Gene Luen Yang is trading in the Man of Steel for a new Superman – from China. In July, DC will debut New Superman by the former Superman writer along with artist Viktor Bogdanovic. The monthly series will be centered on a young Chinese man named Kenji Kong who gets infused with Superman’s powers. According to Yang, who was recently named the U.S. Library of Congress’s ambassador for young people’s literature, it’s a project that originated with DC co-publisher/artist Jim Lee.
“Jim developed a little bit before [New Superman] came into my hands,” Yang told Newsarama at WonderCon. “What we wanted to do is to take the universality of Superman – he represents these ideals that really cross cultures – we want to take what Superman represents and explore it in Chinese culture.”
Yang is a first-generation Chinese-American, while Lee was born in South Korea. Longtime Superman writer Dan Jurgens, who is taking over Action Comics for Rebirth, points at New Superman as an example of “how big” Superman is as a character and a concept to incorporate other ideas.
“In our story this young 17-year-old boy named Kenji Kong gets some of Superman’s powers,” said Yang. “For why that happens, you have to read the book, but he comes into Superman’s powers, and that changes him physically, and it also changes who he is inside.”
When asked about how this new Superman fits within the DCU, Yang says Kong adopting that mantle is something he is keen on exploring.
“Within the DC Universe, just like in the real world, everybody knows who Superman is. Everybody recognizes that ‘S,’ and that’ll be true in this case as well,” said the writer. “So people are aware of who Superman is. Whether or not this new Superman who arises within their own culture is accepted by them is a whole different story. That’s what we’ll be exploring.”
Although Kenji Kong will be the first Chinese Superman in the mainstream DCU, there have been numerous heroes and villains hailing from the Asian country including the super-team Big Ten. Yang said they will factor into the series, but he isn’t restricting the guest appearances to just characters associated with Asia.
“The Great Ten will have a minor part in New Superman, and we’ll also see some other familiar faces as well, not necessarily from that part of the world.”
With the two main Superman – pre-"New 52" and “New 52” – scheduled to meet in June’s Action Comics #957, the next obvious question is if or when the New Superman star will meet his namesake.
“It makes sense that it would happen at some point right?” Yang admits. “But really what this is about is a kid who’s trying to find his place in the world, and how Superman helps you find your place in the world. I grew up reading superhero comics, and Superman really is the root of the entire genre. I learned so much about what it means to be a human being from reading superheroes. I learned so much about what it means to never give up, and to choose others ahead of yourself. So that’ll be something this kid learns. It’s kind of modeled after the typical hero’s journey.”