DC Comics is all set to introduce a new Superman comic book this summer, which will feature an entirely different avatar of the iconic superhero that was never seen before.
According to Comic Book Resources, DC writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Viktor Bogdanovic have collaborated to bring “New Super-Man.” According to the website, unlike the original American setting, the new avatar will have a Chinese one.
Yang has written an essay for DC Entertainment where he has described his methodology to name the superhero and has also explained his initial discomfort with the project.
“My mom’s family left Mainland China when she was just an infant. She spent most of her childhood in Hong Kong and Taiwan. My dad was born and raised in Taiwan. My family hasn’t lived in China for at least a generation. I’ve only visited China twice, so my understanding of Chinese culture is through echoes,” Yang has written.
“I would be writing about Chinese life as an outsider, but some American readers would assume that I was an insider simply because of my last name. It seemed like a situation fraught with peril.”
According to CBR, Yang listed a set of parameters in order to name the character as mentioned below:
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”).
6. The Pinyin version cannot sound Japanese.
Ultimately, both Yang and Bogdanovic came up with Kenan Kong as the new Superman’s alter-ego. Yang explained the character’s secret identity as below:
孔克南 Kenan Kong
南 Nan means “south.” Appropriate for a kid from Shanghai, since folks from Beijing like to call folks from Shanghai “Southerners.”
克 Ke means “to overcome.” What could be more Super-Man than “to overcome”?
Kenan isn’t quite as easy to pronounce (in Chinese, it’s closer to “Ken Ann” than “Key Nan”), but it’s pronounceable enough. And it definitely satisfies constraint #6.