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Comic Book / New Super-Man

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New Super-Man is a 2016 comic book published by DC Comics as part of their Rebirth initiative, written by Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Superman: Truth) with art by Viktor Bogdanovic.

Kong Kenan note  is a troubled young man living with his mechanic father in Shanghai. Despite his bullish personality and narcissistic tendencies, he's got the heart of a hero, and his life changes forever when he's selected by an underground scientific foundation to become the first-ever Superman of China and a founding member of their own Justice League.

Starting with issue #20, this series was renamed to New Super-Man and the Justice League of China.


New Super-Man provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abstract Apotheosis: Kenan inherits the role of embodiment of Yin and Yang from I-Ching and All-Yang, though he has yet to find balance.
  • Acrofatic: Chinese Bat-Man looks out of shape but can still do most of Batman's acrobatics.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Peng Deilan calls Kenan "Dummy" even after she's bonded with him.
  • Alliterative Name: Kong Kenan, mirroring the alliterative-sounding name of his American equivalent Clark Kent.
  • Aluminium Christmas Trees:: Regarding Kenan's given name, which some found to be unusual and "un-Chinese" sounding. Gene Luen Yang outlined the naming process in response to that concern.
  • Always Someone Better: Wang Baixi earned the cowl of Bat-Man of China, but he was outdone at the training school by his own little sister. And then she turns out to be a supervillain in the making.
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  • Ambiguously Human: I-Ching is able to scare away a group of demons by taking off his glasses. This is later revealed to be because he has taijitu for eyes.
  • An Aesop: As I-Ching said in the final issue: "Even balance itself must be balanced".
  • Answer Cut: A Korean general says "Can you believe so much mayhem could be caused by a single, misguided little man?" right before Yang!Kenan Kool-Aid Mans his way into the room, as if in response.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: All-Yang and I-Ching are this for the concepts of Yin and Yang.
  • Ascended Fanboy:
    • A young Kenan was hooked by an internet video showing the JLA members, especially Superman. Then he gets the powers nearly identical to his idol's. When the two of them meet and team up, Kenan is worried that Superman will laugh at him for having his X-Ray Vision linked to his thigh chi for "penetration", only to realize that of course he wouldn't, he's Superman.
    • Baixi geeks out over Batman and asks him to autograph his cape. Batman isn't amused.
  • Badass Normal: Bat-Man has no powers unlike the others Justice Leaguers, but like his U.S. equivalent, is not portrayed as less effective of a fighter for it.
  • Bad Future: The team has a vision of one in the final issue.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Superman seems to have this role with Kenan.
  • Bland-Name Product: The final issue has Kenan and Kwang-Jo play a match of Deadly Kombat X with fanmade Justice League of China skins. Interestingly, it wasn't a reference to Injustice even though it would have fit better, but that may have something to do with how Injustice is a part of the DC Multiverse and Mortal Kombat isn't.
  • Breaking Speech: Flying Dragon General asks for Kenan's help in rescuing those the Ministry of Self-Reliance has captured, pointing out that the "S" that he wears means a lot more than what he thinks. When he glares, Dragon realizes what the look is, blasts him, then tells him that he's nothing but "a bully in a cape" trying to hide behind the "S". It becomes obvious to the reader — and clues Kenan in to — who Flying Dragon General really is because it's something his father told him in the first issue.
  • Cain and Abel:
    • Kenan's dad and his brother, both members of the Freedom Fighters.
    • I-Ching has this with his "brother", who also doubles as an Evil Counterpart.
    • Baixi with his sister.
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Blows his secret identity and his existence to the world in #2, as well as announcing the existence of Justice League of China. Cue mass Spit Takes from people like Perry White and Batman finding it... interesting.
  • Captain Ethnic: The infamous Great Ten are featured, and it's their status as this that led the Ministry to start the Justice League of China project. Not that they're much better: Wonder-Woman replaces the original's stars-stripes-eagle motif with a dragon-themed Anime Chinese Girl look not to mention being Xiaoqing from Legend of the White Snake, and Kenan's own powers turn out to be heavily tied to Ki Manipulation. And of course, there's the problem of them being literal chinese bootlegs, which even the Ten take issue with.
    August General in Iron: This team of children you've assembled is nothing but a cheap Chinese imitation of a flawed American concept.
  • Catchphrase: Baixi loves saying "Hrm".
  • Central Theme: Finding balance, whether in oneself or in the world. Much of the early chapters deal with Kenan having to balance his emotions in order to draw out his full power. Later on, he has to mediate between his father and mother's opposing viewpoints, juggle being a hero with running from the authorities, and finally learn to balance the principles of Yin and Yang themselves after becoming their Abstract Apotheosis.
  • Clark Kenting: Inverted for a one-off joke in issue #2. Laney Lan doesn't recognize Kenan in his superhero persona because he doesn't wear an eye visor as a civilian.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Red for Super-Man, Blue for Bat-Man, Green for Wonder-Woman, Purple for Flash.
  • Completely Unnecessary Translator: Lex Luthor is revealed to be fluent in Mandarin, and thus didn't need I-Ching to translate for him. Then again, it's not like I-Ching was being accurate.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Well, Wang Baixi is a Batman, after all.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Peng Deilan is actually Xiaoqing, aka the Green Snake in Legend of the White Snake. She and Wonder Woman are friends, both with each other and mutually of Hanuman.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • I-Ching dresses in all black, and is representative of the 'dark' Yin principle, but is not a villain.
    • Kenan's Yin form is a detached individual who isn't Ax-Crazy like his Yang counterpart, and helps the Justice Leaguers win in as nonviolent a fashion as possible.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • The Freedom Fighters of China, like their namesake, fight for "Truth, Freedom and Democracy" in a non-democratic environment... but they're antagonists, as they're kinda trying to overthrow the real life Chinese government, which while shady and censorship-happy would probably throw the world's most populated country into chaos if gone.
    • A dark example applies this to the history of DC itself. The first issue of Detective Comics saw Slam Bradley beat up a bunch of Yellow Peril charactures to retrieve a vague artifact. Issue 16 shows the scene from a modern perspective, which shows Slam Bradley as a racist brute beating up Chinese men who were only defending an artifact that the westerners had previously stolen from them. Kenan is absolutely horrified to learn the truth.
  • Eternal Recurrence: The birth of personifications of Yin and Yang, as explained in I-Ching's backstory.
  • Evil Counterpart: All-Yang is this to his brother (see below), and Superman Zero is this to both Kenan and regular Superman.
  • Evil Twin: All-Yang and I-Ching are twins, the former being the evil one.
  • Expy:
  • Failed a Spot Check: When Kenan meets I-Ching, he wonders why the man doesn't recognise him, having utterly failed to gather that I-Ching isn't wearing those dark glasses to look cool.
  • First-Name Basis: The Justice League of China fall into this pretty quick.
  • Foreign Culture Fetish:
    • The reason Kenan becomes Superman, and why Western-style superheroes (as well as supervillains) are said to be on the rise in China — an example of Truth in Television, as this is a Real Life phenomenon currently happening in Chinese culture.
    • Ahn Kwang-Jo has a predilection for a cartoon about a family with yellow skin - and no, we're not talking about racist asian caricatures. He has to resort to illegal means to watch it in his home country, though.
      "The s-son is always telling his father, "Don't have a cow, man!"
  • Freudian Excuse: Kenan's mother died in a plane accident, which cause him to bully the son of owner of the airline where she died. It was later revealed that she faked her death so that she could go back to working for the Ministry.
  • Future Me Scares Me: A symbolic version, but none of the Justice Leaguers of China are very happy with the way their future selves look and act in the Ghost Realm.
  • Hazy Feel Turn: Alpaca may be starting to see the light with Baixi's help as of the penultimate issue, though it may be the case that the opposite is true for Baixi.
  • Heroic Build: Kenan starts out with a fairly average build, with broad shoulders and a slight gut. When he gets his powers, he immediately becomes ripped.
  • In a Single Bound: Since Kenan cannot fly, he has to get by via leaping everywhere.
  • Internal Homage:
    • Super-Man naturally gets the classic "lift a car above your head" pose from Superman's first cover appearance.
    • Ching Lung's reveal is a perfect replica of his original appearance on the cover of Detective Comics #1, except the issue's credits replace what once advertised "brand new action-packed series IN COLOR!"
    • The cover of issue #17 has Kenan sitting in the same exact way as Superman on the cover of All-Star Superman #1.
  • Internal Reveal:
    • In issue 10, Kenan finds out his mother and father are still alive, though the readers already knew about the latter because of an author's note in an earlier issue.
    • Very early on, Kenan tells the whole country that he's the New Super-Man.
  • Interservice Rivalry: The Ministry of Self Reliance/Justice League of China with The Great Ten. August General in Iron is not amused another superteam is trying to take his work from him.
  • In the Blood: Kenan's parents were both costumed superheroes.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Laney Lan, like her American counterpart.
  • Ironic Echo: Ching Lung states that his enemies have proven themselves to be "a superstitious and cowardly lot." He debuted in Detective Comics, the series in which that catchphrase first appeared.
  • Jerk Jock/Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kenan is a bully that is very full of himself and his ego only gets worse once he gets powers but he does have genuine heroic instincts, which is why he was chosen to receive powers in the first place. Of course, Word of God's explanation of Kenan as homage to Son Wukong helped out.
  • Kaiju: Turtle spirit Sorcerer Monk Fahai becomes one thanks to his statue prison being injected with the Doomsday Virus.
  • Laughing Mad: Alpaca likes to laugh. It's usually also green in color.
  • Left Hanging: Even with the series extended for a further 6 issues, there just wasn't enough time to solve all the story threads.
    • What will happen to Kenan's parents? Will they be able to reconcile their differences?
    • Baixi is cooperating with Alpaca now. Will this backfire on him, or will he manage to make her see things his way?
    • How will the Justice League deal with their new rivals, the Lantern Corps of China?
    • Will Kenan find balance without completely detaching himself from the world the way his future self became?
    • Who will Kenan end up with in the end? Ming Ming or Avery?
  • Light Is Not Good:
    • All-Yang is the cheery and active side of Yin-Yang duality, symbolized by his all-white clothes. However, more often than not, he's very ruthless in whatever he does and prefer simple violence to solve problems. But then again, he started his whole plan out of reciprocity.
    • Kenan himself when he taps fully into the Yang principle, trying to murder Kwang-Jo to solve the problem in an expedient manner.
  • Love Triangle: A Type 7 forms very late in the series with Kenan as A and Avery and Ming Ming as B and C.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father:
    • Flying Dragon General is Kenan's father.
    • In issue 12, Dr. Omen reveals she's Kenan's mother, as she's falling out of a collapsing building.
  • Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales:
    • Subverted In-Universe. Kenan is amused and entertained by Slam Bradley beating up a bunch of Chinese people in the events of Detective Comics #1. But this is only because the artwork's extremely racist depiction of the people made Kenan think that he was watching a Superman-looking dude beat up a bunch of yellow goblins. One Art Shift to modern standards later, Kenan is horrified to see a bunch of innocent Chinese people get their asses kicked by a bully.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Dr. Omen, who has no problem repeatedly zapping and blasting a teenager (admittedly, a rude and non-compliant one) at the drop of a hat, and has a staggering lack of empathy, or just emotional warmth in general.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The first four members of the Justice League of China are Super-Man, Bat-Man, Wonder-Woman and Flash, four of the seven "core" Justice League members. The three businesspeople funding the Ministry of Self-Reliance are "an airline guy, a computer lady, and a fish professor".
    • In issue #11, Kenan and Avery have a race, which seems to be something any Superman and his Flash equivalent are destined to do for the past few decades. Naturally, Avery wins. Handily.
    • In #16, Kenan says Slam Bradley looks like Superman (Kal-El). Slam was a Seigel and Shuster creation, and was indeed initially drawn with the same appearance Shuster would later give Supes.
    • In the final issue, when Baixi wonders where Kenan's future self is, Kenan points up and says "There. Up in the sky".
    • For Gene Luen Yang's body of work, this isn't the first time an asian character has quoted Bart Simpson's famed Catchphrase.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Kenan, feeling sympathy for Superman Zero, lets him go. This gives All-Yang the opportunity to repower him, allowing him to attack the ministry again.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: In issue #18, Kenan masters his abilities, absorbs All-Yang, defects from the Ministry of Self-Reliance along with Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman to work independently, whose higher ups unveil a equivalent to the Green Lantern Corp as a more reliable option.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: On his first arrival to China, Lex Luthor speaks badly-mangled Mandarin. Unsurprisingly, he later turns out to be much more eloquent than he'd been letting on.
  • Odd Name Out:
    • The Justice League of China all have names that in some way differentiate them from their Justice League counterparts, even without the added "of China" (which isn't actually part of their names); Super-Man, Bat-Man, Wonder-Woman. Avery Ho, having a one word, one syllable name, doesn't; she's just the Flash.
    • Baixi has a Rogues' Gallery of Batman villain expies, but they don't share their western counterparts' names, unlike the rest of the characters.
  • Old Master: I-Ching, the blind martial arts master who taught Wonder Woman kung-fu during her depowered phase in the early seventies as well as help Superman regain his powers stolen from The Sandman, makes his return to teach Kenan Ki Manipulation... and snark at him. A lot.
  • Older Than They Look: Deilan casually mentions to Baixi how he knows she spent two centuries living inside a rock before she was found by the Ministry.
  • Politeness Judo: Kwang-Jo roasts Kenan after trouncing him in a fighting game several times by thanking him for going easy on him.
  • Powerful, but Incompetent: Kenan has all of the powers of Superman, which would make him one of the strongest beings on the planet... if he could actually use them all properly rather than having to think hard about using one or the other. His self-absorbed and impulsive behavior also mean that he tends to make things worse before they get better. As he practices and learns humility, his fine control grows, allowing him to move past the incompetent bit over time, though he's still prone to careless errors.
  • Power of the Sun: Initially, Kenan seems to be more noticeably solar powered compared to the other Supers, but it soon becomes apparent that his power is limited by something different...
  • Power Up Full Color Change: When Kenan embraces power rather than balance he becomes all-yang, turning brilliant white but also more ruthless and pragmatic. On the other end, if he embraces detachment, he becomes all-yin and turns black. In this state he becomes intangible even to kryptonite and can disrupt the powers of others with a touch, but he becomes frivolous and forgetful without direction.
  • Qi Manipulation: Kenan's powers work by channelling Superman's qi through his body, meaning that his powers become stronger when he acts "Superman-like"; in addition, they're linked to the eight Bagua trigrams, with Kenan able to access his powers by focusing his qi into the trigrams' associated body parts:
    • Trigram 0 (Kūn) - Invulnerability; stomach
    • Trigram 1 (Gèn) - Super-strength; fists
    • Trigram 2 (Kǎn) - Super-hearing; ears
    • Trigram 3 (Xùn) - X-ray vision; thighsnote 
    • Trigram 4 (Zhèn) - Super-speed; feet
    • Trigram 5 () - Heat vision; eyes
    • Trigram 6 (Duì) - Super-breath; mouth
    • Trigram 7 (Qián) - Flight; head
  • Really 700 Years Old: Delian had been turned into a stone statue for 200 years.
  • Restraining Bolt: Also doubles as a Shock Collar as Kenan gets fitted with one of these in the form of a pair of goggles to keep him in line. Bat-Man built it.
  • The Reveal:
    • Kenan isn't the Ministry's first attempt at making their own Superman.
    • Master I-Ching Has an Evil Twin named All-Yang, and they're the Anthropomorphic Personifications of Yin and Yang.
    • Kenan's mother and father are both alive. Oh, and his mother is Dr. Omen.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Of all things, the "S"-shape on Kenan's chest is a multi-layered symbol. There's the classic duality of it being an "S" for "Superman" and the Kryptonian symbol for "hope"; its octagonal shape, taken from the international shape of stop signs, indicates the Ministry's intent to stop all threats to China; and combining the two forms the S-shaped path through an octagonal Bagua symbol. When Kenan and I-Ching guest star in Supergirl (Rebirth), I-Ching comments that, despite Kara's scepticism, the symbol shows Kryptonians must have had an instinctive understanding of qi.
    • Kwang-Jo decides to close the floodgates instead of destroying North Korea. Inside his mind, his father begs him to not disgrace his heritage. Kwang-Jo then quotes a meme from a western cartoon, thereby disgracing his heritage.
  • Sarcastic Devotee: I-Ching uses this to humble Kenan, or perhaps just because he likes to troll him for fun.
  • Secret Identity: Soundly defied by Kenan when he blabs his new identity as Super-Man in live television. It's unknown if Baixi plays it straight or not, but Deilan does have one.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Reporter Laney Lan's first name is romanized "Laney" instead of, presumably, "Leini" in order to play up the similarity with Lois Lane. (Her whole name is also in blue text, meaning it's following Western order in-universe.)
  • Stop Being Stereotypical: The basis between the Interservice Rivalry with the Great Ten and the Ministry — The Ministry sees the Great Ten as outdated and stereotypical relics of abandoned morals and created the Justice League of China to beat the westerners at their own game. The Great Ten sees the Ministry as abandoning their country's pride and, by creating imperfect superheroes based on those within America, reinforce the idea of China being a bootlegger's paradise.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: When Kenan embraces power rather than the balance he has been taught to embody, he gets more powerful and gains an all-white costume, but also becomes far more ruthless and pragmatic.
  • Tactful Translation: I-Ching does this when translation Kenan's lines to Lex Luthor, but does rather the opposite when translating Luthor's to Kenan.
  • Team Mom: Deilan, the Wonder-Woman of China, who has to keep Kenan and Baixi in line and away from each other's throats. Kenan even lampshades it when she has to tell him not to kill or maim their opponents.
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Discussed, since the team doesn't have an equivalent to Aquaman in reserve, and one would be useful during the current crisis where a Kaiju is stirring up tidal waves.
  • Trans-Pacific Equivalent: In-Universe version.
    • Obviously, the Justice League of China is an equivalent to the Trinity, extending to their initials:
      • The Super-Man of China (Kong Kenan) = Superman (Clark Kent)
      • The Wonder-Woman of China (Peng Deilan) = Wonder Woman (Diana Prince)
      • The Bat-Man of China (Wang Baixi) = Batman (Bruce Wayne)
    • This also applies to the Superman mythos:
      • Lan Leini/"Laney Lan" = Lois Lane
      • Luo Lixin = Lex Luthornote 
    • This also applies to the Freedom Fighters of China:
      • Flying Dragon General = Uncle Sam (and Firebrand)
      • Blue Condor = Black Condor
      • Ghost Woman = Phantom Lady
      • Sunbeam = the Ray
      • Folding Paper Man = Doll Man (and Plastic Man)
      • Human Firecracker = Human Bomb
      • Liberty Goddess = Miss America
    • And others include:
      • Anathema (Feng Ronpei) = Bane
      • Alpaca (Wang Jiali) = The Joker (and Anarky)
      • The Dragonson/the Aqua-Man of North Korea (Ahn Kwang-Jo) = Aquaman (Arthur Curry)
  • Translation Convention: Although the dialogue is written in English, it's understood that Kenan and the other characters are speaking Mandarin — unless otherwise stated through the use of blue text, which signals the use of English. Normally, the use of "<" and ">" indicate the use of a foreign language, but since the entire comic is basically in Mandarin, it would have been silly to constantly employ them in every word balloon.
    • In Action Comics #983, it's reversed: blue indicates Mandarin is being spoken, as Superman and Kenan have an exchange in that language. Supergirl (Rebirth) #14 follows suit and adds orange for Mongolian and purple for Russian. New Super-Man #20 introduces red for Korean.
  • Trolling Translator: I-Ching, when translating Luthor's words to Kenan, says that Luthor is telling Kenan about how much he lacks discipline. Even Kenan is aware something is off.
  • True Companions: The JLC grow close to each other, even in spite of Kenan's pigheaded behavior, an early sign of which is Bat-Man becoming willing to ignore protocol for Kenan's sake. Kenan considers them his second family.
  • Tsundere: Avery becomes this to Kenan over time, though she doesn't mistreat him. Prime example is when she says "There's the jerk I love" and then backpedals and insists she meant to say "tolerate".
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Freedom Fighters want to bring truth, justice and democracy to China, but the Dragon with an Agenda enlists Starro's aid to enforce it through violence. Flying Dragon General realizes that the group believes the ends justifies the means, and tells Kenan that people come before ideals.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The sixth issue. Kenan's father seemingly dies stopping Human Firecracker, only for the last page to reveal Dr. Omen has his body in stasis... and Dr. Omen is implied to be Kenan's supposedly dead mother.
    • Issue 8, the last page of which reveals an incredibly unexpected character... Ching Lung, the Yellow Peril Chinese villain from the cover of the first ever issue of Detective Comics!
    • Issue #10 has Ching Lung reveal who he actually is. He's I-Ching. Or, as it turns out, I-Ching's evil(?) twin.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Batman lays into Baixi for not properly testing his equipment for deploying them. While he acknowledges Baixi is only a teenager, he stresses the fact that Badass Normal heroes can't afford screwups in a world of metahumans.
  • Where It All Began: The most epic version, as Ching Lung brags he was the one who started it all — and by "all" he means DC Comics, period!
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Superman isn't pleased with having to fight demons (who are supernatural and can bypass his invulnerability).
  • With Great Power Comes Great Hotness: Kenan goes from a tubby 20-something-year-old to being as ripped as well, Superman, after being imbued with Superman's chi as part of the Chinese government's attempt to create its own party-loyal Justice League.
  • Yellow Peril: Ching Lung deliberately cultivated that image to drive a wedge between the East and West, since The '30s. Issue #16 dissected this topic and Ching Lung's motivation in more details, since Detective Comics #1 did feature Slam Bradley beating up racist Chinese caricatures, which All-Yang suggested that these savage caricatures and violent treatments on them were used to justify what the Eight-Nation Alliance did in China. In response to this, All-Yang urged Kenan to become the new emperor and crush Western civilization, embodying the Yellow Peril trope.


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