Superman Smashes the Klan Part One is published by DC Comics, written by Gene Luen Yang, with art by Gurihiru, and letters by Janice Chiang. The story is inspired by the 1940s Superman radio serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross.” The issue starts with Superman taking down Atom Man, a Nazi determined to avenge the master race. While he is quickly foiled, the book pivots to focus on a Chinese American family who has just moved to Metropolis. Roberta and Tommy are forced to leave the comfort of home in Chinatown after their father, Dr. Lee, got a job at Metropolis Health Department. As excited as the two are to be closer to Superman, the transition is not easy.
The casual racism the family, particularly the children, experience comes to blows when the family wakes up to see a burning cross on their lawn. Roberta wants to leave but after speaking with Lois Lane and Clark Kent, who she thinks seems oddly familiar, she decides it is worth staying in Metropolis. While Roberta struggles, her brother Tommy excels at making friends and adjusting. However, when Tommy is kidnapped by the KKK, Roberta recruits Superman to help to save her brother.
What makes Superman’s story so American is that he is an immigrant. As much as Superman Smashes the Klan Part One focuses on Lee’s, it also focuses on Clark and his journey. Clark accepts he is an outsider and learns that while he might not be from Earth, he still belongs. Yang makes a point throughout the issue to draw parallels between Roberta and Clark’s own childhood. Both struggle to understand the language as Clark hears alien voices and Roberta is translating everything from Cantonese. They both feel like aliens, one more literally than the other.
My only concern with Superman Smashes the Klan Part One is that it can be tonally confusing. Yang’s dialogue, for the most part, works for a younger audience. This is coupled with the artwork from Gurihiru, which is spectacular but does give the book a more childish feel. While the themes discussed in the issue are extremely important, this book is rated for everyone despite featuring burning crosses and threatening to tar and feather a character. My recommendation for parents thinking of picking this up for their children is to sit down with them and have a conversation about this topic. Also, be aware of whether your child can understand and handle the adult content within the book.
That being said, Superman Smashes the Klan Part One is an excellent Superman story and a reminder of why I adore the character so much. Superman is as American as apple pie because he represents what makes America so great: immigrants. Yang does a great job adapting this classic radio story. This issue is also incredibly poignant considering the political climate of the United States of America. I look forward to upcoming issues.
Superman Smashes the Klan Part One is available in comic book stores now with part two out in December.
Superman Smashes the Klan, Part One
Superman Smashes the Klan Part One is an excellent Superman story and a reminder of why I adore the character so much. Superman is as American as apple pie because he represents what makes America so great: immigrants. Yang does a great job adapting this classic radio story.