoroughly relax and regulate your emotions. For this reason, while drawing it, I tried out lots of different light and reading angles, and only after being sure something wouldn’t strain the eyes did I dare set it in ink. After all, unveiling a work of comic book art means assuming a responsibility to the public. Think about all the parents who scold their children, screeching, “Those comic books are ruining your eyes!” The creators of comic books, never being in the position to make a rebuttal, can only accept this calumny as one accepts an oncoming natural disaster.



    The Human Bun was first serialized in China Times Weekly starting in February of 1992. An extended version was printed in New Youth Express starting in February of 1993. I want to give special thanks to these two periodicals for giving me the opportunity to test my abilities and hone my craft. Prior to The Human Bun I went through a period of struggling and eventually reinventing my style. Much of the credit goes to the “drills” I went through at China Times Weekly. It was at New Youth Express that I first began working on composition and panel layout with the goal of making everything “easy on the eyes”. I had to cut up my original art, add new material, and re-edit everything back together. It was a lot more tiring than simply re-drawing from scratch, but it forced me to understand the relationship between the eyes and the pacing of the story. I treasure these experiences for the lessons learned, and hope to continue to improve in whatever works I produce in the future.



    Read more:
    - Ren Zheng-hua: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=366
    - The Human Bun: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=381

  • From Peking Opera Actress to Superhero
    Dec 21, 2021 / By Chang Sheng ∥ Translated by Joshua Dyer

    I’ve heard that my grandfather was quite the dandy when he was young. His favorite pastime was acting in amateur Peking Opera performances.

    According to my admittedly fuzzy memory, when I was a toddler, my grandfather and I often went to watch Peking Opera performances at Pao Fu Kung, a temple in Taipei’s Yonghe District. I didn’t know a thing about opera, but the female characters in particular left a deep impression. They cut such striking figures on the stage, sometimes delicate and graceful, sometimes sharp and forceful. Those impressions have stayed with me, and often linger in my thoughts. It might be a snatch of reserved and elegant song, or the thrust of a sword or spear in a martial dance. To me, all of these performances are beautiful.

    About five or six years ago, a thought occurred to me. Iron Man, Batman, Kamen Rider… so many superheroes wear masks to conceal their identity. But if a superhero were to paint their face like they do in Peking Opera, they wouldn’t need a mask.

    I’ve always believed good stories usually arise out of a core concept that is powerful, yet ridiculously simple. But combining science fiction and traditional opera seemed far too ambitious. I hesitated, wondering if I could pull it off. However, one concept was just too compelling. It captivated me and became a vehicle for all those beautiful impressions of Peking Opera from my childhood. I simply had to draw it.

    That concept was Yan, the story of a Peking Opera actress turned superhero.



    About the Title Calligraphy

    It is a great honor, and my good fortune, that the calligraphy of octogenarian manga master Hirata Hiroshi appears as the title characters of this graphic novel. Mr. Hirata is famous throughout Japan for his samurai-themed manga. His vigorous calligraphy also appears on the original posters for world-renowned anime classic Akira.

    When I received the original of this monumental calligraphic work, I felt it as a blessing for the project. Of course, I also felt immense pressure. I had to produce the best graphic novel I could, no matter what the cost. My deepest gratitude to Mr. Hirata Hiroshi and to Mr. Wu, who surreptitiously arranged everything and made the trip to Japan to collect the artwork and deliver it to me.



    Read more:
    - Chang Sheng: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/authors_info.php?id=89
    - Yan: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/books_info.php?id=380