Recently, I have been working on a few projects to get Chinese comics published in English translation. It’s a tricky proposition, given the limited “brand name recognition” for manhua outside of China, in comparison to the much better known (and therefore more marketable) Japanese manga.
Cover to issue #43 of Comicfans’ weekly Comic World 漫畫世界, published September 26, 2014
The fact that so much contemporary manhua is visually indistinguishable from manga (cf. above) doesn’t help things, either, unless of course one is going after the manga demographic. So in large part my work with publishers so far has been to steer them towards Chinese comic book artists with more unique styles that touch on topics which would appeal to a more general comics reader.
It’s much easier said than done, however, since artists with more unique styles tend to also be iconoclasts in their storytelling as well. In this post I’m going to introduce some of the major players in the Chinese-language comics industry, and also talk a little about the economic side of making comics in mainland China and Hong Kong.
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:
According to the publisher of the 2006 English translation, DrMaster, however “[a]s a child, Hero’s family was attacked and killed by a practitioner of Northern Mantis kung fu.” 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.