Comic Review: Superman Smashes the Klan (DC Comics)

In an interesting combo of retro and revival, DC brings us the compiled Trade collection of Superman Smashes The Klan. It collects the three issues of the 2019/2020 miniseries of […]

In an interesting combo of retro and revival, DC brings us the compiled Trade collection of Superman Smashes The Klan. It collects the three issues of the 2019/2020 miniseries of the same name.

The origin of this story (it’s not so ‘secret’ since it’s explained by writer Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Dragon Hoops, etc) in a 12-page article in this collection) is a 1946 Superman radio serial, where Superman battles the Klan. The Ku Klux Klan are terrorizing an American Chinese family who have moved to Metropolis. Gene Luen Yang refreshes our knowledge about the Klan’s American origins, the white supremacy they stand for, and how popular culture helped the Ku Klux Klan regain a foothold in the USA after the cinema release of A Birth Of A Nation. It makes for fascinating reading.

The comic story itself is a well-paced, sensitive portrayal of one Chinese American family who relocate from Chinatown to Metropolis. Moving from Chinatown to the suburbs may not be so distant in terms of miles, but the culture shock is profound. Surrounded by (mostly) whites, the family find themselves a target of racists at home, in school, and everywhere in between. Ironically, the sport of baseball, perhaps one of the great cultural equalizers among youth, serves only to further ostracize.

The dialogue and scenes will likely ring true for both white and non-white Americans in this spring of 2020 when people of Chinese origin are once again potential targets of intolerance. While the story is tinged with nostalgia, it has surprisingly strong ‘today’ relevance. Perhaps the 1940s were a simpler time, but perhaps that’s a fallacy.
it’s early days for Superman. He has limited powers. He’s unable to fly (yet). He’s discovering his X-ray vision and his vulnerabilities. This actually aids the story, I think. It brings ‘alien’ Superman, the idol of many, ‘down to earth’ if you want to say it that way. Young Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Lana Lang all put in appearances too!

The artwork by Gurihiru (a Japanese illustration team, consisting of Chifuyu Sasaki and Naoko Kawano (Avatar: The Last Airbender) ) bring an animation/manga look to this book, a totally appropriate choice in style. It’s well crafted Fleisher style, the figures are wonderful and the colouring is consistently tasteful and easy to navigate. Especially recommended for younger first time Superman readers.

DC, Superman Smashes The Klan (trade), $16.99 for 240 pages

Alan Spinney

About Alan Spinney

After a career of graphic design, art direction and copywriting, I still have a passion for words and pictures. I love it when a comic book comes together; the story is tight, and the drawings lead me forward. Art with words... the toughest storytelling technique to get right. Was this comic book worth your money? Let's see!!