>Manhwa invasion! (with a nod towards Manhua)

>Pata of Irresponsible Pictures posted a link about the attempts of Korean comics publishers to break into the US market. The link was a thread at Manganews.net which focused on a series of interviews with ICE Kunion Imprint (a consortium of Korean publishers including Sigongsa and Seoul Cultural meant to bring Korean comics to the American market) at Internal Correspondence version 2 (ICv2).

Here are the links to the three part interview (August 4, 2005):

Alot of interesting info here about the differences between Japanese manga and Korean manwha (for more information about Korean manwha please check my sidebar links under “International Comics Resources”) including, but not limited to how the Korean companies operate and how much the Korean government plays a role in those operations (e.g. “Manwha” has become the official governmental designation for Korean comics as opposed to the other common phonetic spelling, “Manwa”). As Eric Ko says:

The Korean government is very into promoting comics as a medium, not as something that’s just for kids. They’re very involved. This particular spelling is official.

Ko also has something to say about the “manga is/is not comics” debate:

Essentially it’s the same word. It means comics. Manga, manhwa, no matter how you spell it… How the Koreans do it is hwa. It’s not always the same, it’s just slightly different phonetics. If you look at it, it’s all written the same. All the Asian people read the same two words. It means comics. It’s just comics. It’s the difference between Kleenex or tissue paper. They brand this thing. A lot of people say, “you have a Kleenex?” They mean do you have a tissue paper. It’s kind of like now when they brand manga as Japanese comics, because it’s a format. It’s black and white, it has more pages than the standard American comic. That’s how they do it. We feel a distinguished difference between Korean content and Japanese content. They’re similar enough, but deep down there are many differences.

Essentially, the same two Chinese Han Characters (pinyin: hànzì), 漫画 (pinyin: mànhuà), are used in China, Korea, and Japan to refer to comics. The exception: often in Japan people usually refer to manga as “comics” (for more information about Chinese manhua check my sidebar links under “International Comics Resources”).

The sheer size of the Korean/Asian market for manhwa is staggering:

How many new trade paperback volumes are published monthly in Korea?
[Eric] Ko: A lot. About 45 million tankoubons, or collected volumes, a year. That was in 2003, I believe.

How many separate titles?
[Charles] Park: Four or five thousand titles a year.

While that’s nowhere near the size of the Japanese manga market, it’s not something to scoff at. I’m just wondering when mainland China will join the proverbial bandwagon and try to enter the US market on a larger scale than Hong Kong companies have done in the past.

Speaking of Hong Kong comics–many thanks to Queenie Chan for pointing me in the direction of Lee Wai-chun and her 13-Dot Cartoons. As Miss Chan and the Lambiek entry both state, 13-Dot Cartoons was loosely based on Harvey Comics character, Richie Rich.

Running from 1969 to 1980, Miss Chan also says “it evolved completely in isolation from Japanese manga, resembling Old Master Q in its storytelling.” Obviously Anthony Wong’s Old Master Q, Lee Wai-chun’s 13-Dots Cartoon, and other Hong Kong comics like Tse Ling-ling’s “Sweet and Gentle” are quite different from the subject matter and style of, say, the more familiar Jademan comics from the late 80s/early 90s(in the US).

There’s a whole world of comics out there beyond the US and Japan, so why not push all comics forward, eh?

Related Links:
Chinese comics struggling to find own style
Critiques of Gender Ideology: women comic artists and their work in Hong Kong (anyone with an account can always forward me a copy of this! 😉 )
ICE Kunion Imprint website
Old Master Q website
Queenie Chan’s The Dreaming (coming soon from TokyoPop!)
Queenie Chan’s website
Tangerine Dreams (info about some Girl’s Manhwa titles)

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6 thoughts on “>Manhwa invasion! (with a nod towards Manhua)

  1. >Thanks for mentioned 13-Dots! 😀 If you haven’t read any of it, I should tell you that while it has nothing much to do with manga, it has many of the hallmarks of Shoujo manga. 13-Dots was a fashionable girl with a magical “can” (of sorts), and whenever she goes on trips, she takes her entire wardrobe with her in her, er, “can”. It’s a plot device that lets her change into fashionable clothes in the blink of an eye, and my mum tells me she and her classmates were totally fascinated by the fashion in the strip. There is also cross-dressing in the strip by (cute) male characters, something that totally baffles me, because I’m unsure whether it was used for humour effect or not. It seems that the male characters cross-dress for fun or something. 😐

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  2. >No Queenie–Thank You for bringing it up! I knew next to nothing about Lee Wai-chun and Tse Ling-ling and their work. I’m just wondering how big a genre this was and if it ended up failing due to similar reasons US Romance comics ended up failing.There is also cross-dressing in the strip by (cute) male characters, something that totally baffles me, because I’m unsure whether it was used for humour effect or not. It seems that the male characters cross-dress for fun or something.That is actually very interesting to me. In Thai comics there are a significant number of male cross-dressers as well as transgendered characters. The situation is similar in Thai cinema.

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  3. >I think gender-bending is just more acceptable in Asian societies. In alot of Jin Yong martial arts novels, there is much cross-dressing by female characters into male ones – namely women who travel and want to avoid unwanted attention. And in real life, Chinese Opera Singers cross dress from male to female, because females are forbidden to act. However, despite this, all-female opera singer troupes existed, where some of the females dress up as men, like the Takarazuka theatres. And no, 13-Dots never “failed”. It was popular up to the last strip – if it weren’t, they wouldn’t be reprinting it. All that happened was that it ended, and the creator didn’t create any more strips. And there wasn’t any one else to follow in her footsteps, especially not with the influx of manga in the 70s onwards.You should write something about this on your blog. 😀

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  4. >I think gender-bending is just more acceptable in Asian societies.Oh–most definitely!In alot of Jin Yong martial arts novels, there is much cross-dressing by female characters into male ones – namely women who travel and want to avoid unwanted attention. And in real life, Chinese Opera Singers cross dress from male to female, because females are forbidden to act. However, despite this, all-female opera singer troupes existed, where some of the females dress up as men, like the Takarazuka theatres.Are you mainly referring to Hong Kong? I know that Shanghai repealed the ban in 1927–which was the year before the film by Shichuan Zhang, Huo shao hong lian si, was released. This film made Chinese cinematic history in that it heralded wuxia pien as cinematic style and featured a female in the lead protagonist role (it’s also one of the longest movies of all time). Sure, other wuxia films with lead female protagonists (e.g. Shao Zuiweng’s Nüxia Li Feifei; Shichuan Zhang Wuming Yingxiong) preceded Shichuan Zhang’s film, but I’m willing to bet that this one solidified the genre in ways the others didn’t.It always delights me to no end when some people discuss their [ostensibly] ethnocentric views about the recent “Kick-ass Babe” movies (e.g. Charlie’s Angels; Kill Bill; etc.) as being the new phenonmena in cinema (since obviously cinema means “Western” cinema) when these types of roles have been in Chinese Opera and Chinese cinema practically from the very beginning. Even though mainland China eventually banned films like when the wuxi pien (and eventually “Kung Fu”) genre became re-popularized in Hong Kong during the 60’s, actresses like Cheng Pei-pei lead the way.I’m realizing as I type this you probably already are familiar with most of this–but I think it needs to be said for other readers.However, despite this, all-female opera singer troupes existed, where some of the females dress up as men, like the Takarazuka theatres.In Thailand, the two main “classical” theatre genres, Khon and Lakhon used to be exclusively performed by males (in the former) and females (in the latter). Since all the content of Khon and most of the content of Lakhon are taken from the Ramakien (the Thai version of the Indian Ramayana epic) that meant each genre had developed specialists in roles of the opposite sex. There are parallels in traditional Japanese and Korean theatre as well.What I think is interesting about all of this is why couldn’t we have females play male roles in theatre (or cinema) in the US or throughout Europe. Obviously there are some–but in the “Western” dramatic/cinematic world it very much seems like roles are tied to gender and as such can only be played by the corresponding gender.I think it would be very interesting to see actresses that specialize in male roles or actors that specialize in female roles in Holywood or European cinema and drama. I guess it’s just another difference between “Eastern” and “Western” dramatic traditions, eh?And no, 13-Dots never “failed”. It was popular up to the last strip – if it weren’t, they wouldn’t be reprinting it. All that happened was that it ended, and the creator didn’t create any more strips. And there wasn’t any one else to follow in her footsteps, especially not with the influx of manga in the 70s onwards.I see. I had no idea why 13-Dots ended and just assumed that with the Hong Kong comics market’s attempt to expand internationally during the mid-to late 80’s that there might have been some connection. And now that I type this I don’t have any idea why I just assumed that–why couldn’t that genre have just stopped, without being “ousted,” on its own?You should write something about this on your blog. :DHaha! I’m pretty sure I will be bloggin about these, as soon as I can find alot more info about the genre–can we even call it a genre? were there more than just Lee Wai-chun and Tse Ling-ling writing comics like these?–and I need to find some of those reprints! Any suggestions where to look?

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  5. >Yup Shane–and damn that image on the Intro page at Tokyo pop looks good!I think I’m going to have to take a look through the Tokyopop catalogue to see how many manhwa and manhua they’re running. I guess I always thought it was a purely manga company. Thanks for the word.I guess there’s also a Priest RPG.

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