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Putting ads on adult webcomics on Chinese blogs

High-heeled, collared erhu player from Demidov's webcomic

Comics in China are generally for kids and teens and generally appear in print. However, comics have appeared online, and others are targeted at adults. Some, like Cai Feng's "Love Sketchbook" series, are both.

The webcomic phenomenon is just getting off the ground. An artist going by the name of Demidov writes a webcomic on a Sohu blog, whose bondage and fetish-related contents are particularly interesting in light of the blog industry's decency standards. According to the Shanghai weekly The Bund, Demidov's comic is the most popular web comic at present by a fairly large margin.

The Bund interviewed Demidov about cartooning, selling advertising, and his adult subject matter.

Ya Xiaonuan: Children can't understand my comics

by Wang Xiaoguang / The Bund

In February of this year, Beijinger Ya Xiaonuan posted his first journal entry on his blog, "Warm Cliffs, Cold Chains" [title taken from Mao Zedong's poem, "Long March"]. This entry differed from the standard blog format of text or photos - it was a drawing, of a girl wearing a long dress. This girl now wears World Cup-themed uniforms that show her legs. During the four months from winter to early summer, the blog has attracted 140,000 hits; what has attracted so many viewers is Ya Xiaonuan's continually updated comic strips (reportedly these short pieces will be connected into a complete story).

In addition to Ya Xiaonuan, who goes by the pseudonym Demidov, there are other amateur cartoonists who have started serializing their works on blogs, but he is unquestionably the most successful to date. In China, comics were once considered, along with animated films, to be "things that only kids watch," something that was felt to be a problem by lots of people who enjoy animation. Now, Ya Xiaonuan's works, which are probably only understandable to adults, might serve as an annotation to this statement.

Aside from regular serialization, Ya Xiaonuan has begun to sell illustrated ads on his site; an ad is in the form of a fixed-size panel in the midst of the comic. Though small, this can be said to be an innovation. This paper conducted an interview with this popular figure in cartooning circles.

The Bund: At first, how did you come to think of serializing comics on a blog?
Demidov: The most important reason is that publishing online is much faster than publishing in print media. You can get feedback from readers in the shortest amount of time, and improve things based on their opinions. It increases the pace of your progress - this format is really well suited to me at my current stage.
    I've called them a "practice series" since they are drawn exclusively for the web. They are simplified to insure output volume. Lines are simple - they are somewhere between drafts and finished products. In general, I feel that my drawing still has room to improve, and I hope that through the blog, I can gather opinions and better myself.

The Bund: About how much time does it take to update your blog?
Demidov: Just the drawing takes around two or three hours. It varies for single panels, but they are usually quite quick. Plotting, layout, and dialogue are relatively hard work, sort of like cutting scenes in a film. Doing layout I have to figure in ads as well. To date I've sold two single ads. I believe that it's quite worthwhile for the purchasers, and lots of people should buy them. Later, when I print books, the ads will be included - I won't let those panels go blank.

The Bund: Have you studied cartooning formally? Or did you pick it up as a hobby?
Demidov: I haven't studied formally, but I've studied things like drawing. I haven't used it for a while, and just recently started to pick it up again.
    My favorite artist, and comic, is Toriyama Akira, and his Dragon Ball, since it's earned the most money. My own cartooning is headed in the direction of earning more and more money.

The Bund: Are you drawing these pieces to make money?
Demidov: There are lots of reasons. Earning money is one of them; after all, only by entering early can you make big money. I'm pretty good at satisfying my readers.

The Bund: Sex and adult themes occupy a large proportion of the contents of your comics. Is this what you mean by satisfying your readers?
Demidov: Right. These things are what the readers like to see. But if I say: I'm actually a moral gentleman, and it's just because the readers like it that I draw those things, will you believe me?
    However, on some level I really am a moral gentleman - at the very least, my comics don't have orgies, or things like one person falling in love with many people.

The Bund: What happens if children see your comics?
Demidov: They'll be mystified, and say, "How boring. Not readable at all."

The Bund: This is perhaps the division between erotica and adult themes. The remote-control vibrator, high heels, and such - are you normally interested in those things?
Demidov: Of course I can't answer that.

In regards to "satisfying the readers," Demidov estimates that his readership is 98% interested in sex, 1.9% interested in other things, and just 0.1% interested in the life of the artist. He puts the current composition of his comic at 60% sex, 40% other. He says that the internal life of the author is synonmous with sex, and hence makes up 60% of the comic.

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