‘Nation balls’ cartoons chronicle evolution of ‘world war’ against coronavirus

By Bai Yunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/31 17:33:40

Cartoons portraying a bunch of country balls gathering in front of a window to cheer up China, which is lying in bed due to COVID-19, has become very popular in recent months. The comic went viral on social media and has been followed up by countless adapted versions, after the novel coronavirus turned into a global pandemic.

Vianhue, the Peruvian cartoonist who come up with the original comic, told the Global Times that he is happy to see that China is recovering from the epidemic, and in recent months has seen "the great solidarity and persistence the Chinese people have made to save themselves and other people's lives." He also hoped that the streets of Wuhan will be lit up soon and wants to see the city and its people after the pandemic ends.

Cheer up, China! By Vianhua

The "country ball comics" first appeared on overseas social media after 2009, and were usually used to explain affairs between different countries or make jokes about them, Vianhue said. 

At the beginning of February this year, he saw a comic by Chinese Sina Weibo user "Chen XiaotaoMomo," which pictured dishes from different parts of China cheering on Reganmian, a traditional Wuhan dish, in front of a window. 

Vianhue was inspired by the comic and asked himself, "Why can't I use country balls to express the international community's support for the Chinese people?"

Vianhue told the Global Times that in country ball comics, Switzerland usually plays the role of doctor, as the International Red Cross is based there. But when he designed his comic, Japan had the second largest number of confirmed cases and was facing the Diamond Princess cruise crisis, which is why he chose to make Japan a doctor in the isolation ward with China.

The first line of country balls standing outside the window are mostly Asian countries, as they were facing the greatest challenge at that time. The second line are European countries and the lines at the back are those far away from China. 

"I included the most representative countries in every region in the comic, including the Vatican," he said. 

Vianhue's work has since been adapted into different versions and were followed by many sequels as the pandemic developed. Vianhue said he has seen the follow-up comics and likes them very much.

But seeing Italy, Spain, the Philippines and many other countries coming into the patient ward one by one also made him "worried and upset."

"I only hope my humble work could bring a little comfort to more people," he said, noting that he never thought his comic could draw so much attention in China and the world, prompting so many netizens to leave comments.

A Chinese couple who now live in Peru found him after seeing the comic and sent him a Chinese coin as an amulet. 

By netizens

By netizens

Wuhan is now recovering as a result of China's anti-epidemic efforts. However, Vianhue continues to work on the "country balls" cartoon in support of the global fight against COVID-19. 

On March 27, he posted a cartoon titled "Stay strong, Italy" on Facebook. In this picture, many "Italian balls" were standing on the balcony, waving the national flag or listening to music.

Italy has become an epicenter of the outbreak in Europe. Its public health system is collapsing and many places have been locked down, he said. 

"However, I still see signs of hope, especially on their balconies. Italians are cheering each other up by playing music, singing the national anthem, praying and even having balcony parties," Vianhue explained.

Cheer up, Italy! By Vianhua

There is also a new work titled "The superiority of being an island state." In the picture, Fiji, the South Pacific island country, holds a telescope as it observes the global situation from afar.

"In the circle of Asia, I drew China, Japan and South Korea. China is recovering now, so I drew a calm China and South Korea. However, Japan is frustrated by the delay in hosting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," he said.

In the circle of North America, a small ball representing Mexico sings "La Cumbia del Coronavirus," a song that asks people to wash their hands to prevent infection, which has become popular among Mexicans and Latin Americans. The United States and Canada are looking at Mexico with some resignation, Vianhue described to the Global Times.

By Vianhua

In the circle of South America, where his country is located, Vianhue vividly shows the current panic buying and anxiety being felt by Peruvians.

"People in my country are desperate to buy masks and alcohol now," he said.

Peru has declared a state of emergency and closed its ports and borders. The army is on the streets to keep people from going out unnecessarily, to prevent the spread of the virus.

Vianhue plans to draw more cartoons of South American countries fighting COVID-19, as it is now spreading in this region.

"I am a little nervous about the spread of the virus. And I had a vague feeling that a lot of other things in the world are changing, for example, whether globalization is going to end," he considered.

However, I think what we need to do now is to be more united than ever before, and finally, we will be out of the woods, like Wuhan, Vianhue noted.

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