New Super-Man has been one of DC‘s most enjoyable straight-up superhero titles since the launch of DC Rebirth, and one of the best things about it is the way it embraces risks and shakes up the status quo with the same confidence exhibited by its title character.
However, in this week’s issue of New Super-Man, Gene Luen Yang and Billy Tan drop what may prove to be the most shocking cliffhanger of the year as they bring back the oldest character in DC Comics history.
NOTE: Spoilers follow for New Super-Man #8. If you plan on reading it, go do that now!
New Super-Man #8 is a really great issue, packed with key moments not just for Kong Kenan, but for the entire core cast, which has grown to include Wang Baixi and Peng Deilan, the Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman of China’s Justice League.
So far, the series has stayed rooted in China, but as it prepares to go global, Yang and Tan have brought back the mystery Superman Zero from “The Final Days of Superman,” who is approached by a shadowy benefactor who claims there would be no superheroes without him. This leads to the shocking final page:
Yes, that is the character from the front cover of Detective Comics #1, and when he says “I am the very beginning” he’s certainly not wrong.
The character’s name is Fui Onyui, and he not only appeared in the very first issue of Detective Comics, he’s also a creation of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, debuting in a Slam Bradley story that predates Action Comics #1 by over a year.
Fui Onyui only made one more appearance, in the pages of Detective Comics #22 — five issues before the debut of Batman — and his existence is something of a stain on DC’s record. The character is a racist “Yellow Peril” stereotype of a Chinese man, and even his name is a labored pun, dreamed up solely to give Slam Bradley’s sidekick the opportunity to say “Phooey on youie” after his defeat.
In the hands of most writers, the return of Fui Onyui might seem like a misguided attempt at reclamation, but Gene Luen Yang might be the one person capable of pulling it off. He dealt with breaking down offensive stereotypes in his acclaimed book American Born Chinese in 2006, and in 2012 he worked with Sonny Liew on The Shadow Hero to bring back forgotten Golden Age Asian superhero The Green Turtle.
Still, hearkening back to the comics industry’s earliest days of stereotypes and caricatures is an incredibly risky proposition. All eyes will be on Yang to see where he takes this story next.