Jess McCabe // 7 July 2008
Probably many readers saw Coco Wang’s series of comicbook strips capturing moments from the recent earthquake in China. (I don’t think we ever linked them on The F-Word, but they were widely talked about in the feminist blogosphere – you can see them here, but don’t read them at work because they will probably make you cry.)
Well, she has begun to post up an earlier graphic novel ‘Coco Goes to Study in England’ on her blog – you can read the first part here. Brilliant stuff – of course, it’s a very different subject matter, and the style and tone is therefore quite different as well.
Also see Paul Gravett’s interview with Coco on his website, talking about her own comics and also the industry in China more generally:
Yes… We do receive a much better payment from the French than from our own people. This kind of collaboration may improve and strengthen our techniques and craftsmanship (like storyboarding skills, drawing, painting skills…), but not very helpful to our own creativity. We receive scripts and storyboards from the French, we are told exactly what to do. If it’s just colouring work, we don’t need to understand the story to do our job. We see the designed characters sent to us, not knowing the process of creation behind these characters and stories, therefore not understanding the essence of the story. We keep scratching the skin, memorising the forms and shapes of these designs, and imitating with a vague understanding.
It seems the Chinese comic/illustration industry, just like every other Chinese industry, is falling into ‘The Big Post-Production System’. China is turning into a Big Post-Production Country for all other countries in the world. Sometimes it’s very sad to think about this. My comic artist friends in Beijing, the ones who are freelance, are struggling hard to survive in such a competitive market. The Chinese publishers pay 50-80 RMB (that’s about 2-3 Euros) per page to a Chinese comic artist, while the French publishers would pay 400 Euros per page. You can’t blame us for working on what the French/Westerners like instead of creating our own original comics that can’t pay our bills.
You might say that ‘the French publishers don’t always just use Chinese artists as tools for post-productions, they do publish some original Chinese comics’. But if you observe closely, Monkey King, Kungfu comics, Taoism, Dragons… We have been carefully choosing the Chinese elements that the Westerners would be interested in instead of what we truly want to do. It’s like English-Chinese food, take away the spices and add sweet-sour flavour. The same thing is happening in animation and film industries. The Westerners loved Zhang Yi Mou’s House of Flying Daggers, Hero, Curse of the Gloden Flowers, or Chen Kai Ge’s The Legend because the audience those movies were targeting were Westerners. If you surf Chinese movie reviews, you would find shocking reviews panning these movies. I went to France’s Annecy Animation Festival in 2006, and I saw some Chinese KungFu animation produced by a ShangHai animation studio, and that animation is only aired in Europe, never in China! By now you can probably guess why – the Western TV stations pay a hell of a higher price than the Chinese TV station to Chinese animation companies, just like the difference in payment for comics.