Wuxia Manhua (comics) came into existence at the start of the 1970’s in Hong Kong. After gaining popularity in Hong Kong, many titles were exported to the rest of Asia and the United States. Like its novel counterparts, Wuxia Manhua would prove to be influential.
The first published Hong Kong Wuxia Manhua is Oriental Heroes by Tony Wong in 1970. It is about martial heroes who lived in Hong Kong’s public housing estates while fighting gangsters and other criminals. As a nod to Wuxia literature, martial arts from other stories were borrowed; the most obvious being the 18 Subduing Dragon Palms and The Dog Beating Stick technique from Jin Yong’s The Legend of the Condor Heroes. When it was first published, it gained notoriety for graphic violence and the Indecent Publication Act of 1975 was passed as a response. Despite this, the series is still on-going. Its popularity resulted in English translations being available in the United States through Jademan Comics, from 1988-1993. It was adapted into the 2006 Hong Kong film Dragon Tiger Gate, directed by Wilson Yip and starring Donnie Yen, both of Ip Man fame. While this title marked the beginning of Wuxia Manhua, another title would revolutionize this specific genre even further.
In 1980, Ma Wing-Shing’s Chinese Hero: Tales of the Blood Sword was first published. It was a breakthrough with its high attention to detail and more realistic drawings, especially in the fights. This led to other Manhua adopting a similar style, including the aforementioned Oriental Heroes. There are also strong crippled characters such as Shadow (armless) and Invincible (blind), who proved to be just as formidable as the physically-abled characters. Likewise, this was translated in English through Jademan Comics and re-translated & re-released through DrMaster in 2008. The popularity of this Manhua led to multiple TV and movie adaptations: the 1990-1991 Hong Kong ATV series The Blood SwordI & II, the 2005 Taiwanese TV series The Legend of Hero, the 1999 Hong Kong movie A Man Called Hero, and the 2022 Chinese film A Man Called Hero. Its popularity also led to more influential works by Ma Wing-Shing.
In 1989, Ma Wing-Shing’s The Storm Riders was first published. It features two protagonists, Wind and Cloud, who grow up learning martial arts in the Conqueror’s Clan and their journeys in the Jiang Hu. In addition to featuring two protagonists, the comic series would feature more main characters; Wind and Cloud would become secondary comics. In a unique twist for the genre, a short lived spinoff called Shenwuji featured the reincarnations of Wind and Cloud in the 21st century. The main comic series was translated in English and released by ComicsOne in the early 2000’s. Multiple adaptations include: the 1998 Hong Kong movie The Storm Riders & its 2009 sequel The Storm Warriors, the 2008 Chinese animated film Storm Riders - Clash of Evils, and the 2002 Taiwanese series Wind & Cloud Conquer The World and its 2004 sequel Wind & Cloud II. The live action movies are noteworthy for pushing visual effects in Hong Kong Cinema, and the animated movie is the first to be adapted from a Wuxia Manhua. Additionally, a short lived MMORPG titled Fung Wan Reborn was released.
While the output of Hong Kong Wuxia Manhua has decreased in the last decade, Manhua is still being produced in China and these works are adapted to animated TV series. Thanks to Manhua and the popularity of comics in general, Immortal Studios is able to create the world’s first ever Wuxia storyverse of comics!