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Terence Cheng

Terence Cheng is a well known and well connected lawyer located within San Francisco’s China Town neighborhood in 1936 which is the setting of The Good Asian series by Pornsak Pichetshote and Alexandre Tefenkgi. Cheng works for an organization called the Six Companies whose goals are to help Chinese Americans and create a way to represent Chinese Americans in government. Cheng’s character bio in volume two of the comic describes Cheng as “Chinatown’s ‘Great Yellow Hope'” because of Cheng’s enthusiasm and hard work in bringing outside investors to bankroll local businesses which in turn strengthens the district’s economy. Most notable of these investors is Mason Carroway, a tycoon whose wealth was largely made from his Hawaiian sugar plantations. Cheng’s business connection with Mason Carroway began a decade earlier after Cheng befriended Carroway’s daughter Victoria who started frequenting China Town to attend opera performances.

We first see Edison Hark, the series’ central character, and Cheng crossing paths in the second issue. Cheng’s confident demeanor fails to impress Hark because he thinks Cheng has given up too much of his Chinese identity in order to look and sound perfect in an effort to appeal to “gweilos,” or white Americans. Cheng fails to enlist Hark’s help in a matter that he believes threatens everyone’s safety. Their lives will intersect again though. The next time happens indirectly as Hark is caught up in a murder and a mystery and then a final time in the last scene of the series when Cheng approaches Hark and Lucy Fan in a restaurant. Fan was instrumental in helping Hark solve the mystery which had engulfed Cheng and many others. Despite his life nearly being ruined Cheng is upbeat and committed to making his dreams of a prosperous China Town continue to manifest.

Cheng’s sexuality is unknown to most of the characters. The few who are aware that Cheng is gay react understandingly rather than with disgust as you might expect a person would in 1936. While Cheng appears infrequently compared to several other characters his purpose is important in that his presence serves to contrast the ideals in which Edison Hark believes. Cheng’s assimilationist attitude regarding Chinese Americans shouldn’t come as a surprise given that Cheng is deeply closeted out of concern for his life and well being. In an effort to avoid spoiling events in The Good Asian parts of this bio may seem oblique.

An announcement on the last page of volume two teases the return of Edison Hark. Hopefully this means Terence Cheng will also return in an expanded supporting role in the sequel.

If you appreciate period settings and stories that rely on historical research for accuracy then The Good Asian may be story for your consideration. Pichetshote research was extensive and historical notes and references are included in each volume.

Terence Cheng created by Pornsak Pichetshote and Alexandre Tefenkgi. Art by Tefenkgi and Lee Loughridge from #2.

Cheng first appears in The Good Asian #2 and his sexuality is revealed in issue #3.

All rights reserved Pornsak Pichetshote and Alexandre Tefenkgi.

January 30, 2023
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