If you were to come up with a list of villains DC Comics would never resurrect, it’s likely the just-revealed antagonist in the pages of “New Super-Man” would have landed in your Top Three, if not in the #1 position.
Gene Leun Yang and Billy Tan’s series follows the story of Kong Kenan as he aspires to become worthy of the name “Super-Man,” and includes similar Chinese versions of other traditionally non-Asian superheroes and villains. In the latest issue, however, the villainous mastermind pulling strings from behind the scenes has been revealed as Ching Lung.
The character, who debuted on the cover for “Detective Comics” #1 in 1937, months before Superman arrived on the comic book scene, has long been cited as an example of the racism that was once commonplace in the comic boom industry. With his Fu Manchu-style facial hair, cartoonishly offensive eyes and Chinese outfit, Ching Lung embodies virtually every offensive stereotype Asian characters were saddled with for decades. The character was considered so toxic, in fact, that he’s one of the few DC Comics has never even attempted to incorporate into the DC Universe.
“If Rebirth is about embracing the history of the DC Universe, then we do have to go back to the very beginning, right?” Yang told The Washington Post about the reason why the character has been brought into the modern DCU’s continuity. “If we really want to embrace who we are as Americans, we have to look at both the good and the bad and the pretty and the ugly of our history. If Rebirth is about reclaiming a lot of DC’s past, we also have to examine some of the ugly stuff, too. So that’s what we’re hoping to do.”
As for why the villain’s appearance remains virtually unchanged from his original incarnation — the splash page reveal is actually a recreation of his introduction on the cover to “Detective Comics” #1 — Yang assures readers there’s a well-considered plan.
“I thought if we redesign Ching Lung, we will actually be introducing a new form of yellow peril,” Yang explained. “That is definitely something that I was not interested in doing. The purpose is not necessarily to kick up old stereotypes as it is to comment on them. My hope is at the end of all of the story line, the entire long arc that deals with Ching Lung, that a reader will be able to see it as both a comment on the past and evidence of how far we’ve come.”
“New Super-Man,” by Gene Leun Yang and Billy Tan, is published monthly by DC Comics.
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