Arts and Culture
This study discusses a new trend in Taiwan – auteur comics targeting an adult audience. First, it will place this phenomenon within the context of identity politics, cultural policies, public diplomacy and cultural exchange with Europe. For decades, the comics market in Taiwan has been dominated by the Japanese manga, due to state regulation of local publishing and publishing rights trade with Japan. Japan-oriented career paths and the tastes of a manga-reading local audience shaped Taiwanese artists’ style and limited their visibility as “Taiwanese”. A second factor restricting such visibility was China, promoted as centre of national identification during the martial law era (1947-1987). Renowned Taiwanese artists drew inspiration from Chinese history, philosophy or martial arts literature, and their means of expression echoed classical Chinese visual arts. In recent years, some authors of independent comics turned away from these Asian connections. Their education, career and interests brought them into contact with the Franco-Belgian tradition of bandes dessinées, and they developed personal styles and themes. These individual patterns of mobility received official endorsement as state cultural policies and public diplomacy drifted further away from China and emphasized local identity, a fact reflected in growing support for Taiwanese artists’ participation in significant European events, such as the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Next, I will elaborate on these artists’ signature visual strategies for representing Taiwanese history or defining a local character. Such strategies echo a Western (European and American) trend in experimenting with visual form to approach “serious”, often socially engaged subject matter.