Superman: The Private Life of Clark Kent: Skin Deep

Summary

April, 1986: Exposed to red kryptonite, Clark Kent (Superman) loses his powers and becomes an African-American man. Traveling first to Atlanta, Georgia, and then the town of Gadley, Clark experiences racism as a black man. Learning of a white supremacist group in Forton County called the Phantom Empire, he makes inquiries about going there, but everyone he meets warns him to stay away. Finally, a corrupt sheriff delivers him to the Phantom Empire, who attempt to lynch him. Clark's powers briefly return at that moment, and he apprehends them and calls the FBI, only to find his powers leave him once more. He returns to Gadley and then to Atlanta, frustrated with his inability to make a lasting change against racial prejudice. Note: The effects of this long-lasting type of red kryptonite wear off shortly after this story. [“Superman: The Private Life of Clark Kent: Skin Deep”]

Full summary:

  • April, 1986: While waiting for his plane at the Metropolis Airport, Clark Kent (Superman) is unwittingly exposed to a piece of red kryptonite, and he discovers that he has become black, appearing to be African-American. After reaching Atlanta, Georgia, for an assignment for the Daily Planet, he experiences genuine racism wherever he goes. First, he is denied a room at a nice hotel, directed instead to an inexpensive hotel. He is then denied entrance to several restaurants. The next day, while shopping in a drugstore, he is viewed with suspicion by a store clerk. Clark reaches the bus station and heads for the town of Gadley to write a story on several lynchings reported there but is warned not to go there by an African-American man. In Gadley, Clark manages to get a hotel room and begins wandering the town, where he is constantly watched and viewed with suspicion. Finally, realizing he is far from his hotel, he attempts to fly back at super-speed but learns the red kryptonite that changed him also took away his powers, and it seems to be one of the long-lasting variety of red K. He calls Kristin Wells (Superwoman) in Metropolis, who wants him to come home and warns him to be careful. Clark then calls Earl Sharp, a reporter who wrote about the Phantom Empire, a white supremacist group based in the area, particularly in Forton County. [“Superman: The Private Life of Clark Kent: Skin Deep, Chapter 1: A Little Racism”]
  • The next morning, Clark Kent meets an old African-American man who warns him to return to Metropolis and forget about going to Forton County. At a nearby church shelter, Clark meets a homeless white man named Chris who also warns him not to go to Forton County. As he walks through town into the black side of town, he notices how run-down it is compared to the rest of town. As Clark begins to speak with a black teenager, the town sheriff drives up and gives him a warning to stay out of trouble. In the town square, where a poultry festival is occurring, Clark speaks with an overweight white woman who is pleasant at first but is horrified to learn he wants to go to Forton County and becomes angered. The sheriff arrives and arrests Clark, then charges him with being a pickpocket when he finds his Metropolis press pass with a photo of the white Clark Kent. [“Superman: The Private Life of Clark Kent: Skin Deep, Chapter 2: Making Trouble”]
  • The sheriff, suspecting Clark of being a reporter after all, brings him to a remote area of Fulton County, where a group of hooded men (the Phantom Empire) await him. As they string him up and lynch Clark, his powers suddenly return, and he uses them to scare and apprehend all the hooded men and discovers the local Phantom Empire leader to be Mayor Elmore of Gadley. Calling the FBI anonymously to inform them where they can find the hooded men, Clark begins to return to Gadley, only to find his powers disappear again. In Gadley, Clark buys lunch for the homeless man Chris and walks with him through town, only to find that the homeless beggar is racist against the black people in town. Returning to Atlanta by bus, Clark is frustrated by his inability to make a true difference but is inspired by a young black woman on the bus who will make a difference in the future. [“Superman: The Private Life of Clark Kent: Skin Deep, Chapter 3: The Phantom Empire”]

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