It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s…
Last month, DC announced a list of titles for their new initiative, Rebirth. Among them was a new Super-Man book which will feature a Chinese Super-Man, written by Chinese-American writer Gene Luen Yang. Though I have reservations about DC editorial, I’m pretty optimistic about this book. For the past couple of weeks, the issue of Asian representation and the erasure of Asian voices in American creative content has been hotly discussed. So this new Super-Man book is a breath of fresh air.
In an essay on DC’s site, Yang goes into detail about the brainstorming process of naming the new hero:
One of my first tasks as the New Super-Man writer was to give our lead guy a secret identity, a Chinese civilian name.
I thought for a while and came up with these constraints:
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”).
Yang also speaks on writing this book from a Chinese-American perspective:
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.
But then, I’ve been going around giving these speeches encouraging people to read and write outside of their comfort zones. How could I turn down this opportunity to go outside of mine? (This was yet another instance in which comics-making Gene wanted to punch speech-making Gene in the mouth.)
Read the full essay here.
Author: Jermaine Dickerson
Jermaine is the co-creator of BLKBOARD, an entrepreneur and a superhero enthusiast with a passion for art, design and social activism. He hopes to change the world with the power of superheroics.