Lai Tat Tat Wing tells Lau Kit-Wai about his triumph in the overseas market Local comic artist and illustrator Lai Tat-wing, alias Lai Tat Tat Wing, is finding his feet in the international market with his comic book Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which is a tribute to local comic master Wong Yuk-long's Oriental Heroes series. The French version of Lai's graphic novel was recently launched in France, at the Angouleme International Comics Festival - one of the biggest comics festivals in Europe. This is a leap forwards in Lai's career as an independent comic artist. 'Maybe because the story is loaded with Cantonese culture, the European readers see my book as something exotic with a rich ethnic flavour,' says Lai, whose work caught the eye of representatives from Belgium-based Franco-Belgian comics publisher Casterman at a Hong Kong exhibition two years ago. 'Yet in France my book isn't categorised as an alternative comic [as it is in Hong Kong]. In Europe the alternative comics are very experimental ... at least my book has a plot and characters.' Lai created Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - a quirky kung fu fantasy - almost three years ago with the support of the Hong Kong Arts Centre. At the time he saw the project as an opportunity for self-indulgence, a celebration of his 10th anniversary of being a cartoonist. The book was first published in Hong Kong in 2005. But for all its success, it didn't pay the bills, Lai feels that local readers look down on local talent and don't support it. The situation in Europe is different. First of all, people there are serious about comics, considering it a proper art form rather than just escapist entertainment. 'The reporters there had put stickers on pages of my book as well as jotted down notes about my work when they came to talk to me. They had done a lot of research [on me and my book],' he says. There are better opportunities there because the market is bigger, Lai says, and publishers are willing to take a risk on young talent. He encourages local artists to look into international markets, and suggests they make contact overseas, or go in cold to promote their work at fairs. 'You could just go over there to chat with other people or place your work at somebody's stall,' he says. It depends on whether you have the network to get invited or whether you seek out chances.