When Comic Books Depict Reality

As a medium, comic books fall somewhere between literature and film – it can have the depth of well-written literary works but stir emotions like powerful works of cinema. Despite the versatility of comics, the comic book scene in China still remains largely underdeveloped. But even in the stagnant state of affairs, Chinese comics still possess their own unique characteristics, especially independent productions. “For any comic book, being interesting is key,” says Newliu, a Sichuan-based independent comic book artist. But how do you define “interesting”? For every person you ask, you’ll most likely end up with a different explanation. But a crucial part of making a story “interesting” might begin with having full control of the creation and publishing process, a perk of being an independent comic artist. This allows for more experimental works, a sense of intimacy, and creative freedom. This freedom is partly what has allowed Newliu to create his highly compelling stories.


“漫画,有趣是最重要的。”可是“有趣”的标准是什么?一百个人就有一百种说法。漫画的表现方式介于文学与电影之间,既可以有文学作品的内涵又可以像电影般直指人心。虽说现在中国漫画的发展并不乐观,但也不乏一些有着自己特色的作品,特别是独立漫画。独立的含义是指漫画家独自创作甚至发行,这样创作出的作品往往更具实验性和私密性。同时,独立漫画往往也能带给创作者更多的空间。而这种空间,也正是漫画家Newliu能产出这么多好作品的其中一个重要原因。

Newliu’s comics often combine his vivid imagination with personal memories. His storytelling is highly influenced by cinema, and he has sourced inspiration from black-and-white silent films, arthouse films, and cult classics. But, to date, the movies that have influenced Newliu the most are the works of Takeshi Kitano. Quite similar to Kitano’s approach, many of Newliu’s messages are veiled and implicit. In addition, his narrative structure is also quite similar – he begins with a slow-progressing storyline that builds momentum before reaching an explosive climax, followed up with a wind-down period that brings the story to a calming conclusion.


Newliu的漫画大多出自他自己的回忆,再加上一些有趣的奇幻元素组合而成。他的作品深受电影的影响,比如黑色幽默电影或是文艺片和cult片。对他影响最深的是北野武的电影。Newliu的作品内容都很含蓄,就如北野武的电影一般,慢慢地进行着故事的推演,再将积蓄的能量一次性喷发出来,最后又缓缓地结束故事,很温柔也很安静。

In China, many comics illustrators who want to make livable wages while still creating must make compromises. They’ll work as teachers or take on commercial illustration gigs. There are very few comics artists who are full-time illustrators in the country. After all, due to the avant-garde and non-mainstream nature of independent comics, they only appeal to a niche readership. Newliu says that he himself is thinking about taking on a teaching job, stating that he sees it as simply a means of making money to support his drawing habits.


目前国内的独立漫画也处于一个较为尴尬的位置,漫画家为了生活必须向很多方面妥协,有的选择画商业插画有的选择做教师,只有少数漫画家坚持着全职漫画。毕竟独立漫画由于其实验性和他的特殊,并没有太多的读者。当Newliu说到这点时,他也表示自己正在考虑从事一些教师工作,称其为“挣钱养画”。

Undeterred by the challenges he faces, Newliu says that even if there’s only one person reading his comics, he’ll still give it his all. His first-ever independently released comic, Angry David, received a highly positive reception. It took him four years to put together the story, but such is the cost of creating a quality story. The unfortunate thing is that there is far less to gain for artists producing a well thought-out piece of work when compared with churning out fast, commercial works.


面对这些困难和挑战,Newliu也没想过要放弃。“就算有只有1名读者,我也要全力以赴。” Newliu的第一本单行本漫画《愤怒的大卫》评价颇高,这样一本优秀漫画的绘制就花费了4年时间,可是如此优秀的作品相较于其他商业漫画的回报来说实在是太少了,着实令人惋惜。

So considering the unfavorable situation for comic book artists in China, perhaps the melancholy that forms the foundation of Newliu’s stories is justified. His comics often revolve around a humble protagonist who puts in a great deal of effort towards his goal but still ends up failing; it’s a conclusion that won’t be satisfying for most readers, but it’s a realistic depiction of life and the challenges that people face in it. “Tragedy is life,” Newliu comments. And just maybe, seeing a story where the main character does all the right things but still faces failure is far more interesting than the overly optimistic, unrealistic drivel that dominates the mainstream. Newliu shares that his upcoming work, Lee and I, will be an equally bleak story. The comic will revolve around the starting of a business and all the failures and compromises along the way. Despite the depressing nature of Newliu’s comics, it feels normal to laugh at certain moments of his story. Perhaps this is confirmation of the saying: “Tragedy plus time equals comedy.”


或许正是受到中国漫画行业低落气氛的影响,Newliu的作品主题总是带着悲伤凄凉的情绪。卑微的主人翁拼尽全力最终失败——这样的情节的确不容易讨好读者,但人生不就这样吗?Newliu回答说“ 悲剧是人生的主旋律。”在失败中拼尽全力在我看来比市面上伟光正的主旋律可是要光面不少了。他还向我透露了一些关于他的新作品——《我和Lee》的细节,这是一个关于创业与失败和妥协的故事,还是那么的悲伤,放眼望去是一片片蓝色,可是不知怎么的,看他的作品我总能笑出声来,也许正应验了那句话:“最好的喜剧,他的内核注定是悲剧的吧。”

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Contributor: Sonic Yuan


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供稿人: Sonic Yuan