The history of Hongkong comics dated back to pre-World War 1 where a group of Shanghai artists formed the first comics society. Members include: Zhang GuangYu, Zhang ZhenYu, Wang DunQing, Huang WenNong, Lu ShaoFei and Ye QianYu. The first comic compilation to be published with a title relating Hongkong was drawn by Huang Fengzhou in 1929.
Other comics that enjoyed significant reception like Zhang YuGuang’s “Rice Bucket”, Qian BingHe’s “Many Faces of Old Ape”, Ma XingChi’s “Manipulated on One’s Palm”, Shen BoChen’s “Snake and Creatures in Motion”, Huang WenNong’s “President Jiang Conquers All” and “False Mask” were sold at roadside stalls and rental shops in Hongkong.
The earliest Hongkong comic newspaper “Comics Weekly” was published by “Industrial Daily News”, followed by Lu ShaoFei’s “All Squad Comics”. Zheng JiaZhen’s “Forging Ahead Comics” was the first dedicated comic publication in Hongkong. Before the Japanese war broke out in the 30s, titles like “Such Wang JingWei”, “Disarmed”, “Highly Acclaimed Satiricals”, “Storm Collections” and “Conquest Comics” were the talk of the town.
The resistance against Japanese Imperialism induced a migration of refugees, and artists like Lin Qin, Li FanFu, Huang HuanNiao and Pan ZuiSheng migrated away from mainland to Hongkong. Under the leadership of Ye QianYu, artists seeking refuge in Hongkong got together and formed the branch of National Association of the Comics Artists there.
A “Comics Club” on the third floor of an old wooden building was established to house art-related activities like model-sketching and art seminars. The first large-scale comics exhibition to be held in Hongkong was hosted in the basement of Central Cinema on Queen’s Road where 30 artists participated.
After the World War 2, peace as well as lots of artists returned to Hongkong. Huang XinBo gathered most of the artists to set up “Mankind Art Society”, hosted a comics research department and published “This is the Comics Age”. When China regained its own liberation after the war in 1949, the comic artists again left Hongkong for mainland.
Li Fan-Fu and Zheng JiaZhen stayed on with a few local comic artists to produce “Comics World” which genuinely represented Hongkong. The publication went on to host a comics contest and the second large-scale exhibition in Hongkong ten years later. The “Oriental Daily” and its comics supplement played a great part in grooming the first batch of local talent: Lei YuTian, You Ming, Du ZuHui, SiTuDi, Yuen Po-Wan were some of the few prominent artists pioneering Hongkong comics.
In the sixties, Hongkong comics exports met with a deadlock when Nanyang countries imposed a stop on Chinese comics, Hui KunMan took a different route by publishing sub-A6 single-frame comics. “Uncle Choy” which told of a battalion squad resisting the Japanese invasion, was the first instalment to gain popularity then.
The usage of American-like camera action drawings and the marriage of comics to cartoons, initiated a new path for other artists to follow. Similar productions flooded the market to the extent of oversupply. While “Uncle Choy”, “The Great Magistrate”, “Boy Scout”, “Old Master Q”, “Inspector Kelly”, “Mister Wang” and “Sugardaddy, Cowboy and Senior Missy” all enjoyed great success before the seventies, the babyboom decade also contributed to a second tier of comics talent.
The Hongkong comics industry immediately rode up to a peak, with comics titles catering to just about any genre: MengNi with her “Intriguing series”, ShangGuan XiaoLong “LiaoZhai”, Ding XiaoXiang with “Horrifying 1001 Nights”, Tony Wong’s “Stoogey Angel”, “Little Sorcery God”, ShangGuan XiaoBao’s “Little Drunken God” and Huang XiaoYing’s “Little God”. The A-go-go trend brought about teenager rebellion comic titles like “Sparks of Youth”, “Gangster Girls” and “13 Spots”.
The infuence from American superhero series also saw Hongkong with its homegrown superheroes’ comics. Huang JunYue and DongFang Yong were two of the best sci-fi comic artists to date.
“Old Master Q” was a collection of six-framed and four-framed cartoon strips that depicted social issues of Hongkong. The series gained positive reception from the public and was later made into movies and animation films.
The martial arts trend set by movie mogul Shaw Brothers brought about a slurry of similar content in comics creation. Wu JiPing’s “Condor Heroes”, Pan FeiYing’s “Red Cloak Legacy” and “TianLoong Octogram”, Bai JinLoong’s “Hung XiGuan”, “Purists’s Sword”, ShangGuan YuLang’s “Hu HuiQuan” and “Fang ShiYu” and “Romance Of Cumulus Jade Bow” were all successful publications that mark the milestone in Hongkong comics history. A series of ancient dynasty stories from Jadeite were staple reading material to opera enthusiasts.
Post-war Japan effected an economy struggle which saw massive exports of the Japanese Manga all over Asia. Hongkong was subjected to a tremendous onslaught of aggressive marketing as well as free television viewership. The helplessness instilled in the public due to social unrest in 1967, uncovered the urge for a hero of sorts subconsciously.
In times of need, Bruce Lee emerged as a saviour icon for the weak, a resistance against ruthless powers. His first role-playing movie “The Big Boss” raged across all levels of society, and subsequently all over the world. The comics sector was swift to duplicate this trend. SheungKun SiuPo with his “Bruce Lee” comics series and Tony Wong’s “Little Vagabonds” became heroes for the masses and instant runaway success.
As martial arts comics became mainstream, resourceful artists like Pa KamLong, Kam SiuMan, HonMan and SheungKun SiuKeong respectively found their own niche with different genres like: “PC 369”, “TaiKung Daily”, “Ghosts and Demons” series and “Sau Seng Zai”.
The ferocity of martial arts violence and sexualism in turn spawn a sub-adult category of comics, which saw “Club Girls” and “Nightclub” blurring the readership barrier between teens and adults.
Coupled with localised triad events narrated in the martial arts comics, public rage and protests mounted. The authorities subsequently imposed a ban on “picture books” due to widespread protests in 1975.
As such Tony Wong with SheugKun SiuPo and publisher WongKong called from an self-censorship movement to restrict violence and gore in comics. As a result, “Little Vagabonds” took on a new name “Dragon Tiger Gate” to minimise the lowly, shaggard image of “picture books”.
At the same time, Tony Wong ran his comics in a daily comic newsprint format, attracting many such comic dailies to flourished. The move even enhanced productivity from comic artists. Tony Wong’s Jademan Holdings took one step further to include entertainment and celebrity news into the comic dailies, effectively launching the company into a diversified publishing giant.
The myriad of comic dailies “Sang Po”, “Hei Po”, “Colourful Comics Daily”, “Dragon Po”, “East Po”, “Golden Po”, “Green Po”, “Comics Po and “Tin Long Po” together energised the comics community while cleansing the perception of comics as a whole. Weekly and monthly compilations of humour, satirical intent and pure laughter like “Smelly Hongkong”, “Comics Weekly”, “Comic King” and “XiaoQiang Comics” extended the comics horizon and spurred the birth of comic artists for every genre imagineable. The second tier of masters include Ma WingShing, Cheong ManYau, Wong KokHeng, Tse ChiWeng, NgauLou, Fung TsiMeng, Chew YuTuck, Khoo FukLong, Kuan WengYu and Wong WaiChiew.
By diversifying, the Jademan branched into publishing of entertainment magazines, printing, distribution and eventually movie production. “Dragon Tiger Gate” notched another milestone when it made to the silverscreen, following the footsteps of “Old Master Q” as the second comic production to have such an achievement.
Tony Wong further revolutionised the production of comics by streamlining the verious stages into individual production departments. He then recruited SheungKun SiuPo and SheungKun SiuWai brothers into the company, literally monopolising the Hongkong comics market.
In 1986, the Jademan was publicly listed on the HongKong stock exchange, chalking another first in the history of HK comics industry.
On the other hand, Ma WingShing’s “Chinese Hero” debuted alongside Tony Wong’s “Drunken Fists” and “Buddha’s Palm” in 1983, branched out on its own solo three years later to make a record sales of 200 thousand copies per issue. “Chinese Hero” lifted the image of comics by incorporating fine art, special drawing skills and literary-style narration text. It was later made into a movie.
In a bid to diffuse the monopoly of Jademan, SheungKun SiuPo, Ma WingShing, HonMeng respectively left the company to venture on their own.
Ma WingShing continued his “Chinese Hero” legacy with the all-time favourite “StormRiders” and propelled his “Jonesky Publishing” into stardom. Art and comics fusion became synonymous with Ma.
Lau DengKin together with Fung ChiMeng, Dick set up company to produce “Knife and Sword Jeer”, “Dick’s Romancing” and HonMeng persisted independently with his “Ghosts” series.
Although the Tony Wong’s innovation to comic production saw increased productivity among comic artists, the departmentalised strategy also prohibited artists from acquiring all-rounded creativity, and the third tiered talents met with a dead wall amid fierce competition.
Ma WingShing, instead rode the storm with aplomp by extending into fine arts exhibitions, web games, television serials and movies. Two instalments of “Storm Riders” movies peaked after 24 years of serialised publication, and Ma once again took the public by surprise by announcing the termination of the series.
With Ma WingShing’s immense fame and influence, the comics industry ran into an unbridgeable gap due to lack of talents. The remaining few elite and hardcore comics seniors prefer to hang on to the traditional publishing grounds.
A niche market yearning for attention, still persisted in the form of limited, premium printing, sustained quietly by hardcore book collectors, but there is no denying mobile content trends and webgames are fast becoming mainstream. “Sea Tiger” was one of the web comics that managed to jump on the bandwagon and lead the pack to that new platform.
The segmentation and assembly-style comic production so popularised by Jademan was a double-edged sword. While segmentation was beneficial to a company’s production efficiency and quality, the environment prohibits personal growth on the artists side. Successive generations of comic
talent were void of overall competency.
Ma Wing-Shing’s true-to-life artworks and fine arts persistance, though contributed tremendously to the status of comics in Hongkong, was also a standard too high, and a deterrent to new talents from achieving breathroughs in individual creativity.
Hongkong may be synonymous with martial arts comics, but there exist a unique group of cartoonists and comic talents who remained independent of such market influence and Japanese anime trends. They were more inclined to stay out of the limelight and adhere to their own principles and ideals: preserving individual creavitity and choice of contents.
As the media and entertainment world moved to the clouds, and pirated comics flood the market profusely, the notion of reading a physical comic book doesn’t appeal anymore. Martial arts comics was left with no choice but to find new ways or face a gloomy fate.
Hence, the diversion from mainstream to probing in murky waters, rendered the comics community a future unknown, awaiting another distant boom.
Tony Wong born in 1950 as Wong Jan-lung, started with Wong Yuen Sang as his pen name. Decorated and veteran comic artist in Hongkong. The Godfather of Hongkong martial arts comics, and founder of Jademan Holdings (now known as Culturecom Holdings Ltd, the largest comics publisher) and Jade Dynasty Group Ltd. in Hongkong.
His comic creations garnered a vast readership all over Asia and chinatowns in the West. His most accredited comic title “Dragon Tiger Gate”, a serialised creation that ran for a record 40 years was hailed as the longest-running series in Hongkong comics history. Tony Wong introduced Japanese character concepts and penning strokes mingled with Chinese traditional drawings, to pioneer the revolutionary Hongkong comics style.
Before the economic boom, Hongkong dwellers led scanty livestyles. Comics not being basic needs, were low in quality. At twenty cents, pictorial compilations couldn’t pass as daily reading material. The comics community was a group sneered by the educated.
Tony Wong step foot into the comics industry amidst unruly discouragement and despise.
Tony Wong was born into a family in Jiang Men, Guangdong, China. The family later moved to Hongkong when he was 6.
He was exposed to comics carried in the “Sing Tao Daily” at the age of 7. At the age of 10, Tony submitted his first drawing which was published in the “The Chinese Student Weekly”.
In 1963, Tony Wong published his own “World of Jokes” compilation with a 1000 dollar loan from his father. The combination of self-editorial, drawing, printing and distribution on a bicycle with his brother represented Tony Wong’s first attempt at entrepreneuring. Suffice to say, all efforts ended in vain when the business went bust after only 5 issues.
A year later, Tony made second, third and fourth attempts at publishing “Comics Entertainment Post”, “Amazingly Comics Daily” and “Lok Seng Comics Daily” with some friends.
In 1967, the combination of “Riots 67”, and free television broadcasts by TVB diverted comics readership to tube entertainment, resulting in diminishing sales for comic publications, hence failure repeating itself.
Tony Wong remained unperturbed by such obstacles. In fact, he gained significant experiences in publishing.
Tony Wong began to earn a decent following in 1968 with his scores “The Son of Ultraman”, “Little Snake King”, “The Foolish Immortal” and “Judo Kid”.
That was when the publisher Ting SiuHiong recommended Tony Wong to change his pen name from Wong Yuan Sang to Wong Yuk Long.
“The Son of Ultraman” which was derived from the highly popular Japanese “Ultraman” TV series, was the first book to carry that new pen name.
Tony Wong established the “Diamond Publishing Company” in 1969, again exhibiting his perseverance in publishing comics. Social issues in Hongkong gave Tony the inspiration to produce his “Little Vagabonds” which later turned out to be the gold mine of his career. It also opened up a new genre for other artists to follow — modern martial arts.
“Little Vagabonds” which debuted in December 1969 was a runaway success, raking in record sales for small-sized pictorial publications. Even pirated Japanese comics bowed to the aggressiveness of “Little Vagabonds”.
By 1970, Tony Wong claimed recognition as the best-selling comics artist in the community. The coincidental kungfu craze set by Bruce Lee and his movies further strengthened the “Little Vagabonds” ascending popularity.
Tony Wong banked on his popularity to enhance the quality of comics, took a daring step to publish his works in a bigger form factor — doubling the comic book dimensions from sub-A5 to A4.
The change reeled in a couple of benefits:
1. extended estate for better storyline manipulation,
2. more freedom in portraying martial arts sequences and elaborate scenes, and
3. lifting the image of comics above the usual “kiddy-levels”.
While on track to enhance the reputation of comics, Tony Wong applied colour printing, and hence, charted a new milestone in comics history.
The price per copy was raised from 20 to 60 cents, effectively increasing profits.
The “Little Vagabonds” fame reached beyond Hongkong boundaries and had a wide readership all over Asia, as well as in chinatowns globally.
Tony Wong set up “Jademan” in 1972 to take control of his own creavitity freedom . “Little Vagabonds” had strong competition from SheungKun SiuPo’s “Bruce Lee”, a cartoonised martial arts comics serial adapted from the fame of the real-life kungfu movie legend himself.
In the fight for contending the top seller position, both titles began to display fighting scenes that exceed the permissivity of children’s books, albeit less gore and violence compared to martial arts movies. The competition even gave birth to comics that portray excessive erotica, sexual and mythical superstitions. Moral and ethical groups began to voice their concerns with regard to regulation of comics content. In October 1975, the authorities slapped a ban on “Unethical publications”.
Tony Wong called for a “self-disciplinary” movement among artists and entrepreneurs in a bid to save the comics business, even to the extend of swapping his comic title “Little Vagabonds” to “Dragon Tiger Gate”.
To counter negative criticism, Tony Wong diversified into daily newsprint publications. The inclusion of media reporting and general journalism upgraded the public’s perception of comics.
By publishing “Sheng Bao” and “Jin Bao” comic dailies and a news daily “Far Eastern Daily”, Tony Wong laid out the path for comics to a consolidated community and brighter future, while uplifting the reputation of comics.
Within the decade of the seventies, Tony Wong added to his credit numerous comics titles, namely: “Dragon Tiger Gate”, “Iron Mantis”, “Iron Warrior”, “Dragon Tiger Gate Reloaded”, “Stinking Hongkong” and “Queer Comics”.
He later established “Yuk Long Filming Company” and made “Dragon Tiger Gate” into a movie.
The success of “Dragon Tiger Gate” brought about richness not only to Tony Wong personally, but also to the whole comics community. In the quest for enhanced quality and increased productivity, Tony Wong implemented a segmentation of production procedures, creating a need for many new talents.
An impressive line-up of art assistants were deployed to take care of comics production in stages: from storyboard sketching to lead character inking, body dynamics to hairstyle finishing and action effects to background perspectives.
Prepress works like colour matching, text typesetting, printing and binding were also meticulously controlled.
These procsses were tantamount to the company’s future diversification into a variety of publications. “Fresh Weekly”, “Silver Screen Daily”, “Financial Times”, “Tin Tin Daily News”, “New Times”, “Discovery Magazine”, “Jademan TV” and “Star TV” were some of the publications that underline the company’s commitment to succeed.
In 1985, Tony again charted into new territories by consolidating the comics industry in Hongkong. The advent of SheungKun SiuPo joining into “Jademan” unified all of Hongkong comics under one roof, literally winning Tony his undoubted “Godfather of Comics” recognition.
“Dragon Tiger Gate”, “Drunken Fists” and “Buddha’s Palm” were translated into English and marketed to the US under the Jademan Comics brand, but reponse was lukewarm due to cultural difference.
The 12th of August 1986 was a historical and memorable day for both the Hongkong comics world and “Jademan”. The company made a public offering on the Hongkong Stock Exchange, and became the first comics publisher in the world to be publicly listed. Comics, hence maintained a publicly reputable image, and Tony Wong an icon tycoon of the publishing sector.
The limelight was short-lived, when the stock market crashed in 1987. Jademan sustained massive financial losses, and Tony Wong was jailed subsequently, tarnishing his career. The company was later bought over by the Sing Tao News Corporation, and took on a new name: “Culturecom Holdings Ltd”.
Tony Wong regained his freedom in 1993 and recollected himself to start anew. In August, he gathered more than a hundred comic artists including Khoo FukLong and KingHui to establish “Jade Dynasty”. Its first publication “Legend of the Prince” won tremendous support from the comics community.
“Jade Dynasty” continued its progress with fervour, publishing great titles like: “Legend of the Prince 2: Emperor Qin”, “Gate of Ethics and Courage”, “Dragon Tiger the Fifth”, “Dragon Tiger the Fifth V series”, “The Great Sword Master”, “Legend of the Prince: The Raggard Prince”, “001”, “Eight Disciples of the Dragon God”, “Myths from the Armour of God” and “Hero and Heroins of the Condors”.
Other commendable scores include a series of pure literary, namely; “Vanity Dreams of a Billionaire”, “Caged Tiger”, “Legend of the Prince” and “Legend of the Prince 2”.
Tony Wong, being acutely sensitive to market trends, embarked on the online revolution and set up “Jade Dynasty” website to connect with readers. In 1997, he obtained rights from the legendary novel writer JinYong to adapt the “Eight Disciples of the Dragon God” into a comic. The adaptation received significant readership, and spearheaded a trend as such.
In adhering to the needs of the online platform, Tony Wong renamed Jade Dynasty to Kingcomics.com. It was the first Chinese comics website to be launched and on the first day of its opening on March 27, 2000, recorded visitor clicks in excess of 27 million.
Notably, “Culturecom Holdings Ltd.”offered Tony Wong the rights to pen the “New Dragon Tiger Gate” in the same year.
In 2004, Tony Wong listed his “Jade Dynasty” on the stock exchange with a market capitalisation of 250 million HKD. Its core business includes comics publication in Hongkong, and collaborating with China Central TV to produce an animated serial “Little Warrior in God’s Armour”.
“Dragon Tiger Gate” was made into a movie for the second time. The investment of 50 million HKD had a cast of many big names like. Wilson Yip as director, and lead actors Donny Yen, Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yee taking roles of the three heroes therein. The film charted astounding box office sales.
Tony Wong was accredited with the “World Outstanding Chinese Award” by the “World’s Outstanding Chinese Foundation” in 2007. The Newcastle University of America also recognised Tony’s contribution to the comics world by presenting him an “Honorary Phd” title.
In 2009, “Little Warrior in God’s Armour” made appearance on China Central TV, and was received with grandeur.
Tony Wong also produced a cartoon series “Mystic Dragon Treasure” based on fictitious adaptation of kungfu celebrity Jacky Chan.
In 2012, the “Hangzhou Jademan Animation Company” was established, underlining Tony Wong’s investment efforts into China.
Tony Wong joined forces with the “Hangzhou QianDao Hu Company” to launch a 800 million HKD project. The venture was to develop “Jademan Superstars Cultural Theme Park”, a first-of-its-kind comics theme park sprawled over 11 hectares of land.
Ma Wing-Shing have origins back in ChaoYang, GuangDong, China. He was born on the 16th of January, 1961 into a family of 4 siblings. Ma, an ardent fan of comics since young, joined the “Happy Daily” at the age of 14. Under the guidance of his mentor SheungKun SiuWai, Ma Wing-Shing revealed his artistic talent in early creations like “Squatters Turbulance”, “Little Gallant” and “Dude Astute”.
Ma Wing-Shing joined Jademan Holdings in 1980, and started by penning “Chinese Hero: Tales of the Blood Sword” in the daily “Golden Daily”. The series was later piggy-backed onto Tony Wong’s “Drunken Fists”. “Chinese Heroes” broke away from the accustomed martial arts style of drawing laid down by Tony Wong. It spawned off the realm of true-to-life drawings in Hongkong comics.
Tony Wong saw the potential in Ma Wing-Shing’s talent, promoted him to the position of a lead artist and published his solo the “Chinese Hero” series in 1982. The comic record an all-time high of 200 thousand copies, making Ma the top-grossing artist in Jademan Holdings, unprecedented in the history of Hongkong comics.
Ma Wing-Shing left the company in 1989 to venture on his own, setting up Jonesky Limited. The new company debuted with “Tin Ha Pictorial” carrying “The Two Extremes” in issues 1 through 4. The famous long-running “Storm Riders” serials started in July 1989. 26 years into its stoic legacy, “Storm Riders” remained Hongkong’s best-selling comic, with circulation reaching the shores of Asia, Europe and the US.
The comic was made into movies, novels, radio and television broadcasts, animated films and stage musicals. Its legacy even extended to computer games and online games.
Apart from supervising the creativity aspect of “TIn Ha Pictorial”, Ma Wing-Shing also published a chestload of comic titles with equalled finesse, namely: “Black Panther”, “The Sacred Sword and Dragon Sabre”, “Hero”, “Heaven Stricken”, “Heroes Shed No Tears”, “Realm of the Warrior Gods” and “Storm Riders II Movie” comics.
Beginning November 2013, “Storm Riders” was converted as a monthly publication, launching the countdown to its finale in January 2015. The legend was perfectly sealed after a 26-year dignitary.
The finale episode of “Storm Riders” was publicised as an “Original artworks exhibition” at the Comix Home Base in Hongkong for 9 days, from 24th January through 1st February 2015.
After bringing “Storm Riders” from its long-standing limelight to a stop, Ma Wing-Shing vowed to dedicate more time in nurturing successive generations of new comic talents, while at the same time promoted the “Storm Riders” legend to a variety of platforms. He has already join efforts with the Hong Kong Dance Company to produce a stage musical score in 2014. This combination of pop culture and fine arts has earned Ma the coveted Hongkong Most Commendable Dance Performance Award 2015. A “Storm Riders” musical is also in the pipeline, scheduled to make its appearance in 2016.
Following the success acquired from mobile and online gaming, cloud gaming projections are also being planned.
The realistic art of Ma Wing-Shing owed much of its traits to the works of Ryuichi Ikegami, Takumi Nagayasu, Tadashi Matsumori and Chan Chung-shu of “Studio Des Montagnes” in Hongkong.
His first successful comic serial “Chinese Hero” ironically laid down the unprecedented standards of comic art, and “Tin Ha Pictorial” further enhanced its position as the pinnacle of a benchmark for future generations. Classical accomplishments unabridged.