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Superman Smashes the Klan: 07/02/20

Superman Smashes the Kla

Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru is a graphic novel reimagining of the radio play arc that started on June 11, 1946 and ran for sixteen episodes. Gene Luen Yang takes the same basic plot of the Klan of the Fiery Cross and adds an immigrant's perspective to it.

If you're familiar with the radio play, you'll know that there's already an immigrant perspective, in the form of a Chinese family who have moved to the suburbs of Metropolis from Chinatown. The neighborhood head of the Klan takes exception to the Lees moving in. Roberta, the family's daughter, decides to investigate, inspired by Lois Lane, and saves the day (with Superman's help).

In Yang's version, he points out the obvious: Superman is also an immigrant. He's an illegal immigrant, and he's an alien from another planet. Sure, he's been raised by the Kents and Smallville is the only home he's ever known before moving to Metropolis. But, his powers are a constant reminder that he's different.

The friendship that grows between Superman and Roberta is one of familiarity. Roberta recognizes the ways he's trying to hide his true nature, to hold back on his powers, as a way to assimilate. It's like how she and her family have taken new first names and how they avoid speaking Cantonese.

The graphic novel is set in the days before Superman has learned how to fly. He can leap tall buildings in a single bound, but not fly. He gets around by running quickly atop the telephone wires that crisscross the city. Yang ties his stunted powers to his desire to seem as human as possible while still serving the city as a superhero.

Five stars

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