We sat down with LuoJie over e-mail a while back and talked about what some people might not understand: Chinese Political Cartoons. LuoJie recently started selling his comics on Daryl Cagle’s Professional Cartoonists Index. Of course living in China and reading China Daily I had already heard of LuoJie (English name: William) a long time ago. I was pleased to see that he was getting more and more press around the world. His clean art and humorous style makes him on par with any Western political cartoonist today.
We asked him 11 questions:
1. Where are you from in China? 请问您是哪里人？
I’m from NanJing.
2. How did you get this job at China Daily? 您是怎么找到中国日报这份工作的？
The former director of Art Department of China Daily, Mr. Zhang Yao Ning read some of my comics online and he thought that I would be a perfect fit to start drawing political cartoons for the paper. That is how I came to the China Daily and I became a professional political cartoonist!
3. Do you do other cartoons or only political cartoons? Why Political cartoons? 您除了画政治漫画之外，还画其他主题的漫画吗？为什么选择政治漫画？
Besides political cartoons, I also draw some illustrations for some publications. I have a comic (4 frame cartoon series*) on my blog : bog.sina.com.cn/luowill, named “Cynical Chicken”. I guess I wouldn’t say that “Cynical Chicken” could be considered a political cartoon, but since I enjoy politics then my 4 frame cartoon series actually is connected to some of the current issues of the day.
Why did I choose political cartooning? I guess the reason I chose political cartooning is because I really enjoy foreigners’ political cartoons. They seem full of wisdom, really very humorous, often exaggerated, and ironic. When I saw those kind of cartoons I just wanted to learn from them and imitate them and I hope that one day I will be able to draw as good as those American political cartoonists!
*4 frame cartoon series- this is the literal translation. Mx told me that usually in China, comics come in a series of 4 frames, either in a row or 4 frames creating a square. I asked, “All comics in China are 4 frames?” She said, “Not all but nowadays the 4 frame comic series is pretty popular.” I then used my American “buck the system” attitude, “What if there just three frames?” She then went on to tell me about how in China balance and harmony are important and 4 frames, 2 on top and 2 on the bottom, are balanced well and work well.
4. You said that your boss saw your work online, how? When was that? What did you use (website, personal blog) so that he could see your work? Do you still use a personal blog? 你说你的老板在网上看到你的卡通，那是什么时候？ 你是不是用个人网站或者博客的方式来让大家看到您的作品？您现在还用个人博客吗？
My boss saw my work back in 2002 and at that time there were very few people using personal websites in China. Come to think of it, I don’t think there were even blogs back then! I put my work on one website which was started by a friend of mine. Now I operate 2 blogs, one is a SINA blog blog.sina.com.cn/luowill and the other is QQ http://user.qzone.qq.com/404991
5. Who are your major western influences? 2 major Chinese influences? 哪位西方人对你的影响最大？ 哪位中国人对你的影响最大？
Oh, wow, it’s pretty hard to give you a specific person who has influenced me but I can tell you which culture influenced me most. For most young Chinese I think American culture and Chinese traditional culture are two major influences. In terms of influence though, I can also say which politician I like most. Like in America I like Obama and in China I’ve always liked Premier Zhou Enlai. For political cartoonists, I guess the ones who have had the most influence on me is as follows: Macnelly, Jeff Parker, Steve Breen, Steve Sack and Michael Ramirez to name a few.
6. What is your opinion of cartooning in China? Past and present and future. (is it a good business, is it just a hobby, is there a future?)
你对中国卡通的看法是什么呢？ 过时了， 现代， 未来的。有没有很好的市场呢？ 或者仅仅是个人的爱好？漫画在中前途吗？
我觉得整体来说市场是有的，不过要加强规范，加强版权保护，提高从业人员收入，有前途的。In China you can divide cartoons into a couple different catergories: First is the traditional cartoons. These use satire and irony. There is a market for these kind of cartoons but highly irregular and nobody takes the copyright seriously. On top of that, those kind of cartoons are not so popular right now plus there are few people who do those kind of cartoons, just a few amateurs and people who do it as a hobby. There are very few people who rely on only this kind of cartoon for a living in China. The second kind of cartoons in China is what I call the “modern cartoon” or “animated cartoons”. Kids all over China love these animated cartoons whether they are from Korea or Japan. They also love the big animated movies from America too. All Chinese kids just love those! The Chinese government has recently invested a lot into our domestic animation industry here in China. Soon we’ll see animated movies that are made in China! At this point I’m not sure how the investment and development is going but we have high hopes for it! I guess in end there is a market in China for cartoons and comics but there needs to be more effort in some of the rules, protection of copyrights, we’d also like to see the income of these cartoonists go up but all in all the prospects are looking good!
7. Do you encourage young people in China to work hard in their art and cartooning? 你是不是鼓励中国在艺术方面有天赋的年轻人向艺术方面发展？
Of course I encourage the young people in China! We Chinese are a very artistically talented bunch! The only thing that is lacking is the proper platform to be able to showcase our talents!
8. Webcomics (comics only on the web, making money through printing books and other things) are pretty popular in the U.S. Do you think that could be popular in China? 网上漫画（自己出书销售）在美国很流行，你觉得在中国怎么样，一样流行吗？
Yeah, in China Webcomics are also pretty popular and yes there are some who do Webcomics and then publish books and make money.
9. Do Chinese people like comics? 你觉得中国人喜欢漫画吗？
Yes, Chinese people do like comics. But, Chinese don’t like to be mocked. HA HA Chinese people love “face”(Chinese people are proud of their reputation). If you want to talk about other countries or other Chinese people that’s ok, but if you want to mock and make fun of yourself, Chinese don’t like that. HA HA.
10. Can you introduce to our readers some other modern cartoonists in China that you like? 你是否可以给我们的读者介绍你所喜欢的中国现代漫画家？
说实话，我对中国大际现代漫画家还真不太了解，我想 猫小乐应该算一个，我喜欢的还有 黑贝，像中国台湾的river，彭永成，朱德庸，蔡志忠都很喜欢
I have to tell you the truth, I’m not very familiar with many modern Chinese mainland cartoonists. I mean, I guess one could be Mao XiaoLe. I also enjoy HeiBei, similar to Taiwan’s “River”. Peng YongCheng is another one. Zhu DeYong is also one. Cai ZhiZhong is a famous cartoonist from Taiwan who retells old Chinese classics. All those I really enjoy.
11. How do you get your ideas for your cartoons? 你画漫画的灵感是从哪里来的？
Oh… how can I say this… I always look at lots of American politcal cartoons. After looking at a bunch of these comics then automatically in my head there forms this storehouse of creativity! I also use comedies and animated movies for inspiration.
For more of LuoJie’s (William Luo) political cartoons please go to Daryl Cagle’s site or China Daily.