New Comic Book Highlights the Vital Role of a Single Parent

There is nothing handier than to be able to catch a trend on the fly. The recent emergence of Marvel and DC comics characters as hits in graphic novels, television and the big screen was not lost on collaborators Jason Piperberg and Dennis Liu when they gave life to Raising Dion, a new independent comic book. The superhero’s origin reminded me of a cross between Superman and Green Lantern. The twist is that the super child and his guardian are black.

Liu, who writes the story, told Fusion.net that the concept came from life experience and a broad knowledge of super sagas. The first key for me was the element of seclusion which is often evident before classic superheros place themselves on the scene. The story lines tend to take a nobody and turn him or her into a somebody who wants to hide from the public. Raising Dion is not exactly like that. For example, Superman, who creators Jerome Seigel and Joseph Schuster have  baby Kalel arrive from the doomed planet Krypton in a hardworking, hard scrabble Midwestern town ten minutes from nowhere called Smallville. It is hard to begin in a more obscure fashion. Yet, as those who read Raising Dion #1, will see, the creators found a way. No spoilers here,

Raising Dion #1 front cover

Dion starts out in a cabin in the woods of Hamilton, New York with his mom Nicole, whom Liu describes as, “equal parts Martha Kent and Alfred Pennyworth.” The hero is important, yet she is a character to watch. “Parents install a value system, the author insisted to Fusion. That small thought won my heart and pushed me to look beyond the hype about African American characters and the lack of diversity in U.S. comics to see what he and Piperbrg did with the role of the single parent.

I admit, at first take, I found the idea a little cliche, worse stereotypical. Gee, a black child with a single mother. It’s not like readers have ever heard that before. Then, I read the e-book. Never judge a story by reportage.

Liu samples those iconic caregivers to shape her character, and taps into his own experience as uncle to five nieces with single mothers. “If these key parental figures did not raise these superheroes correctly,” he told Fusion, “then who knows what Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne would have become?” More than that the setting and overall plot that shows promise to grapple with hot topics such as the environment, science for profit, child-rearing, and racism yields a tale as au courant as selfies. 
I would like to have seen Dion with a more traditional family – mother, father and child – yet that is not here…exactly. As I, after you read the 22-page first issue, you might be cool with that. The final call is to see how the series develops.

I heartily endorse the debut manuscript I read, yet plan to watch before I hang five starts on the work. That said, Liu is an insightful and sensitive storyteller whom I am pleased to discover. Anyone that makes people more mindful of the monumental sacrifices, struggles and responsibilities shouldered by most single moms (and dads) deserves the eyes of as wide a readership (13 to 99) as possible. I often ask myself, but for someone who steps up to parent, what might have happened to the last two generations of  American youth?

 Liu captures the flavor of the story in a statement by Nicole in a trailer that advertised the book, “The most important thing about raising a superhero is learning to become one first.” Sound advice to all adults,

I won’t say a lot more about the story in the first issue, except that those who have read classic Superman will note many parallels in Dion’s emergence.The only difference is the burden of being different, which for the hero of Liu and Piperberg’s saga means to have powers beyond those of most people on the planet and being black in America. The author told Fusion that he deals with the issue of what he describes as The Talk most African American parents are forced to have with their children head on. The accuracy of his assessment is left to the reader. Otherwise, in the 22-page readers will find mostly back story and great potential. Like Superman, Dion’s deepest struggle is to learn that who he is in much more than what he can do. 

Interested readers can order a print copy for $4. Those who want to take advantage of the sample to make up their minds can check out the free first issue in e-book from Liu’s personal website. As an option, explore that book and others on  IndyPlanet.com, an amazing Orlando-based resource for fresh new voices in the medium. NOTE: The IndyPlanet site was crashed on Sunday, when I checked on the availability. I don’t know why. There is a notice that says the trouble is under repair. Check them later in the week.

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VGwrites

I am a storyteller, author, editor, blogger, and retired university professor of Creative Writing. Now in Central Florida, I still teach every now and then, but write most of the time. Most recently, I poetry was featured in Mo Joe The Anthology. My last book, 10 Stories Down, a poetry collection published in September 2011, is inspired by several long-term stays in Beijing. Life and Other Things I Know: Poems, Essays and Short Stories (Elephant Eye Press, 1999), was the first. Throughout the years, the list expanded to include: African American Children's Stories: A Treasury of Tradition and Pride, Grandma Loves You: My First Treasury, African American Stories: My First Treasury, Like A Dry Land: A Soul's Journey through the Middle East and contributions to Take Two, They're Small, an anthology of poems, memoir, essay and fiction on food. My poetry, fiction and essays have also appeared in Yellow Medicine Review, Washington Living, Upstate New Yorker, The Southern Quarterly, Reporter Magazine, Drylongso, Fyah, MentalSatin, Pinnacle Hill Review, Invisible Universe, Bridges, Ishmael Reed's Konch Magazine, New Verse News, and UpandComing Magazine.

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