Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang art by Gurihiru
A comic book set in 1946 with 2020 sensibilities features the traditional super hero trope: Man of Steel versus archenemy. The cast includes The Daily Planet’s mild-mannered Clark Kent, investigative reporter Lois Lane, spirited photographer Jimmy Olsen and bombastic editor Perry White. Metropolis is plagued with a sinister influence. It’s up to the caped crusader with an assist from a couple of kids to defeat this evil and protect the city’s citizens.
But it’s more. Inspired by the 1940s Superman radio series “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” Gene Luen Yang chronicles a lesser-known aspect of bigotry and racism in American history: Chinese Americans targeted by white supremacists.
The narrative has two plot threads. Alternating stories chronicle a Chinese American family's move from Chinatown to a new neighborhood. This is juxtaposed with the tale of a superhero arriving to earth from another planet. Both threads explore the plight of individuals who are perceived as different. Both are stories of immigrants. Stories of aliens.
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Dr Lee, his children Tommy and Roberta, and mandarin-speaking wife move from Chinatown to a suburban Metropolis home. Tommy is excited. He is quickly invited to play with the local youth baseball team. Roberta is apprehensive. She wonders if she will fit it and make new friends.
Sadly some people do not welcome the Lee family. They are subjected to subtle and overt racism. One night Tommy and Roberta watch in horror when hooded Klansmen chant “One Race! One Color! One Religion!" and burn a cross in their neighborhood.
Baseball teammate Chuck takes part in this cross burning. His uncle is the Klan’s Grand Scorpion. Chuck is uneasy about the Klan’s activities, yet wants to please his uncle.