Just about anywhere else, a three-foot long claw-like hand would likely be a fashion faux pas.
But not on Wednesday inside Shanghai's futuristic TV Tower, where a group of teenagers dressed themselves up either as prim high school girls or kung fu masters from some alternative universe where weird eye make-up and bright hair are par for the course.
Outside, hordes of people using the week-long May Day holiday for a bit of sightseeing came and went, making the landmark almost impossible to navigate. Most of them were unaware that, just a few short meters away, comic book fans were indulging a fetish for the fantastic and colorful.
Comic books "have a lot of soul," said Xu Wenbin, who, at other times, markets cosmetics for a multinational.
At 23, he was a little old for the mostly high school crowd, but was eager to see a revival of Chinese comics. Since the Monkey King, a legendary hero of popular comics from the 50s, there has not been a lot he has liked about the Chinese product.
The event this week at the TV Tower is the first such comic book fair held in China by Shanghai Fushan Media, which produces and markets Japanese comics as well as DVD learning products.
Fushan first set up shop in Shanghai in 1996, but in recent years has begun paying more attention to the comic book market.
Liu Liang, assistant president at Fushan, said interest in Japanese comic books is growing. After the Shanghai fair, others will be held in Shenzhen, although not until the autumn, and Beijing.
"The market is bigger in Shanghai," he said, explaining that almost 10,000 people have passed through the gates to visit the two-floor exhibition every day so far.
As he talked, people strolled past in outfits that defied description but are easily recognizable for anyone who has ever seen Japanese animation. The majority of popular characters on show were not Chinese inventions. At this fair, most are Japanese, while foreign characters such as Batman and Spiderman are also popular.
"The market for Chinese comics is not so good," said Jin Xiankang, who works for Hanlang Culture and Development Shanghai which will host another comic book exhibition in October.
The fans hanging around the many booths, discussing characters or watching on-stage re-enactments of a variety of Japanese comics, did not seem to mind. Still, there may be an untapped market there, said Hong Kong's Alex Wong at a booth pushing Feng Yun paraphernalia.
Wong's company, Hua Yin Comics, is focusing on sales of spin-off products such as action figures and accessories, according to Wong.
(China Daily May 6, 2005)