Meet Kenan Kong, the new Superman. No really, he’s the new Superman.
DC Comics recently announced a new comic book, “New Super-Man” (yeah, there’s a hyphen in Superman now, for some reason), coming out in July, and it isn’t about Clark Kent, but a Chinese guy named Kenan Kong, who gains Superman’s powers.
In recent years, both DC Comics (the publisher of both Superman and Batman comics) and Marvel comics (publisher of Spider-Man and X-Men comics) have tried to appear more diverse, working in more minorities into their stable of mostly-white superhero characters. While there’s nothing wrong with superheroes that reflect the diversity in our society, most of the recent efforts by these comic publishers just comes across as PC pandering. In almost every case, DC and Marvel take a well-established, iconic character and totally change it.
Miles Morales, who is biracial (black and Latino), became Spider-Man in 2011 after the death of Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man. Marvel superhero Falcon (who is black) took over the mantle of Captain America from Steve Rogers in a 2014 comic book. Ms. Marvel became a Muslim teenage girl in a 2013 comic series.
In 2012, Northstar (Marvel’s first gay superhero) had comics’ first gay marriage. Marvel even turned Thor into a woman last year, and a new incarnation of the Hulk is Asian. Batwoman, in a 2006 comic series that rebooted the character, was a lesbian. Even though critics loved the character, fans failed to embrace it, and the comic was canceled in 2014. While most attempts at progressive diversity fall flat (with a few exceptions), it is THE thing in comics now.
Which brings us back to Chinese Super-man.
While DC Comics would like us to think “New Super-man” is an attempt to expand the superhero ideal to more races and cultures, it appears it is really just to sell more comics. Both DC and Marvel have “rebooted” their “universes” in recent years, with different faces and politically correct ideals, but really, they know that the first issue of a new comic series always sells well. They will use any gimmick they can to sell more issues past a coveted #1 issue, and right now, social justice and racial pandering sells.
There is, however, a sad irony to all of this. While diversity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it seems the only time a racial minority is introduced into comics, it is into an established character that already has a fan base. Rarely do we see a completely new superhero who is Asian or black or Latino. There is no need to abandon the Clark Kent Superman and outsource our hero to China. With Chinese Super-man, DC Comics is essentially saying that they don’t think an Asian superhero comic will sell unless it has a brand name like Superman on him. And that is the real racism here.