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Dragon Ball’s Mythology Gets A Twist in DC’s Newest Superhero

Warning: major spoilers ahead for DC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration #1!

Dragon Ball’s mythology gets a twist with DC Comics’ newest superhero. Inspired by Journey to the West, both Dragon Ball and DC’s Monkey Prince are modern adaptations of classic characters in Chinese literature. However, Monkey Prince has the opportunity to do things differently from the popular manga franchise, in a positive way.

Journey to the West is a classic Chinese novel dating back to about the 16th century and is considered to be one of four major classic novels in Chinese literature. One character, Sun Wukong, is known as the Monkey King. The novel tells of a pilgrimage made by Xuanzang, the legendary monk, who’s followed by Sun Wukong and other disciples. However, the Monkey King has stuck out as a very distinct character over the years, being used as the inspiration for other characters and adaptations. As a result, many aspects of the original story have not become as popular for Western audiences. Additionally, Dragon Ball is a very loose adaptation, though it’s the best known to Western viewers, adopting elements of the Monkey King character and applying them to the main character, Goku.

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Now, DC’s preparing to tell a new story that also draws inspiration from Journey to the WestDC Festival of Heroes: The Asian Superhero Celebration #1 includes the debut story of the Monkey Prince, a brand new hero, who hates superheroes in an ironic twist. “The Monkey Prince Hates Superheroes,” created by Gene Luen Yang, Bernard Chang, Sebastian Cheng, Janice Chiang, and Jessica Chen, shows Monkey Prince masquerading as Shazam to take on a demon spirit possessing Dr. Sivana. Within this story, Monkey Prince calls out some of the ways that the character is viewed or the assumptions that are made about him, based on his identity. Monkey Prince provides the perfect venue to create a new story featuring Chinese mythology and identity at the forefront.

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Monkey Prince is very insistent on his name. He’s a “Prince”, not the Monkey King he’s continually called by his foes and by people familiar with the legends behind his identity. In Dragon Ball, Goku was inspired by the Monkey King, being able to transform into a giant monkey early on and originally having a tail. However, he was ultimately an alien from another planet. Monkey Prince may not be the Monkey King, but it appears as though he’s supposed to have a direct connection to him in some way. Additionally, Monkey Prince can shapeshift, which is an ability that Sun Wukong had in the original story. He’s also shown to be skilled at combat, like his legendary predecessor. Going forward it will be interesting to see what other abilities this new character has that might echo elements within the inspirational material.

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Thus far, readers know that the Monkey Prince doesn’t like superheroes and he is not derived from Planet of the Apes, which actually seems like it would be a better fit for Dragon Ball’s Goku in some ways than Journey to the West. It’s also revealed that Monkey Prince’s alter ego, Marcus, already has parents, causing him to not believe his mentor Shifu Pigsy when he tells him that his father is the Monkey King. There is much to be learned about DC’s new hero, but this story provides a wonderful opportunity for a fresh look at a story that many Asian readers may be familiar with, that can bridge the gap with other readers who have less familiarity. DC’s Monkey Prince combines a classic character with a new perspective, separate from any version told before.

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