Tue, Feb 27, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Politicians of all stripes turn to cartoon alter egos in the battle for voters' hearts

PAPER PERSONALITIES Legislators from across the political spectrum are turning to cute caricatures as they attempt to differentiate themselves from others

By Li Ming-hsien and Li Hsien-fang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Caricatures of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Lin Yi-shih, left, and Shyu Jong-shyoung are pictured on Feb. 7.

PHOTO: LI MING-HSIEN,TAIPEI TIMES

Politicians seeking to foster more personal connections with voters are turning themselves into cartoon characters to help improve their images.

The Ministry of Economic Affairs' Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection (標準檢驗局) has seen a surge in copyright applications from legislators putting cartoons of themselves on everything from balloons to facial tissues. But the cutesie images appeal to more than just children. Voting-age adults have been rushing to collect freebies from their favorite politicians as well.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wong Chung-chun (翁重鈞) was one of the first to successfully patent his cartoon likeness in 1996. Since then he has issued more than 20 different items with his likeness on them -- including key rings, pen holders, lunar calendars, CDs and cassette tapes -- which he gives away to supporters.

Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator Yen Ching-piao (顏清標) has fashioned himself as a sumo wrestler for his cartoon alter ego.

But don't even think about copying his idea: aides were quick to point out the character has been copyrighted and is not to be imitated.

Followers of KMT Legislator Chu Chun-hsiao (朱俊曉) can even express their support by wearing fake tattoos, or mail letters with specially made stamps of Chu in cartoon form.

"Each stamp has a different kind of Chu `smiley' for voters to fall in love with," he says.

Or for those KMT supporters not dedicated enough to wear their support on their skin, they might like to download a cartoon image of KMT Legislator Chang Sho-wen (張碩文) and put it on their computer's desktop.

Even Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Ker Chien-ming (柯建銘) has a cartoon figure to help soften his austere image.

KMT Legislator Lwo Shih-hsiung (羅世雄) attests to the cartoons' effectiveness, saying that since coming out with a cartoon version of himself as a bear, supporters now say that "the bear is here" when he arrives.

DPP Lawmaker Cheng Ying (陳瑩) has had trouble keeping enough of her "Baby Chen Ying" lunar calendars in stock. Last year supporters quickly snatched up all 7,000 copies that she had printed.

The designers of the cartoons are as diverse as the handouts that they are created for. DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling's (管碧玲) cartoon was designed by her husband, former Tainan deputy mayor Hsu Yang-ming (許陽明), who is an avid art fan. While KMT Legislator Huang Chien-ting sought professional help by inviting the design specialist for the rock band Mayday (五月天) to create his personalized cartoon.

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