Comic strips going downhill fast

Once upon a time, the comic strip played an important role in satisfying young people’s entertainment quotient. Things have changed and comic strips are not as popular as they used to be.

Parental boycotts of violating publishing houses have further damaged the already failing market which provides an opportunity for Vietnamese comic strips to make a comeback (Photo: U.Phuong)

In the old days, comic books were a top choice for parents seeking to entertain their kids. Multitudes of different comic strips and books were once available for from which primary students and teenagers could choose.

Now, among 50 publishing houses in the country, only the Kim Dong Publishing House and the Youth Publishing House still publish picture books. Yet the two publishing houses have seen a decline in profits within the once thriving comic strip market.  Kim Dong only makes half of what it used to while Youth Publishing House’s profits have decreased by 90 percent.

The extreme decline in profits can be partly attributed to the fact that many young people read their comic cartoons online. Comic-book lovers have even translated collections of funnies into Vietnamese and uploaded them onto the internet, where readers can read gratis.

Another reason for the decline in sales is that Vietnamese publishing houses have printed strips without permission from overseas publishing companies, which refused to sell more stories until Vietnamese counterparts have paid copyright fees for stories previously printed illegally.

Moreover, violating copyright law has badly affected honest publishing houses. For instance, Youth Publishing House paid a lot for the copyright dues for the story, “The Legend of the Condor Heroes,” written by Kim Dung.  However, the company only profited slightly, because the Humanity Publishing House had published the Dung’s entire series without permission.

The sharp decrease in legally published comic stories has negatively impacted young readers, as well as encouraged the illegal sale of works obtained without permission.

Magnates, knowing that teens still love reading comic strips, have taken advantage of the situation by publishing lurid materials, such as those filled with erotic drawings, violence and subversive words. Materials reprinted without permission are not edited or checked by proper authorities. This has caused anger among parents who have come to consider printed cartoons to be form of cultural degeneration.  Parental boycotts of violating publishing houses have further damaged the already failing market.

Meanwhile, Tri Duc of Youth Publishing House found a positive angle to these developments. He said the situation provides an opportunity for Vietnamese comic strips to make a comeback.  Homegrown comics will now appear favorable to their Japanese, Chinese and Korean counterparts, which have earned a negative reputation among parents.  However, publishing houses need to modernize their comics in order to be successful in today’s market.

By Tuong Vy - Translated by Uyen Phuong

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