Vietnamese comics reached their zenith in 2003, when the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works entered Viet Nam and publishers exploited comic works by Vietnamese authors.
Since then, for a decade sales of comic magazines with Vietnamese stories gradually dwindled, and most of comic artists were unable to make a living from their career.
By the end of 2013, Vietnamese comics revived again with the launch of the historical comic series Long Than Tuong (The Dragon General) by painters Nguyen Thanh Phong and Nguyen Khanh Duong. They have not looked back since.
Viet Nam News chats with Duong, who initiated the comic online alliance Comicola, one of leading comics' companies in the country.
Could you comment on the present comics market in Viet Nam?
At present, in Viet Nam, many of the comics by Vietnamese authors are targeting children, between 13 and 14.
Meanwhile, many adults who have read Japanese comics for years, have always want to read Vietnamese comics, but are unable to find any. It means there is no market for adults interested in comics right now. I mean, there is a lack of Vietnamese comics for adults.
What do you think of the development of comics in Viet Nam in a few years?
I think there will be more and better comics in the bookshops which will cater to all ages. The online and web comic trend is inevitable. That is why we need to consider this a chance to develop and popularise comics.
Each of the comic books will accompany an "ecosystem" of souvenirs, toys, and display models, apart from cartoon films… If we follow this trend, the vitality of a comic book will last longer.
What do you think about the Viet Nam Comics Day 2012?
The event was the first of its kind, where Vietnamese comic artists appeared together. It was the first time that readers of comics had a chance to talk and have exchanges with artists. In each of the two cities [Ha Noi and HCM City], there were around 2,000 readers of comics who had joined it.
Could you tell us about your company Comicola?
Our Comicola project aims to nurture and develop Vietnamese comic artists in order to increase the quality of Vietnamese comics. We are applying community fund-raising to push up the creativity of cartoonists.
A year after it was established, Comicola has successfully raised funds for producing and publishing more than 10 comic books, which accompanied a series of souvenirs and toys. The total funds collected for Comicola's projects reached nearly VND1.8 billion (US$80,000).
The fund has been used to create comics, and for printing and distribution, and more importantly to produce souvenirs and toys, which were then sent back to the donors.
The accompanied gifts were highly creative. For example, with the Long Than Tuong series, Comicola raised nearly VND600 million. The company designed a set of high quality miniatures of the characters.
I hope that with the establishing of Comicola, Vietnamese comic artists can now make a living on their work and can spend more time, energy and creativity on comic books. — VNS