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Wouldn’t it be interesting to read the story of Superman’s feats as a child from the perspective of Martha Kent, Clark’s mother? Or how about that of Aunt May, who brings up Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man?
Dennis Liu, the writer of the new comic book, “Raising Dion,” certainly thinks so. The 31-year-old commercial/music video director’s latest project explores the experience of a single African-American mother, Nicole, raising her superhero son, Dion.
“‘Raising Dion’ is a superhero story, but from the mother's point of view,” Liu told TODAY.
The comic book, written by Liu and illustrated by Jason Piperberg, imagines what it would be like to raise a child with special powers when you’re a single mom who's got enough on her plate as it is. Stress levels tend to elevate when your kid can make himself invisible and practice telekinesis. On top of all that, you can’t let the government know he exists!
Sure, there are lots of exciting and unrealistic aspects to the story, which is what makes it such a fun read, but it also serves a greater point by focusing on an African-American single mother — something that goes beyond turning a traditionally male superhero, like Thor, into a woman.
“I did not want to play the race card, but honestly, as a member of the DGA EDSC [Directors Guild of America Eastern Diversity Steering Committee] Diversity council for several years, I felt like something had to be done about superhero diversity,” said Liu. “I also felt the industry was simply answering the gender card by glorifying women as a war hero, like in “The Hunger Games”, or the new Wonder Woman film coming out. I think this [approach] works, but I wanted to point out that it doesn't have to be the only solution.”
Liu also wanted to create a character that honestly represented a modern African-American single mother. So he did his homework.
“I interviewed and researched a lot of single moms,” said Liu. “The real heroism for them is the daily struggle of raising a kid, paying the bills, etc.”
The main purpose of the project, according to Liu, is to “make a point,” adding that “all of the content so far has been 100 percent free.”
Liu isn’t interested in making big bucks off the project. Presumably, he does very well in his other work.
“The last couple big videos I directed were for Justin Timberlake, and Sarah Bareilles,” Liu said. “I [also] directed the 2015 Google I/O keynote address. But this is a huge priority passion project for me.”
A physical copy of the comic book sells for $4, and Liu said all that money goes straight back into the comic book, which Liu wants to be an ongoing series. “Raising Dion” can also be downloaded for free here.
While Liu does make a point of building a story around an African-American mother, he hopes the concept and story transcend the race and gender aspects.
“This piece succeeds only if it doesn't typecast itself as ‘black’ or ‘female’,” said Liu. “It should just be a cool, great story.”