Less than one month after DC Comics revealed its latest addition to the Superman universe, writer Gene Luen Yang announced the title character would undergo a name change.
In a blog post for DC published last week, Yang wrote that "New Super-Man" lead 17-year-old Kenji Kong, a name Yang told NBC News last month he chose with his mom, will be called "Kenan Kong" instead. Yang explained his process for choosing the name "Kenji" initially — from wanting the name to be derived from Pinyin to choosing the initials "K.K." to help readers connect to Clark Kent — but admitted he "completely lost sight" of how the decision would be perceived.
"There was a problem, of course. Kenji is a common Japanese name and this would probably cause some confusion, at least at first," Yang wrote. "But I figured readers would get over it once they realized there was an actual Chinese name underneath. Heck, there's even a popular Taiwanese pop star who goes by Kenji Wu, so it's not unheard of for a Chinese person to be called Kenji."
He added, " Also, it would give me a fun narrative wrinkle to play with. Maybe New Super-Man starts off with a bias against Japanese people and the Pinyin version of his name bugs him to no end. Maybe his friends make fun of it. Maybe he eventually has to team up with a Japanese super hero, someone like Katana or a member of that crazy Japanese super-team that Grant Morrison made up. Maybe they fall in love."
But the conclusion Yang came to was understanding his own fault: that he had been too attached to making the name work for "New Super-Man" that he "missed the forest for the trees."
"What would I think if I were a casual comics reader and I encountered an Asian super hero named Kenji Kong as a supporting character in a couple panels of a DC comic, without any context for the name?" Yang asked. "I'd probably assume some non-Asian writer had confused Asian cultures."
In the blog post for DC, Yang noted that the new name, Kenan, fit the majority of his previous hopes and requirements for a name, with one addition: "The Pinyin version cannot sound Japanese."
"New Super-Man’s official secret identity will be: 孔克南 Kenan Kong," Yang wrote. "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'?"