By Sofia Jesus
He started drawing comic characters when he was around ten years old. Like many other kids in Macau, a.C grew up reading comics from Japan. Nowadays, he leads Maple Studio, an association striving to promote local talents in this field.
“I learned by myself,” he tells mART at the association’s temporary office, close to Cinema Alegria. He would buy Japanese reference comic books and make countless drawings based on them.
Maple Studio is a non-profit organisation established in 2005. It aims to promote the animation and comic sector in Macau, encouraging creators “to continuously create and become professional”.
The association has been hosting animation and comic events in the city, including the annual Macau Comic Festival, which has been taking place every summer for the last 10 years. The latter serves as “a platform” for cartoon lovers to promote their works, as well as to exchange views with people who share the same interest for this kind of art.
The Animeidol Singing Competition, featuring artists from Macau, Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, is another event from Maple Studio.
The group – which receives “some” support from the Government – has also organised or taken part in several exhibitions related to comic, animation and illustration. One of them is the Macau Animation Comic & Toy Expo.
In addition, their annual Comic Competition has been helping local comic creators to launch their careers.
Last weekend, Maple Studio provided some support to the Macau Weekend Music Party – Comic Fans, following a request by the Cultural Affairs Bureau. The event, which included a concert by the Macao Orchestra, a mini art fair and workshops, was held at the Dom Pedro V Theatre.
“Maple Studio endeavours to [promote] image creation, industrialisation of works and to provide a balance between interest, dream and reality,” the group states.
Most of the approximately 140 members of the organisation draw comic artworks, while others sing comic-related songs or are involved in music production related to animation. Comic fans are also among the association’s members.
The organisation is not alone in Macau. According to Maple Studio, there are at least five more groups dedicated to promoting comics and animation in the city.
“The community [of comic artists] in Macau is growing,” a.C says. But many of those creators quit drawing when they find a full-time job, he adds.
“They have professional skills, but they do not want to draw [in the long term], because the money [they would earn from that] is not enough to make a living,” he explains.
Macau comic and animation artists find the fact that “Macau people do not pay much attention to local works” is an obstacle.
“They would probably focus more on Japanese comics,” he adds, explaining that the Internet is now very popular among comic fans. “We [Macau artists] don’t know how to promote our works. It’s difficult.”
But a.C, who draws comics in the computer as well as hand-makes comic figures, does not hold grunges against the Web. “We need to face the future.”
People who attend Maple Studio’s events for the first time are often surprised that Macau has such artists. “If they didn’t join our events, they probably would not know of our local talents.”
In Hong Kong, Japan or Taiwan, there is usually a team working on a comic book, a.C points out. In Macau, it is usually “one man’s job”. That is why some local artists sometimes take two or three years before they launch a new book. “And readers forget [about them],” a.C says.
According to a.C, there is also a lack of comic publishers in Macau, so artists usually turn to Hong Kong publishers. There is also a lack of human resources or companies willing to invest locally in the production of animated movies.
a.C and a group of artists from Hong Kong and Taiwan recently created an animation trailer for one of his books. He would like to see it turn into an animated movie, but he says that is very hard to accomplish. “We do what we can.”
a.C believes the future of Macau’s comic and animation sector lies n the next generation. “We hope they can focus more on local talents’ works.” In order to achieve that goal, he says, Macau needs to create what he describes as “high-quality representative works”. If it does, those authors could become idols for the next generation.
Parents from people of his generation were not often supportive of careers in comics. “But we will be the parents of the next generation,” he says. So, there is still hope.
Note: Maple Studio provided mART with the images of artworks published in this article.