By Lin Yu-Ching
Vice President of Academia Sinica Chin-shing Huang and the Director of ASCDC Lin Fu-shih visiting the exhibit.Vice President Huang having a go at the AR board game Dutchman in Formosa.Our colleague showing how the augmented reality powered by Google Tango works at an induction.Outside the exhibit.Creative Comic Collection past issues on shelf.Manga artist Chang Chi-ya on "Fact and Fiction in Historical Firgures" with Miyako.Han Bao-bao (pen name) on glove puppetry with Ms Huang Wen-ji.Manga artist AKRU (middle) with director Chang Yong-chang and production manager Michael Lin talking about the film adaptation of her work.
Adapting the life of historical characters into manga is not something novel. Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms (三国志) produced by the homeland of manga, Japan, in the late 80s stands as a classic example. However, a "historical manga" conjoining the visual form with the expertise of national research institute and up-to-the-minute technology such as augmented reality and 3D projection seems to be a dark horse in the field. Can it energize how we define creation and how history is interpreted? With our growing appetite for the immediacy of the visual, is there a way to reshape how we learn more about history and culture, if some of the best scholarly findings are too much (and perhaps too dense) for the general public to leaf through?
Creative Comic Collection (CCC) embodies this dark horse as the success of the manga series derives much from its cross-disciplinary fabric. Its relaunch was congratulated by a multimedia exhibit "World of Comics: Imaginary or Reality? Creative Comic Collection Interactive Digital Exhibition" held at National Taiwan Museum in summer 2017. The popularity of the exhibit led to its reappearance at the 2018 Taipei International Book Exhibition: "World of Comics: Imaginary or Reality? PLUS." On the agenda of the book exhibition, there were talks featuring the editors and artist-contributors of CCC who came to unravel some of the key ideas and behind-the-scene stories.
Ms Chang Chi-ya (張季雅), author of The Strangers' Travels: A Tale of Tea Trade (異人茶跡), and the special editor of CCC Miyako came to talk about the adaptation of historical figures into manga narrative, touching on questions of characterization, the degree of realism in contextualization and how they divined the target reader's mind in order to get the joke right. Miyako remarked that the massive homework one had had to do in making a semi-fictional work based on historical facts was hugely underrepresented in what finally came out, as ninety percent of the homework was distilled into the basic understanding and undertone of the composition.
What Ms Chang set out to focus on was the multiple identities of John Dodd (1838-1907). How did the Scotsman, being an adventurer, museologist and once the Dutch and American representative at Taiwan (due to the scarcity of foreigners on the island), contrive to get the reputation of being the "father of Formosa Oolong"? As Ms Chang sifted through layers of history, she decided to shape her Dodd as a sanguine entrepreneur of tea.
Aided with manga art and digital technology, would such an approach to the historical roots of material culture attenuate the ostensible rigidity of academic edification? Can it rekindle interest in looking into what came to shape our everyday life?
Among the speakers at other sessions were Han Bao-bao (漢堡包), the author of Hero Errant of the Dragon Fountain vs. the Mist Man (龍泉俠大戰迷霧人), and AKRU, the author of A Hundred Tableaux of Taipei (北城百畫帖).
Han Boa-bao told the story of how the original story entered a partnership with the glove puppetry giant PILI Entertainment to produce a 3D-projected play. They created a retro open-air theater which evoked nostalgia with the traditional theater's past glories and "almost sketched out, as it were," as commented the general manager of Pupmo Co. Huang Wen-ji, "a singular history of puppetry art of Pili’s troops."
In a salon the production team of a movie adapting AKRU's A Hendred Tableaux joined AKRU. Director Chang Yong-chang (張永昌) and production manager Michael Lin (林昶龍) admitted that it was a bold thing to do to transpose the magical effects and settings of 2D narrative to the screen. Few crew in Taiwan would dare such an undertaking which heavily involves digital effects and technical manipulation. Chang added that what he enjoyed the most was the moment of seeing the juxtaposition of virtual and physical props perfectly support great acting.
The "World of Comics: Imaginary or Reality?" exhibit series – whose version 3.0 is now in Bangkok at the international book fair from March 29 to April 8 this year -- continues the spirit of Taiwan e-Learning and Digital Archives Program (2002-2012), a national project that advocated the younger generation's appreciation of their historical and cultural heritage through digital means. In the early days of CCC as it was founded in 2009, the idea of animating history by manga art was realized in a model combining academic methodology and plastic art.
To the regret of many readers and people in publishing, manga industry and the digitizing projects as well, CCC has been suspended for a period of time. But it is now back with a brand new momentum with the support of the Ministry of Culture, which identifies the "ACG sector" i.e. sectors comprising animation, comics and gaming among its prime concerns.
It is rather spectacular to survey from the digital archiving and academic inquiry at the production line’s upstream and all the way to the artistic adaptation and multimedia application at the downstream. This process dialogizes different forms of expression in the academia, archiving, popular culture and curating, opening up new spaces for interpreting history and experimenting with the intermarriage of digital technology between the arts.
These experiments stimulate people from different backgrounds to picture the future and we all have a say in such an adventurous essay.