My wish is to turn the company into an oriental type of Walt Disney.
TONY Wong Chun-loong, Hongkong's former comics king, is back in the thick of it. This time, his adversary is none other than Jademan Comics, the publishing group he founded 20 years ago. At stake is the territory's $400 million comic book market.
Barely two months after his release from jail, the former chairman of Jademan Holdings has set up another comics publishing firm, Jade Dynasty Publications, and launched a new comic book.
Like in the comic books that made a name for him and Jademan, the storyline for his new creation - Superhero in the Century - features titanic battles between the forces of good and evil. The action is set in the 21st century and about a war between fourempires for control of the world.
There are new comic books on the way, with Legend of an Emperor set for launch next month. The drawing are being done by Mr Wong and the story is said to be autobiographical.
Seated in his leased 1,200-square-foot office at North Point, Mr Wong has come down a long way from the heady days when he commanded the Jademan empire and a $1 billion fortune.
Still, he exuded confidence as he spoke of his plans to rebuild his comic empire within the next three years.
''My wish is to turn the company into an oriental type of Walt Disney,'' he said, puffing on the ever-present cigarette.
His dream is to do movies featuring his cartoon creations and merchandising, and, eventually, to develop theme parks. It is an idea he mulled over while in prison.
Mr Wong was found guilty in 1991 of conspiracy to defraud Jademan Holdings. After serving 18 months of a two-and-a-half-year sentence in Stanley Prison, Mr Wong is noticeably slimmer.
He said he had lost weight since release from jail because of work. Stacks of his sketches litter his table - evidence of his effort to rebuild his business empire.
Mr Wong said one of his targets was to capture 50 per cent of the territory's comics market. Jademan currently controls 55 per cent of the market.
''I have a large following of readers. My name alone is a selling point,'' he said.
His strategy is to upgrade the packaging of his comic books and sell them at a reasonable price.
Jade Dynasty Publications was set up in early July. Readers say Superhero in the Century bears some resemblance to the latest best-selling Jademan comic-strip.
According to Mr Wong, that is not surprising since many of the artists on his payroll come from Jademan.
However, it remains unclear if Jademan Comics will, in the long term, be Mr Wong's ally or his enemy. But he is excited about the prospect of competing with Jademan.
He does not, however, rule out the possibility of co-operating with Jademan in the future on both publications and comic books, but said it was too early to say at this stage.
Mr Wong remains the second largest shareholder in Culturecom (formerly called Jademan Holdings), holding 129 million shares, about 19 per cent of the company.
However, with legal proceedings under way, Mr Wong is not free to do anything with his shares until matters are settled.
The largest shareholder in Culturecom is Sing Tao, headed by tycoon Sally Aw-sian, who was formerly Mr Wong's backer.
Mr Wong declined to disclose the shareholding structure of the new company. ''You may describe me as the leader of the company,'' said Mr Wong, though his title in the company is chief artist - of 10 in the company.
Mr Wong denied that the hero of eagerly awaited A Legend of an Emperor is something of a self portrait.
The story is about a man in ancient times, who becomes an emperor. It is the story of his trials and tribulations, and his success.
But there is an autobiographical column in the book, which could be made into a comic series in future.
Mr Wong said the autobiographical column would trace his career as an artist of a comic strip from the age of 15, to his adoption of the pen-name ''Jademan'' and end with his his time in jail.
MR WONG, now 43, said he had suffered five failures in the past 28 years of his life - the first four of which happened before he set up of Jademan Publishing Company.
''The only hitch after Jademan's formation was being in jail,'' he said.
He said that he had spent all his money on legal expenses. Where he once had $1 billion in the bank, Mr Wong now owes tens of millions.
''I have had to start from scratch. The tragic events came so suddenly, transforming my good fortune to bad just like that,'' he said.
He was on the verge of tears as he recollected his time in jail. He confided that he had missed his children, two boys and a girl, very much.
He described the life in jail as dull. He was assigned to make envelopes, 100 every day, but the mind-numbing work allowed him to think about his mistakes deeply.
Mr Wong said a fortune-teller had told him that he would encounter some tragedy at the age of 39, and he was proved right.
The fortune-teller also told him that, if he put effort into his work, and was careful not to make mistakes, he would rebound in a second successful career.
Mr Wong stressed that he had no intention to cheat anybody. He said his mistakes had come from being given unsuitable financial advice.
He used Jademan Holding's money on a short-term basis to solve a cash flow problem resulting from the stockmarket crash of 1987.
''It's unfair to put all the blame on me. That kind of financial arrangements come from those senior executives and so-called professional financial consultants,'' said Mr Wong.
Only he and his sister were found guilty in this case.
He admitted that ''of course, the decision-making was in my hands, and I made a wrong one''.
''Although financial arrangements are my weakness, I will not so easily trust people any more,'' he said.
In fact, Mr Wong regrets having floated his company, because it would not have been a criminal offence if he had not.
For his followers, the question remains: will Mr Wong, like one of his own indomitable comic-strip heroes, rebuild his own empire?