Bo_ing Comix is an independent quarterly magazine which was co-founded by comic book artists Liu Chien-Fan and Elainee Fang in 2018. Together, the two of them decide on a theme for each issue and then invite local creatives to come up with their own ideas for comics based on that subject. So far there have been three issues: Island, Shojo and Lottery. The founders hope that this approach gives creatives the most space to express themselves, where they can go from promoting their work to exploring comics as an art form. Each issue contains comics that span a myriad of different tastes and interests, demonstrating the incredible diversity of Taiwanese comics. We did a written interview with the two founders, who agreed to talk to BFT and our readers about all things Bo_ing as well their outlooks and opinions on how local comics are created in Taiwan.
Can you briefly introduce Bo_ing: How did it get started? How would you characterise it? I heard you met by chance at the Angouleme International Comics Festival in France?
Elainee Fang: If I had to describe Bo_ing in a few key words, one of them would definitely be casual. We met by coincidence at Angouleme, then we discovered we had similar tastes and that deep down we’d both been thinking about how Taiwan might have its own distinct style of comics. Between all these coincidences, we began to wonder whether Taiwan should have its own alternative magazine for comics where we could bring together works by all kinds of creative professionals.
Liu Chien-Fan: Bo_ing is an independent, graphic-based Taiwanese comic magazine with an emphasis on each contributor’s creative free will. The lack of framework allows them to express themselves and we want to see their most original ideas. The concept for the magazine originated at the 2018 Angouleme International Comics Festival. That year, Elainee and I were both exhibitors at the Taiwan pavilion and when we first met we swapped lists of creators whose work we really admired, at that point we realised we had similar tastes. We also got a lot of inspiration from what we saw during those few days at the festival and not long after we got home we decided to co-found Bo_ing Comix.
I’d like to talk a bit about the collaborative partnership, how does the model of having two founders influence the look of the magazine?
Elainee Fang: Again, I’d definitely say casual. We’re beginning to work long-distance as Chien-Fan is in Scotland but I’m still in Taiwan so the time difference is a big problem. Usually, we talk about subjects that we like, then we choose artists based on our own preferences and put out a call for submissions. Even given the time difference, it’s actually pretty simple. The consensus is that we don’t change the draft, we give the creators maximum freedom, and everything else we’re both free to mess around with. When Bo_ing first came out it looked a little raw but I really liked it, it got off to a great start.
Liu Chien-Fan: Bo_ing Comix has always been published in the name of freedom, not just in the creative freedom of the contributors and the content they produce, but also in our collaborative style as co-founders. After we’ve discussed the issue’s theme and which artists we want to invite to contribute, we’ll quickly divide up the work and each manage the tasks that fall within our own areas of expertise. For example, Elainee is really bold and imaginative so she often has lots of new ideas like putting on an exhibition or marketing stuff we can do on the side, things that keep us going full speed ahead. I tend to be in charge of keeping us on the straight and narrow, things like dealing with our artists’ admin issues and so on.
What was the vision and desired effect behind the theme of the magazine’s latest issue? Were there any works which made a particularly deep impression?
Elainee Fang: The biggest feature of our latest issue was that the theme wasn’t centred on text-led images but rather on picture-led images. I felt intuitively that we could use photography because visuality is intrinsic to it as an art form. Personally, I’m not really into the bright, clean style of photography and tend to be more drawn to photographs that have something to hide, but I didn’t have a strong sense of direction when we first started out.
Later, I came across a friend I’d met while I was doing my master’s degree in the UK, he’d been in the photography department and his works were very interesting. He photographed a lot of buildings in the city, perhaps because he also had a background in architecture. They reminded me of images by the late photographer Michael Wolf which explored the different kinds of repetition found in dense, high-rise buildings where there are patterns in each building and then further repetition when they’re clustered together. The works of Taiwanese artist Yao Jui-Chung were another influence, especially his photographs of decayed, collapsing buildings in the city, some of which had even become ruins. These images were how I visualised the latest issue of Bo_ing.
Liu Chien-Fan: After publishing the first four issues of Bo_ing on such a tight schedule, we paused for a while and had originally wanted to stop there, but we soon realised that there were plans we’d left unfinished. After talking it over we decided to publish a revised edition, Bo_ing Comix SE which was published in November. The format was completely different in terms of both publishing specifications and price, but what I think is most interesting is that the issue’s theme was even more experimental. Having a photo for the theme rather than words invited creatives to look at the photo as a starting point to draw their own stories. Photography can certainly be a great prompt for artists and they went on to produce a lot of interesting things.
Can you briefly analyse some of the publishing trends in Taiwanese comics, both in terms of where we’re currently at and what the prospects are for the future?
Elainee Fang: That’s a big question…I don’t think I could analyse publishing trends but I do have a few observations to share. My main focuses are comics and graphic novels. This year, Taiwan’s comic magazine Creative Comic Collection (CCC) announced that they are making moves towards digitising, they’ve developed an app and are no longer producing a print edition. I think this is a good move for publishers, firstly because it reduces printing and storage costs which gives them more energy to invest in other areas and this can even be given directly back to creatives, and secondly it adapts to modern reading habits.
However, at Bo_ing we are deeply influenced by the subculture of fanzines and I think we need to continue to publishing a print edition for several reasons. Our hope is that comics aren’t only meant to be read once but they’re something that can be reread time and time again, which isn’t well suited to smartphones and other reading devices that tend to have restrictions. Moreover, not everyone has a smartphone and even if they do, they might not necessarily be used to reading on it. I personally hope that comics are also a pure form of artistic expression and so I would like Bo_ing to be more of an art collection or a picture album, something to be really treasured. All the characteristics of comics can be discussed in the same terms we use when talking about fine art: narrative, form, visual composition etc. Ah, I think I’m talking too much! We’re still working hard at Bo_ing, but we’ve certainly made some changes with new issue to say the least and even these things alone make it worth buying.
Liu Chien-Fan: I wouldn’t call my understanding of current publishing trends in Taiwanese comics an analysis, it should really only be taken as a personal opinion. Japanese manga still dominates in Taiwan to the point that the visibility of original Taiwanese comics still remains low. It’s not that there aren’t any readers at all but there aren’t very many of them, and perhaps this gives publishers even more reason to concerned about publishing comics. Most of the Taiwanese comics published in Taiwan are either still done in a Japanese style or have well-structured plots that are easy to understand. In Europe on the other hand, there some publishers such as Misma Editions, Frémok, and Éditions Cornélius who publish works with strong visual styles where having a popular storyline might not be the primary concern. However, we’ve recently seen Taiwan attempt to open up and become a more diversified comics market. Take for example the Golden Comic Awards which are a major industry event. This year, the prize stopped using the original classification system which was based on how Japanese manga prizes are categorised, and you could see that there were a lot more categories of comics visible among the finalists than in previous years. If the industry’s biggest award can open the doors to even more possibilities, I believe that Taiwanese comics will continue to become more and more diverse in the future.