TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In 2013, Mr. HH’s (H.H先生) online comics, which critique injustice and hypocrisy in everyday life, made him an online personality, and his career continues to thrive today.
Mr. HH originally set up his Facebook fan page to share his drawings with friends. The page inadvertently went viral after he created the character Mei Mei (美美), a confident, chubby girl who breaks all social norms and is not afraid to speak her mind.
When Mei Mei made her debut, she did not even appear in person. Her name popped up when another character tried to get attention on social media by sharing her “sadness” upon hearing about the death of “Mei Mei,” whom she did not even know.
A character hears about "Mei Mei's" death and squeezes out a tear for a selfie to post on social media despite wondering, "Who's... Mei Mei?" (Mr. HH image)
When Mei Mei was featured again in Mr. HH’s work, readers pointed out that she was supposed to be dead and joked that she had come back as a ghost. The character stuck, and her directness and no-nonsense attitude soon attracted a crowd of fans.
“I believe that a complete version of oneself lives in everybody’s heart,” Mr. HH says regarding Mei Mei’s popularity. “She is able to do many things that many people want to but are unable to do.”
Mr. HH says that once people mature and socialize, they are never their true selves anymore, and he wishes to inspire those who have lost confidence by showing them someone achieving the things they believe are unattainable.
Mei Mei says, "It is hard enough to make myself happy... Why should I need to please you?" (Mr. HH image)
Like Mei Mei, Mr. HH is a very direct person, which he says comes with pros and cons. With his friends, he is able to make himself very clear so as to avoid misunderstandings, grudges, or having people talk behind his back.
Yet when dealing with strangers, his directness may come off as hurtful when this is not his intention. “Sometimes it also hurts me to hear someone warn others about interacting with me,” he says.
Despite his frank personality, even Mr. HH was once quite unconfident. However, through Mei Mei, he was able to express himself freely and vent about the injustices he experienced in the world.
Mr. HH calls Mei Mei his "daughter." (Mr. HH photo)
Today, Mr. HH says he is better at controlling the level of his directness and that he brings people courage with it. He is not afraid to confront trolls that unfairly criticize his work, for he believes that with so many supporters, he should make good use of his influence and show people that if they do nothing wrong, no one should be able to bully them or make them feel bad.
When he first became popular, Mr. HH sometimes faced criticism for posting works about issues while they were still sensitive, and he had to keep apologizing. He also apologized a lot to those who criticized his work for “smearing people” and even deleted creations to quell unhappy audiences.
Now, however, he has learned to push back against criticism that makes no sense to him and to process comments on his work selectively. “There are just too many trolls online; responding to them all would just waste too much time,” he says.
When commentators criticized Mei Mei for wearing super high heels despite her "shortness," Mr. HH responded with a "nude" of her saying, "This is me. I cannot change that... So I choose to love me as myself." (Mr. HH image).
Despite the trolls he encounters, Mr. HH enjoys interacting with his followers, and in a recent campaign he posted weekly assignments for them to complete. He says he did this because he thinks there are many talented but undiscovered artists in the world, and he wants to give them a chance to be seen.
Mr. HH said he believes the best thing about a career built around social media is the chance to show the world what one can do since, before the rise of social media, only people with very specific talents were recognized. Now, people with skills such as art and gaming can create their own platform and shine.
Mr. HH gives his fans "drawing assignments" with specific requirements like "Help Wan-yu choose an outfit for meeting her boyfriend's family." (Mr. HH image (left), Justin Sim image (center), Ya-chu Hung image)
At the same time, he says many people have lost their ability to judge, and they fall for illusions and myths. As for those who busy themselves with creating such illusions online — they become the subject of Mr. HH’s work.
Mr. HH says some creators get lost in the “glamor” of social media and lose sight of their original goal, but as he has always drawn what he pleases and for himself, he eventually moved on from obsessing over follower counts. Anxiety used to block his inspiration as he fretted about what would appeal to readers, but he eventually realized fans who no longer wish to follow his work do not care about his efforts to make them stay.
Now, the only challenge Mr. HH encounters while drawing is ensuring the punch lines are funny enough, and if he really runs into a dead end, he simply stops instead of trying to force something out. He says he even decreased the frequency of his posts to make sure his work is better appreciated and to give his mind and body a break, as information is constantly being updated and expiring nowadays.
An acute observer, Mr. HH finds inspiration all around him. He calls himself a “human dashcam” and says he is constantly observing and making note of what people are doing.
“My friends sometimes tell me they are wary around me because they’re afraid they might find themselves featured in my comic,” Mr. HH says with a laugh.
Mr. HH depicts the different expressions people make when applying mascara. (Mr. HH image)
The one thing he wishes he had done was begin his career sooner. When he started creating art at the age of 27, he had already missed what he describes as “the youthful mindset,” which he believes could have inspired more powerful creations.
Nonetheless, the popularity of Mr. HH’s work is certified by his 1.6 million followers on Facebook, who come from not only Taiwan but also other regions with Chinese-speaking populations, such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Macau.
As for whether Mei Mei may appeal to audiences in other parts of the world, Mr. HH says he believes the themes of his work are universal. “Mei Mei will have influence wherever there are people,” he says, “No matter what language people speak or what culture they are from, human interaction is similar everywhere: everyone faces schemes, workplace politics, or bullying.”
The only obstacle he must overcome is how to adapt these universal themes to local languages and cultural contexts, says Mr. HH. However, as long as the fundamental spirit remains the same, he believes that Mei Mei would have no trouble resonating all around the world.
Mei Mei is also known for the variety of her attire, spanning stylish, cute, sexy, and comfortable. (Mr. HH images)