Hong Kong exhibition embraces its love of superheroes

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Stan Lee knows a good thing when he sees it. The man who created such comic heroes as Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man has sent the internet abuzz with news that he is now eying the Chinese market and has plans to help develop the "world's first" Chinese superhero.

"I have been eagerly awaiting this great opportunity - a chance to combine the best of American superhero epics with the best of Chinese and Asian classical filmmaking for a motion picture that would be excitedly received worldwide," Lee said in the statement made earlier this month announcing his plans.

Down in Hong Kong, the influence of Lee's characters - and indeed of all manner of superheroes - has long been spread throughout all facets of society, a fact that is being reflected in a new exhibition being staged at the city's Shin Hwa Gallery titled Heroes Next Door.

Local artists Chow Kar-hoo and Chris Lam - members of what Hong Kong calls the "post-80s generation" - have turned their attention to the characters they call the "avatars for our hopes, dreams and desires."

"The iconic figures have the ability to address serious issues, toward self and society, identity and ideology," Chow said in launching the exhibition, which will run until the end of the month.

By placing familiar figures such as Spider-Man and Superman in distinctly "Hong Kong" settings, the artist says he "wishes that the traditions in Hong Kong will not face extinction."

Lam's images too mix up recognized characters with current social issues in both Hong Kong and China - hence Captain America's distended jaw depicts the region's growing "greed."

The issues raised are pertinent in Hong Kong as the city works towards the government's goal of becoming Asia's "arts hub" - and there is much debate over how much international influence should be allowed in such projects as the city's HK$21.6 billion (195 million euro) West Kowloon Art District.

That area is being planned in order to put the city on the world's artistic map, and is in direct opposition to such projects as Singapore's Marina Bay entertainment and arts district.

Shin Hwa Gallery - http://www.shinhwagallery.com