Cartoonist (1934 – 1951)
In 1934, owing to Huang Yao’s solid foundation in Chinese literati studies, he was asked to create a cartoon character for Shanghai Post (Xinwen Bao), where he was a journalist.
The character, Niubizi, a fearless Chinese gentleman who spoke up for the common man was an instant success. Newspaper readers would first look for the Niubizi cartoon and then read the news. The government approved the Niubizi registration with the number 8716 on June 16, 1937.
When Huang Yao asked for submissions of drawings of Niubizi by children as part of the anti-war effort, he received 40,000 responses in two weeks. With the help of boy scouts, these paintings were transported by train and exhibited throughout China.
The contents of these cartoons had a great impact on the viewers which could have prompted the Japanese to plagiarize Niubizi during the war for propaganda purposes.
Because of Huang Yao’s involvement with the Children’s Save the Country Society, he had to leave Shanghai. In 1938 he was in Chongqing where he established his own publishing company, Minjian Chubanshe (People’s Publishing), with the purpose of educating the people and the soldiers on their roles in the war. Towards this end, he researched and produced the book, Historical-Cartoon 72 Japanese Aggressions in China, providing the background of how the war started.
He then drew comic books of Niubizi with common people in their villages or with soldiers in the war zone. He distributed New Year prints of Door Gods Zhongkui (the Chinese ghost buster) and Gods of Harmony (Hansan and Shide) for visual war propaganda.
Between 1938 and 1945, Huang Yao lived in Chongqing, Guiyang, Guilin and Kunming, visited the ethnic minorities and even the war front as an ordinary soldier. With limited resources and scarcity of raw materials he was still able to produce over 25 books, woodblock prints, paintings for numerous exhibitions, as well as a large set of 100 pieces of cartoon or Manhua Guiyang which was donated to the government of Guiyang. In 2005, the Archive of Guiyang republished the book, Manhua Guiyang.
After the war, Huang Yao did a few more sets of cartoons, reflecting the society in Hong Kong. He later used cartoons for education purposes in Malaysia. His three-day solo exhibition in Kuala Lumpur in 1956 drew more than 70,000 visitors.