I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about for the third post. At first I thought I might write about the Suicide Squad movie and Rebirth comic,.. but instead, I decided to do a follow-up to the previous post with the second issue of The New Super-Man.
The New Super-Man #2
Publisher: DC Comics (Rebirth initiative)
Release Date: August 10, 2016
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Pencils by Viktor Bogdanovic
“Made in China” part two! The New Super-Man must face off against the Justice League of China? When Kenan Kong was imbued with the powers of Superman, he didn’t waste any time using them! Now it’s up to the New Bat-Man and New Wonder-Woman of his home country to bring our hero back down to earth—just in time to stop the attack of the deadly Sunbeam! – Official solicitation
Purchase this comic digitally here.
With the second issue, already we see that even though Kenan’s father slightly represented who Jonathan Kent was to Clark Kent/Superman, Kenan’s father is very different. His father may have some of the ideals of a superhero like Superman, but he doesn’t see it as something that he’s instilling in his son. Jonathan Kent was there for Clark every step of the way as a child to help mold him into who he became. Jonathan knew Clark was someone very special and that he would grow up to do great things for the planet. Kenan’s father is absent and needs to be convinced that his son could perhaps one day embody the things he believes in.
Children have always struggled to prove themselves to their parents. It’s very clear that Kenan does want his father’s attention and acceptance. So not only does Kenan have to become a hero to himself or even the world, he has to be a hero to his father. That’s what every child wants, their parents to be proud of them and believe in them. The need for acceptance is a big motivator. And for Kenan, as with anyone; you can’t expect people to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself. Kenan so far seems like a confident guy on the outside; he doesn’t seem to have self-esteem issues, but let’s consider what a bully he is. Sometimes people are bullies because they themselves were bullied and made to feel less than they are. When that bully sees themselves in someone else, sees what he or she was made to feel less for, the bully could get angry and hate this other person, because he or she hates that part of themselves now because they have been made to feel like someone lesser because of it and takes it out on this other person. I’m not quite sure I can say that about Kenan yet. The last issue slightly touched on why Kenan bullied Lixin. It seemed to be because Lixin’s father owns the company of the plane that Kenan’s mother died in. I suppose that’s really more resentment by association which is totally unfair. We’ve only really seen Kenan as a bully from that one instance in bullying Lixin. Is Lixin the only person Kenan bullies? Or does he bully others? I think for Kenan, he was only really a bully to Lixin because he acting out from the pain and anger and he hadn’t found another healthy outlet for it. He feels hopeless and powerless. Him bullying Lixin is his attempt at regaining his power and control. To relate back to why someone might be a bully, for Kenan, he hates the part of himself who feels hopeless and powerless, and he may see this same powerlessness in Lixin because he’s such a pushover OR perhaps wants Lixin to feel hopeless and powerless.
Becoming a hero could help give Kenan a healthier outlet for his pain. Even if he never got powers, the experience he had in saving Lixin could’ve been the impetus for him to become a hero regardless. Kenan felt hopeless and powerless over his mother’s death. Now, he can feel powerful and give others hope! He can now be the person who could’ve saved his mother. He can be the hope for others who may one day feel powerless like he did. This is all a part of his journey to becoming a hero. Our own experiences with suffering can sometimes give us a desire protect others from the pain you went through. We all have the power to help others. Powers only made it an easier choice for Kenan to make.
In this issue, Kenan’s ‘hero’s journey’ continues as he gets another call to heroism. He ends up going along with The Bat-Man and The Wonder-Woman on a mission to save a woman, but Kenan is left in the car with a visor that keeps him in compliance by shocking him. At the moment, the device is keeping him from pretty much doing anything, and for an unexplained reason, his powers are dormant. The Wonder-Woman saves this woman’s little girl first and puts her in the car with Kenan. The Bat-Man and The Wonder-Woman continue fighting a super-villain named Sunbeam who has the little girl’s mother hostage. Sunbeam threatens to kill the woman/mother. Inside the car Kenan sees the little girl’s reaction, fearing for her mother’s life. Kenan recognizes the look of pain and powerlessness in the little girl’s face, it’s the face he had when he found out his mother died and is immediately moved to action, like a parent protecting their child from harm, selfless and without hesitation. Despite the pain, the compliance device is causing him, he is determined to not let this little girl go through what he had gone through and sets out to save this little girl’s mom.
Is it a coincidence that Kenan’s powers come and go? Could it be that the powers are triggered off when he behaves less than heroic and more selfishly, and turns on when he is selfless and heroic?
In this panel, Kenan has seemingly sacrificed himself to save this little girl’s mother!
Kenen’s powers for some reason as he’s saving the little girl’s mother returns just as his head was being blown off! Phew! That could’ve gone better, he’s lucky! He almost got himself killed unnecessarily. The Bat-Man and The Wonder-Woman should’ve been able to take care of this.
By the end of the second issue, he has saved the day once again and seems to have gained some respect from both The Bat-Man and The Wonder-Woman. BUT, in a few panels, Kenan manages to lose the respect he just gained from them. Kenan finds attention and fame very appealing. You might say he’s getting carried away and letting it get to his head. It can be addicting.
So when this reporter, Laney Lan, he likes shows up on the scene, he wants her to recognize him and basically reveals his identity to the whole world. There goes having a secret identity.
This is not something Clark Kent had to deal with while learning to become a hero. Later in life as Superman, Clark hadn’t had to deal with being outed as Clark Kent for a long time. Clark also was raised with all the love and attention he needed, and never longed for the attention of fame. I suppose there’s still time yet for Kenan to learn differently.
Perhaps he’ll learn the hard way to becoming humble like Superman, or maybe he doesn’t at all. Perhaps that’s a distinction and reflection of the time we live in with everyone wanting to become a star through social media.
The ‘idea of Superman’ exists in both our world and the world of the comic. The idea of Superman in itself is inspiring. In Kenan’s world, Superman is more than an idea, Superman is real. What if Superman never existed, what kind of hero would Kenan become? Is it even a factor? If not Superman, there are other ‘ideas of heroes’ in real life and literature to look to. It could be people in our lives, or a person from a story you read, a fireman or a self-less person helping others in need, etc. There are examples in our daily lives, but boy do we need more of them. The news is full of fear, and hate. I feel, having examples of heroes really teaches us what a hero is. For me, The ‘idea of Superman’ helps to inspire people more. I think Superman stands out because I, like many others, continue to grow up with him being at the forefront of our culture. Sure there are many new heroes NOW, but for a long time there really only was Superman that dominated the consciousness of superheroes. Later came Wonder Woman, and Batman. Superman became real when the Richard Donner film came out in 1978. People all over the world believed a man could fly. I was too young then to watch it, but by the time I was old enough, Superman was ingrained in our culture. He became a modern-day archetype and avatar of heroism for people all over the world. It’s very clear what Superman stands for. Love, for all.
Superman, provides specifically what it means t be a hero without much grey area. It’s like how people might ask themselves “What Would Jesus Do.” Kenan need only ask “What Would Superman Do.” Wow,.. is the idea of Superman as big as Jesus!? That’s why, even though China has other heroes in the form of The Great Ten, people anywhere would still look to Superman as an inspiration to be a hero.
The Super-Man slightly makes me think of Marvel’s newest Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. She is also young and learning to be a hero, and like Kenan, she is also adopting the name and legacy of another hero. One big difference for me is that Kamala as Ms. Marvel at the beginning was much more street level, which made her very much relatable. It’s a great character and book. Kenan, in his book, is already thrust into a team of established heroes that he also happens to NOT admire. While Kamala kinda learned to be a hero alone, or with some of her un-powered friends, Kenan has The Bat-Man and The Wonder-Woman as potential role models. That being said, so far it doesn’t look like Kenan is learning anything from The Bat-Man or The Wonder-Woman. They have failed to inspire him, and they are all at each other’s throats. Luckily, Kenan still has Superman. Will Kenan end up looking to Superman as a role model?
Thing is, for Kenan, it’s not as easy as asking “What Would Superman Do.” Kenan has to also deal with the agenda of those who gave him these powers. They have their own ideas of who Kenan should be, and how he should be trained. No one owned or controlled Superman. He didn’t belong to any one country, he belonged to the world, or the universe even.
It’s interesting how this organization (I failed to mention is called the Ministry of Self-Reliance) who gave him his powers picked him from watching him on TV talking about how he stopped this super-villain because Lixin was in danger. From that one video, they gathered that he has a “hero’s heart.” They saw selflessness and perhaps natural instincts for heroism. Was that the one spark that they got and ran with it? Is that enough, or did they see more?
I think anyone at a given point could be selfless and display instincts of heroism and selflessness. It might seem a bit flaky to have chosen him from that, but perhaps, it points out that it really could be any of us. In the world of the comic, it’s set as an example, an idea, that might not really make sense in real life, but for the reader, it may convey that everyone’s perchance to display an act of kindness, bravery or selflessness, no matter how little or how much, is in fact enough. That one moment where we become a hero is enough. That a hero is within us all. The spark is there, it’s just a matter of discovering it. You don’t have to be Clark Kent, a dorky goodie-two-shoes, to be a good person. You can be Kenan Kong. You can be Carl Li. You can be you.