Change! Not just something to fill a bottle up with as you save up for that jetski, but also something that can be necessary and exciting in the world of comics. Superman is getting another big shake-up this year, as one Man of Steel dies so that another can take over when DC kicks off their Rebirth event. It’s all rather complicated, but long story short, we’re going to see some super-new faces wearing the iconic S soon.
When the New 52 says goodbye to their Superman, his powers are going to be split across the globe, forming new Supermen from all over the globe. And one of them happens to be a young fella from Shanghai and the star of The New Super-Man, Kenan Kong. “One of my first tasks as the New Super-Man writer was to give our lead guy a secret identity, a Chinese civilian name,” New Super-Man writer Gene Luen Yang wrote on the DC blog.
I thought for a while and came up with these constraints:
The name would need to be a plausible Chinese name.
The name’s meaning should relate to the character’s journey in some way.
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.
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.”
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 Kong and Kang. I chose Kong because Kang is a conqueror in the Marvel Universe.
What’s in a name? Plenty then apparently. There’s a lot more to it through the original link, but it is fascinating to see how Kenan Kong’s name was chosen specifically to to draw a parallel to Clark Kent. And also how the original name of Kenji Kong was chucked in case anyone confused the new Super-Man for a Japanese native. Don’t worry, there’s already a Japanese Batman that has appeared, and he fights villains with awesome names such as Lord Death Man.
The New Super-Man series kicks off in July, with art from Viktor Bogdanovic and various other talented people helping to shape the character.