Superman Smashes The Klan #1 -Review
There are some comics that are just right for the time. Superman Smashes the Klan is one of those books.
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Cover Art: Gurihiru
Variant Cover: Kyle Baker
The year is 1946, and the Lee family has moved from Metropolis’ Chinatown to the center of the bustling city. While Dr. Lee is greeted warmly in his new position at the Metropolis Health Department, his two kids, Roberta and Tommy, are more excited about being closer to their famous hero, Superman!
While Tommy adjusts to the fast pace of the city, Roberta feels out of place, as she tries and fails to fit in with the neighborhood kids. As the Lees try to adjust to their new lives, an evil is stirring in Metropolis: the Ku Klux Klan. When the Lee family awakens one night to find a burning cross on their lawn, they consider leaving town. But the Daily Planet offers a reward for information on the KKK, and their top two reporters, Lois Lane and Clark Kent, dig into the story.
When Tommy is kidnapped by the KKK, Superman leaps into action-with help from Roberta! But Superman is still new to his powers-he hasn’t even worked out how to fly yet, so he has to run across town. Will Superman and Roberta reach Tommy in time?
Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Boxers and Saints, The Terrifics, New Super-Man) presents his personal retelling of the adventures of the Lee family as they team up with Superman to smash the Klan.
Like I said, there books that come along at just the right time. We are in an era where those that hate those that they see as different feel emboldened. Superman has always been a good fit for fighting this kind of evil. Raised in the heartland of America, he is more American than apple pie. Even though he’s a symbol of everything American, Superman is literally an alien. Thus, Superman becomes the personification of the American experience as an alien America adopts as its own.
The story is relatively straight-forward with a little symbolism thrown in. The Klan in Yang’s story is less a stand-in for the Ku Klux Klan, and more a straight representation. It’s also no coincidence that the story opens with a Nazi villain, which instantly likens the Klan to the biggest evil of the 1940s. Every slur aimed at the Lees hurts each time. Yang doesn’t mince words and he depicts all of the subtle bits of racism as well, including the first impressions that Mr. Lee has of the African-American men that help put out the Klan-spawned fire on his front lawn.
Gurihiru are such a good fit for the artists on this story. Their style fits the 1946 aesthetic but still retains a measure of modernity to it. While the symbolism of having the entire creative team Asian or of Asian descent, It helps that they work so well for this story.The Klan members are scary and the subtle racists don’t look any different from characters that aren’t racist.
I think this is an important comic series, especially for older kids getting into comics. It deals with issues that our heroes should have a clear stance against. Fortunately, Superman is everything good about America. I’m looking forward to two more issues of Superman smashing the Klan. Be certain that when you read the book, you take the time to read Yang’s text piece at the back, “Superman and Me.”
Final Rating: 9.0 (out of 10)