Ani-Com Hong Kong promises an unusual take on city life as seen by comic artists

A sideways glance at life is certain when comic artists tell the city's story at the Ani-Com and Games event

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 11:18pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 12:15am

Hong Kong is the world's third biggest comic market after Japan and the US. Ahead of the 14th edition of Ani-Com and Games Hong Kong, 48 Hours profiles six artists who are big on the local comic scene. Plus there's a sneak preview of the most anticipated video games, upcoming exhibitions and a guide to shops selling anime and collectibles.

Ani-Com runs from July 25 to 29 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Open 10am-9pm, closed at 8pm on July 29


Lee Chi-hoi

Required reading: Hijacking - Comic Hong Kong Literature (2007), The Train (2007), Still Life (2003)

"I was not a comic fan when I was little," says Lee Chi-hoi, who cites Edvard Munch and Vincent van Gogh as his early influences. "Instead, I kept a sketchbook of pastel drawings."

Lee says he didn't have the money to buy comics as a child because his family was poor. He grew up in the 1980s and '90s, and teachers did not let him read the "pornographic" and "violent" gangster comics.

Lee started drawing comics when he was at university, after seeing Lai Tat Tat Wing's experimental work. Literature and cinema and, later, independent comics from Europe were also sources of inspiration. He was first published locally in 1996.

"I mostly draw in black and white with lines and smudges of pencil," he says. "Pencil is more direct than ink or brush. It conveys emotion and gives depth."

Lee is most proud of Hijacking - Comic Hong Kong Literature, a 2007 collaboration with another artist Kongkee based on the works of 12 local writers. "It gave me a sense of belonging to my own culture," he says.

A solo exhibition of Lee's drawings will open at Gallery Exit later this year and an English translation of The Train is due to be published by early next year.


Kong Khong-chang aka Kongkee

Required reading: Ricegas (2008-present), Pandaman (2010-11) , Imperfect Shoes vols. I and II (2003, 2005), Hijacking - Comic Hong Kong Literature (2007)

Describing his style as "sometimes hilarious, sometimes serious", Kong Khong-chang says he cannot differentiate between comedy and tragedy. The "comic comedian" says work such as Ding Ding Penguin was inspired by the Japanese comic artist Yoshida Sensha. "He can always find an unexpected point of view even in the most ordinary topic," Kong says. Pandaman was influenced by Hong Kong politics, especially its protests. "Feelings and passion are easily lost in the busy rhythm of Hong Kong. Fighting for Hong Kong became the first task of my creative life," he says.

Kong knew he wanted to be an artist in the sixth grade after reading Fist of the North Star , drawn by Tetsuo Hara. He graduated from Chinese University and published his first comic in 2003. Six years later he formed Penguin Lab with fellow artist Law Man-lok.

Kong says he is most proud of 2005's Imperfect Shoes vol. II, which he describes as a dark urban fairy tale. He still thinks about the characters and what they might be doing now. Expect to see several new projects this month, including an animation, Saveur Térébenthine ( Turpentine Flavour), and two comic books, Ding-Ding Office and Our Sai Yee Street.


Men Xiaolei aka Little Thunder

Required reading: Kylooe (2010-12), Remember to Forget (2013)

Little Thunder looks like one of the pin-up girls Men Xiaolei likes to draw: strong, sexy and covered in tattoos.

From an artistic family, Men had her first comic published at the age of 11 after submitting artwork to a magazine. She continued contributing to magazines and newspapers throughout high school, before becoming a full-time comic artist in 2001.

A year later, Men was named best new artist at the China-Japan Comics Exchange.

The first volume of the Kylooe trilogy was published in France in 2010 and won a bronze award at the fourth International Manga Award.

Men has collaborated with French singer Jena Lee and local musicians Denise Ho, Rubberband and Jun Kung.

Her latest work is about a city, which could be Hong Kong in the future, that doesn't allow its people to cry.

"I draw because I have something to say, especially when I'm feeling bothered. I create a comic strip, possibly, just to speak to someone whom I have no chance to speak to, whether that person is an old lover or a friend," she says.

"There is a big chance that this person won't see what I've drawn but, at least once I put pen to paper, I've expressed myself."


Li Chi-tak

Required reading: Black Mask (1991), Spirit (1993), The Planet (1997) and The Assassination of Emperor Qin (1993)

In 1984 at the age of 17, Li Chi-tak started writing and drawing the series Wei Si Li. He cemented that early success with 1987's Tong Men Shao Nian, which is now a collector's item. Li found popularity in Taiwan and Japan in the 1990s. He created Posh! for Japanese readers.

Li says his early influences were Hong Kong kung fu comic artists Tony Wong Yuk-long and Ma Wing-shing, as well as Akira creator, Katsuhiro Otomo. He reads fewer comics these days and is most influenced by music and film.

His realistic style shows Japanese influences but Li says he does not have a fixed style. "I adapt my style to different stories. I try to tell each story in a unique way," he says.

Li says he is most proud of his 1993 comic Spirit. "The story and style is the most complete. That work was 20 years ago now," he says.

In 1996, his 1991 comic Black Mask was turned into an action film starring Jet Li Lianjie. More recently, Li has illustrated and designed for Nike, Watsons, Ocean Park and the MTR, and is working on a comic for Belgian publisher Les Éditions Dargaud.


Elphonso Lam Cheung-kwan

Required reading: True Love (1995-97), The Jam (1998-2005) and Super Seven (1998-99)

Self-taught artist Elphonso Lam Cheung-kwan would never take art classes. He knew he wanted to be a comic artist from a young age, but says he "never wanted to learn anything other people had to teach me".

"I think having your own style is very important."

He started as an assistant to horror comic artist Han Man and published his first comic, True Love, in 1993.

The popular Hong Kong kung fu comics of the 1980s did not appeal to Lam and he began reading Japanese works, especially those of Hisashi Eguchi, and Li Chi-tak.

"Hong Kong comics were all about fighting and violence. Japanese ones were more fantastical and creative," he says. Lam says his most representative work is The Jam, a series about young love and rock'n'roll. "Hong Kong comics never looked at this subject before. Mine was the first."

Lam has fronted several bands, including Survivor, Charisma, Orgasm and, more recently, Big Rod Rockabilly Band. He has worked for magazines and designed clothes and toys. He is currently drawing a serial in the French magazine Good Life and the Chinese magazine Seer. Greatest Hits, a short collection of recent work, is due out this year.


Chris Tseng Hsin-chieh aka Jie Jie

Required reading: The Big Difference Between Hong Kong and Taiwan (2013), Jie Jie HK Non-Stop (2014) and Jie Jie's Toast (2014)

Taiwanese graphic designer Jie Jie never intended to become an internet sensation when he moved to Hong Kong in 2011.

His new job did not live up to his expectations and he quit. Jie Jie says he started drawing comics for his own amusement and to show his Taiwanese friends the culture gap between Hong Kong and Taiwan.

He never expected more than 100,000 Facebook likes within two months.

He now uploads a new comic every day.

Jie Jie has loved drawing since childhood and would paint the walls of his family home in Kaohsiung.

The comic artist says he originally just wanted to draw the cultural differences between the two places, but the city's protests have inspired his latest work.

"My style is humorous with a little satire, happy with a little resentment, cute with a little obscenity. Simple lines and colours are enough to express what I want to say," he says.

His second book, Jie Jie's Thick Toast, comes out later this year.


Sony, Microsoft bring their A game to Ani-Com Hong Kong

Microsoft is no stranger to Animation-Comic-Game Expo Hong Kong but this year sees it preview its long-awaited Xbox One console. Among the raft of exclusive titles making an appearance will be the fifth instalment in Turn 10 Studio's hugely popular racing franchise, Forza.

Microsoft's push for the motion-sensing Kinect may have softened elsewhere, but it's sure to make an appearance here along with games such as Kinect Sports: Rivals.

For the first time Sony will be at Ani-Com 2014 instead of the Asia Game Show, presumably to court a younger audience. It will preview 30 new games, including 13 exclusive pre-releases. While it's clear that everyone will be all over the Xbox One, there's a lot Sony can show with its PlayStation 4. It's anyone's guess whether it'll show off the augmented reality Project Morpheus gear or PlayStation Now streaming service.

Resident Evil/Bio Hazard fans will get to see horror master Shinji Mikami's The Evil Within up close and personal. There may be a chance to check out Driveclub, a game delayed again and again by Sony for being "too ambitious".

Mobile app developer Mad Head has a booth where visitors should be able to get their hands on top-grossing game Tower of Saviors. They have promised to have 18 Taiwanese cosplay girls in tow.

As is the tradition, it's perfectly normal for cosplayers — pseudo-models or otherwise — to flit about during the exhibition.

The detail in these costumes is extreme but everyone taking part always manages to outdo the previous year. Eric Wong

Xbox One will be released in September


Exhibits during Ani-Com and Games feature classic images from the past

"A Parallel Tale: Taipei in 80s X Hong Kong in 90s" features 10 original comics by 10 artists from Hong Kong and Taipei, who have drawn their memories of the two cities in the 1980s and 1990s. Runs until August 31. Closed Mondays. Comix Home Base, 7 Mallory St, Wan Chai;

"Old Master Q: What the @#$% Is Going On? Original Works by Alfonso Wong" shows more than 120 original illustrations of the much-loved character dating from the 1960s to the 1980s. Runs August 9 to 29. Sotheby's Hong Kong Gallery, 5/F, One Pacific Place, 88 Queensway; 2822 5566

An 11-metre tall pirate ship — the "Thousand Sunny" — will be the centrepiece of the "One Piece Docks at Hong Kong" exhibition in Times Square. The vessel will carry characters from the anime One Piece, including Luffy, Zoro, Sanji, Nami, Usopp, Chopper, Robin, Brook and Franky. Luffy's signature straw hat will sit on the clock tower. July 30 to August 21, Times Square Open Piazza, Covered Piazza and 2/F Atrium. 10am -10pm


Hong Kong's Mong Kok is where you'll find the rarest of cartoon collectables

You've read the manga and comics, watched the anime and cartoons, seen the movies, been to the concerts and played the video games. Now it's time to get the figures.

Whether you are a big fan of Luffy and his motley crew from One Piece, Goku from Dragon Ball Z; "vocaloid" songstress Hatsune Miku; Kirito and Asuna from Sword Art Online; or popular US exports such as DC Comics favourites Superman and Batman, Marvel's The X-Men and Avengers, or The Transformers, Star Wars, Aliens, and Game of Thrones, Mong Kok is still the best place to hunt down trending, as well as rare, collectible miniatures.

Richmond Shopping Arcade
B/F, 111 Argyle Street, Mong Kok

CTMA Centre
Mall and Building, 1N Sai Yeung Choi Street South, Mong Kok

Hot-Toys-Secret Base
20/F Sino Centre, 582-592 Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 3722 3988

Naughty Guy
Room 304, 3/F Sino Centre,  Nathan Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 9688 9394