Originally the Huafu Pen Factory, this company was started in 1931. There is some slight obscurity, so far as my research goes, about the connection between Huafu and Parker; there appears to have been one, and the scuttlebutt is that Huafu was the regional production centre for Parker. This notion is reinforced by the output of the company, which has been founded on a lot of variations of the Parker “51″ , the flagship of the American company when Huafu was nationalized (along with absolutely everything else) by the newly-installed Maoist government in 1949.
The name of the company was changed to Hero in 1966, no doubt as a small part of the massive disruptions in China that began that year. There was not, it seems, any real break in production. Since then, the company has been producing pens under a variety of names and absorbing other Chinese pen companies. They’ve also diversified into a lot of other fields, a fairly common practice in large Asian concerns, and Shanghai Hero Pen is now just a component of Shanghai Hero Group, which offers light industrial production and real estate services.
In 1993, Hero entered a partnership with Japan’s Platinum pens and appears to offer production capacity for the latter’s more popular-market items. This may also be a way of getting around trade restrictions, not unlike the opening of US makers’ plants in Canada as a work-around of British restrictions in the early 20th century.
Because China is now interested in external markets, there is a small elevation of quality in Hero’s output. This is more in terms of finish than in actual functional quality, with the lapses stemming now from the urge to fill the world’s shelves with product as fast as can be done, as opposed to the previous communist regime’s lack of regard for the utility of a thing as long as it was being made by local industry. When a Hero pen is working, it’s as good as any other pen at that price, but there can be a lot of tears finding one that actually works, and this continues the low reputation Chinese pens tend to attract. The chronic failure of Hero pens lies in the press-bar fillers most of their pens use– the bar is frequently of such a thin material that it is more flexible than the sac it’s meant to compress, leading to a prolonged effort to get ink into the pen.
Models I’ve examined: