New Super-Man Writer Gene Luen Yang Wins MacArthur Genius Grant

The MacArthur Foundation has named Gene Luen Yang as one of 23 winners of its annual "Genius Grant" awards. Yang is best known for his popular graphic novels like American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, and The Shadow Hero, and has recently begun writing monthly comics for DC Comics.

The MacArthur Fellowship program or "Genius Grants" are awarded annually to individuals who have shown "extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction". The grant comes with a no strings attached cash prize of $625,000, paid to recipients over the course of five years.

Yang's breakout hit was American Born Chinese, which won multiple awards and was a National Book Award finalist. His two graphic novel set Boxers and Saints was also a National Book Award finalist. Yang's series of Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels have also received critical acclaim. His work for DC Comics, an arc on Superman with John Romita Jr., outed Superman's identity to the public and set up his eventual demise. He's currently writing New Super-Man, a new DC series about a young Chinese man embued with some of Superman's powers.

gene luen yang
(Photo: CBC Books)

In a 2015 interview with ComicBook.com, Yang spoke about writing a character like Superman who has changed constantly over his 75+ year history. "There are definitely different incarnations, but I think the core of him never changes," Yang said. "He's always a guy who sticks up for other people, who puts his life on the line for other people, and he's always the guy who just who does not give up, but everything else kind of shifts. It makes sense to me that different people will latch on to different expressions of the character. It comes with having a character who's this old and this broad."

Earlier this year, Yang was named as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature by the Library of Congress. He also teaches creative writing at Hamline University's MFA program.

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Yang is the third comic book writer to receive a MacArthur Genius Grant. Alison Bechdel, best known for her autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home, won a Genius Grant in 2014. Black Panther writer Ta-Nehesi Coates won the award last year shortly after Marvel announced he and Brian Stelfreeze were working on a new series.