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The Post-2000 Hong Kong Manhua: A Transmedia and Nostalgic Time Travel

Book - Dissertation

The term 'manhua' is broadly viewed as the Chinese equivalent of comics and cartoons, regardless of publication formats. Hong Kong manhua were popular and widely exported between 1950s and the early 1990s, but the industry encountered a drastic decline since the mid-1990s, partially due to the rise of the internet that threatened the print and traditional entertainment media as well as the sterile studio production of manhua that failed to catch up with the evolving media landscape and address the changing taste of readers. The disappearing Hong Kong manhua echoes with Abbas Ackbar's (1997) claim that Hong Kong is characterised by the culture and politics of disappearance. Also in the 1990s, there was an emergence of independent comics, synonymous to alternative comics, that emphasised sole authorship, aesthetics and themes that are in dichotomy with the studio-produced manhua. Though independent manhua are usually market failures, they gradually changed the stigma manhua and became mainstream mode of manhua production in the 2000s. This dissertation explores Hong Kong manhua produced since 2000 using a multidimensional analytical approach in the interconnected fields of comic, media, and cultural studies. Divided into two parts, the first part adopts a historical approach to map Hong Kong manhua within its local socio-cultural history and the transnational comic industries. The second part zooms into the close reading of a culturally significant independent comic corpus that is further divided into three chapters according to the themes and publication formats. The corpus shows links between 1) nostalgia and memories though the graphic memoirs about childhood in the urban environment that has been demolished and redeveloped, 2) transmedial and transcultural influence on serial comic strips that combine fictional stories with socio-political commentary, and 3) digital manhua and new modes of comic production, circulation and consumption on the social media. Building on the multidimensional discourses of disappearance, this dissertation posits that the post-2000 manhua have reinvented the manhua medium and resisted cultural oblivion and disappearance. To do so, there is a thematic turn to narrate Hong Kong as the central theme of comics; a transmedial turn by expanding the manhua medium in other transmedial forms; and an emphasis of manhua as part of the transcultural circulation of comics by mixing transcultural and local elements in comics.
Publication year:2022