A couple of weeks ago, PaperChase Films announced that filmmaker Adi Shankar had joined the production of ‘Superman Vs.the Ku Klux Klan’, a true account of one of the most bizarre moments in comic book history. In 1946, Georgia-based journalist Stetson Kennedy infiltrated the white supremacist group and funneled the information he obtained to the producers of the ‘Superman’ radio show, who used it to craft a ten-part storyline called ‘Clan of the Fiery Cross’, used to ridicule the KKK and to take some of the bluster out of their post-World War II revival. Rick Bowers chronicled these events in his 2012 book, ‘Superman Vs. the Ku Klux Klan’, which serves as inspiration for this film.
Further driven by Bill Maher’s recent diss toward mourners of the death of Stan Lee, Shankar says this film is an important step in legitimizing comic book culture to naysayers like Maher.
“The comic-book/video game industry needs our Shakespeare in Love we need our Capote and Finding Neverland. The founders of nerd culture must be celebrated as much as the franchises they have given birth to. It’s our history. We also need to tell stories about how these myths have had a tangible impact on our material world. That’s where Superman vs KKK comes in.”
Further, he added:
“Fandom was built on a blueprint of mortality and the stories of people grappling with godlike power are more relevant now in the age of limitless technology than before. Superheroes operate outside the scope of law and offer us hope that someone will rise up and protect us when government and other institutions cannot or will not. This story shows the power of the superhero mythology and it’s tangible impact on the physical world.”
It may also tap into issues even larger than comic books and their creators. Just as the KKK saw an opportunity to rise to power after World War II– a time when the US took in a huge number of immigrants fleeing the devastation in their homelands– hate groups and white supremacists have become emboldened with the election of Donald Trump, who has taken a stand against immigration and other programs and measures that assist those that are not straight white males.
Simply within the comic community, creators that are female, ethic minorities, and LGBTQ have received death threats. There have been terrorist threats directed toward conventions, causing security to be upped. In August, David Katz opened fire at a Madden NFL 19 tournament at a shopping mall in Jacksonville, Florida.
This could be a job for ‘Superman’ (‘Vs. the Ku KluxKlan’).
The story of Stetson Kennedy’s infiltration of the KKK was retold on a Season 1 episode of ‘Drunk History’. For a taste, check out a clip below: