Title: Superman Smashes The Klan
Author: Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru
Publisher: DC (2020)
Rating: YA 13+
This was a recent selection of our Finer Things Club. If you do not know what that is, please click the “Finer Things Link” at the top of this page after reading this.
Those that know me know that I’m not a big Superman fan, BUT! I’ll tell you what…the Superman stuff people are giving me is pretty darn good, this book included!
Adapted from a 1946 radio drama, Superman Smashes The Klan is a 225 page graphic novel that gets into all sorts of themes and societal issues, most centered around race. The plot hovers around two main storylines taking place in 1946: the Lee family moving from Chinatown to Metropolis for dad’s new job including the issues they face as a Chinese-American family in a new town that is slow to accept change, and Superman beginning to discover his place as an alien on Earth.
This book does a lot in the 225 pages, and then we get an essay in the back of the novel from Yang that goes into racial injustices across decades. This is one of the most dense YA graphic novels I have read, in the best way.
The thing that struck me most about the book is how well Gurihiru’s cartoony art pairs with the heaviness of the tone and content of the script. I didn’t think it would work, and I was waiting for it not to, and despite a couple of what I would call over-cartoony moments, it blends art and story beautifully.
I won’t get into the timing of the release of this book. Or the fact that I’m writing a review of a book meant to teach kids and adults how to treat each other while thousands are gathering, as I type, to watch Trump speak in Tulsa.
These are difficult times. Hell, times have been difficult for members of this country since its inception. We can only try to be better and help each other. And that’s where I see Superman at his best.
He is not from here, but we love him. He was an immigrant with no home, but we love him.
It’s in our nature to love. And nothing brings out my love for Superman more than when he’s beating up bigots and bringing people together.
There’s something comforting in Superman’s taking down of Klan members. There is no way that a human in a hood, that’s completely terrifying to most people, can hurt Superman. They are ants on his shoe. And it’s empowering to see him, without fear, take the problem on and inspire others to do the same.
This is a keeper, everyone! One in the classroom. One in the house. And a few to buy as presents for young readers in your life. The story, the art, and the essay in the back are fantastic! This book is why Superman was created, and it’s why he’s still as important as ever.