GRAPHIC NOVELS

Superman Smashes the Klan

DC Comics. May 2020. 240p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781779504210.
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Gr 7 Up–In 1946, Superman and Metropolis face bigotry and self-doubt. As this Golden Age-era Superman questions his identity, the Chinese American Lee family encounters both microaggressions (“I’ve never met a Chinese before!”) and outright hostility when they move to the Metropolis suburbs from nearby Chinatown. When the Ku Klux Klan burns a cross on the Lees’ lawn, Superman (and alter ego Clark Kent) befriends the Lee children, Tommy and Roberta, and goes up against the KKK. This story explores cruelty, how children often inherit prejudiced beliefs from those they trust, and the profit motives behind organized hate groups. Yang draws startlingly perceptive parallels between the racism the Lees confront and Superman’s fears that others will see him as an outsider if they learn he is really an extraterrestrial. Whether the Lee children and their friends are bickering and playing or standing up for one another and foiling KKK schemes, Gurihiru’s bold cartoons are utterly expressive. Although the buff Superman fills the page testing his powers and knocking out a high-tech Nazi, his best moments are found in quieter interactions, such as when he (as Clark) gives his jacket to Roberta, or seeks his biological and adopted parents for support. Appended are historical photos and informative essays about the KKK; “The Clan of the Fiery Cross,” a series of episodes from the 1940s Adventures of Superman radio show that inspired this tale; attitudes toward Chinese and Japanese immigrants; and African American enlistment.
VERDICT Rarely does a rollicking superhero tale honor small-scale acts of heroism as much as this Superman story of community, conscience, and consequence. A must-have for all collections.

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