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Asian Comics

Asian Comics

John A. Lent
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Asian Comics
    Book Description:

    Grand in its scope, Asian Comics dispels the myth that, outside of Japan, the continent is nearly devoid of comic strips and comic books. Relying on his fifty years of Asian mass communication and comic art research, during which he traveled to Asia at least seventy-eight times and visited many studios and workplaces, John A. Lent shows that nearly every country had a golden age of cartooning and has experienced a recent rejuvenation of the art form.

    As only Japanese comics output has received close and by now voluminous scrutiny,Asian Comicstells the story of the major comics creators outside of Japan. Lent covers the nations and regions of Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

    Organized by regions of East, Southeast, and South Asia, Asian Comics provides 178 black-and-white illustrations and detailed information on comics of sixteen countries and regions--their histories, key creators, characters, contemporary status, problems, trends, and issues. One chapter harkens back to predecessors of comics in Asia, describing scrolls, paintings, books, and puppetry with humorous tinges, primarily in China, India, Indonesia, and Japan.

    The first overview of Asian comic books and magazines (both mainstream and alternative), graphic novels, newspaper comic strips and gag panels, plus cartoon/humor magazines,Asian Comicsbrims with facts, fascinating anecdotes, and interview quotes from many pioneering masters, as well as younger artists.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-085-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    If I were to choose a few words to describe my writing and professional careers, I would say that I strove to be a gap plugger. When I started out professionally in 1960, the number of voids I found in mass communication research was inestimable; the severity of the barrenness in popular culture studies was even more pronounced, as was, of course, comic art scholarship. What an open field we aspiring researchers had during those times.

    This book grew out of such a hole in comics scholarship—the absence of study of Asian comic art. Actually, when this book was...

  5. Chapter 1 A Lead-Up to Asian Comics: Early Asian Visual Humor and Narrative
    (pp. 9-28)

    It is not too difficult to find almost anywhere paintings and prints that, through the benefit of history, have become identified as fine or folk art and that include elements common to comics and cartoons, among them caricature, satire, parody, humor, wit, playfulness, narrative, and sequence.

    It is also rather easy, worldwide, to find examples of artists who were just as comfortable drawing a cartoon as they were composing a painting; many even made their living as cartoonists. In the West, there have been many prominent artists who worked as or aspired to be cartoonists (Charles Dana Gibson, Marcel Duchamp,¹...

  6. East Asia

    • Chapter 2 China
      (pp. 31-51)

      Lianhuanhua(illustrated story books) were probably the closest Chinese equivalent to comic books until contemporary times. They have been compared to the Big Little books (Inge 2004) and Classics Illustrated comics popular in the United States in the mid-twentieth century. Yet, although there are similarities, lianhuanhua are different from these and other Western- and Japanese-style comic books.

      First of all, lianhuanhua (also known asxiaorenshu, or little man’s books) are only palm size (five inches long, three and a half inches wide, and one-fourth of an inch thick). They are formatted differently, containing one illustration per page that carries a...

    • Chapter 3 Hong Kong
      (pp. 53-75)

      Small in geographical space and population, Hong Kong has yielded a comics culture disproportionately large and influential among its East and Southeast Asian neighbors. This has occurred in part because of the culture’s versatility and willingness to break new ground. At varying times, Hong Kong comic books have incorporated traditional Chinese, Western, and Japanese styles; become popular enough to warrant daily editions; generated some of the world’s bloodiest comics stories and drawings; generated new genres; and nurtured a lively alternative presence.

      Cartooning is not new to Hong Kong. In 1867, the English-languageChina Punchwas started by a British journalist...

    • Chapter 4 Korea
      (pp. 77-95)

      Invariably, one of the first questions to come up in a discussion of Korean comics (manhwa) is: how do they differ from Japanese manga? Such a query is justified, because manhwa creators for years imitated manga in drawing style, format, character depictions, and story lines, and because people involved in Korean comics are themselves often hard pressed to explain the differences, simply stating that they are subtle or emotional.

      Efforts to Koreanize manhwa have kept the differences/similarities discussion on the table. Lee Sun-Young (2007) unhesitatingly wrote that manhwa “generally looks and reads very much like manga” and that little “distinguishes...

    • Chapter 5 Taiwan
      (pp. 97-116)

      As they did in Hong Kong, both Japan and China played pivotal roles in the development of Taiwanese comics. Japan, which occupied Taiwan during most of the first half of the twentieth century, brought comics to the island even before Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces arrived in 1949. Among those who fled China with Chiang were individuals who became the first generation of Taiwanese cartoonists.¹

      One source claimed that Chi Lung-sheng (Chen Pinghuang) created Taiwan’s first “homemade comic book” in 1939; he helped spur on the comeback of comics on the island after 1949 with his strips in eight issues of...

  7. Southeast Asia

    • Chapter 6 Cambodia
      (pp. 119-129)

      As nearly everywhere, political cartoons preceded comic books in Cambodia, having begun shortly after the birth of the first Khmer-language newspaper,Nagara Vatta, in 1936 (Soth and Sin 1982). Political cartoons, along with satire generally, became prominent in the 1960s inPhseng-phseng,Kambuja, andLe Sangkum, magazines directed by Norodom Sihanouk, who was alternately king and head of government (Marston 1997, 60). Huy Hem, Nhek Dim, and Khut Khun were the magazines’ featured cartoonists; their works mingled with an array of foreign cartoons that supported Sihanouk’s foreign policy, which in the 1960s diverted away from the United States. John Marston...

    • Chapter 7 Indonesia
      (pp. 131-151)

      Comic art in Indonesia was robust in the 1960s and 1970s, then it almost died over the next two decades, and eventually it crawled back to life as the twenty-first century began. As in most of Southeast Asia, much of the new activity in this century has come from nonmainstream actors: individuals or small groups that handcraft their own alternative or underground comics or attach themselves to nongovernmental organizations that use comic books to promote their various causes.

      Numerous reasons have been given for the rebirth of interest on the part of cartoonists and audiences, primarily the relaxation of restrictions...

    • Chapter 8 Malaysia
      (pp. 153-173)

      Comic art in Malaysia has had to fit into a complex geographical/political system. First, throughout the British colonial period and into the 1960s, Malaya and Singapore were politically intertwined, and their comic art histories were likewise connected. Second, the country is multiethnic and multilingual (and has been called a “cultural rainbow”), a result of which is that its cartoons and comics have appeared in four languages: Bahasa Malaysia (Malay), English, Chinese, and Tamil. Third, Malaysia is geographically split, with eleven states on the peninsula and two on the island of Borneo (West and East Malaysia, respectively).

      These factors have affected...

    • Chapter 9 Myanmar
      (pp. 175-185)

      The first known cartoon used in a Burmese newspaper was drawn by the British commissioner of Burma’s railways, and, as so often was the case with the subject matter of colonial presses, it took exception with local people and their doings. In that cartoon, published in theRangoon Timesin 1912,¹ Martin Jones, using the pen name Myauk (myauk phyu, “white monkey,” was what the locals called the British), belittled a local woman who attended a party for Westerners (Aung Zaw 2003).

      Jones and other amateur British painters such as physics professor Kenneth Martin Ward and the principal of the...

    • Chapter 10 The Philippines
      (pp. 187-205)

      Philippine cartoons, comic strips, andkomikshave exhibited a few uncommon traits and personalities during their century and a quarter of existence. Few countries can boast that their first cartoon was created by the principal national hero; the Philippines can, with the story ofThe Monkey and the Tortoise, drawn by the nationalist Dr. José Rizal in 1885 (D. Redondo 1979). How often has a country’s movie industry been as dependent upon comic books for stories as the Philippines during its film and komiks heyday? For years, about two-fifths of the Philippines’ domestic production of movies could be traced back...

    • Chapter 11 Singapore
      (pp. 207-223)

      As with other bifurcated Asian countries, finding the starting point for Singaporean cartooning is a challenge; the city-state’s history was long intertwined with that of Malaysia, and, as a result, Singaporean and Malaysian cultural forms, including comic art, were likewise intertwined. At times during the past few decades (and to some degree today), cartoonists from the two countries have worked interchangeably, and production and distribution systems as well as periodical publishing have also been connected.

      Generally, the revolutionary dailyChong Shing Yit Paois credited with publishing the first Chinese cartoon in Singapore. Within three weeks of its inception in...

    • Chapter 12 Thailand
      (pp. 225-239)

      Thai cartoons and comics have exhibited some unusual quirks during their century of existence. First of all, one of the earliest “cartoonists” was H. M. King Rama VI (ruled 1910–1925), who not only designated the Thai phrasephap lo(parodic image) to signify cartoons (Chulasak 1999, 6) but also drew satirical caricatures (to embarrass corrupt officials) in the royal newspapersDusit Samit,Dusit Samai, andDusit Sakkee. He made sure that readers could easily identify his subjects, for example by drawing the director of royal railroads astride a locomotive (Warat 2014; Sitthiporn and Chanansiri 2000). By 1920, the king...

    • Chapter 13 Vietnam
      (pp. 241-252)

      If one looks no further than the language used, the publisher, and the creator, then homegrown Vietnamese comic books would seem to be in abundance. Closer scrutiny, however, discloses that what purport to be Vietnamese comic books usually are pirated foreign titles, with images traced over transparent paper, text translated into Vietnamese, characters given local names, and authorship credited to local artists and writers. The comic books are printed in black and white in the same size as the foreign comics they are copying, for exampleLucky Luke, Tintin, The Smurfs, Batman, Spirou, Superman, Old Master Q,and Disney titles....

  8. South Asia

    • Chapter 14 Bangladesh
      (pp. 255-265)

      It is not unusual that, in many parts of the world, cartooning was born and nourished during nationalist revolutions and drives toward independence. In what is now Bangladesh (previously East Pakistan and British India), political cartoons and an occasional comic strip appeared as early as 1930, but it was from the beginning of the Language Movement in the late 1940s to the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 that cartooning got its footing.

      After India and Pakistan gained independence as two separate nations in 1947, friction ran high between West and East Pakistan—separated from each other by more than a...

    • Chapter 15 India
      (pp. 267-291)

      Comic art was integral to Indian culture for hundreds of years (see the introduction), but what was later to evolve into contemporary humor magazines, and then comic strips and comic books, appeared only after the British had occupied the subcontinent.

      Probably earlier than any other Asian country, India published a cartoon magazine, theDelhi Sketch Book, which lasted from 1850 to 1857. In its inaugural issue, the magazine proposed to be “simply a vehicle for drawings and caricatures,” humbly (or mockingly?) stating that it was not “arrogant enough” to imitate London’sPunch, itself relatively young at the time. TheSketch...

    • Chapter 16 Nepal
      (pp. 293-303)

      The substantial amount of comic art that Nepal has sported for the past half century has, for the most part, not included newspaper strips and comic books. More prominent have been political cartoons and occasional humor/cartoon magazines, the latter associated with the nation’s annual Gaijatra (Cow’s) festival.

      The shortage of newspaper strips may be a matter of definition. A search for multipanel strips does not yield much; however, if the definition of a strip is stretched to include one-panel humor cartoons, which it sometimes does (e.g.,The Far Side, Out Our Way,and others in the United States), then the...

    • Chapter 17 Sri Lanka
      (pp. 305-318)

      Comic papers (chithra katha), the closest equivalent to comic books in Sri Lanka, thrived during the 1970s and 1980s; since then, they have dwindled almost out of existence, according to the doyen of Sri Lankan comic art, Camillus Perera. He blamed the introduction of island-wide television in 1985 for the eventual demise of most comic papers, but he also felt that there were other factors such as the lack of reading by children and the cost of the papers. Perera (1998) said:

      Children are not reading. OurSittaraused to be patronized by schoolchildren; now, maybe less than 5 percent...

  9. Index
    (pp. 319-342)