By Sameer Rao
ColorLines, July 13, 2016 —
Writer Gene Yang about “Kenan Kong,” the new Chinese Superman: “We get to take what’s universal about Superman and explore it in a brand new cultural context.”
Much like their competitors at Marvel, DC Comics is looking to diversify its comic superheroes with the introduction of a new Chinese Superman.
“New Super-Man #1,” which debuts today (July 13) (and features a new spelling of the character’s name), features Shanghai-based “Kenan Kong” as the new Superman. Just as the original superhero reflected American ambition with his blue-and-red outfit, Kong dons a red suit with a yellow “S” corresponding to the Chinese flag’s colors. The new comic explores Kong’s origin story, including how he inhereted powers similar to Clark Kent’s.
“We get to take what’s universal about Superman and explore it in a brand new cultural context,” Gene Yang, one of the comic’s writers, said in a video interview with DC.
Yang elaborated on the character’s different cultural references in an interview with NPR:
Superheroes in general and Superman in particular is so American—you know, Superman’s supposed to fight for truth, justice, and the American way. We wanted to take these values and stick them into a different cultural context. So we want to show how some of these things that define the original Superman might be particular to American culture and some things might be universal.
Yang also described the tensions that he believes has stalled the representation of characters from marginalized groups in comics:
I think there’s this tension that sits right in the middle of the superhero genre. It’s a tension between nostalgia and the future. Superheroes from the beginning have been about the future—you know, Superman, the first superhero, is known as the Man of Tomorrow—but at the same time, so much of the appeal of superheroes is nostalgia. You know, I feel it. I grew up reading superhero comics, so I definitely feel an attachment to these characters I grew up with. And they’re largely White, heterosexual males.
Check out “New Super-Man #1” in stores now.