Saturday, September 12, 2020

Scott's Take: Superman Smashes The Klan by Gene Luen Yang

Superman Smashes The Klan by Gene Luen Yang is inspired the 1940s Superman radio serial titled “Clan of the Fiery Cross.” This original tale has Superman going up against Nazis and the Klu Klux Klan to protect a Chinese family in 1946. Superman also must face his own past and the secrets of his heritage that he has denied after exposure to a strange green rock unlocks memories he has buried in his mind and weakens him physically. Alongside Roberto and Tommy Lee, the two children of the Chinese family he is trying to help, Superman fights against racism and adversity in this original tale.

The story alternates between 1946 and earlier in Superman’s life. This story takes place from multiple perspectives including the kids. The original characters created in this novel are fairly interesting as is the artwork by Gurihiru.

Because of the subject matter in Superman Smashes The Clan, there is frequent use of racially charged language, derogatory terms, and violence. Various Chinese and African American characters must face racism in different ways at various points. At one point, there is conflict between one of the characters and a racist police officer that comes very close to current events and that may make some readers very uncomfortable. Also, in a book that is marketed to middle school readers and upwards, there is an implied murder and clearly several attempted murders.

The read is a powerful and interesting tale about fighting racism and trying to find your place in society.  The immigrant from outer space (Superman) faces various challenges throughout the novel while frequently screaming “Great Scott” alongside incredibly artwork. I like how the writer knows his Superman history and does a good job of exploring his original origin story. The book also includes essay from the writer about Superman in terms of history and race that includes a detailed analysis of the fact that Superman’s original creators were Jewish and intended Superman to represent immigrants, especially Jewish ones. I highly recommend Superman Smashes The Klan if one wishes to teach their children about racism or is just looking for a good Superman story that has an impact on the reader.

Superman Smashes The Klan
Gene Luen Yang
May 2020
ISBN# 1779504217
Paperback (also available in Hardcover and digital formats)
240 Pages

My reading copy came from the Prairie Creek Branch of the Dallas Public Library System.

Scott A. Tipple ©2020

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