Superman Smashes the Klan is published by DC Comics, written by Gene Luen Yang, with art by Gurihiru, and letters by Janice Chiang. When the Lee family moves to Metropolis, the City of Tomorrow, they look forward to a good life. With Dr. Lee having acquired a good job at the Metropolis Health Department, all the promise of a bright future lies ahead. But, they soon discover that not everyone in Metropolis has their eyes pointed toward a future for all people. Some still cling to the dangerous and hate-filled ideas of racial purity and the need for shared ancestry to have a nation. And even Superman’s power alone may not be enough to curb this problem.
For anyone who follows my coverage of Captain Marvel, they know my love for the humanizing of the superhuman. Figures truly get to shine and inspire when despite their virtually mythological state in pop culture, they are relatable.b Nowhere is this more true than in Superman Smashes the Klan.
Since the story takes place in Clark’s early days, when he was still “leaping tall buildings in a single bound,” the book gets to show a side of the character I’d never seen before. One that still worries, and is unsure of his place in the world. A Clark Kent that still fears what will happen if the world were to find out just how different he really is. Yang mirrors the struggles of an uncertain Clark Kent wonderfully with the trials and tribulations of the Lee family. Within flashbacks throughout Superman Smashes the Klan we see early instances where Clark lost control of his powers. These moments serve as a bridge between the human and the superhuman. As Clark struggles with acceptance, it strikes true with the sorts of intolerance people who are different always struggle with.
And with the Lees face the mounting hatred of the Klan of the Fiery Kross, Superman Smashes the Klan does an excellent job of giving due weight to the smaller moments that prove nearly as hurtful. This aspect of the story is captured amazingly by Yang through the eyes of the young character Lan-Shin Lee.
From their first introduction, we are shown how far the Lees are going to fit in. Their father has given them all English names, Lan is referred to as Roberta for the bulk of the story. But even with such measures the family still finds themselves with many hills to climb. Often from those who don’t even mean any harm. Thoughtlessness can be as hurtful as hate at times. As Lin spends several portions of the book attempting to explain why stereotypes upset her. Whether it is the Klan claiming they are “devious by nature” or a fellow student saying they are all “hard-working and good,” it is all frustrating. Roberta just wants to be treated and respected as herself.
Along with its powerful statements on racism and intolerance, Superman Smashes the Klan provides an all-around good story. It is paced well and provides plenty of action sequences to break up the book’s heavier moments. You will never doubt what the point of this story is, but it makes the story a smooth literary journey to take.
The art of Superman Smashes the Klan is truly unique for me. Gurihiru does an excellent job of fusing an anime like aesthetic with the bright bounce of a classic Sunday comic strip. This, along with Gurihiru’s beautiful colorwork gives the book a special shine. It gave me the feeling of how I picture Golden Age comics being, even if it isn’t actually what they were.
The lettering by Chiang finishes the visual presentation in Superman Smashes the Klan perfectly. It’s big bold type feels perfectly at home in the bright vibrant panels without ever hindering the art. It conveys every line clearly and places each bubble in a way so the story flows smoothly.
With masterful storytelling and such gorgeous visuals, my only wish for this book is that the setting had been modernized a bit. While I know Superman’s real-world origins lie in the 1930s – 1940s, I think it would have done some good to bring this narrative closer to the present. My only reason for feeling this way is that often it seems like many people continue to believe this sort of story could only happen in the “old days.” It would’ve given the tale a little more punch to have it land a little closer to today.
However, at the end of it all, I cannot praise the entire creative team of Superman Smashes the Klan enough. This story is a powerful, emotion-filled tale that speaks on numerous levels. Even if you yourself have not had to deal with the issues this book addresses I would still wholeheartedly encourage you to pick it up and give it a read. I cannot imagine how a person with even a shred of empathy could walk away from this book without being moved by it. To Yang, Gurihiru and Chiang, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for this masterwork of emotional storytelling.
Superman Smashes the Klan is available now online and in stores.
Superman Smashes the Klan
At the end of it all I cannot praise the entire creative team of Superman Smashes the Klan enough. This story is a powerful, emotion filled tale that speaks on numerous levels.