The Next Superman is Chinese! Of course.


DC Comics have announced on Twitter plans for a China-based rendition of their famous superhero – Superman.

On July 13th, the Chinese Superman Character, Kenji Kong will make his debut in comic book form.   The story is written by American-Chinese writer Gene Luen Yang, who came to fame with “American Born Chinese”, and has penned the last ten issues of the Superman series.

The character, Kenji Kong, is a seventeen year old Shanghai-nese teenager, who unlike Clark Kent gains his superpowers on-earth, rather than from Krypton.   Initially a teenage jerk – surprise, surprise – Kenji grows into this powers and develops a greater sense of responsibility.

There is substantial mystery surrounding how Superman will take on his Chinese form – but netizens have reacted to his name already, wondering why he has a Japanese first name.  However, it actually makes sense, as many Shanghai-nese youth use Japanese and Korean names as nicknames.

The Next Superman is Chinese

DC Comics’ tweet announcing Chinese Superman

Does China need a Chinese Superman?

Chinese culture already has a long lexicon of superheroes – and they are usually super dark and complex.  Zhang Yimou’s film Hero showed characters who both embraced by heroism and cowardice through their lives.  Heroes are never simple in China, somewhat like the nation.

But from a cultural, albeit, commercial perspective, DC Comic’s creation of a Chinese Superman is an attempt to localize one of their most iconic stories, and stem the wave of box office success enjoyed by Marvel, and their band of Avengers.

From a consumer perspective, the duality of Superman approximates the daily ‘super hero’ effort of many young people in China – where they are expected, in practical terms, to be Clark Kent, but in aspirational terms, expected to be Superman(woman). The universality of this dualism – some what lost in the latest movie – holds unique relevance in the context of post-modern Shanghai.

This relevance is reflected by the fact that China’s Superman, unlike his predecessors, is actually from  a real city, rather than a fictitious one.   It is almost as though Shanghai is the perfect city for a earth-grown Superman to evolve.

Our SMART team use our bespoke Superhero your Brand© Workshops – to help clients think more clearly about brand personality, category purpose and positioning.   We have used it recently to help a new brand create a China mascot.

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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