Darting Between Fiction & Reality

  • Book by Wo Shi Bai. Swipe to read.

“Ludicrous.”

“A fiction within a fiction.”

“Cuts between perspectives in time and space.”

“Just read through your comics, some of them are really deadpan and really funny, some of them I don’t quite get, some of them really hit you in the gut.”

“The author is 30? Hahaha.”

“The author’s got to be a woman…”

All these are messages and comments left by readers of the comics of Wo Shi Bai, whose pen name literally means “I Am White.” For his fans, these comments have just about become required reading. Sometimes they point out a detail in a comic you missed, sometimes they leave you marveling at the reader’s overactive imagination.

And sometimes Wo Shi Bai will write a few words in reply, such as: “Thanks for the messages. I notice most of the feedback comes from people who don’t understand the comics or don’t get the point. Honestly, I drew them to record boring everyday experiences, really ordinary stuff. The first part is about the book the main character’s reading, or related to his mental state.”


“好荒诞!”
“虚构性虚构。”
“时空视角切换。”
“刚刷了遍你的漫画,有些很冷很好笑,有些看不太懂,也有些一下击中心脏。”
“作者 30 岁?哈哈哈~”
“作者是女生吧……”

这些是读者看了我是白的漫画后,给他的留言和评论。这些内容几乎成了观看他的漫画之后,大家必不可少也会去阅读的一部分。甚至有的时候,这些留言会让你发现漫画里之前没有发现的一个细节,或者竟然读者的脑洞可以这样大之类的感叹。

有的时候我是白也会回复大家几句,比如:“谢谢楼上的留言,我发现大部分反馈是看不懂或者不知道点在哪里,其实我画这篇漫画就是记录一段日常琐事,很平淡的内容,开头一段是表达男主在看的书的内容,或者是与他的精神状态的联系。”

From Chuck & The Portal / 来自《查克与传送门》
From Chuck & The Portal / 来自《查克与传送门》

As a comic artist in the internet age, Wo Shi Bai has been in dialogue with these unseen critics from the start. You could even say that the very existence of these readers, both the ones who get it and the ones who don’t, is what gave Wo Shi Bai the chance to change his life and focus on his creative work. That’s jumbling the timeline, though: in reality, it was an assignment from Gummi Comics in early 2017 that led Wo Shi Bai to start drawing seriously. Yet as anyone who’s read his work knows, this kind of jumble is the precisely what makes his comics so engaging: they leap and dart across space and time. Comics have an expressiveness that gives him a great deal of creative freedom.

“After drawing a few comics,” he says, “I found that a lot of ideas I couldn’t express in a single image I could express easily in comic form.”


作为一个互联网时代的漫画家,我是白的创作从一开始就和这些看不见的读者紧密地联合在了一起,或者说正是有这些看不懂和看得懂的读者的存在,才得以让我是白遇到了一个改变了他生活和创作的机遇。

这样讲似乎有点时间逻辑混乱,其实是因为 2017 年初的一次来自于《软糖漫画》的约稿,才让我是白真正开始画起了漫画。但是如果你也看过他的那些漫画,你就会明白这样的混乱恰恰是他漫画里一个很有趣的特质。从一个空间跳跃到另一个空间,从一个时间穿越到另一个时间。漫画的这种表达方式,给了他很大的创作自由,“在画了一些漫画之后,我发现我有蛮多单幅画面传达不了的想法可以用漫画的形式顺畅表达。”

  • Swipe to read.

  • This is my last story for Gummi Comics.

  • When I was coming up with the story, I started getting a migraine.

  • It usually takes three to four hours before I feel better.

  • I’ll feel better with the lights off. I’ll just sit in the dark and wait for the headache to pass.

  • Not doing anything, I began to drift into the recesses of my memories.

  • In 1997, my mom went to Japan to work at a clothing factory there. Seeing her off at the airport was the first time I took a taxi.

  • I was in first grade at the time, and I got extremely carsick. I regretted going along to see her off. (If I’d known I wouldn’t have come…)

  • My dad had been in a hospital long-term, and for the next three years I lived with my grandparents, aunt, and uncle.

  • All I did the whole day was play with the kids living nearby.

  • We brewed concoctions with pills, dead insects, and leaves.

  • Stuck firecrackers in toads’ mouths.

  • There was a kid a few years younger than us, and we didn’t always include him.

  • To grab our attention, he’d pretend to poop or masturbate.

  • Most of the time in the summer I’d watch T.V. by myself at home.

  • Sometimes I’d climb out of the second-floor windows and get lost gazing up at the sky.

  • The rooftop panels were burning hot in the sun.

  • In the building across the way, I’d sometimes see a little girl.

  • We’d undress for each other.

  • My memory is hazy. Maybe it was just me who undressed.

  • At the time, landlines had just become commonplace.

  • But I was terrified of picking up the phone. I don’t know why. Whenever it rang, I’d throw a blanket over it to muffle the sound.

  • Or sometimes I’d quietly pick it up and listen for a bit before gently hanging up. (Hello? Hello? Hello? That’s weird, someone definitely picked up…)

  • One particularly boring afternoon, I went through every corner of our house.

  • In a bedside cabinet, I found a pile of five-mao coins. I exchanged them for a kind of popsicle called “Mr. Banana.”

  • I also dug up my aunt and uncle’s book that taught newly married couples how to maintain their relationship.

    I also flipped through my aunt and uncle’s

  • At the time, Hong Kong just transferred its sovereignty back to China. By the time Macau was handed back over, my mom moved back.

  • I used the allowance money she gave me to buy accessories for my Mini 4WD racer.

  • Not long after, this entire neighborhood where I grew up was demolished.

  • Revisiting the area, there are no traces of my childhood to be found.

  • I think the migraine is easing up.

  • I think I still remember the phone number from that old house. I wonder what would happen if I called it.

Wo Shi Bai was born in Shanghai’s Songjiang district, and in a comic titled Migraine, he talks about his childhood there. The main character, drawn simply as a boy with hair, represents the author himself. But in Song, another comic, the story he tells is fictional, and for that fiction, he created a character with nothing but eyes and a mouth. That’s right: no eyebrows, nose, ears, or hair.

“I only kept the eyes and mouth, and added a human outline, to have a minimal vehicle of expression. That’s how the blank little guy came about,” he says.

Readers often think this blank character – xiao bai ren (小白人) – is Wo Shi Bai, because their names are so similar.

“Some of my moods and states come through in that character,” he concedes, “So there’s a part of ‘myself’ inside. Really, every writer’s characters probably have something of themselves inside.”


我是白出生在上海松江,在他的一个漫画《偏头痛》里,他讲述了他童年在松江的往事,里面的那个有头发的男孩角色就是作者自己。而在另一个漫画《Song》里,他又讲述了一个虚构的故事,并且为了这个虚构的故事,他创作了一个只有眼睛和嘴巴的角色(是的,连眉毛、鼻子、耳朵还有头发都没有),“只保留眼睛和嘴巴,加上人的轮廓这些用来‘演出’最低限度的‘工具’,小白人就这样诞生了。”

很多时候,读者也会把小白人和我是白本人联系起来,因为他们的名字太像了。“通过 ta,我的一些状态和情绪具象化了,所以有一部分的‘我’在ta里面。实际上每个作者创作的人物都有一部分自己存在吧。”

  • Swipe to read.

Wo Shi Bai’s comics always alternate between these two figures. Maybe the one with the hair represents reality, while the blank one represents fiction, and only by combining both their stories can you come close to getting a complete picture of Wo Shi Bai. You start to see how much he enjoys this “back-and-forth” creative style – darting back and forth between fiction and reality. It’s like the series of illustrations he once drew called Chuck and the Portal. The feeling of being here one moment and flying somewhere else the next is what he likes best about his creative work. “When I’m at home drawing by myself, I feel like I’m on some remote island,” he says. It’s a solitary, quiet feeling, and I get lost in my thoughts and my creative work. Especially when it’s raining – then I feel even more cut off. The rain adds another barrier between you and the outside world.”


我是白的漫画总是在这样的 2 个主角里摇摆,有头发的那个或许代表的是现实,而那个小白人代表了虚构。而将这两个不同角色的漫画故事混合在一起看,似乎才能更为接近一个完整的“我是白”,你会发现其实他很享受这样的一种“穿行”式的创作方式,在现实和虚构里穿行。就像他曾经画过一套名叫《查克与传送门》插画作品一样,这种忽而在这里,忽而又飞到了那里的感觉,恰恰是他在创作时最享受的时刻。“一个人在家里画画的时候,我感到仿佛置身孤岛。这样孤独而平静的感受让我完全沉浸在思考和创作中。特别是下雨的时候,更加会觉得和外面隔绝。下雨把你和外面的世界又隔了一道屏障。”

  • Closet by Wo Shi Bai. Swipe to read.

  • When my grandmother was in my great grandmother’s body

  • My mother was already in my grandmother’s body.

  • And at the same time, I was already in my mother’s body.

  • But there’s no one inside my body because I’m a boy.

  • I didn’t quite understand how people were born into this world, so that was my theory.

  • The grown-ups told me that babies are born after you get married, but this didn’t feel like a satisfying answer.

  • Isn’t getting married just a bunch of people getting together to eat a meal?

  • How does eating food produce babies?

  • So the only explanation is that everyone already exists inside other people. I was quite happy with myself after coming up with this answer.

  • I thought about all of this inside a closet at my kindergarten.

  • Ten minutes ago, I talked in class, and my teacher put me in here as a timeout.

  • I didn’t feel like I was being punished. It felt fun.

  • Seeing all my peers outside, all well-behaved, and me not having to be part of it gave me inexplicable joy.

  • On my way home, I shared the baby theory with my mom. After hearing it, she laughed, and that’s when I knew something was off about my answer.

  • A few years later, an older kid in the neighborhood told me the truth of it all.

  • And much to my surprise, it turns out the answer was hidden in the curse words that we commonly used.

  • Since then, nothing has shocked me more.

In fall 2017, Wo Shi Bai held his first solo exhibition in Shanghai where he met his online fans for the first time. “Maybe because everyone there was a fan of my comics, I felt they all had a few similar traits: they were delicate, shy, and quiet,” he says. Yet they may have even more in common with the blank character in his art. Maybe they too go to work by themselves, come home by themselves, eat takeout by themselves, read by themselves. Maybe they have also a pet at home and a fantasy world inside their heads. And maybe in Wo Shi Bai’s comics they find a resonance with their lives that they’ve long been missing.


在 2017 年秋天,我是白在上海举行了他的一次个人展览,在这个展览上,也是他第一次和互联网上的粉丝见面。“可能是因为喜欢我的这些漫画的缘故,所以感觉大家身上都有一种相似的特征:细腻,害羞,还有安静”。不过,他们和漫画故事里的那个“小白人”,也许真的有不少的相似性,也许他们也是一个人上班,一个人下班,一个人住,一个人吃便当,一个人看书,然后家里也有个小宠物,在脑海里有一个幻想的世界,而我是白的这些漫画,让他们找到了那种久违的共鸣。

  • 158 Days by Wo Shi Bai. Swipe to read.

  • After every shower, I have to wipe the floor dry.

  • My bathroom has a slanted floor, so a lot of the water ends up not going down the drain.

  • The carpenter didn’t realize this until after he finished laying all the floor tiles.

  • He said: (Sorry about that).

  • It takes me five minutes to dry the floor every single day.

  • Over the course of a year, that adds up to 76 hours.

  • Over 50 years, that adds up to 158 days.

  • 158 days…

  • In Interstellar, there was a planet where the entire surface was covered in shallow water.

  • If I had to wipe water off the floor without any sleep or rest for 158 days straight, I’d imagine the scene would look something like that.

  • (Drip drip)

  • This is some kind of punishment.

  • It’s a sentence passed down to me by that carpenter.

  • To be precise, it’s the result of him mentally checking out for a moment.

  • Some stray thought that distracted him.

  • (A-choo!)

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Contributor: Dawen Ding


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微信: WoShiBai

 

供稿人: Dawen Ding