The year is 1946. Superman Smashes the Klan might take place in a much different time period, but it tackles the unfortunately timeless problem of racism. In this adaptation, Gene Luen Yang shares some personal insights to what this story and Superman mean to him. Gene Luen Yang was a writer on American Born Chinese and the Superman Truth storyline, and is also a co-creator of Kong Kenan, Superman. So let us take a dive into issue #1 of this miniseries. SPOILERS AHEAD!
I really appreciated the art style of Gurihiru Studios in this issue, as it really feels like a different time period and also has some callbacks to the Fleischer Studios Superman from their 1940s animated series. Gurihiru Studios consists of two artists by the names of Chifuyu Sasaki and Naoko Kawano, and they did a great job with the panel layout, amazing action scenes, and also their characters showing emotions. This story is definitely full of emotion as it also is a tale of Roberta Lee, whose real name is Lan-Shin, and how she is dealing with her and her family moving to Metropolis since her father has taken on a new head position at his job.
Yang really gets to showcase the struggles that any young child could go through when they are moving and feeling like an outsider, as well as being a different race than most of their peers. Most of the people that Roberta and her brother Tommy meet are very nice and accepting — luckily, they meet Jimmy Olsen as well so that will help to put them in contact with other famous Metropolis citizens. Jimmy happens to be the manager of the local youth baseball team and Tommy happens to have quite the arm on him…much to the dismay of Chuck Riggs, another young kid going through some growing pains with his own family. I really like the depth and connections that these characters are going through with each other and their views. This story of course tackles some serious issues concerning the racism that was happening in the ’40s, so there will be some serious story matter and struggles — which is great for a character driven story like this.
Of course, this is a Superman story, so we will see what happens to Superman, Clark, Lois, and Jimmy. Clark gets the biggest spotlight in this first issue as this story will be featuring the first time he comes into contact with Kryptonite and learns of the effects it has on him. I really love the way that Gene Luen Yang tackles this as it reminds Clark that he is from outer space and thus relates himself to the immigrant struggle. I also love the way the art team shows Clark reacting to the fever dreams that he has and also the appearance that he sees in himself as he realizes that he is a “Space Man.” Once thing that really stuck out to me was that Clark is even bothered by the smell of the Kryptonite, which is something that I can’t say that I have ever encountered in comics.
This series looks to be very promising and the first issue does have me hooked and even got me to do some extra research on the radio tale, “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” and listen to the Adventures of Superman radio show. There is a lot of history in this story and it is really wild to see how much impact Superman has had on people. I know we all have our own stories of how Superman changed us and inspired us, but this tale will show a deeper connection that Superman has to everyone. Be prepared to tackle a problem that hits a great many people, no matter what time period you’re in. Highly recommended!