Hesman, a comic book series written by Nguyen Hung Lan has come to an end after 160 episodes and 23 years.
It along with others like Thần đồng đất Việt, Cô tiên xanh, Thằng Bờm, Siêu nhân Việt Nam, Anh trai tôi là khủng long, Cổ tích Việt Nam, and Tý Quậy made many childhood memorable.
But popular though they have been, comic book sales in Vietnam are insignificant compared to their international counterparts.
Anh trai tôi là khủng long was the first comic for children published by Comicola Company.
Its director, Nguyen Khanh Duong, said writing quality comics for children is extremely difficult because an author needs to have in-depth knowledge of just about everything.
Since the writers in his company are mostly young, they usually opt for topics that are relevant to readers their age, he said.
Vietnam, in general, lacks authors that write children’s books and comics, he added.
Artist Pham Le Vy said another reason for the limited number of comics is some writers’ opinion that they are too lowly.
“But the fact is, to be able to come up with a comic series of the quality of Doraemon requires great skill and knowledge on the part of writers.”
Lan, who has written some 700 installments of various comics, said it is difficult to come up with a great plot.
“While unattractive drawings can be forgiven, unattractive plots cannot.”
Children from various backgrounds such as rural and urban have different needs and that makes it more difficult for both authors and publishers to create perfect stories for all, he said.
Big investment, fierce competition
Duong said the investment required to publish comics is not small and they face fierce competition from international offerings.
“Readers these days have so many choices from overseas. Some of them have been popular for years.”
Lan said with so many foreign comic books available, local publishers have to think carefully about how to produce at low cost and recover their investment.
While it costs only VND20 – 30 million to buy the Vietnam copyright for a foreign comic book, it takes two to three times that money to create one locally, he said.
Besides an author has to spend months and even years to write them, he said.
“Considering it takes a lot of time, how can an author survive on a low monthly paycheck?”
For a comic to recover its investment, it needs to sell 10,000 copies, he said.
Many authors and publishers have published comics online but since they are not popular in Vietnam yet, it is challenging to introduce comics this way.