50 years of Japanese colonisation painted a lot of influence onto the history of comics in Taiwan. The traits were inherited to culture and education even after the conquest period. Hong ZaoMing, Ye HongJia, Chen JiaPeng and Wang ChaoGuang of the then “XinXin monthly” have an ideal to open a path for comics of pure local content, but the debut issue was still narrated in Japanese text. It was until the fourth issue, that chinese characters were slowly introduced. Although meeting a dead wall at the seventh issue, contents of the publication touched on social matters like price hikes of daily needs, and corrupt lifestyles of the rich elite. It was a revolutionary comics effort in the 1950s.
The first comics compilation “Water Margin” was created by Wang ChaoZong. It was written in Chinese, with accompanying Japanese characters to help children in learning the language.
When New China established in 1949, large groups of comic artists fled to Taiwan. This gave rise to the production and quality of comics in Taiwan.
Comics heralded the interest in learning the Chinese language among children, with publications such as “Schoolmate”, “Eastern Youths” and “New Schoolmate” providing platforms for artists to perform. Comic characters like “Niu Bobo”, “Niu Xiaomei” and “Old Sly Dude” created by NiuGe were in hot pursuit by locals.
Chen DingGuo mixed some of the stage opera and outlaw antics he so loved into the martial arts creation and carved a niche path of his own. His creations include “Madame LuSi”, “Lady MengJiang”, “Meng LiJun” and “ZhuGe KongMing”. They were all riddled with skillfully detailed costumes and decorated faces, which proved to be a runaway success with young girl readers. Liu Hsing-Chin found his styles from the influence of the western world, producing “Da Shen Po” and “Ah San Gor” that hinted a lot of Disney’s and American superheroes.
Taiwan in the sixties embarked on the industrialisation and machinery revolution following the influx of American culture.
The tremendous growth in comic publications spurred on a profit-driven expansion. Comic magazines running with several artists’ works diversified into solo compilations for those with substantial readership.
Cai KunLin terminated the “Comics Weekly” and propelled the creations of Hong YiNan, Chen YiNan and Fan YiNan into solos. Other publishers follow suit, marking a milestone in the history of Taiwan comics. At the peak of the comics boom, book rental businesses mushroomed, amounting to 4000 shops.
There were even numerous artists who tasted fame and success just by mimicking Osamu Tezuka’s drawing styles. Chen WenFu and Wang ChaoJi were two of those who gained popularity in Southeast Asia through their works of “World Children Fables and Fairy Tales” series.
Ye HongJia expanded production by hiring assistants and writing scripts for them to adapt into comics. At its peak, 800 titles were published. Xu SongShan and his students collaborated in nearly 1000 comic titles, whereas Hong YiNan’s “The Number Two on Earth”, “Blood Plaque Heaven and Earth”, “Beyond Heaven” and “Legend of the Insidious Demon” ran into a thousand copies. This performance persisted for 40 years, comic titles encompassing numerous genres. You LongHui at his prime age produced “Boomerang Sabre”, “The Sabre Song”, which were adapted into television serials. He later moved on to anime production.
In the midst of tense competition, low quality comics inevitably flooded and damaged the market reputation. The government implemented “Comics Writing and Printing Guide Act” in 1966, set limits to the narration of mythical beliefs and legendary tales. Comic talents halted production under protest, and the market immediately took a plunge.
As the local market diminished, pirated translation of Japanese Manga took advatage of the market void and profited therein.
In 1979, the National Institute of Translation and Adaptation opened its doors to Japanese Manga. NiuGe took the National Institute to court on basis of the influx of Manga due to its deregulation policies.
In 1982, NiuGe again sued the National Institute for its double standards in regulating Japanese and local comics, suggesting disposal of the regulation guide, winning the suit after 5 years of litigation.
Although the regulation tumult was over, the comics market remained the ultimate loser. The local readership forgot about Taiwan’s own local comics talent, until the publication of Au YouXiang’s “Foolish Shrine” by China Times in 1983. “China Times” took advantage of the popularity to start “Comics Challenge Ring”, a contest platform to recruit new talents. The contest was an overnight success, witnessing art talents from the advertising and commercial sector gathering for a brawl. Mai RenJie, Sun JiaYu, Xiao YanZhong, Chen Uen, WangPing, Lin ZhengDe, Zhu DeYong and GaGa were the first batch of comics artists to emerge and acquire fame.
Armed with a squad of comics masters, China Times added a Comics Department to its stable. The bold move to publish “Joyful BiWeekly” amid overwhelming proportions of Japanese Manga found a niche path for local comics, nonetheless.
“Chronicles of Assassins” from Chen Uen, “Man of Nine Lives” by AhTui, Au YouXiang’s “Happy Camp”, Zeng ZhenZhong’s “Flirty Red Fox”, Tsai Chih Chung’s “Teachings of ZhuangZi”, Liao WenBin’s “Two Painters”, Zhu DeYong’s “Great Hotel”, Zhang JingMei’s “My Heart Flies”, Chen HongYao’s “Western Odyssey” and Jerry Kid’s “Black and White Club” were all new talents of Taiwan to be nurtured from this cradle.
The “Sunday Comics” weekly , published in 1989 carried works of Push “The Baleek”, Au YouXiang’s “Black Lemon”, Chen HongYao’s “Legend of One Sabre”, Xiao YanZhong’s “Fables Short-circuit”, Jerry Kid’s “Magic Magic Club”, Mai RenJie’s “Genius Superkid and Cheeky Rascal”, Zeng ZhenZhong’s “Delayed Duel” and Lin ZhengDe’s “Young Guns” .
At the same time, other comics compilations also added to the competition: “Crown Comics”, “Comics Playwright”, “Comics Show”.There were also publications solely aimed at teenage girls: “Weekend Comics” and “Comics Burger”.
The oversupply of Japanese Manga, though a threat to local talents, were tantamount to sustaining a wide reader base, keeping the comics market afloat. Among them, “Childhood Express”, “Teen Express”, “City Express”, “Youth Supplementary”, “Youth Special Edition”, “V Teens”, “DongLi Focus Express”, “Girls Manga”, “100% Manga”, “Princess”, “Master Express”, “Flowers and Dreams”, “Focus Manga” and “Magical Express” were popular titles among school children. Rental shops also benefitted from this Manga rush.
In 1992, the “New Authoring Copyright Act” was implemented to encourage legal rights licensing of Japanese Manga. DongLi bought rights to Shueisha’s “Jump Youth” and Kodensha’s “Dragonball”. DaRan obtained rights to “Slam Dunk”, “Ranma 1/2”, while China Times bought into “City Hunter”, “Dr. Slump”, and Osamu Tezuka’s collections.
Alongside the legalised publication of Japanese comics, Taiwan publishers also invested much effort to support local talents. Comics contests were held to attract new talents as well as groom others into masters of the trade. A fine group of artists emerged, namely LianRen, Lai YouXian, Zhu HongQi, DuLu, Zhuang HeYuan and Huang YaoJie. Names like Wang YiWen, Ou BiFeng, Li ChongPing and MuDi were representative of the teenage girls sector.
Meanwhile, the “Top Hotshot Youth” by DaRan Publishing carried arts of Lin ZhengDe “Young Guns”, ADi’s “Little Evil God”, and the likes of Chen ZhuoJia, A Mian, Mai RenJie and Chen ZhiLong.
The immense competition between Taiwanese and Japanese comics even attracted many veterans to return to industry. There were more than 300 comics workers during the years 1992 through 1995.
Upon reaching the end of the 20th century, Taiwan comics faced with competition from Japanese and Hongkong publications made a turn to the expanding Chinese market.
Tsai Chih Chung’s “Teachings of ZhuangZi”, Zhu DeYong’s “Bitter Lady” and You SuLan’s “King of Fire” succeeded making inroads into China, followed by Ao YouXiang’s “Foolish Shrine” and Jimmy’s art.