Chi Hoi is one of the most innovative independent comic artists to come out of Hong Kong for the last 20 years. Born in 1977 in Hong Kong, Lee Chi Hoi grew up poor and his parents could not afford to buy him comic books to read. The teachers in school also frown upon comic books and told him they were trash. With no preconceived notions what comic books about, Chi Hoi started drawing them in 1996 after being inspired by the work of Lai Tat Tat Wing when he was studying Food and Nutritional Sciences at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. After graduation in 1999, he worked in a bookstore, then as a copywriter, a clerk and a graphic designer. However, he could not stop drawing comics and decided to draw them full time.
Other than Lai Tat Tat Wing, the self-taught artist was also influenced by Edward Munch, Vincent van Gough, literature, cinema and independent comics from Europe. His sensibilities are clearly aligned to the latter as seen in his earliest works, The Writer and Her Story (1999).
Chi Hoi comes from a linage of Hong Kong alternative artists starting from Li Chi Tak, the godfather of alternative and independent comics in Hong Kong who inspired Lai Tat Tat Wing and in turn, inspired Chi Hoi. One can find a common thread in all three artists’ work – lone characters lost in a wasteland fighting existential enemies. While Li and Lai’s style are more realistic, Chi Hoi’s approach is more dream-like with his preference of using the pencil to create very dense and heavy shading.
The key works in his oeuvre are Library (2013) and The Train (2007), both of which have been translated into English and published by Conundrum Press in Canada. Equally important is his newspaper strip for The Sun newspaper, Fa Fa World (started in 2008), which pays the bills. A gentle comic strip about a father and his daughter, Fa Fa World is inspired by Wong Sze-ma, Lo Koon Chiu’s Xiao Yuan Yuan and also E.O. Plauen’s Father and Son. This is a very typical Hong Kong comic strip filled with colloquialisms and Cantonese idiosyncrasies and quirks.
Chi Hoi’s comics have been exhibited in many countries and have been translated into Italian, French and Finnish, other than English.
- Lent, John. 2015. Asian Comics. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.
- Wong, Wendy Siuyi. 2002. Hong Kong Comics: A History of Manhua. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.