Superman Smashes the Klan
October 16, 2019 12:29 AM   Subscribe

It began as a 1940s radio serial (which is soon to be the subject of a documentary film). This week it becomes a comic book which starts its run today.
posted by Paul Slade (22 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
Gene Luen Yang is a treasure, both as a writer and an artist.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:17 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Superman has always been an undocumented alien.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:07 AM on October 16, 2019 [17 favorites]


Haven't bought a comic for my kid in a while. Wonder if she's old enough for this. Okprobablyyeswhocares.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:08 AM on October 16, 2019


This kind of makes me cry a little.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:13 AM on October 16, 2019


This kind of makes me cry a little.

Yup, just you.... *sniffle*
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:15 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


That is a really terrific interview, just packed with great stuff: I think one of the reasons why Superman dresses in bright colors is because he is actually legitimately scary. I think his motivations are the exact opposite of Batman.

Also:

I read the book Freakonomics. They actually dedicate a chapter to it, about how this one storyline, in 1946, on the Superman radio show really dealt a huge publicity blow to the Ku Klux Klan; making a point about how stories matter.

....it just goes to show you that books have unexpected uses and effects.

I did not put two and two together and realize that Gene Luen Yang did Boxers and Saints, which has been on my to-read list for eternity. [Moves book closer to top of pile.]
posted by Frowner at 5:40 AM on October 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


Boxers and Saints are really good, as is American Born Chinese. He’s got a very deft hand with written and visual narrative.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:58 AM on October 16, 2019


Superman has always been an undocumented alien.

Somewhere I read a capsule description of Batman v. Superman as “paranoid billionaire is suspicious of immigrant.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:06 AM on October 16, 2019 [30 favorites]


I think that the overlap between the Superman mythos and the African-American experience so far has been best explored by Icon. Did you ever read Icon? It’s so good. It’s so good. I don’t think I’ve seen something as good as that yet. I think all of that stuff is totally valid. But I also think that the best version of that is Dwayne McDuffie’s Icon.

Well sounds like something great to add to the reading list. It's nice to get some recommendations that don't appear on the standard lists.
posted by Harpocrates at 7:33 AM on October 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


"Superman has always been an undocumented alien."

There was one time where Superman came to Earth but landed in Russia and took over the world but got defeated and then there's a utopia-- long story short he is just a descendant of Lois and Luthor and future Earth is so advanced they can send a baby back in time before their sun explodes.
posted by GoblinHoney at 7:37 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Drunk History also did a great segment on how the Superman radio episodes came to be.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 8:12 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


There was one time where Superman came to Earth but landed in Russia

That's Superman: Red Son, one of the best of the Elseworlds imprints. It's an amazing read, and far far better than the John Cleese/Kim "Howard" Johnson penned "Superman: True Brit", in which young Kal-El lands in Somerset, UK, and is raised to always consider "Well, what would the neighbors think?"
posted by hanov3r at 8:33 AM on October 16, 2019 [11 favorites]


The original KKK was crushed in the 1870s and was revived in the 1910s largely thanks to one piece of media, The Birth of a Nation. At its peak in the mid-1920s, the reborn organization claimed to include about 15% of the nation's eligible population, approximately 4–5 million men. This second iteration of the KKK collapsed in the mid-late 40s partially due to another piece of media, this Superman radio show episode. That really is an interesting testament to the power of stories.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:35 AM on October 16, 2019 [10 favorites]


Okay, here is an idea for a Superman story. Due to the efforts of a politician, Superman, who never became a naturalized citizen, must submit to staying in a ICE camp / prison. Superman, who believes in law and order submits to this: perhaps the Clark Kent reporter in him wants to see the camps first hand. The horrible conditions in these camps are revealed. Superman empowers the prisoners to break free.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:41 AM on October 16, 2019 [12 favorites]


I'm not really into comics at all, but Gene Luen Yang seems such as cool choice for this, as I remember learning about the Superman Is Asian-American theory through reading an article about Gene Luen Yang and New Super-Man.
“One of the guys who was involved with 'Secret Identities,' Jeff Yang, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, he used to talk about how Superman is an Asian American: He has black hair, he wears glasses, he has two different names — an American name, Clark Kent, and a foreign name, Kal-El, with a hyphen in it," Yang said. "His parents are non-English-speaking and sent him to America to have a better life.”
posted by 23skidoo at 11:36 AM on October 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


Superman reminds us what should happen in real life.
posted by prepmonkey at 11:51 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


But in the Marvel Universe, Captain America punched out Hitler on the cover of his first issue, five years earlier and months before the U.S. entered World War II. (It must be noted that inside the comic, he was occupied fighting Hitler ally The Red Skull.) That's why the rather recent "Captain America turns all Hail Hydra" storyline in the comics was so awful.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:13 PM on October 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


One of the guys who was involved with 'Secret Identities,' Jeff Yang, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, he used to talk about how Superman is an Asian American
I know this is meant well but it kinds of rubs me the wrong way as a Jew because Superman is so specifically a Jewish creation and this seems to erase that. The character has the listed qualities because of his two Jewish creators, who were both the children of European Jewish immigrants fleeing persecution. I get that that's applicable to the wider immigrant experience, but it's still a Jewish story.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:00 PM on October 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


As a Jew and an American descendant of Jewish immigrants, I'm happy to share Superman with members of other immigrant populations who see themselves reflected in the character's story. He makes a good rallying point for solidarity.

(NB: For any point of opinion, it is possible to find two Jews who disagree about it.)
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:07 PM on October 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


I know this is meant well but it kinds of rubs me the wrong way as a Jew because Superman is so specifically a Jewish creation and this seems to erase that. The character has the listed qualities because of his two Jewish creators, who were both the children of European Jewish immigrants fleeing persecution. I get that that's applicable to the wider immigrant experience, but it's still a Jewish story.

Oh, I wasn't trying to claim that Superman was really supposed to be Asian-American, but I do think it's an interesting way to think about it, more as a thought-experiment. Wasn't trying to actually claim it as true or erase the association with its' Jewish creators, apologies if I came off that way.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:23 PM on October 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


I hope it keeps the most important part of the original serial: having every single non-villainous character stop and explain the klan is unamerican whenever the topic comes up
posted by ckape at 7:44 PM on October 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


There's another excellent piece on the origins of the radio serial here. I love this bit:

At the first KKK meeting after the show aired, the cloaked attendees lost their rags. “I came home from work the other night and my kid and all these other kids had these towels tied around their necks like capes,” exclaimed one dismayed member. “Some of them had pillow cases over their heads and the ones with the capes were chasing the ones with pillow cases. When I asked them what they were doing,they said they were playing this new game of cops and robbers called ‘Superman Against The Klan’. I never felt so ridiculous in all my life. Suppose my own kid finds my Klan robe?’”

Related: Satirical (ahem) sheet music mocking the Klan.
posted by Paul Slade at 1:52 AM on October 17, 2019 [4 favorites]


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