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  • The 12th Golden Comic Awards: A Guide to Taiwan’s Unmissable Comics Extravaganza (II)
    Dec 23, 2021 / By Chi-An Weng ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Read Previous Part: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=172

     

    3. The Endless Possibilities of Comics

    This year’s shortlist revealed once again just how unlimited the possibilities are for comics. New opportunities are brought about by changes in the media landscape, for example San Ri Juan Zi’s self-published comic Hi, Grandpa! Being Together and Then Saying Goodbye has a lot of traits that are common in today’s web comics, such as the way it uses sincere feelings that are true to life, like those stories you read on the internet that suddenly leave you teary-eyed and heartbroken. This multimedia approach is also reflected in the nominees for Best Cross-media Application: Tong Li Publishing Co’s work on The Monster of Memory: Destiny; and Secret Whispers which was a joint venture between Chimney Animation and Fish Wang, an illustrator, animator and director who won Best Animated Short Film at the 2019 Golden Horse Awards for Gold Fish.

    The Monster of Memory was originally a comic by author-illustrator Mae and featured an ingeniously designed setting as well as a truly mind-blowing plot that was filled with metaphors of real-world relationships. It’s the sort of story that is perfectly suited to being adapted into a game as a more immersive way for readers to experience the world of the book. Fish Wang meanwhile, is known as a great all-rounder in Taiwanese comics and Secret Whispers can be seen as an “original multimedia work” because from the outset he uses different types of media to portray the teenagers’ “secrets” through different perspectives as the tension rises between them. In the future, the work might be seen as an important reference point in the development of Taiwanese comics, not just because it was set up as a cross-media project from the beginning but also because of the way it was a joint creative venture in the studio.

    In addition to the possibilities brought about by other media, a lot of graphic novels have emerged among Taiwanese comics in recent years. The term “graphic novel” has been adopted from the West and encompasses works that are deeply experimental and avant-garde. A lot of readers who have been familiar with Japanese manga from a young age can’t help but flip through graphic novels and wonder uncertainly “Is this book really a comic?” This completely new experience and the excitement it provokes are precisely what makes graphic novels so fascinating.

    A Trip to the Asylum by Pam Pam Liu was the most provocative, nerve-wracking book of the year. A fictional story about mental illness and a psychiatric hospital, the comic is an all-out sprint that thrusts you straight into the darkness of the subconscious where you have no defences and there are no taboos. Reading it is like being in a comic book version of a Lou Reed song.

     

    A Trip to the Asylum by Pam Pam Liu

     

    It is hard to think of a comic more different from A Trip to the Asylum than the nonfiction series Son of Formosa. The series is based on the life of Tsai Kun-lin, a political victim of the White Terror who published comics despite the authoritarian environment in Taiwan from 1949 to 1987. He won the Special Contribution Award at the 2018 Golden Comic Awards for his courage and perseverance in fostering the development of Taiwan’s publishing sector. For the Son of Formosa series, author Yu Peiyun conducted extensive research when writing the text and illustrator Zhou Jianxin used a range of visual methods to convey the myriad of twists and turns that Tsai Kun-lin experienced over the course of his life. It doesn’t just relay the facts but the images invite the reader to extend their imagination and in doing so the comic conveys a level of empathy that goes beyond the words of the text. Son of Formosa is a graphic novel that can be cherished as a classic both in Taiwan and internationally.  

     

    Son of Formosa by Yu Peiyun and Zhou Jianxin

     

    In this new era of comics, even the older forms of comics that followed a reliable, clear-cut path are no longer restrained by the same rigid set of standards as they once were. In addition to graphic novels, works like Illustrated Taiwan Keywords: A Hand-Drawn History of 1940-2020 by Chiou Hsien-Hsin which look like picture books or nonfiction books centred around infographics will also have an impact on what are stereotypically considered to be “comics” in the future. There is an almost unlimited number of paths an image can take, so rather than holding onto outdated beliefs of what a comic should be, both comic creators and readers alike should adopt a more open-minded approach and embrace the endless possibilities comics have to offer.

     

    Summary

    These three points are just my suggested highlights for anyone looking at the online exhibition of this year’s Golden Comic Awards. As with any exhibition, each visitor should use their personal interests and preferences to unearth their own understanding and appreciation of the exhibits. It is also important to acknowledge the work done by editors to help bring these visual adaptations of literature and history to life. Lin Yi-Chun (Managing Editor at Locus Publishing Company) won this year’s Best Editor Award for her work on The Ren Zheng-hua Collection: Drawn to Life + The Human Bun and on Secret Whispers; while the shortlisted editors included Huang Pei-Shan and Ho Szu-Ying (Editor-in-Chief and Editor at Slowork Publishing respectively) for their work on Son of Formosa, and Tan Shun-Hsin (Editor) for her work on Fantastic Tales of Splendid Blossoms. These exhibits are all undoubtedly great works of art which deserve to be poured over by visitors. However, there are physical limitations with all exhibitions and this was no exception. With a total of 226 works registered this year it was inevitable that some talent would go unrecognised, so this exhibition should only be seen as a starting point and readers should take their initial interest a step further because there are just too many beautiful Taiwanese comics out there waiting to be read.

    Comics are a medium where stories are told through images and by using different themes or illustration styles what you are ultimately trying to achieve is a great story. Over the last few years, Taiwanese comics have produced countless great stories regardless of whether they are shortlisted for the Golden Comic Awards or not. These are stories that will make you laugh, make you cry, and at some point they might even accidentally become something that saves your life, and this, more than anything, is what I want you to know about the Golden Comic Awards and the corresponding exhibition, not just this year but in all the years to come.

  • The 12th Golden Comic Awards: A Guide to Taiwan’s Unmissable Comics Extravaganza (I)
    Dec 23, 2021 / By Chi-An Weng ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    (This article is a condensed version of one originally published at opnion.udn: https://opinion.udn.com/opinion/story/10124/5846196)

    The 12th Golden Comic Awards were held on the 28 October 2021 in an annual prize ceremony that was one of the biggest events of the year in the world of Taiwanese comics. It wasn’t just about celebrating this year’s successes and highlighting everything that the industry has achieved over the previous 12 years, but it also served as a call to arms with a loose outline of how Taiwanese comics can continue to build on their existing momentum. After watching this year’s Golden Comic Awards, here are a few of what I think are the most important points to be aware of:

     

    1. The Triumphant Return of Several Veterans from Taiwan’s “1990s Gold Age of Comics”

    For many experienced supporters of Taiwanese comics, the glory of the golden age in the 1990s has always been something of a legend. It was an era where Taiwanese comics were besieged on all sides by a combination of piracy and long-term government suppression. A whole generation of creators used their unique skills to forge their own paths, drawing extensively on the success of Japanese manga and western comics but transforming these influences into their own distinctive styles with impervious momentum as they tried to pave a way out their oppressive environment. Even though the movement eventually dwindled due to a mix of complicated internal and external factors, that era still revealed the unlimited potential of Taiwanese comics.

    Two names that are always mentioned from that era are Ren Zheng-hua, who won this year’s Special Contribution Award, and Richard Metson, whose new title Iron Boy: Pirate Town 1 was nominated for the 2021 Comic of the Year Award. Ren Zheng-hua’s sensitive and meticulous portrayal of human nature, especially when she depicts the subtle and often imperceptible space between likes and dislikes, has always been the subject of enthusiastic discussion among her supporters. The Special Contribution Award and the republication of her comics Drawn to Life and The Human Bun have introduced a new generation of readers to Ren Zheng-hua’s writing, where she has been exploring the desires and prejudices at the core of human nature since her debut comic Sea of Devil in 1990. Known as “Uncle Mai”, Richard Metson uses his naturally eccentric talent and unique western illustration style to roam between all kinds of different subject matters and build spectacularly immersive worlds one after the other. This time around, he was here with an entirely new book which still featured his usual trademarks but also seemed to contain slightly more references to the highs and lows of reality, a reflection of his own experiences over the years.

     

    Iron Boy: Pirate Town by Richard Metson

     

    The return of several veterans to the spotlight isn’t unique to this year’s awards but is part of a recent trend that’s still developing and can perhaps be traced back to the deaths of Chen Hongyao and Chen Uen. In addition to Ren Zheng-hua and Richard Metson, many of the comic creators who were precursors to the 1990s golden age have not only republished old works but also launched new ones. It is only through this kind of cross-generational reconnection that Taiwanese comics can build a robust, long-lasting system to give future generations the strength and support to grow.

     

    The Human Bun by Ren Zheng-hua

     

    2. Increasingly Diverse Illustration Styles and Storyline Subject Matters

    When you line up all the comics selected for this year’s nominations it’s a treasure trove of work encompassing a myriad of different ideas, regardless of whether you’re looking at it in terms of source material or image composition. While it was possible to place each of these works in a certain category or genre, each comic broke new ground either through its storyline or illustration style to transcend the restrictions of the existing framework.

    Chang Sheng has diligently created science fiction for a long time. After his standalone work Nine Lives Man: Time’s Wheel made the shortlist last year, he created Yan 1, an all-new series about a female superhero where he used his distinctive brush stroke style to explore the sense of remorse which is often present in superhero stories and has been a subtle theme running through his comics since Oldman in 2013. Dutchman in Formosa (Vol. 2) by Kinono was a sequel that readers had been eagerly anticipating for five years. Kinono didn’t just take the illustrations to the next level but also replaced the previous volume’s liveliness with a more melancholy tone as the narrative focus shifted from international trade disputes to the experience of indigenous Taiwanese people under colonialism.

     

    Yan by Chang Sheng 

     

    Yuusharyaku 10 by BIGUN, Scrunchy by TaaRO, and Fantastic Tales of Splendid Blossoms by Monday Recover and Yang Shuang-Tzu all had very clear-cut attributes of genre fiction but if you looked closely at their content, you could see that each work deftly applied established components of genres in a way that made new ideas flourish within them. The techniques they used to express images and plot points meant that these works could all confidently hold their own among their respective genres both at home and abroad.

    Netherwarrant by Yuzu, The Invisibles 1 by Shin Yan, Hell Parade by Buke and The Lion in the Manga Library by Xiaodao all used awe-inspiring illustration styles to tell stories in a way that didn’t just demonstrate their incredible skills but also captured the cohesion and explosiveness of their personal styles. In every frame of every page, these four comics proved that you don’t necessarily need highbrow illustration styles to tell a great story that moves readers. Similarly, people who were fans of comics during the 1990s golden era always emphasised the diverse stories and individual styles of the illustrators at the time, so perhaps we might be unknowingly experiencing another peak in Taiwanese comics.

     

    Netherwarrant by Yuzu

    The Lion in the Manga Library by Xiaodao

     

    Read On: https://booksfromtaiwan.tw/latest_info.php?id=173

  • Basis Books: A Secret Base for Taiwan’s Comic Book Fans
    Jan 13, 2020 / By Books from Taiwan, Basis Books ∥ Translated by Roddy Flagg

    Basis Books is found on Huayin Street, near Taipei Station, the Qsquare shopping mall, the North Gate of the old city walls and any number of hotels. The area is popular with tourists, yet remains one of the more peaceful parts of the city.

    The store is on the first floor of the Taiwan Comic Base, with which it shares a mission: promoting Taiwanese comic books. It aims to be comprehensive and it seems every original comic book ever published in Taiwan can be found here. From the earliest examples – Grand Auntie (大嬸婆) and Jhuge-Shiro (諸葛四郎) – to recently successful shojo and shonen manga, it’s all here. But being published in Taiwan doesn’t guarantee a place on the shelves here – Basis Books only stocks comic books both written and drawn by Taiwanese people.

     

     

    Comic books and picture books are sold here, along with magazines. Most are arranged by publisher – manager Min-hui says she did once consider arranging her wares by category, or theme, or some other method. But she soon realized one book could easily fall under several different categories. And, as Taiwan’s comic book publishers all have their own styles and audiences, it made sense to sort the shelves this way, highlighting those differing choices.

    Alongside the comic books, Basis Books also has an exhibition space, with displays tying in with the work of the Taiwan Comic Base: featuring nominees for the Golden Comic Award or the Angoulême awards, for example. And on a central table the staff create carefully designed displays on certain themes: works featuring Mazu, the local sea goddess, or Taiwanese history.

     

     

    Basis Books also holds events such as seminars and book-signings. One such event Min-hui remembers particularly clearly is a talk on Watched Woman (守娘), easily the most glamourous of their events – the author, the readers, the other writers, were all women who’d dressed up for the occasion. And not all the attendees were fans – many were friends of the author, or aspiring comic book writers themselves.

    Min-hui mentioned an interesting phenomenon – although Taiwan’s comic book artists, in theory, compete with each other, there is no sense of competition or mutual disregard. On the contrary, artists make an effort to attend each other’s events and buy each other’s works.

     

     

    When she opened Basis Books, Min-hui expected her customers to be like the people she saw at comic book exhibitions: young fans of shojo and shonen manga. She was surprised to find many of her customers have never read a comic book – they have simply come in for a browse. They are also older than she predicted, often university students or adults. And so they opt for a wider and more experimental range of books, not just the typical Japanese-style offerings.

    And the customers in Basis Books reflect the development of comic books in Taiwan. In the early days these were school contraband, frowned upon by teachers and parents, but not something to read when you were older. Unless you visit Basis Books and get nostalgic – or perhaps finally find the final entry in that series you never finished. And many visitors discover that, despite their prejudices, comic books aren’t just entertainment – they have a social role to play as well, offering a space for discussion of current affairs or a new angle on historical events. Parents often bring their children here, trying to understand why their offspring are so keen on comic books, and perhaps becoming less suspicious of them. Some even buy comic books for their kids as a reward for good behavior.

    Of course, Min-hui’s most important task is to sell books, and like any store, new releases and books featured in events sell best. But books featuring Taiwanese history and culture are popular with those who’ve popped in from the street out of curiosity. For example 1661 Koxinga Z (1661 國姓來襲), which describes Koxinga’s defeat of Dutch Formosa from the point of view of the Dutch, or 80’s Diary in Taiwan (80 年代事件簿), a nostalgic look at 1980s Taiwan, are popular choices. And what does Min-hui herself recommend currently? She suggests The Memory Freak (記憶的怪物), a sci-fi tale of male love and brotherhood.