Young illustrator Lin Shu-yu (林書玉) became a rising star in the local animation and comic book industry after winning acclaim for her recent work that tells the story of young lovers in a Peking opera troupe.
“The newfound success fulfills my childhood dream of becoming a comic book artist,” she said, saying that she had loved reading comics and cartoons since she was a kid.
Born in Tainan in 1982, Lin said she started to draw six-panel cartoons during her elementary-school days.
“One day my classmates fought each other to read my comics and asked me for more,” she said.
Lin remembered she was so happy about it that when she got home that day, she told her mother: “Comic books can bring happiness and laughter to people. I want to become a comic book artist when I grow up.”
“Sure, that’s fine. It’s good to have a dream, but you need to at least finish college first,” Lin said her mother told her, adding that she was thankful that her mother did not straightaway pour cold water on her dream.
After finishing a bachelor’s degree in Chinese literature at the National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu City, Lin faced the difficult decision of whether to sit for the national examination and become a teacher.
She felt she was not suited for teaching, and was feeling down about her decision not to become a teacher. At that time, she picked up a book about fulfilling one’s dreams.
“Then I remembered my childhood dream of wanting to become a comic book artist,” she said.
Discussing the matter with her family, Lin said everyone in the family supported her in pursuing her dream and told her: “You are still young, you should have the courage to chase your dream.”
She left home for Japan to fulfill her dream by attending a Japanese vocational college for training in the art of comic book illustration. After completing her studies, Lin returned to Taiwan four years ago and took a job working as an assistant to comic book artists.
Two years later, she wrote a serial about her life and studies in Japan titled My 7-Spice Shichimi Manga Tour in Japan (七味的漫畫東遊記), in a monthly comics magazine.
That was followed by her recent comic book publication, titled Youth Love Romance in Peking Opera (粉墨青春愛戀), which won her many new readers.
Lin said traditional Peking opera was one of her interests.
“I used to watch Peking opera. To satisfy my craving, I decided to illustrate the operas in comics,” she said.
The storyline focuses on a love relationship between a young actress and her boyfriend, both of whom are learning their craft at a Peking Opera school.
The relationship is complicated due to their gender-reversed roles in the plays, because the female lead in the story is cast as the male “martial arts hero” in the troupe, while her boyfriend always plays a female character, due to his handsome and delicate features.
In Lin’s storyline, due to her boyfriend’s attractiveness, the female lead feels she is not good enough for him, and he receives romantic attention from other senior female students, who try to ruin the couple’s relationship.
To research the story, Lin stayed at a traditional theater school and observed up close the daily lives of its teachers and students. Through this experience, she said she came to understand that it is not easy for young people to become actors and actresses in traditional theater.
“They had to get up at 5:30am, then do basic training, such as doing handstands and somersaults, at 6:30am. Only after this morning acrobatic training do they have breakfast,” Lin said.
“I was impressed by their determination, will and diligent work,” she said, adding that she hoped her work could help promote the traditional theater arts.