“Superman Smashes the Klan,” by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru

“Superman Smashes the Klan,” by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru. DC Comics, May 2020. 240 pp. Paperback, $16.99. Ages: Most official outlets recommend twelve and up, although parents reporting to Common Sense Media say ten and up. (My eight-year-old has read it twice now.)

Thanks to Fables Books, 215 South Main Street in downtown Goshen, Indiana, for providing Commons Comics with books to review.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Fables is back open! Please enter through the back and follow store guidelines. High risk customers can still make browsing appointments before or after hours, and all customers can continue to order online at fablesbooks.com, over the phone 574-534-1984, or via email fablesbooks@gmail.com.

It’s 2020, and I wish this Superman storyline from the 1940s were no longer relevant. As the resurgence of hate in the US has made clear, however, we do need this story again. There’s no better choice for retelling it than Gene Luen Yang.

Yang labels himself “Cartoonist and Teacher” on his website. The first comics artist to serve as a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, Yang wrote and illustrated the near-instant classics “American Born Chinese” and “Boxers and Saints,” and has been crafting superhero reboots such as “The Shadow Hero” and a new Superman series that features not Clark Kent, but a Chinese teen named Kenan Kong.

The story that Yang adapted and revised for this book was originally released for radio rather than comics. “The Adventures of Superman,” broadcast in the U.S. from 1940 into the 1950s, ran this “Klan” story arc in the summer of 1946, right after the end of World War II. (You can hear the whole thing here.) Yang preserves the basics of the original story: Dr. Wan Lee, the patriarch of a Chinese American family, gets a new job, and moves the family out of Chinatown and into a house in Metropolis. They are visited by the “Clan of the Fiery Cross” soon after they move in:

Continue reading ““Superman Smashes the Klan,” by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru”

“On a Sunbeam,” a Genderqueer Space Opera by Tillie Walden

“On a Sunbeam,” by Tillie Walden. First Second Books. October 2018. 533 pp. Paper, 32.99. Young adult, 13+.

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find or order all of the books I review at the store.

Comics artist Tillie Walden feels ambivalent about social media. She does post her work, especially her webcomics and works in progress, on her own site, as well as on Instagram and Twitter, but as she told fellow comics artist Jen Wang for the site YA Pride, “I never felt entirely comfortable online. I don’t think it’s ever really suited me,” she adds. “It works for a lot of teens, but I found it all to be a little too artificial.”

It also gives her a lot more time to write and draw. Although she is only 22, her most recent graphic narrative, “On a Sunbeam,” is her sixth. She first published it as a webcomic, her installments averaging 30 pages a week—which, for art with this level of detail and complication, must be a record. The whole work is still available online, but when it comes to a breathtaking full-page panel like this,

or this,

not only is the color more vivid on the page than on the screen, but there’s something to be said for turning the page and holding it in your hands. Continue reading ““On a Sunbeam,” a Genderqueer Space Opera by Tillie Walden”

“The Dragon Slayer: Folk Tales from Latin America,” by Jaime Hernandez

“The Dragon Slayer: Folk Tales from Latin America,” by Jaime Hernandez. TOON Graphics. April 2018. 48 pp. Cloth $16.95, Paper $9.99. Ages 4-10.

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find or order all of the books I review at the store.

At first it might seem unlikely that Jaime Hernandez, one of the creators of the edgy adult comics series “Love and Rockets,” famous for covers like this:

Image from kuow.org, courtesy of Fantagraphics

would publish on TOON Graphics, a comics press for kids, famous for covers like this:

It makes more sense, however, than you might think. In the past, Jaime Hernandez’s work has been decidedly NOT for kids, as you can see from the top right of the “Love and Rockets” cover above, and as I made sure to note at the beginning of my review of Hernandez’s “Love Bunglers” a few years back. Continue reading ““The Dragon Slayer: Folk Tales from Latin America,” by Jaime Hernandez”