Award-winning SF author Cixin Liu’s stories released as graphic novels

Just released by London-based publisher Head of Zeus, under its Ad Astra imprint, are the first four English language adaptations of award-winning Chinese SF author’s Cixin Liu novels, including The Wandering Earth, with art by Stefano Raffaele, and The Village Teacher, with art by Zhang Xiaoyu.

A number of the creators working on this project are omitted from online bookseller catalogues, so we’ve tracked down all those involved announced so far, and others, and included their credits here.

The Wandering Earth, adapted by Christopher Bec with art by Stefano Raffaele, coloured by Marcelo Maiolo

The new graphic novels spring from an international collaboration with the umbrella title the Graphic Novel Collection of Liu Cixin’s Classics, involving 26 writers and illustrators from 14 different countries who, together, have transformed fifteen of SF author Cixin Liu‘s award-winning stories into graphic novels, and his other novellas and stories. They the novel Ball Lightning, adapted by Death of Stalin artist Thierry Robin.

The three-year project was initiated by FT (For Transcendence) Culture Beijing Co Ltd, a Chinese company, who invited creators from China, France, Spain, Argentina, Italy, Belgium and the United States to be involved.

The Wages of Humanity by Cixin Liu - Chinese Edition

They released Chinese editions of Chaos Butterfly, Circle, Devourer, Yuanyuan’s Bubbles and The Wages of Humanity earlier this year. Some of the art from eight of the graphic novels was exhibited last month, at the Yuelai International Digital Entertainment Industry Expo & Conference (YUE·IDEE), held with great fanfare at the Chongqing International Convention Center in China.

French publisher Delcourt picked up rights to publish all 15 books back in 2019, but it looks like their publication schedule has been put back due to COVID-19 as not titles are listed as yet in their catalogue.

Some of the many international creators involved in the Graphic Novel Collection of Liu Cixin’s Classics project
Some of the many international creators involved in the Graphic Novel Collection of Liu Cixin’s Classics project

“It’s the first time my works have been adapted into a comics series,” Liu noted in a video promoting the publications. The series will be translated and published in at least eight countries.

Cixin Liu (Liu Cixin), a member of the China Writers’ Association and the Shanxi Writers’ Association, is China’s most popular SF writer who’s endeavoured to create a distinctly Chinese style of science fiction. He was described as “China’s answer to Arthur C. Clarke” by Joshua Rothman in an article for the New Yorker back in 2015. His novel of the same name has won both the Hugo and Galaxy Awards for Best Novel.

Born in June 1963, he’s a representative of the new generation of Chinese science fiction authors and recognised as a leading voice in Chinese science fiction. He was awarded the China Galaxy Science Fiction Award for eight consecutive years, from 1999 to 2006 and again in 2010. His representative work The Three-body Problem is the Best Story of 2015 Hugo Awards, the third of 2015 Campbell Award finalists, and nominee of 2015 Nebulas Award.

His works have received wide acclaim on account of their powerful atmosphere and brilliant imagination, his stories successfully combining the exceedingly ephemeral with hard reality, all the while focussing on revealing the essence and aesthetics of science.

Graphic Novel Collection of Liu Cixin’s Classics will be published in both print and digital forms, and made into audio books and online lectures, and related cultural products will also be produced.

Sea of Dreams by Cixin Liu, adapted by Rodolfo Santullo, with art by Jok, coloured by Mei & Jok

In Sea of Dreams, adapted by Rodolfo Santullo, with art by Jok, coloured by Mei & Jok, it was the Ice and Snow Arts Festival that lured a low-temperature artist to Earth. Drawn by the beauty and technical skill of the sculptures displayed, the extraterrestrial visitor longed to collaborate and share its own art.

But while humans learnt to craft ice into exquisite ephemera, the low-temperature artist’s civilisation mastered the manipulation of whole worlds to create artworks – drawing on the seas and ice caps, and cooling their temperature to beautiful effect.

Faced with the inevitable devastation and heat death of their planet, humankind must use their final breaths to fight for existence. But the artist will only speak to one human: Yan Dong, the ice sculptor whose beautiful work first drew its eye…

Sea of Dreams by Cixin Liu, adapted by Rodolfo Santullo, with art by Jok, coloured by Mei & Jok

Rodolfo Santullo is a Mexican-born Uruguayan writer, journalist, comic book writer and editor. Santullo was born in Mexico City in 1979 but moved to Montevideo and has lived there since 1984. He is the author of the graphic novels Los últimos días del Graf Spee, Cena con Amigos, Acto de Guerra, Valizas Dengue El Club de los Ilustres Zitarrosa 40 Cajones Etchenike and Far South among others.

JOK was born in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in the seventies and has been working as a writer and artist since 1993. His work has been published in the US, UK, Italy, France, Spain, Cyprus, Canada, China, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Working with Santullo, downethetubes readers may recognise him for his work on “Merlin and Hector”, for Daviod Lloyd’s digital anthology, Aces Weekly.

The Village Teacher, with art by Zhang Xiaoyu

In The Village Teacher, with art by Zhang Xiaoyu, the depths of mountains shrouded with ignorance and superstition, one man has dedicated his life to igniting a passion for maths and science in the hearts of the peasant children around him. Now his life is coming to its end, he draws his students around him so he can impart knowledge on them to his final breath.

All the while, in a far corner of outer space, fifty thousand light-years away, an interstellar war that has waged for thousands of years is coming to an end. The victor plans to perform the full-scale extermination of any low-intelligence lifeforms that remain in what is now his solar system.

In order to gauge the intelligence of a planet, the victor devises a test – posed to a group of lifeforms selected at random by a computer – of science and mathematics. On a green-and-blue planet nestled in a spiral arm of the Milky Way, the computer’s selection falls to a group of children, in the depths of mountains shrouded with ignorance and superstition…

The Village Teacher, with art by Zhang Xiaoyu

Born in 1975, Chengdu-based comic artist Zhang Xiaoyu is originally from the town of Anshun in the Guizhou Province in Southern China. Graduating from college with a major in fine arts, he created his first comics in 1995, while he was an art student and has since completed a dozen comic works, many of which with prestigious European publishers, from Humanoids (Crusades) to Casterman or Glenat (The Chronicles of Legion).

Zhang has twice been awarded China’s top comics prizes: in 1999, for David, and in 2001 for The Take-off, and has become one of the country’s most sought after comics artist.

Zhang Xiaoyu spent 18 months turning Liu’s novella The Village Teacher into a 96-page graphic novel, telling China Daily that he took up the story because of its special connection to him. As an art editor with Science Fiction World magazine, where many of Liu’s stories debuted, when “The Village Teacher” first appeared in the magazine, it was Zhang who created the illustrations for the story.

“The dual plotlines in the story present an imaginative world in which there is a huge contrast between the highly developed alien civilizations and an impoverished village on China’s Loess Plateau,” Zhang said. “But it’s hard to tell which one is the most disadvantaged.”

The Wandering Earth, adapted by Christopher Bec with art by Stefano Raffaele, coloured by Marcelo Maiolo

In The Wandering Earth, adapted by Christopher Bec with art by Stefano Raffaele, coloured by Marcelo Maiolo, the Sun is dying. Helium will soon permeate its core, triggering a violent explosion, and its burning-hot diameter will increase until it has consumed everything that stands in its way.

As long as we remain in its path, humanity stands no chance, and interstellar emigration is the only way out. Reaching a consensus on a destination has been easy: the only viable target is Proxima Centauri. It is the star closest to our own, a mere 4.3 light-years away.

How to reach our new solar system is more difficult. Spaceships stand no chance in open space, and the nearest inhabitable planet lies hundreds of thousands of years away. If humanity leaves Earth behind, our continued existence is impossible. The only way to survive is to find a way to propel Earth out of its orbit. But how?

The Wandering Earth, adapted by Christopher Bec with art by Stefano Raffaele, coloured by Marcelo Maiolo
The Wandering Earth, adapted by Christopher Bec with art by Stefano Raffaele, coloured by Marcelo Maiolo

Christophe Bec and Italian artist Stefano Raffaele have been working together on comics such as Promethe and Olympus Mons since 2007.

Born in France in 1969, Christophe Bec, whose favourite themes are Sci-Fi, thriller, epic fantasy and horror, learned how to read thanks to Tintin, going on to create the fanzine of BD, Esquisse in 1989, which later earned an award at Angoulême International festival of Comic-books. In 1990, Christophe started his graphic studies at the École Européenne Supérieure de l’image d’Angoulême (EESI), revealing his talent for drawing as well as writing. In 1992, he signed his first professional edition contract with Soleil Publishing House, publishing Zero Absolu five years later, which achieved a great success. This was followed in 2001 by Sanctuaires, written by Xavier Dorison, for Humanoïdes Associés, a series that would become a massive, critically-acclaimed best-seller. After that, he created an ecology thriller together with Éric Héninot, Carthago, followed by the thriller series Prométhée for Soleil, now running to 17 volumes.

He started work on the series Olympus Mons with Stefano Raffaele in 2017, the first two albums immediately reaching the top of the sales chart of the French market on release. Now, with some 120 publishing credits as either writer of artist under his belt, he’s splitting his energies between comics and the film industry, working on short films, with two released to date, and TV projects.

The Wandering Earth, adapted by Christopher Bec with art by Stefano Raffaele, coloured by Marcelo Maiolo

Award-winning artist Stefano Raffaele was born in Milan, Italy in 1970, where he still lives today. He started his career on the fumetti, Lazarus Ledd, in 1994, then moving to the US to work on characters such as New Gods, Birds of Prey, Batman, X-Men, X-Factor, Conan the Barbarian and others – drawing strips for more than 20 different titles. In 2000, he drew Arkhain for Marvel Italia, a sci-fi mini-series and created the horror story “Fragile” for the magazine Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal), which would later be adapted for the big screen by Eduardo Rodriguez.

He met Christophe Bec in 2007 and started a long and fruitful collaboration, with many stories published such as Deepwater Prison, Sarah, Prométhée, Pandemonium, and recently, Olympus Mons and Spider. He received the prestigious Carlo Boscarato Prize in Italy as Best Artist in 2010.

Yuanyuan's Bubbles, adapted by Valérie Manguin, with art by Belgian artist Steven Dupré, coloured by Cyril Saint Blancat

Finally, in Yuanyuan’s Bubbles, adapted by Valérie Manguin, with art by Belgian artist Steven Dupré, coloured by Cyril Saint Blancat, Yuanyuan was five months old when she saw bubbles for the first time. In that moment, her eyes lit up with a radiance that outshone the sun and stars, and she felt she truly saw the world for the first time. From that day on, her life’s one dream was to blow the biggest bubbles possible.

Yuanyuan’s father doesn’t approve of her dream. He fears his daughter’s obsession is childish and too fleeting for his daughter, and longs for her to turn her intelligence to a calling that might help people. Their city is dying, but Yuanyuan focuses solely on blowing bigger and bigger bubbles.

But when Yuanyuan learns to create a bubble the size of a city – greater even – it may be that her obsession isn’t so unhelpful after all.

Yuanyuan's Bubbles, adapted by Valérie Manguin, with art by Belgian artist Steven Dupré, coloured by Cyril Saint Blancat

Born in Nancy in northeastern France in 1973, Valérie Mangin made her debut in the world of comics in 2000 with Le fléau des Dieux (Soleil), a series of six volumes which was published in twelve languages. Combining history and fantasy, in 2003 she created Petit miracle (Soleil), a two-part series illustrated by Griffo, and in 2005, Luxley with Francisco Ruizgé. One year later, she founded a new imprint at Soleil, Quadrants Solaire with husband Denis Bajram, which soon became simply Quadrants. Between 2008 and 2012, she took part in several projects including Destins (Glénat), Mortemer with Mario Alberti (Soleil), and Trois Christs (Quadrants) with Denis Bajram and Fabrice Neaud. She then moved on to the acclaimed historical series Alix Senator (Casterman), followed quickly by Abymes (Dupuis). Aside from her work adapting Yuanyuan’s Bubbles, her most recent work is the sci-fi graphic novel Inhumain (Dupuis; Inhuman, Europe Comics), created alongside Denis Barjam and Thibaud De Rochebrune.

Born in 1967, Steven Dupre was raised near Antwerp, the city where he was supposed to study, but filled his time with drawing comics. The first of those comics were published here and there from 1986. In 1987, he became a full-time comics author. And he still is to this day, although he divides his time between working in an animation studio and his comics.

Coming soon, presumably will be the other stories already published in Chinese – Chaos Butterfly, Circle, Devourer and The Wages of Humanity. Work is also in progress on titles such as Up to the Ears, adapted by Julien Moca with art by Wang Jing, Be With You, adapted by a number of creators, and Sunflower Boy, adapted by Nie Jun.

Graphic Novel Collection of Liu Cixin’s Classics - Chinese Editions

French artist Thierry Robin is working on Ball Lightning, a creator whose credits include the four-volume Rouge de Chine with Groupe Delcourt, based on previous trips he made to China. His other works include Petit Pere Noel (The Little Santa) and La Mort de Staline (The Death of Stalin).

The series British publisher Head of Zeus is an award-winning independent publisher of genre fiction, narrative nonfiction and children’s books. We are based in Clerkenwell, London, but our reach is global. They’ve published 93 (and counting) #1 bestsellers around the world, won 21 literary prizes and two industry awards. All our writers, whether debut author or Sunday Times bestseller, are published in digital, print and audio formats with a zeal that merges talent with tradecraft and technology. 

FT Culture (Beijing) Co., Ltd. is a company dedicated to uncovering and producing outstanding creative works from China, and to promoting these works around the world. Currently, they deal with foreign rights of Chinese books and production of graphic novels.

• All four graphic novels detailed here are available now from all good book shops and comic shops, published by Head of Zeus/Ad Astra | Check out Cixin Liu’s Amazon Page for the titles (Affiliate Link)

Read Jonathan Clements’ biography of Liu Cixin on the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

Liu Cixin’s Personal Blog (No longer updated, in Chinese)

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.

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