Kickstarting Comics: Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month With This New Take On ‘The Monkey King’ Saga

by Olly MacNamee

This May sees the comic book world appreciate and celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a variety of publishing initiatives, including an all-new Kickstarter repurposing China’s legendary Monkey King saga to modern day New York City and a cross-country quest to San Francisco courtesy of Taiwanese American creator Jerry Ma.

The Monkey King: A Chinatown Odyssey is pitches as a graphic novel that’s a fusion of Stranger Things and Cowboy BeBop and a city falling apart that must be saved. Saved by “Tripitaka the monk (who) must locate Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy to help her make the journey west to Chinatown San Francisco in hopes of finding enlightenment to then go back and save New York from itself!”

With DC Comics also introducing their own version of the Monkey King into the DCU this month too, Ma is more than aware of this particular mythological monkey’s popularity. But that hasn’t stopped him from telling his own contemporary-set tale based on this much-loved Medieval saga:

“Every year we see multiple reboots of the Monkey King. Each one more action oriented than the next. But, the actual story was meant to find enlightenment through Buddhism, which would be discovered through their journey West to India. I’d like to rediscover the adventure and magic that the story was supposed to be about. And rather than making their armor shinier, I’m giving them sneakers that will match their hoodies better, I’ll have them dive into Chinatown New York in a way I don’t think we’ve seen done before.“

As well as flying the flag for Asian American and Pacific Islanders with this timely crowdfunder, Ma also hopes to tackle the growing tide of anti-Asian prejudice and racism in America and give back to his community too:

“I had donated just under $2500 with proceeds from my online sales in two weeks, to the GofundMe/AAPI to help combat the rising anti-Asian sentiment. As amazing as that was, it felt a bit hollow as I wasn’t able to actually see any help being done. After talking with the amazing group of people helping me with this campaign, Geof Darrow, Allan Dorison, Jim Cheung, David Soto and Lisa Y. Wu, through our Stretch Goals, we’ll be donating money to small businesses in Chinatown New York. I’ll quite literally be walking into small businesses and handing over $250 in cash to X amount based off of the success of this Kickstarter campaign to small businesses myself. I know it isn’t much, but at least this way, I know these businesses will be receiving the money directly from me. My family has a small business ourselves, an art store on the Upper West Side of Manhattan called Janoffs. So, I know all the hurdles these businesses are facing. I only hope that this will be the beginning of others doing the same.”

Check out the full campaign here, which has just launched today and runs throughout the month up until June 4th.

Olly MacNamee

A unashamed DC Comics fan and sometime teacher for over 20 years! I got lucky and found the escape hatch. Now, I just read and write about comics all day long. Co-host of the ICE-Cast podcast and one third of the brains behind Birmingham's street art and graffiti festival High Vis Fest.

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