The Badical & Chinese Comics


Written by Seun Mustapha
14 Monday 14th April 2008

Some uncomfortable truths about China and their relations with Tibet, not to mention their connections with the conflict in Darfur, have been uncovered and suddenly everyone’s favourite purveyor of exotic foodstuff has become everyone's favourite country to hate. So far China’s attempt at the Olympic relay has faced some glorious sabotage - with supercharged protesters attempting to wrestle Blue Peter’s Connie Huq to the ground, upstaged slightly by the French (kings of that sort of thing) who managed to put the torch out three times in a row!

LOL, boobies...

At the time of writing however things hadn’t had the chance to kick off and the Manhua! Chinese Comics Now Exhibition remained completely trouble-free. An eclectic exhibition of some 200 works written and lovingly illustrated by some of China’s most prolific comic writers alongside some considerably more underground names.

You’ve obviously heard of Manga by now, and Manhua is the Chinese equivalent. Criminally overlooked in the west for the good-time blood, guts and tentacle rape (it’s okay if it’s tentacles - go obscure obscenity laws!) of mainstream Manga, the Manhua exhibition is the first of its kind on British soil. It features intricately inked, hundred-page-long epic tales of survival against Samurais and giant mythical beasts to re-workings of traditional Chinese folklore.

More modern fare such as Zhang Xiaoya’s modern-day tale focuses around the societal repercussions a young boy is exposed to after his father's questioning of the state is particularly relevant. A lot of the artwork here holds a resonance beyond just storytelling, drifting into social commentary and wry political discourse - all via the medium of cute-as-a-button schoolgirls, dashing dynamically-haired heroes, city-destroying behemoths and giant robots.

Artist - Tony Wong

The Badical’s seemingly obvious exterior is filled with layers of depth and mystery also. Even though they like electro-clash, they are far from ‘completely predictable and totally played out’. You dig a little into The band's world and you realise these guys are closer in spirit to people like Timmy Exile and Henry Shitmatt than Justice and all those Ed Banger guys.

Their live act comes straight off of a custom made Reaktor ensemble that for the sake of explanation is a bit like the Keymasher ensemble (that some of us know about and most of us don’t) but new and improved. Their way-updated version allows them to completely take their music apart and then put it back together backwards, turn it inside out, force it to do 100 push ups and then jump up and down with sugar on top. Anybody that’s ever tried to pull off a live Reaktor set either secretly cheated and just played an mp3 or can attest to the pure chaos this sort of performance is pre-destined to end up in. The Badical relish in this sort of chaos, their live set is a non-stop death charge of insanity.

Artist - Hok Tak Yeung

DP:  What do you think of the artwork here? Were you ever into Manga or anything growing up?

Hok Tak Yeung: Yeah, my parents, well, one of my parents is Japanese. Plus it was massive when I was growing up. I had to be into it. I was expected to be the expert. When the giant robot starts raping the schoolgirl with the 50-foot pen0r I was supposed to know why.

DP: Did you know anything about ‘Manhua’ though? I’ve never even heard of it.

HTY: It looks pretty cool, a lot like Manga. Some of it seems more political or whatever though. I like this Samurai old-time sort of stuff.

DP: Do you get what any of this is about?

HTY: Well I think that guy is about to cut that guy with that sword and that guy looks like he’s finding the whole thing pretty funny.

DP: What’s with the Schoolgirl, the old man head and the big flash?

HTY: I don’t know, I don’t want to know.

You can check The Badical's site here for details of where and when they will next be playing near you.

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