|Back in action: A page featuring Long, the main character in the Long Than Tuong comics series, that the authors are trying to revive with readers' money. — Photo longthantuong.com
HA NOI (VNS) — Readers nation-wide can look forward to enjoying the resurrection of a historical comic series by funding it directly in response to a first-of-its-kind appeal made by Vietnamese authors.
The authors of Long Than Tuong (The Dragon General), are asking readers to make financial contributions in return for a copy of the comic book, a poster, a handwritten letter of thanks from the authors and other souvenirs depending on how much money they donate.
This is the first time in Viet Nam that authors are trying to raise funds from readers to publish comics.
Painter Nguyen Thanh Phong, initiator of the project, said they hope that readers can help them bring out a high-quality product not only by contributing money, but also ideas that can be incorporated.
In 2004, Phong and his friend Nguyen Khanh Duong created Long Than Tuong and published it in the Truyen Tranh Tre (Comics for Youth) magazine.
Long Than Tuong is a historical story with some fictional details about a young man named Long (Dragon) who lived during the reign of the Tran Dynasty (1225-1400), a time when the country was facing a second invasion by Mongolians. This period saw one of the most heroic chapters scripted in the nation's history.
Long has a mission to help the court fight against the invaders. He is granted some magical powers and trained to complete the mission. The authors wanted to give readers a peek into the resistance history of the country and the glorious victories won against invaders.
The comic was welcomed by readers, but the narration of Long's story was cut short when the magazine suspended publication ten years ago.
Phong and Duong were just 18 then, and had to find other things to do after finishing the 15th chapter of the Long Than Tuong series.
Phong continued his career of a painter of comics, while Duong became a scriptwriter for films.
Now that both friends have achieved fame and success in their fields, they decided to return to the interrupted Long Than Tuong series and appeal to the readers for funds.
The project has been joined by 18-year-old painter Nguyen My Anh, who won the first prize in a comic creation contest held by Shonen Jump, a leading magazine for comic fans in Japan, when she/he was just 15.
The authors said they are consulting researcher Tran Quang Duc on the attire and picture of characters. At 29, Duc is the youngest scholar on costumes in Viet Nam, and his book, Ngan Nam Ao Mu (A Study of Costumes in 1,000 Years), was well received last year.
The Long Than Tuong series will be published in five volumes with around 600 pages in total, the authors say.
They expect to raise VND300 million (US$ 14,280) in two months (beginning April 1) for the first volume.
They say that if they do not raise enough money by the deadline, they will refund all the money they have collected.
They also say that some publishing houses have expressed interest in investing in the Long Than Tuong project but they want to do it on their own.
"Crowd-funding for cultural projects is popular in many places, but unfamiliar in Viet Nam," Phong said.
"By doing this, authors can create independently. We work for the readers and for our passion, not on the order of any publishing house."
He noted that the new approach enables authors to reach out to the fans directly. They also have all rights to develop the work and full control over which media channels, delivery, and distribution methods to use.
"We have seen how readers like the comics and responded to our initiative," Phong said.
"Happily, we got half of the desired money within two weeks and contributions are still coming in."
Phong said he's optimistic that the project will succeed and the story will soon reach readers.
Scriptwriter Duong said crowd-funding helps guarantee high quality, and allows authors can act on suggestions made by readers.
"It's said that crowd-funding shortens the gap between creators and their audience," Duong said.
He said they have received a lot of support from readers who had read the first chapters of Long Than Tuong 10 years ago.
"Some elderly people don't read comics anymore, but they have still donated to the project with expectations that we make a good series. They want to encourage young authors and our pioneering project helps them do this," he said.
Observers say the fact is that Vietnamese readers don't have many historical stories to read, so the project to make a comics series featuring Vietnamese history has received favourable attention and encouragement from the public.
The authors are hoping to make a big impact with their project, drawing upon global marketing trends.
"When we have control of making the comics, we can also make other related products like posters, characters' figurines, T-shirts and bookmarks to meet the demand of the comics fans," Duong said.
Bui Tuan, a student in Australia, sent AUD$305 ($290) for the project.
"I expect that it will help the team and I believe that they would make an advance for Vietnamese comics," he said.
The project guarantees transparency by posting daily updates on its official website longthantuong.com. People can log on and see for themselves the progress made in generating funds, keep up with the authors' work and find behind-the-scenes stories. — VNS