The Underground Artists Giving China Comic Relief

From instant noodle monsters to sad seals, China’s indie artists are using their imagination to represent real life.

In a crowded train car, angry monsters are devouring passengers. Their wriggling tentacles smash through the glass windows, sending one hapless thermos flying before tearing travelers limb from limb. But these bloodthirsty creatures have humble origins: an average carton of instant noodles.

The nightmarish black-and-white scene is just a figment of independent comic artist Hu Xiaojiang’s wild imagination, but there’s realism at its core. Hu drew “Instant Noodle” in 2008, when a catastrophic snowstorm left millions stranded as they traveled home during the Spring Festival holiday. The chaos saw instant noodles — which typically go for less than 10 yuan ($1.60) per package — skyrocket to 100 yuan each.

Hu, 41, is a prolific illustrator: His work has appeared in big-name magazines including GQ and Men’s Health. But in China’s tight-knit underground comic world, he is best known as the co-founder of Special Comix, a sporadically published anthology that features the best of the niche community.

Between 2005 and 2015, there have been six Special Comix volumes in total, with another currently in progress. Each issue has a different chief editor and a different theme — the upcoming one being “walk.” Hu was in charge of the third installment, which was published in 2009 with the theme “the future.” The issue’s content touched on “every aspect and layer of Chinese reality,” according to the book’s introduction, ranging from Hu’s own piece about the Spring Festival chaos to one on the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake in southwestern Sichuan province that left more than 80,000 people dead or missing. Continue to read the full article here.


-This is original content by Sixth Tone and has been republished with permission.