Monkey King lost title billing in my new fiction work. It’s taken months of negotiations and contract revision—all in good faith on the part of both parties. But finally, Monkey agreed to third-level billing, along with residuals, with the only caveat that he not be recast as the Asian sidekick once he gave up his leading role.
Not to air all the stale laundry tossed back and forth between Monkey and me over the past few months, but these are the issues:
- Monkey King doesn’t really kick it hero style, unless you already know the Monkey King fiction.
- If you do know it, then it feels like it’s already been done, so then how creative is the artist-protagonist in my story?
- Monkey came into a very early draft, years ago, before much of Monkey King’s stories infiltrated to the U.S. He claimed a place that no longer seems to have the cultural currency that he did in earlier days. It was like promising an actor a male ingénue part, but he aged past the sell-by date before the film started shooting.
- I like to think I’m sensitive to cultural appropriation issues. A number of long walks have been taken up arguing the validity of casting Monkey in the role assigned him. As much as I believe that multiculturalism and cultural appropriation issues get tangled these days, I couldn’t always win the argument.
- A new movie is about to roll out that treats Monkey King with the disrespect that the hero of my story deplores. Once more, reality gets the jump on me while a book is in production. (cough, cough, The Grrrl of Limberlost)
- Monkey’s personal and political issues aside, I needed a mythic manga hero that DC, Marvel, Zoltán Korda, and others haven’t already exploited.
I’ve made the change in text, and re-read the entire book, so I believe the story is stronger than before. Monkey King is content because he gets the same number of speaking line (zero).
I’m hoping to unveil the title and cover art within weeks. This post includes artwork that gives a clue about the new manga hero, ready to be exploited by my artist-protagonist.
(Update: Artemis in the Desert is now available!)