Comic Fandom Culture in Taiwan: How It All Started.

Written by Hui-Hua Lu

Image credit: 漫畫, by Tzuhsun Hsu/Flickr. License: CC BY-SA 2.0

The comic and animation fan culture in Taiwan may have started by accident, but now it is lively and energetic with comic conventions and online platforms that offer spaces for people to participate and a channel to express themselves. The fan culture in Taiwan started around the 1990s when 大然出版社 (Da Ran Publishing) in Taiwan first added the comics created by Japanese fans of Saint Seiya (聖鬥士星矢, sheng doushi xingshi in Chinese, 聖闘士星矢, セイントセイヤ in Japanese) at the end of their publications of the same comics. It proved to be popular for comics readers in Taiwan. Taiwanese readers could see alternative possibilities for these comics and their future for the first time. Da Ran Publishing perhaps didn’t imagine they planted the seeds of fandom in Taiwan and indirectly imported the fandom culture from Japan. To this day, Taiwan’s fandom still shows Japanese influences. 

For example, the two Japanese terms, doujin and doujinshi, refer to the fan culture and the creative works fans made in Taiwan. The former term in traditional Chinese is 同人 (tong ren), and the latter is 同人誌 (tong ren zhi). Both are borrowed from Japanese, 同人 (どうじん, doujin) and 同人誌 (どうじんし, doujinshi). Certainly, Chinese and Japanese are two completely different languages. Still, the way these two terms are written are almost identical, which shows that Taiwan’s fan culture directly borrows the terms from the Japanese. Apart from the terms, the fan culture in Taiwan shares the same values as Japan’s fandom. For example, the official website of Comic Market, Japan’s largest doujin event, defines doujinshi as ‘magazines published as a cooperative effort by a group of individuals who share a common ideology or goals, intending to establish a medium through which their works can be presented.’ The website also states that doujinshi is for ‘self-expression of one’s own works—ordinarily commercial gain is not the primary rationale behind engaging in the production of doujinshis.’

On the other hand, Doujin are groups or individuals who create doujinshi. The value of sharing creative works is so essential that types of media and profits are not the major goals. The chief executive officer of Fancy Frontier (one of the largest doujin events in Taiwan), Wei-Xi Su once said that the key to doujinshis is sharing, not the types of media so that it can be novels, comics, illustrations, or other forms of media. This value opens up opportunities for doujin participants to explore different possibilities and create the kinds of artworks that are not confined to commercial trends and styles. Often, doujin artists would draw on a pre-existing material and reappropriate it to express their ideas, views, or an alternative storyline they imagine for the comics or story they love. It is this value of sharing that makes it possible. 

As we can see, the Japanese influence upon Taiwan’s fandom was due to Taiwan’s political background and the phenomena of martial law (1949-1987). In 1966, the National Institute for Compilation and Translation, established in 1932 and in charge of editing, translating, compiling publication, and publishing textbooks for schools, officially implemented the Policy of Editing and Printing Comic Strips (編印連環圖畫輔導辦法) for censoring comic books before they were sold to the public. This censorship limited the topics and contents that Taiwanese comic-book artists could create and drove many artists to stop creating. However, as Su and Aska observe, readers still craved comic books, and this was when Taiwanese publishers started to pirate Japanese comic books (the 1960s-1980s) to sell to the public underground. It must be noted that Saint Seiya and its doujinshi published by Da Ran Publishing were pirated. The publisher did not obtain the copyright from the Japanese publisher nor the doujin artists. Even though the publishers were illegally publishing comics, they nevertheless paved the way for doujin culture to flourish in Taiwan, especially the owner of Da Ran Publishing, Dun-Jian Lu (呂墩建).

Su and Aska believe that Mr Lu pursued profits by pirating Japanese comic books and wanted to promote the medium of these comics. He published Xiao Mi Comic Weekly (《小咪漫畫周刊》, 1979-1982) that invited people to submit their comics to be published in their publication and enter their comics contest, Xiao Mi Comic Award for Best Newcomer (小咪漫畫新人獎) in 1980. This publication included a comic learner’s section that mainly published readers’ submissions and provided feedback to their works. Although Xiao Mi Comic Weekly only published for about two years, the magazine itself and its comics contest provided an opportunity for those who wanted to become a comic-book artists to show their creative works. In addition to that, Mr Lu opened Ake Comic Convenience House (阿克漫畫便利屋), Taiwan’s first shop that was dedicated to comics. The shop sold comic papers, comic drawing materials, such as dip pens and screentone (a technique for applying textures and shades to drawings), original Japanese comic books, and books that teach comic drawing. This shop not only made drawing comics possible and accessible to anyone interested in comics but also offered a space for people to network. As a result of the decline of professional comic-book production and accessibility of drawing materials in the comics industry in the 1960s to 1980s, a developing doujin culture in Taiwan was created.

Finally, in 1997, the first systematically doujin convention was organised in Taiwan. The first doujin convention was called Comic World, and one of the organisers was a Japanese company called SE Corporation who brought the forms and rules from Japan’s doujin convention. After that, the doujin conventions in Taiwan continue the forms and rules and keep their core value. Currently, Comic World Taiwan (CWT) and Fancy Frontier (FF) are the two largest doujin events in Taiwan that hold twice a year and allow amateur artists to showcase, sell, and share their artworks with their fellow artists and visitors. 台灣同人誌中心 (Taiwan Doujinshi Centre) is an online platform for people to share and promote their artworks or news related to doujin activities. The conventions and online space now have matured and become a unique part of Taiwanese subculture. 

Browsing the website of Taiwan Doujinshi Centre, we would see how Taiwanese doujin artists use pre-existing materials to create an alternative possibility for the comics or genres they love. For example, an artist who named herself/ himself Nine-year-old drew a comic that features a heroine who fights to illustrate the artist’s ideas on the heroine’s responsibilities by reappropriating one of the stock characters in Japanese comics or animation, magical girl, 魔法少女 (Mofa shaonu) in Chinese, 魔法少女/ まほうしょうじょ (Maho Shojo) in Japanese. The comic is titled 魔法少女的責任是 (Magical Girl’s Responsibilities) and was published online in 2019. It depicts a heroine who has a superpower to defeat monsters in a fictional city and her responsibilities, such as defeating monsters to protect the city, getting good grades in school, grocery shopping, and going to friend’s birthday parties. Another artist named Pocky City (夢蕾) used other pre-existing material, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and drew the White Rabbit as another character from a series of Japanese animated short films, Usavich, that portrays the absurd everyday life of two rabbits in prison. The artist also drew two characters that fell down the rabbit hole, but one of the characters was naked. Both of Pocky City’s comics indicate a sense of humour, perhaps, to express the artist’s idea of humour that is absurd and illogical. 

All in all, although the introduction of the doujin culture in Taiwan was because of the decline of professional comic-book production, it has now become an important part of Taiwanese subculture and has diverse contents, topics and drawing styles. Furthermore, with the doujin conventions and online spaces, anyone interested in comics can join and express themselves and network with other fellow amateur artists. As an amateur illustrator myself, I am happy to see how the doujin culture flourishes in Taiwan and hope to see the subculture engaging more with Taiwanese culture. 

Hui-Hua Lu is a final-year PhD student in translation studies at the University of Exeter. She is particularly interested in women’s image in translation. Her current project uses Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as the case to study how ideology on girlhood/womanhood is presented in the translations of Wonderland in Taiwan. You can know more about her here: or follow her on Twitter @huihualu19091 https://twitter.com/huihualu19091.

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