Superman versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate

Superman versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate

4.5 2
by Richard Bowers
     
 

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This book tells a group of intertwining stories that culminate in the historic 1947 collision of the Superman Radio Show and the Ku Klux Klan. It is the story of the two Cleveland teenagers who invented Superman as a defender of the little guy and the New York wheeler-dealers who made him a major media force. It is the story Ku Klux Klan's development from a club to a… See more details below

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Overview

This book tells a group of intertwining stories that culminate in the historic 1947 collision of the Superman Radio Show and the Ku Klux Klan. It is the story of the two Cleveland teenagers who invented Superman as a defender of the little guy and the New York wheeler-dealers who made him a major media force. It is the story Ku Klux Klan's development from a club to a huge money-making machine powered by the powers of fear and hate and of the folklorist who--along with many other activists-- took on the Klan by wielding the power of words. Above all, it tells the story of Superman himself--a modern mythical hero and an embodiment of the cultural reality of his times--from the Great Depression to the present.

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From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Valerie Burleigh
Bowers presents a fascinating look into the origins of Superman and the Ku Klux Klan on a level that is interesting for young adults. The pace does not lag, from the origin of Superman in the minds of two young science fiction readers in the 1930s to the sixteen-part live episode that aired in June 1946, showing that the Man of Steel was indeed a champion for all. Broken up into short chapters, chock-full of historical events, with a timeline that will appeal to younger readers, the book beckons readers to remember a time when radio was the main form of family entertainment. Using this format, the writers of the Adventures of Superman took action to bring awareness to one of the most infamous hate organizations rising up again. The uncertainty they faced airing such a show that appealed to, and was intended for, a younger audience was unprecedented at the time. A wonderful addition to any library, this book will encourage the reader to seek out more information once the last page is turned. Reviewer: Valerie Burleigh
Children's Literature - Greg M. Romaneck
Superman remains one of the most widely recognized superheroes in the history of comic books and graphic novels. But, despite the fame of this caped crime fighter, few people realize that he was created by two teenagers who began working on the concept of Superman while attending a predominantly Jewish high school in Cleveland in the 1930's. It was during the tail end of the Great Depression that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster teamed up to produce what would eventually become a character worth a phenomenal amount of money. It is also worth noting that Superman was a figure who stood in opposition to one of the most hateful and racist organizations in American history—the Ku Klux Klan. In this fascinating book author Rick Bowers traces the seemingly unaffiliated rise of both Superman and the KKK during the early to mid-twentieth century. These seemingly unrelated elements came together following World War II when the writers of the Superman radio program aired a series of sixteen episodes dealing with a fictional racist organization and heroic efforts by not only Superman but of everyday people to oppose what in reality was the KKK. In telling this story in an artful and informative way, Rick Bowers accomplishes two successes. First, Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan chronicles a little know confluence of comic book artistry with social justice in a way that is truly thought provoking. Second, this is a book that leaves readers contemplating not only the historical events covered but also the implications for their own lives. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
Kirkus Reviews
In 1946, The Adventures of Superman radio show took on the Ku Klux Klan in an effort to teach young listeners lessons about tolerance and standing up to bigotry. The first episode of the 16-part "Clan of the Fiery Cross" aired on June 10, 1946, to "dramatiz[e] the realities of the Ku Klux Klan to a generation of young radio listeners." From the beginning, Superman had a social conscience, and one thread of this narrative traces the origins of Superman and his rise to stardom as a comic-book and radio hero. The other thread examines the history and mid-20th-century resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan. But it's not until late in the volume that the collision between Superman and the KKK occurs, making it seem like a work that isn't quite sure of what it wants to be, or for whom it was written. With sentences such as, "Brown even got inside a secret subunit of the Kavalier Klub that called itself the Ass-Tearers and printed on its calling card the image of a corkscrew--its implement of choice for torturing and disemboweling its victims," this often reads more like journalism than children's literature. A fascinating twin narrative, though not quite the story the title suggests. (bibliography, sources, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781426309175
Publisher:
National Geographic Society
Publication date:
01/10/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
521,028
File size:
7 MB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Jerry Siegel was different from most of the other kids in Glenville. While they were playing ball in the street, shooting hoops at the community center, or shopping on 105th Street, Jerry was holed up in the attic with his precious zines. He also loved to take in the movies at the Crown Theater, just a couple blocks from his house, or at the red- carpeted and balconied Uptown Theatre farther up 105th. Scrunched in his seat with a sack of popcorn in his lap and his eyes fixed on the screen, he marveled as the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks donned a black cape and mask to become the leaping, lunging, sword-wielding Zorro. Jerry admired Fairbanks and all the other leading men—those strong, fearless, valiant he-man characters who took care of the bad guys and took care of the gorgeous women too. Jerry worshipped Clark Gable and Kent Taylor, whose names he would later combine to form Clark Kent.
 
Jerry usually sat in darkened theaters alone as he absorbed stories, tracked dialogue, and marveled at the characters. After the movies he would walk to the newsstands on St. Claire Avenue to pick up a pulp-fiction novel or a zine. Soaking in every line of narrative and dialogue, he would read the books and magazines cover to cover—then read them again. Turning to his secondhand typewriter, he would dash off letters to the editors, critiquing the stories and suggesting themes for future editions. He would scour the classified sections for the names and addresses of other science fiction fans and send them letters in which he shared his ideas for stories, plots, and characters. For kids like Jerry, science fiction provided a community—a network of fans bound together by a common passion.
 
One of Jerry’s favorite books was Philip Wylie’s Gladiator. Initially published in 1930, it was the first science fiction novel to introduce a character with superhuman powers. Jerry moved through the swollen river of words like an Olympian swimmer, devouring the description of the protagonist, Hugo Danner, whose bones and skin were so dense that he was more like steel than flesh, with the strength to hurl giant boulders, the speed to outrun trains, and the leaping ability of a grasshopper. Danner’s life is a tortured pursuit of the question of whether to use his powers for good or evil. That made Jerry think about how hard it was to choose right over wrong.
 
Then there was that unforgettable image of the flying man—the one he had seen on the cover of Amazing Stories. Jerry would hang on to that image for the rest of his life. The flying man, clad in a tight red outfit and wearing a leather pilot’s helmet, soared through the sunny sky and smiled down on a futuristic village filled with technological marvels. From the ground, a pretty, smiling girl waved a handkerchief at the airborne man and marveled at his fantastic abilities. In this edition of Amazing Stories Jerry saw a thrilling new world of scientific advances and social harmony— a perfect green and sunny utopia to be ushered in by creative geniuses with more brains than brawn, more natural imagination than school-injected facts, more good ideas than good looks. Jerry wanted to help create that utopia. Luckily, he had a partner in his quest.

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