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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.

  • Taipei International Book Exhibition: A Gathering Place for Publishers and Book Lovers Alike
    Aug 20, 2019 / By Michelle Tu ∥ Translated by Sarah-Jayne Carver

    Every February, while most cities in Europe and North America are snowy and battling the cold, it’s flip-flop weather in Taipei, with comfortable temperatures and cherry blossoms blooming. The MRT makes it easy to get anywhere in the city, whether you want to head out to the green mountains in the suburbs, or enjoy the hot springs, visit museums, go for tea, or visit a temple. There’s delicious food, great places to wander around, fantastic shopping centres and all the cultural activities you could want.    

    With the incredible city and all the publishers visiting from around the world, the Taipei International Book Exhibition (TiBE) allows people to catch up with old friends, network with industry contacts, and attend thousands of literary events, all in a welcoming, easy-going atmosphere. Every year, it attracts internationally renowned authors such as Nobel Laureate Gao Xingjian, Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner Kitty Crowther, Hans Christian Anderson Award winner Lisbeth Zwerger, and the youngest ever winner of the Booker Prize Eleanor Catton, generating a tide of half a million visitors who make the fair feel like a carnival.  

    The Taipei Book Fair Foundation was co-founded in 2003 by 18 different-sized domestic publishers and various big names in the industry. Each year, the foundation organises the TiBE, which is hosted by the Ministry of Culture and actively encourages international cultural exchange, enhancing publishers’ skillsets and promoting reading in a wide variety of ways.

                                               

    Reading in the City: The TiBE and Reading Promotion

    The Taipei Book Fair Foundation starts gearing up for the coming year’s TiBE in about November and, as the Christmas bells ring, bookstores and art venues across Taiwan are buzzing with “Reading in the City” events. At the same time, there are Bookmobiles driving from Taipei, New Taipei City and Keelung to different corners of the island, bringing with them a huge range of writers’ events. Book lovers everywhere can use the “Maps for Reading in the City” to find events they want to attend and take the chance to meet authors and illustrators whose work they enjoy.

    For years, the national library’s “Winter Vacation Reading Manual” has acted as a publicity generator, letting children get to know more about that year’s TiBE guest of honour country. Children can also actively participate in events run by libraries which encourage them to read books from the guest nation.  

     

    Guided Tour for Children

     

    In recent years, the Taipei Book Fair Foundation has encouraged teachers to bring students of all ages to the fair, organising a range of recommended itineraries and challenges where they can win prizes. The most popular events of all are the guided tours of the international exhibits, where the students can get to know the local customs of the different countries. At the same time, the Ministry of Culture also subsidises transportation for children from rural areas to visit the book fair and works with the Taipei Book Fair Foundation to give each student a free book voucher. While the TiBE is on, there’s still a sea of student groups pouring in even during work hours, it makes for a great scene!

     

    Taking the TiBE to the Next Level

    To encourage local creation and book design in Taiwan, prizes are also awarded each year during the fair. The Taipei Book Fair Award is given to up-and-coming creatives, while the Golden Butterfly Prize is awarded for excellence in book production and design, and particularly outstanding works go on to compete at the Leipzig Book Fair for the “World’s Most Beautiful Book Award”.

    As well as encouraging local publishers with awards, the TiBE also invites industry leaders from around the world to Taiwan, and strives to inspire professional exchanges through the sharing of knowledge and greater interaction within the industry. Over the last six years, the TiBE has partnered with the Frankfurt Book Fair to produce training courses and a wide range of forums on digital publishing, children’s books, international publishing, book design, and corporate CEOs; as well as forums exploring the power of publishing in the face of dramatic changes in the publishing landscape, in accordance with annual trends and the different influences which develop each year.

     

    Guests of Honour: Promoting Publishing and Culture

    As with other global book fairs, each year the TiBE invites a country to be the fair’s guest of honour, focusing on significant authors and fostering the in-depth exchange of industry expertise on both sides. The guest nation often takes advantage of the opportunity to plan rich and unique cultural exhibitions, using their position at the fair to highlight their own national brand image.

    For example, Israel, which was founded as a country relatively recently, created an enticing Middle-Eastern style market in the middle of their national pavilion in 2018. In addition to selling fresh fruits, vegetables and Israeli wine, they also sold contemporary literary works and had a VR experience where visitors could see Israel’s fashionable architecture, which gave a refreshing image of the country’s culture. In 2011, the TiBE invited Bhutan, the world’s happiest country according to the World Happiness Index, to be the guest of honour. For this mysterious, mountainous country to agree to reveal their culture in this way was unprecedented, and they very carefully displayed the Heart Sūtra (Prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya), which had never been overseas before, demonstrating the importance of the TiBE.

    In addition to promoting their own culture, the guest of honour’s activities are often linked to Taiwan. As a response to Taiwan’s love of Thai cuisine, the 2009 TiBE featured a special Thai kitchen serving fine food in a huge range of colours, flavours and smells, cleverly using lemon grass as a way to bring the cookery books to life by getting readers to connect with the smells. In 2013, the Belgian-themed national pavilion created a “Genius Inventor: Adolphe Sax” exhibition displaying musical instruments, which reflected Taiwan’s position as one of the top three saxophone manufacturers in the world. When New Zealand was the guest of honour in 2015, they focused on indigenous literature which is an equally important issue in Taiwan. The Nga Kete Tuku Iho Aboriginal dance group was invited to come to Taiwan and gave such a bold, hot-blooded performance that their stamping almost broke the floor of the exhibition hall!