The New Superman is Chinese

A new Superman comic book series by DC Comics is coming out. No Clark Kent this time, but teenager Kenji Kong – a young Chinese superhero with a Japanese name.

It is no secret that the superhero DC and Marvel comic book universes are not as ethnically diverse as the real world. There have been few well-known Chinese protagonists in the superhero cosmos. At the moment, most of the Chinese characters found in the DC and Marvel comics universe are either a supervillain or a supporting character. For many comic book readers, the most memorable Chinese character in the comic book universe is the Chinese supervillain Mandarin from Iron Man.

The comic book universe generally lacks characters with a Chinese background, or Asian characters at large. But over the past decade, the comic book world has been creating more characters that would be more appealing to Chinese audiences. In 2006, DC made their way into the hearts of Chinese comic book readers with the fourth super-hero Atom, hero Ryan Choi of Hong Kong origin. Unfortunately, Ryan Choi only appeared in 78 issues before being erased from the DC universe by assassin Deathstroke.

ryanchoiSuperhero Ryan Choi is from Hong Kong.

Hoping to attract a larger fan base within China, DC seems to have taken an even bolder step by giving the mantel of “Superman” to a Chinese teenager. A Chinese Superman with a name that sounds more Japanese than Chinese.

According to NBC News, DC recently announced a new comic series called New Superman at WonderCon 2016. DC Comics tweeted about the upcoming comic series on March 29. It will be written by Chinese-American Gene Luen Yang (杨谨伦) and illustrated by Victor Bodganovich.

Yang is famous for writing the award-winning 2006 graphic novel “American Born Chinese”.He went on to pen many other well-known graphic novels including Level UpBoxer and Saints and Avatar: The Last Airbender. More recently, Yang wrote the last 10 issues of Superman.

The story in New Superman will be about a 17 year-old teenager named Kenji Kong (孔恳记). The story of Kenji Kong will be different from that of Clark Kent, the original Superman. Unlike Clark Kent, Kenji is born on Earth with no superpowers, but then inherits Superman’s powers when he is a teenager. Another big difference is that New Superman will take place in the real city of modern-day Shanghai.

According to South China Morning Post, Yang has stated that Kenji will “start off as a jerk”, but then matures as his new-found superpowers affect him both physically and emotionally.

DC has not made it clear if Kenji Kong is intended to appeal to Chinese audiences. The introduction of a Chinese Superman can be seen as part of an ongoing movement in the comic book industry that sees to create more multi-cultural superheroes. The newest incarnation of the Incredible Hulk, for example, is of Korean descent.

There has already been some scrutiny over New Superman on social media sites and discussion boards around the web. “I love this. But why is a guy from Shanghai named Kenji? It’s a Japanese name,” commented @YuanSerenaP on Yang’s Twitter account.

“Does he understand China? He’s not afraid of being criticized?” one other netizen said on Sina Weibo.

The first issue of New Superman is set to be released on July 13, so there is still time for Yang to make some improvements. Let’s just hope that Kenji Kong will be just as awesome as the original Chinese SupermanSuper Inframan (中国超人).

sprman1975 movie on kung-fu superhero Super Inframan

By Chi Wen

Images:
– featured image tweeted by DC Comics.
Hong Kong hero Ryan Choi

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