Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

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Thad
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Tue Oct 22, 2019 1:03 am

Superman Smashes the Klan, by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru, is the kind of throwback we need right now. A loose adaptation of the seminal 1946 radio serial Superman and the Clan of the Fiery Cross, it tells the story of the Lees, a Chinese-American family who move to Metropolis and are targeted by the Klan.

It's a gorgeous book, with an art style clearly modeled after the Fleischer cartoons but with a manga flair. And it's a whole lot of fun in places (Superman punches a nazi in a mech suit!) -- but dark and disturbing in others, as you'd expect from a book where the antagonists are the KKK. Yang softens things a bit; there's no graphic violence and he foregoes the use of any serious racial slurs, but this is still a book where white supremacist terrorism is front-and-center. And a Lex Luthor monologue never chilled me like a Klansman monologue.

Yang takes some time to examine the complexities of racism, too, and the way that victims of racism can still be racist themselves; in one particularly notable scene, after the Klan leaves a burning cross in the Lees' front yard and some black passersby scramble to help put it out, Mr. Lee gives them the cold shoulder and says he didn't ask for their help and would like them to leave.

As for Superman himself, this is a young version; he's brash, he's self-assured, but he's not the confident grownup he'll someday be. And he can't fly yet. He's also never encountered Kryptonite before -- and Yang uses that encounter to tell Superman's own story as an immigrant who doesn't always feel like he belongs.

The book's also, very consciously, written for a young audience. Not too young -- my nephew is 8 and I'd like to spare him learning about the Klan for a little while longer -- but it'd be appropriate for a typical 12-year-old.

The backmatter is interesting too; Yang briefly summarizes the history of the Klan, Chinese-Americans, and his own experiences growing up in the 1980s and facing racism in a more modern context.

The story isn't finished yet; last week's release was Book 1 of 3. But I'm totally onboard for the next two.

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Upthorn
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Upthorn » Tue Oct 22, 2019 2:11 am

Thad wrote:Superman Smashes the Klan, by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru, is the kind of throwback we need right now. A loose adaptation of the seminal 1946 radio serial Superman and the Clan of the Fiery Cross, it tells the story of the Lees, a Chinese-American family who move to Metropolis and are targeted by the Klan.


If I'm not getting confused, the most important part of the 1946 radio serial was the naming of actual real life names of people associated with the actual real life Klan. Does this continue that tradition?
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Thad
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Thu Oct 24, 2019 12:13 am

I don't believe the serial named actual Klan members, but it exposed their codewords and rituals. Among other things, it's a lot harder to take a terrorist organization seriously once you know they're grown men who go around calling themselves "wizard" and "dragon".

The leader of the Klan in the comic is called the Grand Scorpion; I don't know if that's a real thing or not.

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