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Video: Cartoonist Wanwan shows how enterprising Taiwanese turned blogs into big business.
She's already cooperated with cellphone firm Taiwan Dageda, the Family Mart convenience stores in Shanghai, and the popular bakery chain 85 degrees C. Alcohol or cigarette ads are out. "Many of my fans are kids, so we can't accept that," says Hu. Her blog has had some 240 million visits since it launched in 2004.
It's heady stuff for a young woman who, as a girl, would sneak comics back home to read, stuffing them under her clothes so her mom wouldn't find them. "My dream was to be a cartoonist, but I always thought it was just a dream," said Hu. "I've been very lucky."
As a kid, she devoured Japanese comics on the sly, especially those starring the blue robot cat from the future, Doraemon (called "Xiao Ding-dang" in Chinese). Her mother disapproved. A typical Taiwanese parent, she wanted Hu to spend all her time studying so she could be a doctor or teacher one day, rather than wasting time on frivolities such as comics.
Now her mother takes credit for her success, likes to boast about her daughter to strangers, and urges Hu to write about her in her cartoons, said Hu with a laugh. Hu is even collaborating with her mother on a new book.
She learning drawing techniques in school, but when it came to drawing Wan Wan, she reverted to a doodle-like style, making rapid sketches and sloppy Chinese characters with a Wacom pen tablet that she touches up in Photoshop. She says she can finish a typical frame in ten minutes. "If you want to draw everyday life, the simplest style is the best," she said.
She gave an impromptu demonstration of her sketching style at the coffee-shop, rapidly sketching a cartoon in thick, black lines.
What's next for Wanwan?
She's now targeting the Japan market ("Japan doesn't often accept foreign books, so it's very difficult," says Hu.) And she's mulling an English-language edition, possibly even a U.S. edition. "I'm very interested in the American market," she said.