Now, the 29-year-old math and science teacher at the International School in Farmington Hills has turned to the kickstarter.com crowd-sourcing website to bring his vision for Journey to the Middle Kingdom to life. He said the graphic novel series is partly educational, "but mainly about Chinese culture and telling a good story."
Though the story is set in ancient China, the books are written for an American audience. Hop said he didn't start learning the Chinese language until college; he holds a Masters degree in Japanese Studies, a B.A. in Asian Studies, and speaks seven languages.
"I've always been big into Chinese and Japanese myths," he said, adding he has had the idea for the series for a long time. As he settled in to "the groove of teaching" over the last year or two, he added, "I had some time to work on it."
The educational piece includes the use of the brushes. As the teens write Chinese words in the air, whatever they're writing about appears, Hop said. At one point, for instance, they write the word for water, and water pours forth.
"It shows you what the character is, and what it means," he said.
While the book is written primarily for young people, Hop said, "it's made so that adults can appreciate it, especially the cultural aspects." He said the legends that unfold will be familiar to them.
He said Kickstarter "helps gauge the interest level for what you're doing. Does it resonate with people?". The $10,000 in funds he's trying to raise will be used to cover printing, distribution and other costs, as well payment to graphic artist Gabriel Santiago.
Hop expects the first novel to be completed some time next year. The Kickstarter campaign ends Nov. 7, at around 11 a.m.