Award-winning comic book artist Hsu Mao-sung dies at age 82 - Focus Taiwan

Award-winning comic book artist Hsu Mao-sung dies at age 82

Taipei, Dec. 8 (CNA) Hsu Mao-sung (許貿淞), one of Taiwan's earliest and most popular comic book artists, died Saturday at the age of 82.

Hsu died of heart failure due to his age, at his home in New Taipei, his daughter Elizabeth Hsu (許綺芬) told CNA Sunday.

In a career that spanned six decades, Hsu made a name for himself drawing martial arts comics in the 1960s, before the Kuomintang started imposing censorship on comic books. While many artists decided to quit the field because of such censorship, Hsu persevered.

He received a Special Contribution Award from Taiwan's government in 2017 for his contribution to Taiwan's comic industry.

Born in 1937 in the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung, Hsu developed an interest in drawing at a young age. His father drew portraits before people had cameras, Hsu told CNA in an interview in 2017, adding that he learned how to draw by watching his father.

At a cousin's suggestion, Hsu started comic art in his early 20s, drawing mainly martial arts themes, at a time when that was the focus of films and novels. The downside, however, was that many plots were similar and unoriginal.

(Photo courtesy of Hsu Mao-sung's family)

In an effort to stand out, Hsu began incorporating elements of hand puppetry shows into his comics, which he said was the key to his success.

Within two years, Hsu had become a household name. At that time, comic books were sold in specific stores, and customers would start lining up at 6 a.m. to buy them. Hsu's comics often sold out within an hour of being put on the shelves.

When he walked down the street, people would crowd around to try to get a glimpse at him, and fans would write letters to him asking for photographs.

"I was like a movie star," Hsu told CNA in 2017.

However, the golden era of Taiwanese comics ended when the KMT administration began to crack down on comic books in 1962. The government set up a committee to "review" comic books, and they imposed strict limits on what could be portrayed.

The characters in Hsu's martial arts comics were not allowed to fly or even jump too high. Images of blood or of people being killed were forbidden.

(Photo courtesy of Hsu Mao-sung's family)

"The people reviewing our drawings made a mess of our artwork," Hsu said in the 2017 interview. "They had no sense of art."

After the censorship was introduced, nearly half of the approximately 500 comic book artists in Taiwan quit the profession within a year, Hsu said.

"I was angry at the time and sad," he said, "I often asked myself, what kind of government would suppress a country's comic book artists?"

But Hsu soldiered on. He continued to teach the craft to his apprentices, and established a publishing house for comic books, providing a gateway for local comic artists.

After moving to Taipei in the 1980s, Hsu began drawing religious comics. His final masterpiece was a 760-page hand-drawn comic book about the life of Buddha, which took 10 years to complete and was published in 2018.

In 2017, Hsu was honored with a Special Contribution Award in the Golden Comic Awards, Taiwan's top award for comics.

Despite the censorship early in his career, Hsu found great joy in creating comics, a joy that allowed him to persist in his work, he had said.

(By Chiang Yi-ching)

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