The publishing house pushing Vietnamese comic books

April 19, 2023 - 10:47
Nguyễn Kim Dung, head of Picture Book Editing Desk at the publishing house, spoke about the challenges and opportunities within the comic book publishing industry.
Nguyễn Kim Dung, head of Kim Đồng Publishing House's Picture Book Editing Desk. Photo

Vietnamese comic books remain a niche market, with the bulk of publications coming from the Kim Đồng Publishing House.

Nguyễn Kim Dung, head of Picture Book Editing Desk at the publisher, spoke about the challenges and opportunities within the comic book publishing industry.

In recent years, more books with images and illustrations have been published and received well by readers. Could you tell me about the distinction between comic books, books with illustrations and artbooks?

They can be distinguished. Books with illustrations have literary content comprising of short sentences and paragraphs with accompanying illustrations to help toddlers and little children through pictures to feel content, foster their imagination, and nurture their aesthetics.

Comic or manga is a form of storytelling with small picture frames with or without dialogue. Each page contains small pictures like a slow-motion movie.

Generally, art books are a collection of an artist's work.

Some say that reading comic books harm children's development. What do you think about this?

The world's big and long-standing comic industries, such as France and Belgium or Asian countries Japan and South Korea, have countless comic publications. They are not only for children but also for mature readers; that has proven the value of comics.

The readers like comic books because of their fast growth and beautiful pictures. It is easy to read and understand the message that writer wants to convey.

In the big comic industries in the world, comic books are for all readers and all subjects.

What comic books are favoured by Vietnamese readers currently? And could you tell me about publishing Vietnamese comic books?

The Kim Đồng Publishing House has republished the French popular Asterix. Vietnamese readers have received the book well since it was first published 20 years ago.

We also buy the copyright to publish popular South Korean comic books.

Vietnamese comic books such as Việt Nam History and Việt Nam Folk Tales have been published and favoured by readers for years.

Vietnamese comic books with modern subjects are a few.

Comic books have many subjects for different ages, but Vietnamese comic books are still mainly for children and very few for young readers.

Why are Vietnamese comic books so few in the market?

Việt Nam does not yet have a school or faculty for comic book artist training. Almost comic book artists are self-taught.

For a set of comics, it takes a long time and hard work for each person and each stage.

Vietnamese comic books are made by artists who write scripts and draw pictures. I think the artists take advantage of their skills to make comic books.

What does the Kim Đồng Publishing House do to encourage artists to make comic books?

We actively cooperate with foreign organisations to hold exhibitions and exchange comic book writing.

The publisher and Wallonie-Bruxelles in Việt Nam have successfully co-organised three comic books festivals. Over the past ten years, Danish and Vietnamese artists had chances to exchange experiments under a project funded by the Danish government.

An exhibition entitled The Magical World of Czech Children's Book Illustrators was held last September in Hà Nội.

The publisher makes an effort to organise exhibitions and exchanges, helping Vietnamese artists to get access to developed comic books industries and contributing to building a new generation of Vietnamese comic book artists.

Sơn, Goal series published last year was a fruit of a project between Kim Đồng and the Japanese Kadokawa Publishing House and artist Baba Tamio. The project gave Kim Đồng's editors a chance to learn to make a set of comic books.

We will continue cooperation with Japanese partners to publish other comic books with Vietnamese cuisine subjects.

We also work with Vietnamese artists to publish Vietnamese comic books. In 2014, artist Đào Hải - author of the series Tí Quậy (Naughty Tí), passed away while the ninth episode was on draft.

After that, we invited artist Quang Toàn and writers Hoài Thu and Dương Thúy Quỳnh to continue making the series, and Naughty Tí became one of the most favoured Vietnamese comic books.

The Kim Đồng Publishing House always welcomes comic books by Vietnamese artists, and we are ready to invest in good works. - VNS

'Tí Quậy' (Naughty Tí) is one of the most popular Vietnamese comic books. Photo courtesy of the Kim Đồng Publishing House