Tue, Jul 06, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Graphic-novel artists secure a big GIO boost

By Evelyn Shih  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

Raising the quality of cultural content can bring endless business opportunities.

That's if you believe Government Information Organization (GIO) Director-General Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), who yesterday presented nine Taiwanese graphic-novel artists with prizes of NT$500,000.

"We have lots of high-quality and diverse cultural content to present to the world. Eventually, we will be able to compete internationally," Lin said.

A panel of judges assembled by the Taipei City Comic Artists Guild rated submissions on their potential to integrate with other industries, such as animation, computer games and peripherals.

The 2004 Comic Story Award differs from the Taiwan Golden Comic Awards, an award presented by the guild, through having the support of the GIO and its emphasis on plot and character.

Guild chairman Lai Yu-hsien (賴有賢) said that the GIO's involvement was a result of long struggle by the guild.

"Like Taiwanese films, comics are a part of the culture industry and deserve the respect of the government," Lai said. "We've been lobbying the government to give us similar subsidies and organizational support."

Lin is this year's spokesperson for Taiwan's comic industry, and he was presented with a caricature of himself drawn by local artist Kid Jerry (傑利小子).

Future projects include a comics exhibition next month and an international graphic-novel fair next February.

"In the long term," Lin said, "we would like to build a comics museum to honor the history of this medium in Taiwan.

"The most important work we need to do, however, is integrate," Lin said. "We need to power up the industry with a variety of collaborative efforts and start exporting our culture to the Chinese market."

Both Lin and Lai expressed regret at the disproportionate number of Japanese, and in recent years, Korean comics on the local market.

"Our kids grow up on Doraemon," Lai said, "and not characters created within our own culture. And that is a true pity."

Second-prize winner Tsai Hui-chun (蔡慧君), better known by her pen name Hsiao Chun (曉君), said that most contemporary comic artists grew up on Japanese comics themselves.

"Japan is the Hollywood of comics," she said.

market pressure

Tsai said that the heavy influence of Japanese comics on Taiwanese artists was due to strong market pressure.

"Publishers are much more likely to print a comic series drawn in anime style," Tsai said.

"Although Japan and Taiwan began creating comics culture at about the same time," Tsai said, "Taiwan's comics tradition underwent a dark period because of oppressive government policies after World War II. Japan's history is simply longer and richer."

Veteran comic artist, professor of comics history and guild media liaison officer Hung Te-lin (洪德麟) agreed.

"The topics on which we could draw were extremely limited," he said of the years under martial law.

He said the state of a nation's comics industry was an index of its political freedom.

"I hope that the GIO will follow through on its promises," Tsai said. "The industry has been going downhill for five years now, and I personally considered quitting about three years ago."

"But winning this prize has a very special meaning for me," she said.

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