Even superheroes need the guidance and support of their parents, said author Dennis Liu to a crowd of attendees at his book signing at University of Connecticut's Co-Op bookstore on Fri. evening.
Liu, an award-winning music video director turned comic book author, wrote “Raising Dion” to tell the story of a young superhero through a different lens: the perspective of his mother.
As Dion ages, his abilities come and go, challenging his mother, Nicole, to build a life for a child who can turn invisible, shoot energy beams out of his hands and steal cookies with his mind.
“It’s superman from Martha Kent’s point of view or Batman from Alfred’s point of view,” Liu said. “Really, who’s the real hero, because if your parents don’t raise you properly then who will you become?”
Liu, a member of the Directors Guild of America’s Eastern Diversity Steering Committee, said he wanted to leverage the continuing popularity of the superhero genre to tell a new story in a cultural landscape that is dominated by the white male experience.
“One of the things I felt needed to be done was to create more IP, more content, that reflects the world we actually live in,” he said.
While Liu, who is Taiwanese-American, isn’t against bringing diversity into comic books by relying on pre-established characters such as Thor and Spiderman, he said portraying Nicole’s experience as an African-American single mother is at the heart of “Raising Dion.”
“I think academically you can say, 'how come all the hobbits can’t be Asian' and we’d be okay with that, but I just think as a society we’re not ready for that,” he said. “You need to create new characters so that these stories reflect a little bit better.”
Liu said he believes “whoever’s behind the camera also reflects the people in front,” but that Spike Lee’s remake of “Oldboy” and Kathryn Bigelow’s “Hurt Locker” have shown it’s possible for an artist to tell a story outside their own experience.
“I’m Taiwanese-American, yet I’m telling an African-American story,” he said. “My take on it is as long as the research is done well and the story is great, it really should be about the story and making sure it’s reflective of good values.”
Martha Cutter, a professor of English and Africana studies at UConn who attended Liu’s event, said her students enjoyed “Django Unchained,” despite its issues, because it filled the same gap in mainstream culture she thinks “Raising Dion” could.
“There is a hunger for that sort of large screen black action hero, so it would be great if this was a full length feature film,” Cutter said.
Liu said his goal for “Raising Dion” is continue the series long enough to achieve syndication on TV, but that the success of stories like his will require a more conscious consumption of media by the public.
“The audience really has tremendous power,” Liu said. “If you go and see your traditional blockbuster film, you will give them reason to fund that content.”
The first issue of “Raising Dion,” in addition to a 15 minute cinematic trailer, is available for free online at raisingdion.com. “Raising Dion: Diversity in Media” was sponsored by the Asian and Asian American Studies Institute, the Asian American Cultural Center and the Rightors Fund for Children’s Literature.
Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.