COMIC BOOKS: Superman Smashes the Klan

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In the 1940s, a Superman radio program, “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” pitted the Man of Steel against the Klan.

Inspired by this radio show, author Gene Luen Yung, artists Gurihiru and letterer Janice Chiang created a recent graphic novel titled “Superman Smashes the Klan.”

The story is set in 1946 in post-World War II Metropolis. Roberta and Tommy Lee are the children of an Asian family that has moved into a white neighborhood. The family is confronted by the Klan. A cross is burned in the family’s front yard and the family is attacked by men in hoods.

Metropolis is the home of Superman, too.

The early Superman.

The one who leaps tall buildings in a single bound rather than flies. The one who often travels by speed-running along power lines. The one who is discovering developing new powers and the one who is suddenly weakened by a mysterious green rock recently unearthed.

While Superman is dedicated to stopping the Klan, he is weakened by kryptonite. Roberta and Tommy must help Superman smash the Klan.

“Superman Smashes the Klan” is fine storytelling. Marketed as a graphic novel for young adults, it is an excellent read for older readers, too.

Yang and Gurihiru tell a story about “immigration, battling adversity, and finding home,” according to the book’s cover blurb.

“Superman Smashes the Klan” reaches to the past to tell a story about racism that is just as relevant today. The book reveals the superpower of strong storytelling in the graphic art form. New ways to approach age-old subjects through familiar characters.

It also reminds readers that though Superman was long the champion of “truth, justice and the American way,” he is an immigrant. An alien from the doomed planet of Krypton, whose rocket ship landed on Earth while he was a baby, raised by an American couple in the rural farm community of Smallville.

“Superman Smashes the Klan” was released in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. Otherwise, it may have received much more attention. It deserves to be a smash hit.

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