- Cartoonist, Fighter, Advertiser
or Financial Advisor?
By Wang Lin
The cartoon industry is a multi-billion dollar business in many countries across Asia. Japan and Hong Kong are recognized for their established cartoon industries and the products which these markets publish are read all over the world. Yet, Macau’s cartoon industry is still in its relative infancy and does not seem to be poised for further development in spite of the best efforts of some of the area’s most recognized cartoonists. Most of Macau’s cartoonists are actually employed in other fields in order to pay their bills.
“We are striving to make ends meet,” Huang Tianjun, one of Macau’s most recognized cartoonists says. Huang adds, “Although the market is large, the people who pursue their dreams in the cartoon industry get no money or profit from their target audiences because they read cartoons from other regions.”
According to Huang, there are approximately 200 individuals working in Macau’s cartoon industry and locally produced publications are primarily funded by the authors themselves.
In order to have their work distributed locally in Macau, Huang says, “Artists spend as much as several months’ salary from drawing to actual publication.”
Huang also admits that the actual cost of the final publication can be quite high for customers and this presents a barrier for local artists. Quality printing for cartoon publications can result in the cost of the book being about 25 patacas. Huang and other part-time cartoonists spent four months and more than 100,000 patacas publishing the first issue of their cartoon magazine Show Time. These expenses covered the drawing, designing, printing, and even the delivery.
In spite of Macau’s market for the cartoon industry consisting of more than 200 cartoon bookstores, these outlets primarily market materials from Hong Kong, Japan, and Mainland China, rather than anything originated from Macau itself.
Thus, the consensus is that while Macau is a promising growth market for the cartoon industry, the trends in the local market result in a poor local cartoon industry in terms of locally generated cartoon art.
Regarding the local consumer preference for internationally produced cartoon publications, Huang admits that local consumers have little knowledge of Macau cartoon industry. Their perception that “things from outside are always better than those from Macau” impedes the development of the cartoon industry in Macau.
The fact is that many of Macau’s most recognized and even celebrated cartoonists pursue other forms of employment in order to make a living. Huang, who is the President of the recently formed Macau Cartoon Association, is employed full-time with American International Assurance (AIA) as a senior financial adviser.
Huang equates this dismal state of affairs with Macau’s cartoon industry to Macau’s track record of locally produced cultural activities in general. To view Macau the way Huang sees it, Macau can be said is “a place without culture industries.”
“Macau government’s unwillingness to support the cartoon industry is the main problem,” says Huang, who cites numerous examples of the lack of government support. “They would rather invest a hundred millions into the gambling industry rather than ‘wasting’ one penny in the Cartoon industry!”
It is also apparent that not all is lost with Macau and its nascent cartoon industry. While some of the opportunities in the local industry might not be as glamorous as Japan’s numerous cartoon publications, there is a growing reliance on local originated cartoon art.
The local Department of Health has recently begun utilizing cartoon art in order to heighten awareness of certain health issues such as AIDS. These cartoons are used to depict the negative aspects of AIDS as well as the negative aspects of other dangers that fall within the responsibility of other government departments such as the Education Department and the legal system.
These and other opportunities have begun to provide more avenues for young cartoonists who could otherwise not develop their talents and skills in Macau where the opportunities for cartoon related employment are few.
Huang recently attended a forum in which a series of cartoon productions and animated movies such as “Fuwa’s Travel in Olympic Games” was the topic of discussion. He notes that this experience indicated that mainland China’s cartoon industry is flourishing and that this should be the case for Macau’s own cartoon industry as well.
Huang’s experience in Macau’s cartoon industry is not unusual. Where Huang works as a financial adviser for an insurance company, other prominent cartoonists in Macau work in advertising or quainter activities such as Thai Kickboxing.
Jet Wu is a manager at Nietzsche Advertising Company in Macau and although he is perhaps Macau’s most recognized cartoonist, he still supports himself through his advertising artwork. Wu is the winner of the first Golden Dragon Awards dubbed as the “Oscar” for the Chinese cartoon industry which honors outstanding Chinese comic artists both local and abroad.
In his spare time, Wu also does Thai Kickboxing and is a trainer as well. While Wu admits that “other people laugh at me, saying I am very foolish,” he could not be more content pursuing his cartoon-related activities part-time while working to support himself through advertising and Thai Boxing.
Considering Wu’s long list of internationally recognized clients such as Armani, Esprit, Adidas, and Reebok, there is little doubt that Macau’s young cartoon industry has access to some amazing talents.
Additionally, with the Macau Cartoon Association being founded and some of the area’s leading cartoonists attending the China Cartoon Industry Forum, it seems that Macau’s cartoon industry may soon have full-time cartoonists rather than its current mix of fighters, advertisers and financial advisers.