We’ve had a few interviews on MandMx.com and some have been with Chinese cartoonists and we were so excited to be able to chat (on e-mail) with Liu Jing. I found him a while back on Amazon and then found an article on Danwei with the cartoonist and tweeted about it.
He was very agreeable with us bothering his hard work for our 23 questions! The coolest thing is his book that I found on Amazon. Understanding China through Comics. How perfect! You can even get the book from Apple. Here are the questions we asked in bold and his answers.
1. Is cartooning your full time job?
No, my full time job is running a design agency in Beijing, and I’ve been doing that for 14 years.
2. Do you consider yourself a cartoonist?
No, I’m more of a mixer, who tried to express a complex issue (such as Chinese history) with my business background, cross-cultural experience, and drawing skills.
3. What kind of materials do you use? Pen? Paper? Table? Do you have a studio?
I use Wacom tablet, and I did most drawings after work, at library or at home.
4. Why Understanding China through comics? Why not fine art? Why not language?
Comics are entertaining, personal, and emotional, making a very complicated topic easy to understand.
5. What is it like publishing in China? What are the steps to getting published?
The book is published in North America, Europe and Australia through Amazon and Apple. Both platforms have detailed instructions on their website for book publishing.
6. How did you get your book onto Amazon? Why did you decide to release it on Amazon?
Amazon has clear terms and steps for publishing. It’s a time-consuming but manageable process. For comic books, it’s a bit more difficult, since it involves lots of drawings and specific layout. Amazon and Apple are my only choice to reach a global audience instantly.
7. The title of your book begs the question: Why do people need to “understand China?”
If we feel something or some place has nothing to do with us, a lot less people would take the time to understand it, especially for something as complex as the history of a foreign country.
However, China today has something to do with a lot more people: It is the world’s second largest economy. At its current growth rate, China will replace the US as the world’s leading economic power in about a decade, China is taking jobs away and creating jobs for the world at the same time, China is the biggest holder of US debt, Today’s news is talking about if China will save the euro… Many people are wondering what’s going to happen next. Hopefully my book can empower readers to make informed judgments on China events now and in the future, by showing what China has been through all along.
8. Have you had a lot of response to your book in China? Is there a Chinese version? or just English?
Currently the book is published outside China, only in English. The overseas response has been very encouraging so far.
9. Speaking of English, I’ve seen some of your interviews, you are quite good at English! Where did you learn?
Thanks! I learned English like everyone else in China, from school. I also use English at work, since all our clients are international organizations.
10. I know that the black market in China is big, are you afraid that your book will appear on the streets from booksellers and you not getting any of that money?
Yes, that was part of the reason I didn’t publish the book in China.
11. How are you able to protect your art, drawings andintellectual/creative property in this book? Does China have good copyright laws? If you saw somebody copying your book could you take legal action?
China has good copyright laws, but the enforcement is hard.
12. Are you into webcomics at all? Comics on the web only? Are they popular in China?
Sorry I don’t know much about webcomics.
13. What are your hobbies other than work and drawing?
I love to ski, and I’ve been to Whistler, Lake Tahoe, and some of the ski resorts north of Beijing.
14. What is your favorite Chinese food?
Living in Beijing, I like Shanghai food, fresher and less greasy than northern food.
15. What are you reading right now? books? magazines?
As part of my book research, I’m reading several history books, such as “Records of the Grand Historian” by Sima Qian, the father of Chinese historiography; “History of China” by pre-liberation historian Wang Tongling and “The General History of China” by his contemporary Lü Simian; “The Analects” complied by Confucius’ students; and many ancient Chinese paintings in the historical record. I really like the books written by the military historian Antony Beevor: “D-Day: The Battle for Normandy“, “Berlin: The Downfall, 1945”, and “Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943”. Now I’m also reading “Outliers: The Story of Success”, and “What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures” by Malcolm Gladwell
16. Can you tell us today’s top 5 Chinese cartoonists?
Feng Zikai (1898-1975), a well-known Chinese painter, writer, and cartoonist, Zhang Leping (1910-1992) The creator of Sanmao, an orphan who suffered the hardships of Japanese invasion during WWII, The creation team of the 60-volume “Romance of Three Kingdoms” comic series from Shanghai People’s Fine Arts Publishing House, and Taiwanese artists such as Cai Zhizhong, a cartoonist best known for his comic books on Chinese philosophy; Jimmy Liao, a famous picture book writer; and Zhu Deyong.
17. Can you tell us top 5 Chinese cartoonists from recent Chinese history?
If we take a broader concept of cartoon, which is a series of drawings to tell a story or deliver information, the following ancient Chinese graphic artists are noteworthy: Song Yingxing (1587-1666), a Chinese scientist and writer, best known for his encyclopedia “The Exploitation of the Works of Nature”, which covered over 130 technical issues, with 123 detailed illustrations, Zhang Zeduan (1085-1145), his famous work “Along the river during Qingming Festival”, 528cm-wide, captured people’s daily life at the imperial capital. It was made into an animation as one of the major exhibits in the China Pavilion during the World Expo 2010. Gu Hongzhong (937-975), known for his narrative paintings to document the night life of a senior official.
18. Do you ever read Western cartoonists?
I’ve read most Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
19. Do you ever hang out with other cartoonists?
When I worked at an independent English newspaper in Beijing around 1996, my boss, Brian McClain, is a great cartoonist and he drew many comics for the newspaper, and we hung out a lot, which is very fortunate to me.
20. Are you on Sina Weibo? or some other microblogging site? Kaixinwang?
I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
21. Give us one or two sentences that describe your book that would interest people and make them go and buy it!?
How do Chinese think? This insightful comic book is your visual guide to understanding China.
22. Tell us your favorite quotation?
That would be the opening line of the book: “After 17,434 natural disasters, 3,791 massive wars, 663 emperors and 95 dynasties, the 5,000-year Chinese civilization lives on.” I like it because it tells what China had been through in just one sentence, reflecting the theme of the whole book – a wild ride through China history, deep and fast. I’ve spent three months working on this line alone because these figures can’t be found in just one book. I had to read three books that documented natural disasters, wars and dynasties and then do the math.
23. Who are your heroes or people that you look up to?
Other interviews we’ve done.
Another cartoonist we’ve done an interview with.