From paper to screen, from Taiwan to the world!
Huang Jian-ru started the discussion by outlining how Taiwan’s comics have begun a slow recovery from a low point. This could be for one of two reasons, he shared. Firstly, loyal fans are supporting the medium. Secondly, cross-sectoral promotions are coming of age.
Zhang Yong-chang shared that he first came across the comic Scrolls of a Northern City in 2013. He was captivated by its telling of the early Showa period, and determined at that moment to transform it into a film. The worldview conveyed in the story is that the things of the world are all imbued with spirits, and that ground spirits protect cities. The process of transforming the comic into a film meant creating scenes reflective of the time in which the story was set. Also important was the music, to immerse viewers in the music of the times. He shared his hope that this film would be infused with Taiwan’s DNA. As fantasy films are rare in Taiwan, Zhang says it was critical to keep a global audience in mind so that this film could be enjoyed all over the world.
Turning words into pictures to maximize value
Chen Jia-yi, Managing Editor at Sharp Point Productions, shared his experience bringing light novel derivatives into the market. My Love Story Is Doomed to Failure Because of My Five Sisters, by Ya Ming, for example, had a very attractive premise: a run of the mill high-school student struggles to keep a girlfriend because his sisters continually set him up for failure. This likeable story caught the attention of director Angie Chai, who thought it would make a fun film.
At the same time, a comic was planned, as the original work was that rarest of birds, a dialogue-heavy comic. In addition to creating a TV animation and a theme song, the creators also released a Line sticker that proved very popular. Chen Jia-yi said he believes that cross-sectoral cooperation will help more people come in contact with Taiwan’s original creations, and help maximize value.
The sky’s the limit for cross-sectoral cooperation
Ah-tui, the nickname of experienced Taiwan comic creator Jiang Zhen-tai, is the creator of popular comics Nine Lives Man and Balezo. An illustrator since childhood, he began experimenting with cross-sectoral creations in 1985, when in cooperation with singer Jonathan Lee and Rolling Stone, he introduced illustrations interwoven into the magazine’s text. In 2003, he partnered with French fashion firm agnes b. to release silicone figurines, just at the time when it became a fad for adults to collect such toys. In 2007, he became art director at UFO Records, where he combined music, design, and literature in the magazine Joy of Comics. This magazine opened a door for Ah-tui to work with athletics brand Nike on the Nike Air Force 1 Change, No Change event. In 2014, he ventured into public art, transforming the fantasy transportation tools he envisioned in Nine Lives Man into installations at the Liujia and Jiuzantou train stations in Hsinchu County in a bid to bring comics into real life.
In 2015, he made another bold move creating mega comics to give audiences a clearer perspective on penstrokes, on lines, and on inks. This year, he is working with four other artists on a new rendition of Nine Lives Man. Changing times bring new waves of thought, Ah-tui shared, and allow more creators to try out new things.
Innovation and breakthrough right before our eyes
Huang Jian-he then asked the three panelists to consider what might be most important from the perspective of a director, an editor, and a comic artist. Zhang Yong-chang said that respecting the spirit of a creation is paramount, and that no adaptation should challenge the basic worldview set out in the original piece. Chen Jia-yi echoed this, sharing that while a story can be a door into a thousand markets, the challenge for cross-sectoral creation is to go through these doors without losing the original feel. Ah-tui stressed that original comic artists must become better at not turning their backs on their original ideas, even as they authorize others to use their creations to come up with innovative works.
Huang Jian-he wrapped up the forum by saying that Taiwan’s comics are moving out into the world and are being developed into derivative works, but whether this becomes a new industry or marks the future of comics remains to be seen.