IN a perfect world, we would all be in jobs that we truly enjoy and get paid for it. Few people can claim to be so fortunate. Director Tsui Hark can consider himself one of the lucky ones. For more than two decades he has been able to indulge his lifelong passion for film-making, setting new standards for Hong Kong movies and making two Hollywood features in the process. A few years ago, he was able to merge his artistic passion with his interest in technology to produce Hong Kong's first animated feature, A Chinese Ghost Story. Now he is taking that combination a step further as he puts the finishing touches to his new comic book, Red Snow - due out in bookstores next month. 'I've always liked to read comics but never thought I would be working on my own comic book,' says the 49-year-old director. 'A lot of people in the Hong Kong film industry are huge comic fans, I think. You can find a lot of people drawing comics all the time. 'I read comic books from everywhere - Japan, Korea, the West, Hong Kong, China. It's such a direct medium. When I was small, my parents were always scolding me when I read comics. Parents were more strait-laced then. They didn't like their children's heads to be filled with fantasies and preferred them to read books. 'But the development of technology has allowed people to stretch their imagination. Books are only one part of it. The advancement of technology has lifted comic books from underground status.' Although Tsui was more involved with the conceptual part of Red Snow than the actual drawing - he has an illustrator - he is said to be quite an accomplished artist. He has tackled some of the simpler drawings in Red Snow himself. Those close to Tsui know he used to do oil paintings when he was at university in the 1970s. But a fire that broke out in his dormitory left all his precious creations in ashes and disheartened him so much that he stopped painting. It was only recently that he started sketching again. Red Snow is adapted from a martial-arts novel by Hung Yiu-wah who died in 1985. Better known by his pseudonym, Ku Lung, Hung had penned quite a few novels, such as Chor Lau Heung, which was made into a popular television series. Like many of his novels, Red Snow revolves around the strife and competition in the martial-arts world in ancient China. As the good battle the bad, news comes of the existence of an invincible weapon, the Moon Sword, that could help its owner dominate the world. Tsui's choice of Red Snow for his comic book adaptation was more for nostalgic reasons than anything else. 'It was the first book by Ku Lung that I read. The memory is a fascinating one and I wanted to preserve it. And, also, I had never adapted any of Ku Lung's books before,' said the man who gave us such films as Peking Opera Blues and Once Upon A Time In China. The idea was originally developed as a film project but it occurred to Tsui that it would be fun to do a comic book as well. The film project is in preparation and still something that Tsui is keen to create. Despite having remade his original A Chinese Ghost Story into an animated feature, Tsui says he has no intention of embarking on an animated feature of Red Snow. 'Doing a comic book and an animated feature are two different things,' says the auteur, who is presently shooting his new local action film, Time And Tide (working title). He discovered that working on the comic was not as time-consuming as he had imagined. 'I think whenever we read a book, our mind already forms a picture of the characters and how he or she dresses. So you don't really have to start from scratch. It's all based on our imagination.' The computer, which has become an integral part of film-making, has come in very useful for the development of the comic book. Initial sketches are all hand-drawn and then fed into the computer for colour and effects. It goes through several levels of work before the final product is achieved. About 10 people worked for more than six months to produce Red Snow. Much of the $2 million investment went into the artwork and the computer software programs needed for illustrations. Fortunately, however, Tsui's Film Workshop is already quite well stocked with computer hardware. When A Chinese Ghost Story was released, there were hints of Japanese manga (comics) influence in the characters. Tsui admits that while it was not intentional, many of the animators were from Japan and 'the style was so strong that it overshadowed what we wanted to portray'. With Red Snow, however, he has intentionally steered clear of Japanese manga but says there are too many similarities between Japanese and Chinese culture for there not to be an overlap. 'With Siu Sin [in A Chinese Ghost Story], maybe we were not experienced enough. We wanted to create a lot of effects and ended up with that result. 'But our cultures overlap too much. The question is: should we negate our own culture because of these similarities? I don't think that's the right attitude. Instead we should use it to create something unique.'