ByAn Nguyen, writer at
College student studying English who knows more about the Batman mythos than he'd like to admit.
An Nguyen

Exciting news dropped less than a few hours ago: the name of DC's newest Superhero, the star of the upcoming New Superman monthly series set to drop in July.

His name is Kenan Kong, a young Chinese teenager from Shanghai who one day finds that he's taken on the powers of the Man of Steel himself. The series will arrive as a part of DC's 'Rebirth' movement, and it will serve as a welcome change of pace as a highly acclaimed and talented team will take the helm of this monumental series, including renowned Graphic Novelist Gene Luen Yang

Now with that being said, here are the top 3 reasons why Yang will make New Superman will be one of DC's greatest titles in the upcoming months.

3. He is the best Graphic Novelist at Asian American Representation

Asian representation is a difficult subject to broach in the entertainment industry, with very little content being written and screened pertaining properly to our culture. However, there are artists and talent like Gene Luen Yang who do their best to represent the culture in the industry.

Yang is known as one of the youngest and greatest talents when it comes Asian-American representation in the comics industry; his breakout hit American Born Chinese was an instant classic with fans; with themes that grappled with finding one's identity in a world that was set to bend and form individuals to conform. And these themes of acceptance and reconciliation with one's identity and culture is present in all of his works, Eternal Sunshine, Level Up, and the historical epic, Boxers & Saints.

2. He seamlessly incorporates Mature, and Complex Themes that Relate to the Reader

Being one of the sole voices for the Asian community in the comics industry, Gene Luen Yang incorporates themes of isolation, stereotyping, and bullying into his works. However, he does so seamlessly--such that these microagressions are not too 'in your face', but they're still present for those paying attention-and in this aspect, he truly is writing for many ethnically underrepresented audiences who are all too familiar with these themes.

Whether it be religion or the fears that Asian-Americans will always be forced to conform to popular culture in order to fit in, Yang reconciles all of these sentiments into beautifully written and funny stories that are fun to read, and yield a great moral lesson at the end. He will definitely carry these traits over when writing Kenan's character for New Superman

1. He's Putting in the Work to make sure Kenan is culturally relevant and authentic.

Creating a captivating main character is always an overhanging issue in the comics industry, but Yang takes it to the next level with how authentic and relevant he is making Kenan.

In a recent DC Blogpost, Yang admitted that :

1. The name would need to be a plausible Chinese name.

2. The name’s meaning should relate to the character’s journey in some way.

3. The English version of the Chinese name should be derived using Pinyin. There are different ways of Romanizing Chinese. A lot of what we see in American Chinatowns uses a system called Wade-Giles (or is “Wade-Giles-ish”). Pinyin is now the standard in Mainland China, so that’s what I want to use in the book.

4. The English version should have the initials K. K. I want to use this as a mnemonic device to help readers connect the new character to Clark Kent. I can’t use C. K. because there is no hard c in Pinyin. The Pinyin c is pronounced “ts,” like in “cats.”

5. The English version should be immediately pronounceable by American readers who haven’t studied Pinyin. This means I have to avoid certain letters like x (pronounced kind of like “sh” in Pinyin) and q (pronounced kind of like “ch”).

I pulled up a Pinyin dictionary on my laptop, had my mom on speed dial, and began brainstorming Chinese names.

New Super-Man’s surname was easy. In Pinyin, there are not that many Chinese surnames that begin with K. (Wade-Giles offers a lot more options.) It was basically between 孔 Kong and 康 Kang. I chose 孔 Kong because Kang is a conqueror in the Marvel Universe.

The individual name was a lot harder, mostly because of constraints #4 and #5. Eventually, I landed on 恳记 Kenji.

恳 Ken is not commonly used in Chinese names, but it’s been used in names before. Constraint #1, check.

恳 Ken means “earnest” and 记 Ji means “remember.” Earnest remembrance lies at the very heart of the protagonist’s arc. Plus, it could be an interesting plot device. (“Mom and Dad, what did you want me to remember?”) Constraint #2, check. The Pinyin version has the initials K. K. and Kenji can be pronounced without any knowledge of Pinyin. Constraints #3-5, check..

Source: DC Blog

Read the rest of the interview with the creator here

As you can see, Yang has already taken the long way around to naming his character, and I believe that the best is yet to come with Kenan and New Superman

So get hyped, and get excited for the launch of New Superman, because it'll be a landmark title for DC, and one large step for cultural representation in the comics industry!

Tell me what you think of New Superman below! Thank you for reading!


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