Organised by Macau Animation & Comic Alliance, the second edition of Macau ACT Expo was held in the Venetian Macao in July. Exhibitors were composed mostly of the associations of self-published amateur artists, anime and manga companies and advertising firms. There were also a few anime production houses from the second/third-tier cities in the mainland. The number of visitors is far from perfect for this edition, and the venue was quite deserted. Only the exhibition of Taiwanese comic Kid Jerry attracted certain visitors.
Michael Wong, co-founder of Macau ACT Expo, said the low rate of attendance was expected. “The focus of Macau ACT Expo is to promote local creative industries, so inevitably it’s unprofitable.” Amateur comic artists associations, design firms and advertising companies were making use of the platform to promote rather than trading. According to our reporters, the exhibition booth designs were not attractive. There were very few booths in this 3,500 square feet venue, and the emptiness of the space was unlikely to attract visitors.
Macao Act Expo is partly funded by Macao Economic Services, Cultural Affairs Bureau and Macao Foundation, so it’s never a commercial operation. The Ani-Com & Games Hong Kong (ACGHK) in neighbouring Hong Kong may give an insightful reference to Macao. According to Xinhuanet, this five-day event in 2014 saw a record-breaking attendance of 752,000. In addition to the highly popular Japanese animation and manga, Hong Kong comic classics like Oriental Heroes, Teddyboy and Storm Riders were also in the limelight in the event. Still loved by their fans, they keep rolling out new spin-off products over the years.
Hong Kong has been producing comics 20 years earlier than Macao and has already developed certain aesthetic styles. Comic production houses in Hong Kong have adopted the Japanese-style assembly line, that is, the scriptwriter is responsible for the plot, while the leading comic artist responsible for the storyboard and character design. All assistants have their own duties like creating the background and scenes, action design and inking. The whole operation is highly industrialised. A good comic, if successfully marketed, will lead to some fruitful results. For example, Ma Wing Shing’s Storm Riders, which he penned the series in 1989, is one of the original comics produced in Hong Kong that has become a classic among Chinese-speaking regions. Over the years the story has been adapted into other media like television, film, animation, video game and even performing art a number of times.
While Hong Kong’s comics and animation are so popular, by contrast, Macao’s situation looks grim. Leo Lei, a diehard fan of Hong Kong and Japanese comics in Macao, said: “Okay, now there are comic artists out there in Macao, but none of us has ever come across them. This tells the fact that local comics are substandard.” He explained that he didn’t go to the Macau ACT Expo because he has never heard of such event. “I believe that if your work is solid and of high quality, it will naturally reach its readers.”
However, Wong explained that Macau Animation & Comic Alliance is formed by different groups of amateur comic artists. They take comic production as a hobby rather than a business operation. Wong said: “We need professional comic artists to make it an industry in Macao. Therefore, it’s essential to promote the culture of comic reading and making so as to attract more people to know about it, and even to attract talent to work in the industry.”