Vietnam’s comic market is showing optimistic signs as young people have jumped in and new efforts have been launched to add new life to the form.
Recently, a new comic series titled “Cam,” written and drawn by Bao Tin, a fresh graduate in graphic design from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Architecture, has created quite a stir among local netizens.
The series, which features gorgeous, richly colored drawings and meaningful dialog, depicts an adorable boy crippled by Agent Orange.
He loves listening to his grandfather’s wartime experiences as a soldier before bedtime every night.
“Cam,” which is Tin’s 60-page graduation dissertation, has been warmly embraced, particularly by young people, since its online appearance.
Tin shared that among the over 120 graduates from his school this year, around 20 chose comics or illustrations for their dissertations.
Among Tin’s friends, Ngoc Vinh opted to provide illustrations for the hugely popular children’s book “De Men Phieu Luu Ky (The Adventures of a Cricket), by late eminent author To Hoai.
Her great attention to detail, skills, and commitment have added a fresh breeze into the book, which has been translated into several different languages.
Another of Tin’s friends, Hoang Lap, also illustrated a well-loved long story titled, “Tieng Lanh Canh Va Nhung O Cua Sang Den” (The Clanks and Lit Windows), by young writer Luu Quang Minh.
The young man’s gentle strokes accentuate the deeply touching story, which revolves around the friendship between a physically challenged young girl and two poor boys who peddle noodle soup on the street.
Though they derive immense joy from their works, the three young people all express reluctance to adopt comic drawing as their lifelong career.
“We’d really love to pursue comic drawing to the end, but the profession has yet to earn its due recognition and rewards, while stringent censorship by local publishers is also a major deterrent to young artists like us,” Lap explained.
Thanks to the widespread impact of social networks, other popular locally-made comics, including “Chuyen Tao Lao Cua Vang Vang” (Vang Vang’s Nonsense), “Thu Gui Noi Buon” (Letters to Sadness), “Nhat Ky Cua Me” (A Mother’s Diary), and “Khong Coi” (No Horns), have also been uploaded for free.
These comics – which depict everyday stories, record a pregnant woman’s feelings and pain right before labor, and serve the community – have been warmly embraced by local netizens.
A promising market
In recent years, new efforts have been launched to cater to the Vietnamese youth’s rising demand for creating their own comics.
Sketchnote storytelling classes, part of the Toa Tau (Railroad Car) creativity learning hub in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Thanh District, have drawn ever-larger groups, particularly children and young people.
The students are instructed on how to create sketches and paintings to vividly tell stories of their own.
Nguyen Minh Nhut, the director of Tre (Young) Publisher, a local comic producer, said that in recent years his company has cooperated closely with comic artists to release Vietnamese-style comic series such as “Nhung Cau Chuyen Ve Bu Bu” (Stories about Bu Bu), and “Lich Su Viet Nam Bang Tranh” (Vietnamese History in Pictures), apart from works with Japanese “manga” influence.
“Our artists are truly talented and creative, but Vietnam still lacks a professional comic industry,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Hoang Anh Tuan, a co-founder of vetruyen.com (previously vncomicfarm.com), which is the country’s online Vietnamese comic “farm” launched in 2005, pointed out that Vietnamese comics have an entirely new market ahead.
“Many cultural elements of Vietnamese people have not yet been tapped into by comics. Only Vietnamese comic artists can really relate to how local readers feel and think. If they can make the most of the niche market’s potential, they will surely find their own way,” he observed.
Last month his forum, in coordination with Phan Thi, a local company, launched a comic publication titled “Dream Way.”
The publication is a collection of the most-read and sought-after comics on social networks, as well as winning works from a comic drawing contest called “The Gioi Uoc Mo” (The World of Dreams), which has been run by vetruyen.com for five seasons.
“Dream Way” also features art students’ acclaimed comic dissertations and projects.
“Hopefully the publication will be released on a monthly or quarterly basis. The young artists whose comics are featured in the publication will be paid royalties, which are not much in monetary value, but are mentally encouraging,” Tuan shared about his “Dream Way” project.
Early last month, the Vietnam Institute of Comics and Cartoons debuted in Ho Chi Minh City, with plans to hold professional training courses, and adopt hi-end comic drawing and cartoon-making techniques from other countries.