American Expat Launches Comic Book Series in China

Michael Kelley and his wife came to China as teachers on a two-year contract with the intention of having an adventure before settling down. Five years later, they’ve set down roots in Shekou, Shenzhen; which has allowed Michael to make his dream become a reality. That dream was to write a comic book.

Michael Kelley - American Comic Book Author in China

“For years I’ve had this desire to create my own comic book,” says Michael. Living in Portland, Oregon, he was surrounded by independent artists from all kinds of mediums, from music and film to comic books. His surroundings encouraged him to explore his creative side and start jotting down notes about ideas for characters and stories. But theknowhow of actually creating a physical book was still foreign to him. “I didn’t know where to start or who to talk to.” So his ideas got shelved.

Comic Book Author Michael Kelley in Beijing

It wasn’t until he and his wife came to China that his dream once again seemed attainable. “I got to know people in the publishing industry and suddenly it felt like it could actually happen.” In April 2017, he officially launched his publishing company, AIC Comics (the AIC stands for American in China) and got to work. “The hardest part in the beginning was finding artists who could draw my comics, since I have zero artistic talent myself.” He searched for freelancers online, working with artists from American, the Philippines, India, and Cameroon.“It took a while, but I ended up finding some amazing artists to bring my characters to life.”

Michael Kelley's Comic Book Characters

China – and Shenzhen in particular – provides Michael with the resources he needs not only to print his comics, but also to expand his operations. “The printer I work with is able to do all kinds of stuff for me. So far, we’ve made stickers, postcards, and bookmarks to help promote my comics.” Beyond that, Michael has also been in negotiations with toy manufacturers in the city to produce toy lines of his characters. He recently held a photo shoot in Shekou with a cosplay model dressed as one of his characters. All of these pieces help to build a rapidly growing fanbase on social media.

Cosplay Model Cathy Xu AIC Comics SheXie Meiren

But being in China has also been a challenge, as most of his fans and supporters are in America.“It’s nice to be so close to the printers and toy manufacturers, but I’m separated from most of my supporters back in America,” he says. Michael relies heavily on social media to keep in touch with and grow his fanbase. “It helps a lot with communication, but the time difference can also make things difficult.” As for the potential for growing within China, Michael has found that there isn’t much interest in western-style comic books. According to him, “I’ve only been able to find two stores in Hong Kong that cater to western comic books like Marvel and DC. I haven’t found any in mainland China.”

Agent Sparx Defender of Glittera

Despite the hurdles, Michael’s work has been receiving strong reviews by the indie comic media. Recently, his comic book Shexie Meiren #1 was reviewed by, in which Michael’s work is described as original and refreshing with a strong female lead who plays by her own rules and doesn’t fit the mold of traditional female comic book characters.

Shexie Meiren AIC Comics

The next big challenge, Michael says, will be his crowdfunding campaign which launches March 1st. With three series currently in publication and more in the works, Accoridng to Michael, he’ll need the support of his fans and the community to keep the momentum going. “Paying for artists and printing is expensive. A successful crowdfunding campaign would be a big boost,” he says.

AIC Crowdfunding Campaign Frankies Shenzhen ChinaAIX Crowdfunding CampaignCosplay Model Cathy Xu Shexie Meiren Shenzhen China

To celebrate the launch of his crowdfunding campaign, Michael will be throwing a party at Frankie’s Bar and Grill in the Futian Free Trade Zone this Thursday. He’ll be selling raffle tickets and autographed photos from the cosplay shoot. Each raffle ticket comes with a beer, so there’s some incentive to increase your chances at winning prizes like copies of his comics and original artwork.

Opportunities to back his project will be available when it launches on March 1st. You can find more information about Michael’s party at Frankie’s Bar and Grill at (VPN required).

The AIC Comics crowdfunding page can be found here.

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28 Feb 2018

By Gary Isse

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