Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan

 
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Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan

When a shy seventeen-year-old science fiction aficionado named Jerry Siegel envisioned a superhero who would use his incredible powers to protect the weak and right society’s wrongs, he had no way of imagining the astounding success of his creation. Together with artistic Joe Shuster, a fellow high school student, the Glenville, Ohio teen fashioned a refugee from a dying planet. After a slow start (and a number of revisions) young Kal-El’s arrival on Earth heralded a new era in comic book heroes. Not only did Superman become a legend, the Man of Steel’s success resulted in a bevy of new superheroes both male and female: Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and more.

Yet Superman did not stop at being a comic book hero. After more than a decade of extreme popularity, the caped crusader appeared on the airwaves. The Superman radio show was an instant hit: “…day after day at 5:15 p.m., just before the dinner hour, millions of children–and many of their parents–tuned in to hear Superman take on his adversaries, swoosh through the sky, plow through mountains, turn back tidal waves, and save Lois Lane from certain death.”;

While Siegel and Shuster’s creation climbed to the heights of popularity, a more sinister force was growing and gaining attention. Originally formed after the Civil War and strongly opposed to Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan adopted as its uniform the trademark robe and hood. Members thus attired carried out attacks against anyone, black or white, who supported Reconstruction. With the end of the program, the organization faded from view–for a few decades.  1915 saw the rebirth of the Klan under dynamic leadership.  As its popularity grew, so did concern about its spread–and the fear of the robed men who were appearing throughout the country.  What could be done?

The producers of the Superman radio show had an idea.  The Man of Steel was in need of a new enemy.  What better nemesis than one who promoted racism and intolerance?  With this brainstorm, a new villain was born.

Rick Bowers takes the reader on a wonderful journey: from the Cleveland neighborhood where Superman’s creators grew up, to the publishing houses of Manhattan, to the Georgia mountain where the Ku Klux Klan was reborn, to the recording studio where the Superman show was broadcast live.  This readable book is generously illustrated with images of the Man of Steel as he has appeared throughout his history, as well as  photographs of key players in the story and pictures of significant places and events. It reads like a good novel–but every word is true.

160 pages

ISBN: 9781426309151

Recommended by Basya Karp, Librarian, New York, USA

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The 1930s was a time of change in America.   Most people with jobs were considered lucky, and Jerry Siegal's family was one of the lucky ones.  Jerry went to a typical high school, but wasn't the typical teen. He would spend hours reading science fiction magazines or watch swash-bucklers like Zorro on the silver screen.  What started out as a simple comic book fantasy in 1932 would become bigger than anything he and Joe Shuster could have dreamed of.

Southerners felt the desperation as well and this was the catalyst that brought the Ku Klux Klan rearing its ugly head in American history once more.  It was also during their second rise that a new symbol emerged from the KKK which would send fear throughout the nation...the burning cross.

Then there was a boy named Stetson Kennedy. ...

Bowers takes two of the most intriguing symbols of good and bad in the annals of American history and writes a narrative of their beginnings, the processes each went through to gain momentum in society, and the power they wielded in American culture.  He also weaves biographies of the creators and leaders of these two entities as well as those closely involved in each. Includes book pairs.
Recommended for JH/HS

Full review on the YABAM blog.  Enjoy! (I did...a LOT!)

Recommended by:  Naomi Bates, Librarian, Texas USA

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