Zhao Hongben (1915-2000) 赵宏本
comic, comic book, comic strip, woodblock print
scan, paper, black-and-white; original source: woodblock print
Lao Lianhuanhua 1999: Lao Lianhuanhua 老连环画 (Old comics), edited by Wang Guanqing 汪观清 and Li Minghai 李明海. Shanghai: Shanghai huabao, 1999:65.
children, comic, reading, popularity of comics, Zhao Hongben, lending library, fight, warrior, May Fourth Movement, masses
Zhao Hongben: Warrior Knights Comics (Zhao Hongben: Xiao Wuyi 赵宏本: 小无义)
A children’s story by Mao Dun 茅盾 (1896–1981) written in 1936 describes Big Nose, an illiterate young vagabond, who spends his life scavenging for food and shelter in Shanghai’s streets. When one day he finds five coppers, he spends them all at “The Street Library” reading comics on his favorite topic of women sword fighters. He loses himself in the first story, only to find that, at the climax, the pictures stop telling the story and the written text takes over. Just when a monk looks as if he would aid the woman and child fleeing from three evil monks and a Daoist, and when Big Nose thus turns the page wondering “Will he help them?,” the next picture shows only the monk talking. By the last picture, the woman is shown safely home. What happened? Big Nose is extremely annoyed with the artist: “A climax, and he can’t even draw it, just words to fill the gap.” (Mao Dun 1936, 56).
What this story illustrates is that in view of May Fourth Intellectuals, Comics were meant to be an artistic form intelligible to the masses, and it was as such that they hoped to push the art of comic making for their own purposes: to teach and enlighten the masses (Lu 1932b, 34, Mao Dun 1932), by converting the most popular forms of comics, such as Zhao Hongben’s warrior knights comics, an extract of which can be seen here, into useful tools of governance.