SIUniverse Blog Parade Day Ten: Natalie Kim

Chinese female pirate story I wrote is OFFICIALLY PUBLISHED!
Originally published at 
by Natalie Kim
Big thanks to Secret Identities (Follow them on Twitter:  @SIUniverse) for letting me write a story for their recently published anthology.
Click the image below to buy the book:


A few years ago, I was in a play called Songs of The Dragons Flying To Heaven (by the most amazing playwright, Young Jean Lee) and while on tour (Portland, Oregon & Rotterdam), I came across this story by Maggie Koerth of CNN.
(@MaggieKoerth  (She was also kind enough to give us a shout out in BoingBoing, here.)
A prostitute from Canton from the 19th century married a pirate.  Later on, after her husband died, she took her husband’s position as head pirate and lead her fleet to rule the oceans of Asia.  The British could not defeat her and they finally offered her amnesty if she stopped her pirating ways.  She lived till the ripe old age of 69 and died a wealthy lady who owned a gambling hall.
This short report resonated with me so strongly and it spoke to my soul.
I quickly forwarded it to Young Jean and she agreed that it was an amazing story.
I folded the paper I had printed it out and put it on a my messy bookshelf and forgot about it.
Fast Forward to 2010
I met cartoonist Robin Ha while I was doing a reading of Dean Haspiel‘s comic at at a Brooklyn arts festival.  We said mumbled hello to each other but that was about it.  
A few months later, I found myself sitting at Robin’s desk at her studio while she wasn’t there.  The kind guys and gals of then cartoonist studio Deep 6 let me do whatever it is I do (a combination of writing, drawing and fretting over minutiae). 
I saw Robin’s artwork at her desk and was blown away.


She draws like an old dude from Disney.  She is very young but she is a master.  She is also passionate about comics I would hear her rattle off all types of comix excitedly with the other master comix creators at the studio.
As a thank you to Robin for letting me sit at her desk, I gave her a book of empowering women fables collected from around the world.  I also gave her the story of Ching Shih.  She too was blown away by it.
Later on I submitted the story to Jeff Yang’s second edition of Secret Identities comic book.  Secret Identities is a compilation comics by Asian American writers and artists. 
Jeff Yang is one of the most talented and genius people I’ve ever met.  He speaks and writes with eloquence and I was totally jazzed about  being part of the project.  (As an aside:  He was one of the reasons I became an actress and continues to have a profound affect on my life and the all other Asian Americans.)
Writing Process and working with Robin
I find that when I’m passionate about a project, the story writes itself and I just get the hell out of it’s way.

The first vision that came to mind was the moon reflected in the sea and a chopped head fell into the water shattering the placid moment.

Next Robin quickly drew character sketches:

When Robin and I got together and she showed me the men, I immediately recognized who she modeled them after:

Tony Leung
Takeshi Kaneshriro

We giggled like schoolgirls with crushes and then discussed the pages.

I wrote the story very quickly and shared it with Robin.  Luckily she liked it. 

We went back and forth with Jeff on the story and hashed it out.  When the story was finally approved, Robin penciled the 6 pages in less than a week.  Then she inked them and it was done before I knew it. 

The Significance of Ching Shih For (Asian) Women
Why is the story significant of Ching Shih?  Because as I said in an earlier blog post, stories like this are non-existent for Asian women.  Usually stories about Asian women talk about major sacrifice and suffering and never ends well for the woman.
You may not think much of this but if you follow Joseph Campbell who believes in the hero’s journey and myth, that stories are created to be powerful guides for people, then you can see why this story is significant.  People need stories to live out their lives and express themselves. 
In ancient times stories were models by which people could overcome great adversity and conquer external and internal demons and dragons.
“Myths are the stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance…”  Bill Moyers

“The very experience of being alive.” Joseph Campbell.
People used these stories go beyond what hardships life had presented them.
Storyteling Now
Sitting around the fire sharing stories is replaced by Hulu, iPhones and sometimes (though rarely) movie theaters.  
We have corporate story tellers telling our kids stories.  These are modern story tellers sit around a table in an office, wearing suits and driving porches.  They are making merchandising deals with McDonald’s.  Their goal is to make money.  This is not a bad thing in and of it self but something to be aware of.  I’d rather be a aware of the stories I allow in my consciousness and the stories I create to be beneficial and empowering. 
This is the very reason why in my comedy web series, SuperTwins, the male Asian-American character, Kai was a masculine jock, was good with the ladies and had faults but ultimately was a good person. 
Most stories presented to girls are not very good ones.  There are no stories of matriarchal societies, Athena or the Amazon Warrior Women are replaced by Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella. The results can be silently devastating.
The above mentioned fairy tales are banned in our house.  I decided that the stories I want to present to my four year old daughter are the ones that will lift her up.  The stories and archetypes that remind her that she can do whatever she sets her mind to, not what society dictates her to.  She can be a leader, she can be fierce, she can be independent. 

I suppose I do this also to remind myself as well.

Has a story and/or character ever influenced your life? 

If so, drop me a line.  I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Big thanks to Secret Identities (Follow them on Twitter:  @SIUniverse) for letting me write a story for their recently published anthology.
Click the image below to buy the book:
Please read the back stories from other Shattered contributors:

Adam Warrock
Wendy M. Xu (Angry Girl Comics)
A.L. Baroza
Jenn Fang (Reappropriate) and Ace Continuado
Phil Yu (Angry Asian Man) and Jerry Ma (Epic Proportions)
Bao Phi and G.B. Tran
Amy Chu and Larry Hama

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