The enthusiasm for comic books has become the hall mark of modern Chinese people’s trendy lifestyle. A controversial medium, the comic has exerted an indescribable influence on China’s younger generation as well as the country’s modern culture.
Adolescents：Enthusiastic Comic Book Fans
In the peripheral area of Beijing’s primary and middle schools, there are a number of newsstands and bookstores selling a variety of comic book publications. Before and after school hours, they are often packed with students from nearby schools, whose patronage has contributed to the bookstore’s prosperity. A bookstore specializing in comic books in Beijing’s Liulichang area is a prime example. It offers a wide selection of comics in various genres, including action and science fiction which boys favor the most. School kids, in twos and threes, gather inside and outside the bookstore, either talking about or exchanging comics they have just bought.
Since comics are mainly targeted towards children, primary and middle school students are undoubtedly their most their loyal fans. Therefore, book dealers have set their sights on this group of consumers. According to the manager of the above-mentioned bookstore in Liulichang, the principal frequenters of his store are school kids who come to buy or rent comic books.
As comics gain chic in China, education circles have shared their worries about them, and have criticized the fact that pornography and violence have permeated many comic books, and that piracy have conquered the market. Recently, the media in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenyang, and Chongqing Cites as well as Henan and Jiangsu Provinces have exposed these problems, attracting the attention of society at large.
The education circles have also pointed an accusing finger at those who sell and lease pornographic comics to children, stating that they have gone against the People’s Republic’s Law of Preventing Adolescents from Committing Crimes. According to the law, it is illegal to sell or lease publications that contain porn and violence as they may do harm to adolescents’ health, both physically and mentally.
Talking about her views on the subject, Mrs. Li approves of the comics about love that depict the character’s devotion to their affections. Although she says, “Such topics are acceptable only for adults. If these books enter the market illegally and become easily accessible to children, they will have a negative impact on our children.”
Adult Fan: Keen on Classic Works
Comics began to win popularity in China’s mainland in the late 1980s. The leading audience of the comic culture of that age, who were then primary and middle school students, have now grown up and become China’s first group of adult fans of comic books. This group is no less devoted to comic then before; and different form the younger generation, they are fussy about what they read. They select fine-quality comics and turn their noses up at low-grade ones; and some have even established their own collections.
While a number of these adults’ fans have become cartoonists, the vast majority of them have stayed loyal readers, nurturing the soil of China’s comics book market. Mr. Zhang, a 25-year-old ad salesman, is crazy about the Japanese comic book Slam Dunk; and a huge poster of Slan Dunk’s leading character Hanamichi Sakuragi, is pasted on his bedroom wall. When chatting online, he identifies himself as Hanamichi. “Comics have become part of my life,” he said. “When I chat with my friends, whether it be face to face or on the Internet, the most discussed topic is comic books. Although I can’t draw, I enjoy looking at them；and I look forward to enjoying another work as wonderful as Slam Dunk.”
City Comics: Appealing to Trend Followers
In 2000, a Taiwanese cartoonist named Zhu Deyong published four sets of comic albums in the mainland of China, which turned into runaway bestsellers. The albums introduced a new cultural form to China’s mainland. Known as City Comics, this cultural form has now become the criteria of “trendy” living.
Du Yu, 1 27-year-old employee of a foreign-funded firm, is in love with Zhu Deyong’s comic, and always keeps a spare corner both in his office and at home for Zhu’s books. A tight work schedule leaves his little time to read other books besides Zhu’s comics, which not only him but also make him feel as if he were intricately involved in the stories depicted in the comics. Du’s thoughts abound in the minds of other young city dwellers that wish to live a trendy life. This also helps explain why City Comics enjoy such an awesome favor among today’s young people, who live an intense life which is plagued by loneliness and a lack of intimate communication.
(china.org.cn February 17, 2003)