Chinese Star Wars Comic (Part 1 of 6)

This is part of one of a six part post in which I plan to translate a 142 page Chinese comic book adaptation of Star Wars originally published in Guangdong, China, in the 1980s. Thanks to Maggie Greene for giving me the go ahead to re-post her scans, and Brendan O’Kane for bringing this to my attention.

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Star Wars 星球大戰

 

Chinese_star_wars_comic_manhua_llianhuanhua(2)

Star Wars 星球大戰

Based on the original American science fiction movie

Adapted by Zhou Jinzhuo 周金灼

Illustrations by Song Feideng 宋飛等

Popular Science Press, Guangzhou Branch 科學普及出版社廣

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Synopsis

This lianhuanhua is an adaptation of the American sci-fi blockbuster Star Wars. According to the story, there is Empire in a certain galaxy which cruelly oppresses all of the planets in the galaxy and therefore builds a “Death Star” to put down rebels. Princess Leia (Laia Gongzhu 來阿公主) from the planet Alderaan (Aoerdelan 奧爾德蘭), who leads the rebel resistance, falls into the hands of the enemy and is imprisoned on the “Death Star.” With the help of the Jedi knight Kenobi (Kainuobi 凱諾比) and two robots the young Luke “Skywalker” (Feitianzhe Luke 飛天者盧克) braves difficulty and danger to save Princess Leia and finally attacks and destroys the “Death Star” in a space battle.

 

Chinese_star_wars_comic_manhua_llianhuanhua(4)
1. In a certain vast galaxy, the entirety of which was ruled by the Galactic Republic (Yinhe Gongheguo 銀河共和國) in the past, but now this Republic has been destroyed and is now ruled by a Galactic Empire (Yinhe Diguo 銀河帝國). Not only does the Galactic Empire use despotic violence to oppress all of the planets in their galaxy, but they also are trying to rule the entire universe.

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Chinese Lianhuanhua: A Century of Pirated Movies

Seeing that Eric Abrahamsen’s translation of Xu Zechen’s Running Through Beijing was released by Two Lines Press earlier this month, it seems appropriate to sketch out a tradition of movie pirating that existed in mainland China before the advent of bootlegged DVDs:

Star Wars lianhuanhua

This is a lianhuanhua 連環畫 adaptation of Star Wars which historian Maggie Greene picked up at the infamous Wen Miao 文廟 book market in Shanghai in 2011. She recently posted a complete scan to her blog The Wayward Historian, which Brendan O’Kane OCRed and reposted here. According the copyright (sic) page, this work was published in December, 1980, by Yuebei Press 粵北印刷廠 and distributed by the Guangdong branch of the state-owned Xinhua Bookstore 廣東省新華書店, with editing by Zhou Jinzhuo 周金灼 and illustrations by Song Feideng 宋飛等.

Lianhuanhua, or “linked picture books,” have been around since roughly the turn of the 20th century, when cheap printing technology made it possible for publishers to mass produce high fidelity images and text at low cost, providing a new form of entertainment for growing numbers of literate urbanites.1 As comics historian Paul Gravett described them in a 2008 interview for the Manhua! China Comics Now Exhibition2 (appropriately introducing an unauthorized 1984 lianhuanhua adaption of Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Blue Lotus ):3

What I’m going to show you here, this is actually what Chinese comics came from. Chinese comics, before they were called manhua they were called lianhuanhua, which means, basically, the hua means drawings and the lianhuan means linked up, joined together in a chain. So it’s like, comics in sequence, or drawings in sequence. And they appeared in color, and in black and white, particularly in this format and also in larger format books, with one image per page, often with the text appearing underneath. But interestingly, they did actually use speech balloons as well. As we see here there are examples of it. And they were cheap; even if you couldn’t afford them you could actually sit in the street and rent them. Literally, you’d read them in the street, there’d be some chairs, there’d be a guy with a whole shelf loan of these little tiny comics, and you could read them. Because of course some of these comics run for several volumes, maybe, ten, twenty, thirty volumes, and you could read them all in one sitting, just like manga cafes now. Just like the way manga’s gone now—that was already going on back in the twenty and thirties.4

Although it is somewhat misleading to say that lianhuanhua proceeded manhua, as both emerged more or less contemporaneously as distinct forms of production, Gravett correctly points out that it wasn’t until the 1920s and 30s that lianhuanhua really took off, and that for most of its history lianhuanhua was something that you would rent rather than own. Due to their inherent disposability relatively few of the earliest lianhuanhua have survived. That said, one which did seems to indicate that the tradition of adapting American movies to lianhuanhua is older than we might think:

All Quiet on the Western Front lianhuanhua

All Quiet on the Western Front 西线无战事 published in the 1930s by Shanghai Aikesi Bookstore 上海爱克司书店, adapted from the original, translator and artist unknown.

This is a lianhuanhua adaptation of WWI veteran Erich Maria Remarque’s bestselling novel Im Westen nichts Neues, first serialized in 1928 and later translated into English by Arthur Wesley Wheen in 1929 as All Quiet on the Western Front. Presumed to pirated, this adaptation appears to have been based on the 1930 American film version directed by Lewis Milestone which was released in China only to be banned along with all other “anti-war” films by the Nationalist government in 1934.5 Curators at the Rauner Library Special Collections at Dartmouth which purchased the adaption in 2013 have pointed out that although antiwar films were banned in China, versions of the story continued to circulate in Shanghai as a form of “cultural resistance.” Moreover, despite reports which indicate that attendance for anti-war films such as All Quiet on the Western Front was poor,6 the existence of this work shows that its anti-war message must have held some appeal.7

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  1. For a history of the medium, see Shen, Kuiyi. “Lianhuanhua and Manhua – Picture Books and Comics in Old Shanghai.” In Illustrating Asia: Comics, Humor Magazines, and Picture Books, edited by John A. Lent, 100–. University of Hawaii Press, 2001. []
  2. This exhibition ran twice, first at the London College of Communication from March 7 to April 11, 2008, and then again the next year at Durham Oriental Museum from May 2 to September 27, 2009, and included over 200 examples of Chinese comics and cartoons. []
  3. Hergé [埃爾熱], Lan Lianhua – Ding Ding Lixian Ji (Shang)藍 蓮花—丁丁歷險記 (上) [The Blue Lotus – The Adventures of Tintin (Vol 1 of 2)], trans. by Binggang Li [李秉剛] (Beijing: Zhongguo Wenlian Chubanshe, 1984), Beijing; Hergé [埃爾熱], Lan Lianhua – Ding Ding Lixian Ji (Xia)藍 蓮花—丁丁歷險記 (下) [The Blue Lotus – The Adventures of Tintin (Vol 2 of 2)], trans. by Binggang Li [李秉剛] (Beijing: Zhongguo Wenlian Chubanshe, 1984), Beijing. []
  4. Alex Fitch / Paul Gravett, Panel Borders: Manhua! China Comics Now Part 1, 2008 <http://archive.org/details/PanelBordersManhuaChinaComicsNowPart1> accessed 16 April 2014 []
  5. Zhu, Ying, and Stanley Rosen, eds. Art, Politics, and Commerce in Chinese Cinema. Hong Kong University Press, 2010, 66 []
  6. Ibid. []
  7. Rebecca Onion also draws this connection in her short article on Slate “All Quiet on the Western Front: The Book Translated into Chinese Lianhuanhua.”, which I found via the China Books blog post “Chinese Graphic Novels or ‘Lianhuanhua’ « China Books,”  both accessed May 23, 2014. []

Momotoro’s Eagles and Rudolph’s Red Nose: the Chinese Cartoon Connection

Two quick pieces of Chinese-Japanese cartooning and animation trivia that I brought up of today during a conversation with @Brett_Fujioka who felt my post on Chinese manhua unfairly left a discussion of non-Chinese influences, 1 plus one more that I forgot to mention to Brett.

Trivia #1: Japanese Anime (Probably) Would Not Exist Without the 1941 Chinese Cartoon Princess Iron Fan

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Chinese film scholars like Carlos Rojas and Eileen Chow love to point out that Osama Tezuka, the godfather of Japanese anime and manga, drew inspiration from the 1941 Chinese animation Princess Iron Fan 鐵扇公主,2 which directly inspired the Japanese Navy to produce the first feature-length Japanese animated film, ever:

The immediate and wide-reaching success of Princess Iron Fan left a deep impression not only on its domestic Chinese audiences, but on the Japanese Imperial Navy, which promptly commissioned ambitious animation projects of its own aimed at bolstering the patriotic spirit of Japanese children-resulting most notably in Seo Mitsuyo’s Mornotaro’s Sea Eagles (Momotaro no Umiwashi, 1943) and Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (Momotaro Umi no Shinpei, 1945), the latter of which is recognized as Japan’s first feature-length animated film. Among those who watched these unabashedly propagandistic yet lyrical and delicately drawn animations of patriotic monkey-soldiers coexisting happily with colonized simian jungle natives was a Japanese youth by the name of Osamu Tezuka 手塚 治虫.3

Rojas and Chow also point out that Tezuka explicitly references the influence Princess Iron Fan and the Wan brothers had on his career in his last film Boku wa Son Goku (I Am Son Goku):4

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  1. I’m glad he raised this point, because I agree I could have been much more clear about this. I should have a post up in the next day or two with some examples of the ways manhua have been influenced and inspired by North American and European comics. []
  2. (Produced by the Chinese animator Wan Laiming and his three brothers in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, who were in turn in turn influenced by Disney’s 1939 animated feature-film, Snow White. []
  3. Rojas, Carlos, and Eileen Chow. The Oxford Handbook of Chinese Cinemas. Oxford University Press, 2013, pg 648. []
  4. The whole film is available online here. []

Don’t Call it ‘Manga’: a short intro to Chinese Comics and Manhua

Chinese comics, or manhua 漫畫, as they are known in Chinese, are hard to pin down, in large part because the term ‘manhua’ is used in so many different and often contradictory contexts.

Context 1. Manhua which are exclusive to China

Manhua by Yao Feila

“Take Love to the Limit” by Yao Feila // 《將愛情進行到底》 姚非拉

Generally whenever the term is used in English, it refers to Sinophone1 comics, or what are generally called guochan manhua 國產漫畫, or ‘domestic comics’2 within the PRC.3 In English the term ‘manhua’ is often used highlight the differences between Chinese comics and Japanese manga, similar to the way in which the term ‘manhwa’ is used to describe Korean comics. All the same, these comics tend to be very similar in appearance to Japanese comics. One notable exception are wuxia 武俠 (martial chivalry) comics from Hong Kong which were developed by Tony Wong Yuk-long 黃玉郎  during kung fu craze the 1970s, which seem to have more in common with hyper-muscular American superhero comics.

Context 2. Manhua as inclusive global medium

Manhua by Yan Cong

“Narcissism” by Yan Cong // 《自戀》 煙囪

In Chinese, manhua is a general term which refers to the global comics medium and therefore includes Japanese, Korean and American comics.4 One of the most interesting ways in which manhua is being created in this context today is the dixia manhua 地下漫畫, or ‘underground comics’ movement which is being spearheaded by artists such as Yan Cong 煙囪 and Chi Hoi 智海, who have helped organized the groups secret comics (aka SC 漫畫) in Beijing and Springrolllll in Hong Kong.

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  1. Belonging the Chinese script, language and/or cultural context. []
  2. Domestic being used in the economic sense here, as in ‘gross domestic product.’ []
  3. This is often abbreviated to guoman 國漫. Manhua from Hong Kong and Taiwan seem to use more neutral terms such as bendi manhua 本地漫畫 (local comics) or bentu manhua 本土漫畫 (native comics) for Taiwanese comics in particular. []
  4. Nowadays, it’s also less commonly used than the term dongman 動漫, a portmanteau of the Chinese words for animation, donghua 動畫, and manhua, similar to how someone might say that they like anime to describe an interest in both Japanese animation and also manga. Dongman also carries connotations of video games, as fans of one tend to be fans of the other. []

Only Ten Percent of Ma Wing-shing’s Epic Chinese Manhua _Chinese Hero_ Has Been Translated Into English

I recently found out that one of the first and only manhua to be translated into English and published in North America was edited to remove anti-Caucasian racism. In the first issue of the original version of Chinese Hero 中 華英雄, created by Ma Wing-shing (馬榮成) which was published in the early 1980s in  《金報》 [Golden Daily?] , the protagonist’s parents are killed by ‘foreign devils‘ 洋鬼子:

chinese hero 2

chinese hero 1

According to the publisher of the 2006 English translation, DrMaster, however “[a]s a child, Hero’s1 family was attacked and killed by a practitioner of Northern Mantis kung fu.”2 Rather than going back and re-drawing the comic, though, DrMaster skipped the first [undetermined number of issues of] Chinese Hero comics and jumped ahead to the birth of Hero’s son. The publisher also had the art re-colored and re-touched.

The murder of Hero’s parents by foreign devils is not the only plot point that Anglophone readers of Chinese Hero are missing out on. The original series ran for 159 issues with Ma Wing-shing at the helm before being passed on to Cheung Ma Yau (張萬有) in 1989, with each issue averaging around 130 pages. The eight translated volumes published by DrMaster average around 270 pages, meaning they each contain two issues of the original run. This means only  about 10% of Ma’s Chinese Hero have been translated into English.3

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  1. The protagonist of Chinese Hero is named Hua Yingxiong [Wah Ying-hung] (华英雄), literally ‘Chinese Hero’. []
  2. DGN Production/DrMaster Publications: Chinese Hero: Tales of the Blood Sword vol 1 []
  3. And that’s not even counting the more than 250 issues that were done by Cheung and other artists though the 90s and 00s! []