The Return of Chang Apana

Imagine going under a stoop after a guy with a knife armed with only a horsewhip,” says Noland, shaking his head. “The guy stabbed him a few times, but he was saved by the large buckle he had on his belt that carried his whip.”

He once was run down by horse and buggy, only to raise the alarm that it was carrying contraband and single-handedly arrested 40 gamblers – once again armed only with his whip – and marched them all single file to the police station.

But according to Croom, Apana’s toughest fight came when he was trying to round up a couple who had Hansen’s disease. Having apprehended the husband, the wife went crazy on Apana.

“He said that fighting that woman was like being tied in a sack with a bobcat,” says Croom with a laugh. “Afterward, when they asked why he did it, he simply said the law didn’t give him the luxury of saying no.”

It was this strict adherence to the law that gave him respect in the community, where he relied on a wide network of informants whom he never paid, but they simply helped him because he was a fair man.

Upon his death in 1933, the citizens of Chinatown gave him a send-off fit for a king, not a little Chinese man from Waipio who never even learned how to read.

“After he died, they took him through the streets in a casket. It was almost like ali’i had died because thousands of people came out for him,” says Noland. “He was the man of his day.”

This is the story of a hero that movie and television producers dream about, yet at every turn, Noland had been unable to get the story made. For decades he got it kicked around, eventually collaborating on a seven-minute short film The Legend of Chang Apana that premiered in 2009 at the Hawaii International Film Festival.

But Noland’s dreams were bigger, and having met Croom in 2007 while doing research, he felt he had met the perfect partner to tell Apana’s tale.

“That is what is great about having Eddie on the project,” says Noland. “There is nobody else in the state more knowledgeable about Chang Apana than him.”

Armed with his ardor and Croom’s acumen, there was just one piece missing to bring this story to life: an artist.

Noland met with one illustrator after another, but none could see his vision until he met Kamehameha graduate Kanila Tripp. Not only did Tripp have the background in comics, having worked for DC Comics subsidiary Wild-Storm, but he had the Internet savvy of having worked for for years, as well.

An Apana triumvirate had been formed, and its first fruit can be seen here in the pages of MidWeek. The serial has been named “John Noland’s Chinatown Cop,” and will be a six-frame comic each week on these pages.

“It is a parallel story about Chang Apana in the 1800s and his great-grandson today,” says Croom, who will receive the writing credit on the series, “based on actual cases and actual things Chang did. And then his grandson Samuel is part of HPD today, gets transferred to Chinatown just as his grandfather did. There is a journal passed down through the generations and that is the connection to his great-grandfather.”