Graphic Novel Review: Superman Smashes the Klan

By Nolan P. Smith

Staff Reporter

(Victor Valley)– In 1946, the Adventures of Superman radio show had a story titled “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” as our hero took on a group of White Supremacists across 16 episodes. That story is what inspired this Young Adults collection, Superman Smashes the Klan- which consists of the three-issue mini-series that tackles the all too real threat of bigotry and hate in real life.

From writer Gene Luen Yang and the art team Gurihiru, we get a fantastic story that harkens back to Superman’s days of leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Set in 1946, Superman is operating at a lower power level- he doesn’t fly; he doesn’t use his heat vision- but for a reason. At the same time, Dr. Lee and his family move from Chinatown to Metropolis, a big enough adjustment as it is. Being Chinese American unfortunately makes them a target to some of the small-minded residents, and puts the family on the radar of the Klan.

The story focuses on Lee’s kids, Tommy and Roberta, as they both try to fit into their new home in their own ways. But when the Klan strikes with a massive burning cross on the front lawn of the Lee’s household, it attacks the police, and a few very well known reporters; Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Clark Kent. Of course, the other focus is on big blue himself, Superman, who is going through some changes of his own as he starts to find himself and realize that being yourself is ok.

Yang’s story is fantastic: a real throwback to the Superman of yesteryear and a shining example of how to take a stand against hate. The Lee family’s struggles run parallel to Superman in a way and creates a bond between Superman and the Lee children. Sometimes the strongest ones are the smallest ones, the quietest ones, and Superman sees that firsthand.

I have loved Gurihiru’s artwork since their days at Marvel, but this book takes the cake. The clean linework, the animated feel to it all: it is impressive to see. I love that this story takes place in the ’40s, as we see that world visually represented so well here, right down to the “S” on Superman’s chest and the designs of Superman’s Kryptonian parents. The artwork is stunning, and fits so well with this story: from the lighthearted moments to the pulse-pounding sequences- everything looks and feels fantastic.

You might be thinking: “but it’s a young adult book, can I, a fully grown person, enjoy this?” The answer is a loud and factual YES! Superman Smashes the Klan is a book I would not imagine to be for young adults, as the topic of racism is always dark. But it is also very real, and this book does a fantastic job tackling the issue. I highly recommend Superman Smashes the Klan: whether you are a Superman fan, superhero fan in general, or just love a good story- this one is for you.

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