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Hong Kong piglet makes stir on mainland
McDull, a piglet created by Hong Kong artists Brian Tse Lap-Man and Alice Mak, has received a warm welcome by readers on the mainland.

The first print run of the McDull series was 70,000 copies and the copies sold out soon after publication.

McDull is a piglet in a world populated by both cute animals and humans.

The comic series includes episodes recounting McDull's birth, education, and training as a would-be Olympic athlete, with visits to his mother's TV cooking show and the Maldives.

Since it was launched in Hong Kong in 1990, the McDull characters have become smash hits and evolved into popular local icons.

The Jieli Publishing House, based in Southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, introduced the books to the mainland earlier this year.

The publisher said it was worried at first that readers of the mainland might not appreciate McDull.

"Some of the stories and humour are so rooted in local culture that people outside Hong Kong may not fully understand it," said Huang Jiwei, spokesman for the publisher.

Readers' unimaginable enthusiasm towards the series proved those worries unfounded.

The cute piglet and his family soon became the favourite of many mainland readers.

The characters have appeared on books, as dolls and on stationery.

Huang said the stories are cute, satirical and sometimes sentimental.

"McDull is not a piglet at all but a normal little boy. He faces life's ups and downs with his demanding but loving mother. McDull's life is that of everyone born in the late 1970s and early 1980s."

It seems that McDull may not be destined for great things as he wishes but he tries hard anyway. Behind the books' surface-level cuteness lies an acidic bite.

People's interest in the McDull series and other illustrated storybook series such as Taiwan artist Jimmy Liao's "Subway" series indicates a new trend in reading, analysts pointed out.

Both publishers and readers agree that, as Chinese society develops, an age of "reading pictures" has been ushered in.

According to Huang Jiwei, today's readers seldom read novels, which are quite time-consuming. For them, time is precious and they would rather spend it in faster yet still rewarding ways.

The McDull series and other illustrated storybooks fit well the needs of today's readers.

They require less time to read as they have many pictures but no so much text. However, they are also thought-provoking.

A common characteristic of these illustrated storybooks is that they always portray people coping with alienation, loneliness and feelings of anxiety. The main characters are usually portrayed against a background of a maze-like cityscape or crowds of nameless faces.

An atmosphere of poetic imagination, melancholy and cuteness thus dominates. The plots themselves are actually rather thin and simple, which makes reading them less difficult.
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