The Comics Corral

The Comic Life of Juan Heskin


Red Theatre: An Epic Chinese Kung Fu Show in Beijing

Chinese Kung Fu

The mystery, excitement and action of martial arts is displayed for visitors in the Red Theatre’s “Legend of Kung Fu Show” in Beijing, China. Reviewers have consistently given the show high ratings for its portrayal of Chinese martial arts and culture. Visitors will see a high level performance, intricate stage design, professional actors, an appealing story line and most of all – real Kung Fu actions and scenes. The story itself originates from some 4,000 years ago in ancient China when the people developed martial arts as a way for self-defense, hunting and training.

Visitors to the Red Theatre in Beijing at No. 44, Xingfu Dajie, Dongcheng District may see a variety of themes and styles in the show, from mimicking animal movements, actions and movements inspired by various philosophies, legends and myths. The name of the show in English is: Legend of Kung Fu Show.

The show at the Red Theatre is presented by China Heaven Creation International Performing Arts Company which is the nation’s leading performance art production company. Some of the best designers, directors and Kung Fu practitioners, with an average age of 17 who have already practiced for many years, participate in the nightly production (twice daily during tourist season). There have also been rumors that the story will be seen in comic book form but it is yet to be seen.

The two-storied theatre also combines many innovations with lights, sound and stage scenery to help their audience feel more involved in the show experience. The first showing of “The Legend of Kung Fu” on the Beijing stage was July 15, 2004 and since that time it has consistently proven to draw visitors from around the world and has garnered several awards.

The basic story-line follows a young boy Chun Yi who joins a Buddhist temple in dreams of becoming a Kung Fu master. On his physical and mental journey of enlightenment he encounters many difficulties and temptations as he follows the path of a monk.

His first challenge is to adapt to the temple’s strict discipline and then he begins to realize the immense power of Kung Fu. However he must face his worldly obsessions and give up the mundane world to be successful in his quest.

During the 80-minute show’s six scenes we follow the young boy as he learns his craft and grows into a man with a body like steel after having briefly lost his way, suffering remorse and punishing himself. In the end he fears nothing and joins his fellow monks, demonstrating courage in the final ritual of becoming a true master.

The History of Chinese Kung Fu

Kung Fu combines self-defense and health maintenance into a large system dating back to China’s primeval society during the Shang Dynasty when people fought wild beasts and gradually developed a self-defense system.

Beginning with basic cleaving, chopping and stabbing, the activities grew into a well developed system. During this time, 221 BC, martial-arts developed into a type of dancing and was used to train soldiers and build their morale and was actually considered a part of education. Wrestling techniques were used on the battlefield and contests were held yearly and sword ceremonies become a part of the system.

Kung Fu exams were implemented during the Tang dynasty and this greatly propelled the development of martial arts with award ceremonies and titles given to the participants. It was during this time that martial-arts became more of an art form and would become the ancestor of kickboxing, judo, aikido and karate.

Between 960 and 1368 the development of Kung Fu climaxed with clubs and organizations spreading all over China and focusing on various aspect of the art including use of spears, cudgels, arching and a group known as the Luqi People traveled and performed throughout the country.

During the Ming and Qing Dynasties more genres developed and books on martial-arts were published leading to a banning of the practices but only drove them “underground” with many secret societies and schools organizing to teach the art which between 1368 – 1911 divided into teaching/learning for real combat and teaching/learning for self-development.

The use of fist and kicking legs developed and various styles developed both in northern and southern China. Skills included Long Fist, Short Hands, Hong Fist, Bazi Fist, Short Hands, Five Fist, Five Shapes Boxing and Crane Boxing. The Central National Martial Arts Society was established in 1927 and following that Chinese groups participated in the Olympics and other international martial arts tournaments and events.

A popular saying among all practitioners is “Train both internal and external” with internal focusing on the heart, spirit, mind, breath and strength and the external focusing on hands, eyes, body and stances. To witness the fabulous skill and beauty of Chinese kung fu, see the official Red Theatre website for more information.

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How to Learn Fast to Read & Understand Japanese Manga

Classroom in Japan

Nowadays there is a huge amount of publishers that translate Japanese Manga to different languages such as French, English, Dutch, German, Italian and others. And the consumption seems to be never ending. For example, a staggering 70% of comics bought in Germany are manga. That’s good news for those of course who don’t want to learn Japanese. However personally I liked the way it was before, when English manga was more rare which motivated people to learn Japanese, Kanji characters and expressions. Either way, the opinion will be devided on this issue but if you really want to get the most out of Japanese comics, learning the language is an eye opener.

That’s why I think it’s fair to at least give yourself a chance to see if you can become excited about learning and reading the language. Despite the compelxity of Japanese, on the other hand it gives much depth and various meaning to the language which in return can turn into a totally new phasination. That is learning in a way that’s rewarding and natural. While a lot of manga fans out there can relate to this, having or not having first hand experience, everyone needs to start somewhere. And not knowing where, is probably one of the single biggest reasons why many just never bother. Language in Japan is very much connected to culture and personality, one that is on the other side of the globe for most people. Also as an island country, obviously everything will be very different and have a new meaning in everything.

To show you the ropes, everyone needs a teacher. And what better teacher than Mitchel Thomas which was a true eye opener in starting with Japaese, which has become an important part of my life and never do I think learning is difficult or gruge why one English word has to have five different expressions in Japan. Changing ones attitudes, especially when older is difficult because of our stubborn old minds. That is why we need to re-think out of the box and find out a new way on how to learn Japanese that makes life exciting.

It is the idea of Mitchel Thomas that no home work or tedious memorizing is necessary in order to learn languages. Instead, while you listen to his audio tapes.. you are simply absorbing the teaching and understanding the language structure. In between you need to simply pause the tape to practice what you have learned, not by repeating, but by constructing new sentences in your mind. It will give you a rewarding feeling from the very start to begin building your confidence. Just like when you were a kid and realized something, languages are also meant to be realised. With excellent guidance and explanation of the foundations, the more relaxed and receiving you are.. the easier it is. Something totally opposite to schools or traditional study methods.

With the tapes, as you grow your confidence it becomes automatic that engaging with Japanese is giving you that same sense of reward. Ones you have the building blocks there and the right attitude towards Japanese, there is nothing that can stop you. Learning to read and write manga takes a life time. And if it’s not a fun experience from beginning to end, perhaps you are doing something wrong!


A Brief History Of French Comics

History of French Comics

Most French comics are known as Franco-Belgian comics as they are created for a French and Belgian audience.

The Early Years: Pre-War

The 19th Century developed many european artists drawing cartoons with the occasional artist using a sequential multi-panel narration that is seen in modern day comics. Yet, this narration differed slightly in that the captions and dialogue was featured underneath the panels opposed to using balloons filled with words. The strips were also short and humorous, similar what you might find near the back of a newspaper. The most popular artists were Gustave Dore, Nadar, Christophe and Caran d’Ache. They all had their differing qualities such as Caran d’Ache specialising in comics without any words whatsoever.

Come the 20th century, the first mass marketed French comics started to arise such as Becassine and Les Pieds Nickeles. The publications of 1910 were aimed at children and kids. In 1920, the Abbot of Averbode, Belgium, commenced the publication of Zonneland, a more text based magazine with space illustrations. However, they then evolved into a more comic-based approach as time went on.

The most well known Belgian comic series would have to be ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ created by Herge. The first story was called ‘Tintin in the Land of the Soviets’ and was published in 1929 by Le Petit Vingtieme. These early stories were in fact very racist and featured many political stereotypes before progressing into a more minimalistic child-orientated style.

The Journal de Mickey began distribution in 1934 and is often believed to be the first step towards modern comic books in the Franco-Belgian community. It was a weekly 8-page publication which prominently featured a comic-book style of design and was extremely popular right off the bat. This popularity stayed consistent until the end of the 30’s with magazines publishing mainly imported stories from America.

The Later Years: Post-War

However, when Germany invaded France and Belgium, American comics were seemingly impossible to import as the Nazis would not allow it. While at the time this would of come across as a hardship, it did make room for many original French and Belgium artists and animators to create their own content. They worked off the style of American comics such as Superman and Flash Gordon to create flow and learn what worked. This is when some of the most popular Franco-Belgian artists began their trip to fame such as Andre Franquin and Peyo.

Once the war was over, both countries and developed many skilled artists and so American comics were imported far less. 1946 also brought with it the self titled Tintin magazine to great feedback. This decline in US comic popularity was helped further still by the French Communist party in 1949 when they brought a new law that excluded most American publications from being read by youths. The war did see the elimination of many French publications, though.

The 60’s saw the fall in popularity for most French Catholic magazines and the creation of adult comic magazine publications featuring pornography, violence and fantasy.

Since the 60’s French comics have become far more artistic and tend to make more use of the graphic aspect of stories. They also feature a complex storyline with the target audience being older teenagers and adults. The comic books are have become far more novel based opposed to being shortened snapshots like their ancestors, similar to that of American and UK graphic novels.

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The Comic World of Amazon France

Tintin france comics

Needless to say, France is one of the greatest countries when it comes to comics. And perhaps the best place for it in the whole of Europe, historically at least. Because I order a lot of stuff online, over the years I have gotten to know the wonderful folks at company in France. Now I am sharing my ideas on how to use and profit from them, its really a resource full of resources just waiting to be tapped. So please, jump in! Oh, and don’t miss this genius how to guide called ‘Amazon France English‘ which shows you the ropes on using the store in your native language. It’s really easy shopping, I promise!

Amazon is undoubtedly the largest online retailer in the United States, but also significantly huge in a lot of countries like France, Germany, United Kingdom, Spain & Italy. That’s fantastic for Founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos but the Seattle based retail giant is also making money for some Comic dudes like us! There are a number of ways to make money through Amazon but here are some ways that we have been making regular income. Some people do even thousands of dollars per month, but we haven’t gotten that far just yet.

Sell Your Own Comics

The most obvious way to make money on Amazon is to sell your own products. You can start selling on Amazon in less than one day. By choosing the seller plan that suits you best. The biggest benefit from selling on Amazon is that you will have access to millions of customers from all around the world. The site has just about 95 million unique visitors every month in just the US alone and a lot more in France, so basically it is a marketing machine. You might just end up selling more on Amazon than you would on your own site so it is definitely worth looking into.

Create and Sell Kindle Books & Comics

E-books have become a huge trend in the last few years. Comics can be turned into ‘Kindle e-books’ which are doing especially well because of the innovation of the Kindle App. When Kindle e-books first came into existence, they could only be read on the Kindle device manufactured by Amazon. Not everyone saw it necessary to purchase the device, so Kindle e-books struggled for a while. However, between 2009 and 2011, a number of Kindle Apps were released by Amazon which then made it possible for consumers to read their Kindle e-books on their PCs, Tablets, Android and Apple devices ect. This caused a significant spike in the number of Kindle e-books sold, and a wave of new self-published authors. Gone are the days when the only way to publish a book is buy signing a contract with a big New York publisher. You can now write, format and publish an e-book and sell it in the kindle store. Again, this a great way to make money because through Amazon, your book or comic can be sold to millions of people, in countries all over the world.

Affiliate Marketing

If you own a successful blog (for example related to comics) or have access to a big audience through social media etc., then it is possible for you to make a significant amount of money through Affiliate Marketing. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it simple means, collecting a commission for every sale made on a product that you promote for another company. These sales are tracked through a URL link or promotional code that you get when you sign up for the company’s affiliate program. Amazon’s affiliate program is called Amazon Associates. Some successful bloggers make a ton of money through this program alone and here’s why: As the largest online retailer in the United States, Amazon sells a range of different items from a wide variety of brands. This means that regardless of what your niche is, it’s highly likely that you’ll find something from the site that you can promote and make money from.

Hope this helped to tap into Amazon France as well as the other online stores around the world. And don’t forget to check the guide on English because you will need it unless you want to go back to French school. Something I wouldn’t.

Fun regards,
Juan Heskin

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Comic World at Chinese Theater Scene: Chaoyang District

Chaoyang District Nightlife

Just previously, I was explaining my fantastic experience at the Tiandi Theatre in Beijing. And how it connected me to the ancient comics of the “Manhua”.. and in general, made me fell in love with Chinese culture & life style. This really was a sort of a transition moment for me, and enforced my belief that I must travel and experience the world instead of staying home to read comics. With all my respect towards comic collectors, I realised that there is just more to this world.. and it is at it’s best when connected with the comic world. Now I was in love, traveling in the fascinating world of China.. getting stuck in Beijing with the huge theater scene that is available.

I was determined to go further and then it happened that I heard of another Acrobatic show in the city, which would be even better. Naturally, I decided to go for it and see what it would be like in comparison. This famous amongst the Chinese, yet hidden gem of a flying acrobatic show is hosted at the prestegious Chaoyang Theater venue, named by the Chaoyang District where it is located. Not far from the city center buzz, this “business district” is hiding this particular theater within the confinements of large and modern buildings. It is much like entering the world of Clark Kent, where only superman can overcome the challenges of these skyscrapers. Once you arrive to the theater, there is a feel of uneasy in the air. Everyone seems ancitous to get to see the show that people have planned to see for perhaps years, especially when the Chinese audience is concerned.

This is now Smallville thought, as soon you realise that this is something like straight from a Manhua comic, or an old Movie from China. Now it was the second time for Beijing to show me what it was capable of. The results, were nothing less than absolutely stunned. While Tiandi Theatre had hosted a venue with much to my satisfaction gave me a very up and close look into their acrobatics. This time, it was the large scale and grand performance that so many talk about but few have really witnessed.

While watching the death defying & fantastic feats, I recalled a certain acrobatic comic book. It was the “Cirque Du Soleil” by Marvel Comics that I had read back in 2012. It was a special custom edition distributed at the Comic Con. It was perhaps, my first fascination towards acrobatic performance, ever. Without much realising, perhaps it was this very experience that led me to venture into the magical Chaoyang Theater, as well as the one in Tiandi. Which also concluded to an even deeper thinking and understanding about my comic past. You see, even thought I wanted to leave most of the corrall past behind me, it was right within me all that time. Making huge influences on my decision making, my future and everything that happened around me. It was something I needed to accept and make the most out of.. connecting my new life with this past was probably one of the greatest things that happened to me in my life. Isn’t that great I thought.. and while realising this, I was watching the amazing Beijing Acrobatic Troupe… better than any western circus performance could ever be. It was a true pleasure and little did I know that the Chinese theater and variety art adventures would only continue in the next chapter of my travels.

While words are often enough, I advice you to check out the Chaoyang Theater trailer. You can find it from the Show Beijing YouTube channel. They have other great trailers too that might be worth checking out if you want to visit Beijing. Have fun!

Juan Heskin

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Collecting Comic Books

Captain Marvel

The world of comic book collecting is surely an interesting one, and it seems to have no end in sight in terms of growth. While it’s not the most trendy of hobbies on this world, surely there are many activities that have served as huge promotion for it. For many it all starts from an innocent purchase from the local book shop, until one discovers the depths of a used book store. These places can become very addictive as one discovers the abundance of old comics that are just waiting for their wealthy owners to pick them up, take them home and yes, shelf them. While it may seem strange for some, just wait until you hear how the first edition of marvel comics sold for $350,000, which is still not even the tip of the iceberg.

So obviously there have been many for do it not just for shelfing, but for the purpose of profit. Buying and selling comics for economic purposes is totally common, and one can even get rich from it. But where it all started, was the superhero scene without a doubt. Characters such as superman, batman and captain marvel have been as famous as the presidents of the united states, so no wonder they became great targets of the American dominated comic industry. But Manga did take the longest straw in the end perhaps, with more comic books coming out than anywhere else in the world.

One secret to the success of comics and their collecting, is the adult fan crowd. Which can be said to be the majority, just as in the game industry which has changed a lot not only in content but the consumers themselves. Probably the biggest event in the world that keeps on growing it’s tradition and fan base, is the Comic-Con International where people from all over the world, and all walks of life get together over one great passion. Held in San Diego, I have been active there for quite a few years, althought in the latter part of my career as a comic book collector did see a definite decline in participation. But anyone who is really interested, for just the collecting or even for business it is an event that has to be visited to really understand the massive scale, it’s possiblities and capabilities of the scene.

Get collecting and have fun!

Juan Heskin

PS. More about the Chinese scene and the comic world there soon.

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More About Manhua Comics

Chinese Mad Comic

After seeing the acrobatics show, I was both more and more interested in Manhua as well as the Chinese ancient acrobatics. First I needed to learn how to pronounce “Manhua”, as I already had learned how to say “Manga” which was dead easy of course. In the Chinese language you have what is called tones, which makes pronounciation a lot more trickier than in Chinese. In simplified Chinese “漫画”, is pronounced like Mànhuà. The best success I have had so far, is to just try and say it in a way that sounds a little bit funny.. like having tones without really knowing the exact and correct ones. Someone did say that as a learning trick it’s better to forget about tones, or at least not to focus on them too much. In this way you can kind of get a natural feeling to the words and it’s as if with practice, you learn how to say the words by themselves.

All this is a great example of just how deep you can go with things in China, even with the simple word for comics. Well of course, I like a bit of a challenge and, to study the etymology of words. I found out that the word actually means “impromptu sketches” which was later introduced back to the modern Chinese culture.

It all started with pottery between 5000 to 3000 B.C. Also it was a popular thing in the Ming Dynasty. It’s really funny to think about it, how drawings of peacocks have transformed into the modern form of comics that is prevalent in China. The real boom started in the 19th, and 20th centuries. About the time when acrobatics came about and change the whole Manhua comics scene. The other favorite old form of Chinese comics has to be Lianhuanhua, which was popular in Shanghai during the 1920s. It’s really where the modernity of it all started off. But nothing comes without a price of course, because they were used as a political tool and to spread propaganda. Actually I would like to say that it kind of depicts the power of comics. While nowadays some people even ridicule the paint and the brush, it remains just as powerful as in the ancient times. Even with added benefits, like for example the power the simple lack of these restrictions and what is now known as freedom as speech.

Juan H.

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Chinese Works of Manhua and Tiandi Theatre Acrobatics

The Comic Tiandi Theater
To fall in love with a comic, requires something personal. An experience or connection with something that feels close and real. As a comic medium in itself, with characters that are often easy to relate to and connect with it’s no wonder that one starts seeking these kinds of “up & close” experiences. For me, I fell in love with the Chinese Manhua comics from an experience of traveling in China. This ancient form of drawing cartoon-like figures, originates from the 18th-century China. But for some reason, the form of this “literati painting”, became later hugely popular in Japan. Where it took the form which is very familiar to you all, of course “Manga”. While I love Japanese comics, going deep into the world of the Chinese and more ancient equivalent was just a fascinating trip full of discovery.

Soon it became obvious, that all of those people who dedicated their lives to drawing comics were true artists that came from many walks of life. In fact, the drawings were something very real and depicted anything from ordinary life style to fabulous events in time and space. Interestingly enough, it was acrobatics that lead me to this discovery where I managed to witness a spectacle that had bloomed in comic form previously. While modern comics might have forgotten Tiandi Theatre in Beijing, I and those who embrace the mystical past of China have and will not.

These comics were not carved in stone as some of the very oldest works of Manhua. Instead, acrobatics was an artform that was very dear to the many emperors that had ruled the land. While not getting enough from the live performing acts, the events were drawn so that they could be memorized and never forgotten. What made Tiandi a special theatre in the city, was it’s importance as entertainment to the emperor himself. While the original crew is surely no longer alive, the spirit of variety shows has been kept alive and well in this hugely popular acrobatic theatre. How I managed to connect the two dots, between Manhua and the acrobatic venue was simply pure luck. I love to talk with locals and get to know what their insight of the city consists. This time I was hinted to a comic that fantasised about this very show. Instantly it made the experience much well worth it and grabed my full attention. Not just in acrobatics and other performing arts in China, but especially in Comics as well. That’s why I wanted to dedicate a few posts to the new interest in my comical life, which is the People’s Republic of China. A controversial but interesting place to hang and explore.

For those interested in the Tiandi Theater venue, please check out their official website above. You can also just go directly to the show and hope they have tickets left. Their address is 10 Dongzhimen South Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing, China. With daily shows at 19:15 and discount ticket booking available from their website, there is just no reason to miss out on it. As I am in China for quite some time, I will also cover some other performing theaters in Beijing, perhaps in the rest of China as well.

Hope you like the new personal feel of my blog btw. Catch you later, & Nihao!


Calvin & Where I Started with Comics

Calvin & Hobbes

I think there are many paths one can take to start exploring the world of cartoons. But what is common to all, is the young age where one starts. Which is why plenty enough people confuse them with something that’s only ment for kids. Of course, there are plenty of people who have gone past this hard headed notion. But one issue that has an influence on people and their later lives with comics is without a doubt their childhood. That memorable and important time, where parents misunderstand you and comics walk the path with you. Making even going to the dentist fun and exciting, just to get a good opportunity to catch on the latest Donal Duck cartoons for example.

It could be said, that the type of comics even kids choose tell something about their personality at an early age. On one aspect it helps to even shape their personalities, on the other side of things, there are always reasons why some children prefer other comics. Some decitions which even come from their parents.

Personally, for me one of the biggest influences with comics was Calvin & Hobbes. I was just recently trying to find a good documentary about the topic, but unfortunately could not find one. With too much information about the fans and what they thought. I am more interested in the story, because the personal story of a fan is very personal and while you can relate, it’s different for everyone.

But that was the starting point for me, when I understood that there is something deaper and meaningful about cartoons than Donald Duck. Even though, even there you can find deeper philosophical meaning about it. Nevertheless, it’s really an issue that needs to be settled with some common sense. I would say, that at the end of the day it’s all about those emotions that you can always look back and connect with. They are not only the starting point, but company to walk with you throughout life.

Let’s read something meaningful and promote those comics that make you think and not just rot your brain guys. At least, that is the kind of awareness I hope to bring about into the industry that I love so much. Thanks my friends!

Juan Heskin

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Profound Expression Through Comics

Comic Art

I have been interested in comics as a phenomen far more interesting than TV for example. The concept is much more simple and touches you in a way that a more complicated, fast paced medium could ever do. It is a simple fact, that when things that we reflect upon are simplistic it’s much easier to realted to them. As a kid, you don’t really think about it and just enjoy the thrill and ride that comic books give you.

As an adult, you kind of have to look deeper into the concept of comics and find out the rich world in a more aware manner. Otherwise you are just another comic book looser who never grew up and still phantasizes about being Super Man or whatever-X. Let’s face it, there are those “non-grown ups” that are just there at the same level of a child. With nothing wrong at the medium of course, it’s just a time to grow up a little in my opinion and bring better awareness to something that’s authentic and helps people to express profound thought.

At best, that is what comics produce. A deep connection between the author, writer and the reader. You could explain the most advanced mathematical formula through such drawings, and there would be nothing wrong with it because you know that it will be extremely helpful for those people who engage in it. What you consider to be your best novel for example, imagine that in comics form. Wouldn’t that be great and besides giving that needed depth in reading, there is a sense of lightness and fun that makes the experience even better.

It has been said several times, that if you cant explain what you understood to a child, then you don’t understand it yourself either. Producing information in comic form is a great way to prove that, with the added bonus of deep understanding. Great stuff as always!

Juan Heskin

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