Tiger Wong and creator Tony Wong Yuk-long aim to draw in new generation

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 September, 2013, 9:38am

When a statue of comic book hero Tiger Wong was being set up for an exhibition at a shopping mall, it was parents rather than their children who were getting out phones to take photos.

In the golden age of Hong Kong comics, Tiger Wong was the most popular cartoon character of the 1980s.

And his creator, Tony Wong Yuk-long, is now celebrating 50 years as a cartoonist - his work making its first appearance when he was just 13.

The exhibition at East Point City, Tseung Kwan O, is a celebration of his amazing career so far. "It will be quite nostalgic," said Wong, a comic book hero in his own right.

When his series Dragon and Tiger Heroes was at its peak, the comic book industry in Hong Kong pulled in annual sales of HK$300 million, Wong recalled. "But now we barely make HK$100 million a year."

Video: Tony Wong Yuk-long on his work as a cartoonist

The booming online game industry has pushed cartoonists further to the edge. "We've lost the young generation to online games, which happen to share the same subject as local comics - kung fu. It's not only readers, but also young talents," Wong said.

According to Hong Kong popular culture expert Yiu Wai-hung, the cartoon industry has been in serious decline since the 1990s.

"The government's crackdown on pornographic comic books in the 1990s made the whole cartoon industry look very bad in the eyes of the public," he said.

Real cartoonists should have adopted the pocketbook layout popular among Japanese cartoonists to differentiate their comics from the porn booklets and rebrand the industry, Yiu added.

Like Wong, Yiu has found the city's young generation would rather devote their talent to designing characters in online games rather than cartoon series. Their income and status is also higher than people entering the comic book industry.

Wong believes the industry could be revitalised if cartoonists would take on new subjects, such as romance and ghost stories, and develop merchandise, which has proved to be a huge success in Japan and the United States.

"It's also why I set up the exhibition - to introduce my works to the young generation," he said.

The exhibition runs from next Monday to October 20.