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Tender Is the Night, a collection of short comics written by author Chien Li-Ying and illustrated by comic artist Huihui, won high accolades in the Taiwan’s market. Previously known for her stage plays, Chien once again came into the public eye with the release of her popular television series Wave Makers, which was not only credited with being the spark that ignited the #metoo movement in Taiwan, but also went on to be nominated for Best Miniseries at this year’s Golden Bell Awards. Chien’s collaborator, the comic artist Huihui, is a giant of the independent comic scene who won a legion of devoted fans with the release of Blowing-up Adventures of Me!, a graphic novel that explores female sexual desire and questions of identity.
What makes Tender Is the Night particularly unique is that the written material for the comic derives from a play that Chien Li-Ying was unable to stage in Taiwan. Through a series of nine stories of hotel-room flings, Chien shines a light on heterosexual, homosexual, transgender and disabled people’s insecurities with intimate relationships and their own bodies as well as their sexual yearnings and desires. Tender Is the Night relates stories of love and solitude, but told through the lens of sexual encounters in various hotel rooms – this racy subject matter naturally posed a problem when trying to bring this script to the stage. Luckily, those elements of the script that might have been considered too risqué to perform on stage find full visual rendering through the comic medium.
In Island Rhapsody we find yet another interesting case of cross-media collaboration. The original material for this comic derived from a travel show called Listen! Taiwan is Singing, hosted by the famed musician and Golden Bell nominee Chen Ming-chang. The production company, GoodTrip Creative, teamed up with Gaea Books to invite comic artists to create short comics for each of ten classic Taiwanese songs picked from Chen Ming-chang’s selections. The publisher also commissioned the creation of special NFT designs to serve as promotional prizes for the first printing during the book’s release, combining online and in-person elements in their book launch event.
Aiming to weave together tales of music and local memory, the creators of Island Rhapsody invited ten comic artists representing a range of different styles to create ten short comics based upon the feeling and inspiration they drew from the songs assigned to them. Music is the common language running throughout these stories—at the end of each comic there is a listening guide for the song that inspired the comic. Readers can scan a QRcode to listen to a portion of the song while reading an article providing background and analysis of the tune by Taiwanese music scholar and Golden Tripod Award winner Hung Fang-yi.
In the summer of 2022, following on the success of her first Qseries venture, Wang Shaudi released the Qseries 2 project, which featured television adaptations of eight original Taiwan’s literary works. The works featured included FIX, I’ve Walked Through Love’s Wilderness, Rhapsody of Time, Golden Dream on Green Island, Scarecrow, Struggling to Raise Children: Globalization, Parental Anxieties and Unequal Childhoods, The Legend of a Shandong Kid, and Non Homicide Novel. Following along with the first season’s cross-media collaboration theme, each of the literary works were also simultaneously adapted into graphic novels. At present, six graphic novels including FIX, The Red Rope, Scarecrow, The Time Traveller from Showa Era, The Hedgehog: I’ve Walked Through Love’s Wilderness and Open Eyes, Open Mind have already been released.
Ultimately, regardless of what medium one uses, the most important thing is to “tell a good story”. Collaboration between comic authors and comic illustrators is quite common in the Japanese manga industry, but in Taiwan, despite their being increasing cross-media collaboration between television, film and comic artists, there are also stable comic co-creating teams. For instance, the playwright Seal Hsieh, who primarily works as a comic writer, has recently co-created two suspense thriller comics (Pansy and The Mountain of Eternal Night) with the comic artist Chuai Huang. These two works have been extremely popular on the online comic platform Webtoon and the film rights for the latter were recently sold with production due to start on the film soon.
Perhaps, the time for a great cross-media coalition of forces has truly arrived. The future of the Taiwanese comic industry looks bright with ever more channels for great stories to be shared and a proliferation of interesting collaborative models providing fertile ground for creativity and innovation.