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‘Voltron’ spin-off comic brings back nostalgic memories, causes copyright concerns in Vietnam

Tuesday, September 10, 2019, 15:53 GMT+7
‘Voltron’ spin-off comic brings back nostalgic memories, causes copyright concerns in Vietnam
A few pages from the 'Dung si Hesman' comic series

A 27-year-old Vietnamese comic series based loosely on the popular 'Voltron' animated series of the 1980s is getting republished in Vietnam, stirring up excitement among a generation of readers while prompting worries about copyright infringement.

Dung si Hesman (Hero Hesman) was a 160-volume comic series by ‘adaption arist’ Hung Lan. It was published for the first time in Vietnam in 1992.

The sci-fi adventure superhero comic follows the protagonist, Hesman the robot, as he battles evil forces in the galaxy in a fictional future set in the 23rd century.

It was a huge hit among Vietnamese children and youth at a time when entertainment options were scarce in the absence of computer games and the Internet, with its circulation reaching 160,000 copies per volume at times.

Many Vietnamese millennials recall queuing up and fighting with other kids at local bookstores to rent the newest volumes of Dung si Hesman when they first got out.

Collecting spin-off items were also popular with young Hesman fans at the time.

A full collection of 160 'Dung si Hesman' volumes is seen in this photo by Erik Le.

A full collection of 160 'Dung si Hesman' volumes is seen in this photo by Erik Le.

The nostalgic comic series is getting republished this summer by the Van Hoc (Literature) Publishing House and distributed by Hanoibooks, using scanned images of the original comic, the publisher and distributor said at a launch event on Sunday.

The first five volumes of the reprinted Dung si Hesman have already been available at bookstores nationwide since August.

The 2019 version will also run for 160 volumes like the original series, with an expected circulation of 2,000 copies per volume.

Its artist, Hung Lan, expressed his hope that the 2019 republication would appeal not only to nostalgic millennials but also to Vietnam’s Gen Z readers.

Artist Hung Lan (C) and fans pose for a photo at the launch event of the reprinted ‘Dung si Hesman’ comics. Photo: Mi Ly / Tuoi Tre

Artist Hung Lan (C) and fans pose for a photo at the launch event of the reprinted ‘Dung si Hesman’ comic. Photo: Mi Ly / Tuoi Tre

News of the reprint has caused fresh concerns about the comic’s violation of the copyrigh of the source material, an American animated series dating back to the 1980s.

Dung si Hesman is adapted by Hung Lan from Voltron: Defender of the Universe, an animated series produced by World Events Productions (WEP) in the U.S. from 1984 to 1985.

Hung Lan, 63, said he modeled his characters on those in the Voltron series and renamed the protagonist Hesman, a pun on ‘He is [a] man,' to appeal to Vietnamese readers.

The Vietnamese artist added he only derived inspiration from Voltron for the first four volumes of Dung si Hesman, while the rest of the series are the results of his creativity at work.

The artist was referring to additional characters and original plots for more than 150 installments of the series.

A 'Voltron' artwork is seen in this photo. Photo: WEP

A 'Voltron' artwork is seen in this photo. Photo: WEP

A representative of Hanoibooks told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper it has worked solely with Hung Lan to have the comic republished and has not contacted WEP regarding copyright issues.

Hung Lan said he has always credited himself as an “adaptation artist” and not the “author” of the Hesman series.

He has only received “symbolic” royalties for his work, the man noted.

In a recent interview with Van Nghe Cong An newspaper, Lan underlined that right from the publication of the very first book in 1992, he required that the work be credited as “Hung Lan adapts from Voltron animated movie” on the comic book cover, never claiming he is the original author.

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