A bold new change is coming to the Superman character when DC Comics hits the reset button on its comic book universe this July.
As part of its upcoming Rebirth event, major changes are about to shape the DC comicdom, including a super-powered Lois Lane, a Latina Green Lantern and a 17-year-old Superman who hails from Shanghai.
Penned by Gene Luen Yang, the new series “New Super-Man” will feature the new Man of Steel as a Chinese teenager named Kenan Kong.
“I would definitely be more comfortable writing a Chinese-American character, as I myself am Chinese-American,” Yang told NBC last month.
“Writing a Chinese character is, for me, a lot like writing ‘The Other,’ another culture. So it requires a lot more homework and talking to people who actually live that experience.”
Yang wrote a post on the DC blog about his initial struggle to find a name for the new Asian hero.
“I wanted to find a name that works in Chinese and is immediately pronounceable to an American reader,” Yang explained.
“With Kenji Kong, we stuck with the hard-K sound like Clark Kent.”
However, the name “Kenji” posed the problem of sounding more Japanese than Chinese.
“Maybe New Super-Man starts off with a bias against Japanese people and the Pinyin version of his name bugs him to no end,” Yang wrote.
“Maybe he eventually has to team up with a Japanese superhero, someone like Katana or a member of that crazy Japanese super-team that Grant Morrison made up. Maybe they fall in love.”
The name Kenji was eventually scrapped and Yang sought to find a new one by brainstorming with his parents, comic artist Philip Tan, and a Mandarin teacher,
They all finally settled on the name Kenan (“Ke” translates to “overcoming something” and “Nan” means “south,” a nod to Kenan’s roots in Shanghai).
Kenan’s story will not be a retelling of the original Kal-El’s origin but instead will be a continuation of Superman’s death in the New 52 revamp as his powers are spread out across the globe.
Artist Viktor Bogdanovic will join Yang in bringing Kenan Kong’s character to life every month for DC’s line-wide relaunch of its titles.