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were not able to re­ply to all of them. At that time, the artists were not able to adapt their sto­ries to re­flect feed­back from their read­ers.

But so­cial me­dia plat­forms such as mi­cro blogs now al­low both sides to com­mu­ni­cate reg­u­larly.

“Most of the in­ter­ac­tion is en­joy­able. It lets you know that there are plenty of read­ers pay­ing at­ten­tion to your work,” says Bai.

“But some­times hard to han­dle.”

Bai cites one case when he came up with a plot end­ing to “sur­prise” his read­ers, but some of them guessed it and spread it on­line, putting him in a fix.

“It took me sev­eral days to come up with an­other rea­son­able and beau­ti­ful end­ing,” says Bai. “Still, it’s in­ter­est­ing to have these ‘ games’ with the read­ers. It gives me a sense of achieve­ment and the con­fi­dence to come up with bet­ter sto­ries.”

The in­ter­net is not just a plat­form for artists to show­case their work, it also acts as an en­gine to power the de­vel­op­ment of the in­dus­try, he says.

The grow­ing num­ber of comics artists and their sto­ries on­line have cer­tainly helped to raise the qual­ity of work, say many artists and their read­ers.

Yiren Zhixia, cre­ated by Mi Er, re­veals the un­usual lives of sev­eral peo­ple who are able to master su­per­pow­ers re­lated to tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture, such as the qi en­er­gyflow con­cept in Tao­ism. it can be Huyao Xiao Hong­ni­ang, a web comic cre­ated by Tuo Xiaoxin, tells of a se­ries of in­ter­est­ing and mys­te­ri­ous love sto­ries be­tween Taoists and fox demons.

Both the sto­ries are based on tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture and the car­toon ver­sions of them have been in­tro­duced to Ja­panese TV au­di­ences over the past two years.

Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics re­leased by the Qianzhan In­dus­try Re­search In­sti­tute in March, at the end of 2016, China had 150,000 web comics cre­ated by more than 90,000 artists, re­ceiv­ing more than 200 bil­lion hits from 70 mil­lion read­ers. Many of them had the habit of buy­ing comic books or mag­a­zines in the past.

Zhang Han, 25, who works in the Min­istry of Trans­port, is one fan who switched from mag­a­zines to web­sites. Zhang has been read­ing comics since el­e­men­tary school. The habit helps her re­lax and she con­tin­ues to read comics on her com­puter be­fore go­ing to sleep ev­ery night.

“I used to fin­ish read­ing a whole mag­a­zine once I bought it, and wait for the lat­est in­stall­ment in the weeks ahead. But the num­ber of mag­a­zines were lim­ited and some­times I could not get hold of one,” she says.

On­line comics can also be much cheaper than the mag­a­zines of the past and many fans are read­ing them on the go via mo­bile apps.

“Many of my friends be­gan to read comics on apps and I have tried that, but the pic­tures and words on smart­phone screens are too small and my eyes can hurt,” says Zhang. She usu­ally fol­lows sev­eral sto­ry­lines at the same time but read­ing them all on her mo­bile de­vice means she would have to down­load many apps and deal with lim­ited dig­i­tal stor­age, she says.

Ten­cent Comics and Kuaikan Comics, both launched in 2014, are two of the most pop­u­lar comics apps in the Chi­nese mar­ket, which is made up of hun­dreds of smaller play­ers cater­ing to a wide range of read­ers.

Li Yan, 20, ma­jors in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion en­gi­neer­ing at Bei­jing Union Univer­sity. She be­gan to read comics on apps last year and has both comic apps in­stalled on her smart­phone.

Li was asked to se­lect her gen­der the first time she used the apps be­cause they were ap­par­ently cus­tom­ized to cater to dif­fer­ent types of read­ers — girls and women usu­ally went for ro­mance sto­ries while the boys and men would opt for vi­o­lent ones.

“Some­times I’d se­lect the op­po­site gen­der to see what was be­ing of­fered on the other side,” says Li.

The in­creas­ing num­ber of selec­tions means she can pick the ones that are fa­mil­iar to her daily life and in­ter­ests, Li says. Her fa­vorite comic is Jun­lin Chenxia, a fic­tion piece based on the his­tory of the Three King­doms pe­riod (220280).

“I used to read them on com­put­ers, which meant that I could only im­merse my­self in the world of comics when there was a com­puter around me,” says Li.

“Now with apps on my phone, I can read the comics any­where as long as I have it with me.”

The in­ter­ac­tive plat­forms on the apps also al­low Li to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple who share the same in­ter­ests and hob­bies.

Be­sides a stan­dard fea­ture for com­ments af­ter each chap­ter for read­ers to ex­press their opin­ions, Ten­cent also pro­motes its danmu, or “bul­let screen­ing”, real-time com­ment fea­ture that flashes across read­ers’ screens for them to share their ideas and feel­ings.

Kuaikan Comics of­fers a live com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­form on its app, which short­ens the dis­tance be­tween comic creators and read­ers.

“We com­mu­ni­cate like friends,” says Li, adding that by in­ter­act­ing with creators in real time, she gets a deeper un­der­stand­ing of comic char­ac­ters’ per­son­al­i­ties.

“Chi­nese cul­ture in on­line comics is a nat­u­ral link be­tween the au­di­ence and the artist, mak­ing these comics eas­ily un­der­stand­able and pop­u­lar among the young,” says Song Lei, di­rec­tor of the de­vel­op­ment and re­search depart­ment of the China Animation Comic Game Group. Song started to fo­cus on Chi­nese comics from the early 1990s.

He lauds the con­tri­bu­tion made by the in­ter­net to grow the Chi­nese comics in­dus­try.

By lead­ing more creators into the mar­ket as well as spread­ing more works among read­ers, the in­ter­net breaks down the bor­ders be­tween read­ers and artists caused by the lim­ited re­sources of tra­di­tional print, he says.

How­ever, Song adds that since the bar­rier to en­try for on­line comics is low and the reg­u­la­tions are still im­per­fect, there is the dan­ger of un­de­sir­able con­tent spread­ing among read­ers.

Bet­ter su­per­vi­sion and man­age­ment of the mar­ket might help the sec­tor de­velop in a more sta­ble way, he says.

Xing Yi con­trib­uted to the story.

Con­tact the writer at jiangy­i­jing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn



Chi­nese comics artists cre­ate comic strips with col­or­ful top­ics, from Tao­ism (top left, YirenZhixia by Mi Er), to mar­tial arts (top cen­ter) and science fic­tion (top right, Blood­i­vores, both by Bai Xiao), and to fox-de­mon fantasy (above,...

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