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Friday, February 24, 2006

Josh Bernstein - the comic book

Those who don't watch the History Channel may be unaware of the show The Adventures of Josh Bernstein : Digging for the Truth. The show's star / archaeologist is Jewish, as he pointed out in the description of the episode "The Lost Tribe of Israel" ( :

As viewers will learn during this episode, I'm Jewish (as if the name 'Josh Bernstein' wasn't enough of a clue). My father was born in the Old City of Jerusalem and I have spent a lot of time both living in Israel and learning about my heritage.

Alas, Josh's Jewish heritage isn't even mentioned in his Free Comic Book Day debut comic, available free at participating comic shops on May 6, 2006. You don't have to wait until then to read it, though ; an online version is available at

Scipio has posted a review on his blog (with reproduced panels) at .

"Pivotal Moments In History, Starring A. Hitler" (Jamming with Aleksandar Zograf

There's a description of the story in R.J. Carter's review at :

"Pivotal Moments In History, Starring A. Hitler," was a tale I initially found more than a little disconcerting. In it, artists Wostok and Zograf illustrate a young Adolph bear witness to the humiliation of his impoverished mother at the words of 'Mr. Jewish,' the neighbor from down the hall. Mr. Jewish is every Jewish stereotype rolled up and overblown to the point of lampoon. Charles Alverson (co-screenwriter of Jabberwocky and Brazil) uses humor that, if not entirely black, requires that we create a whole new shade of dark, to illustrate how people can generalize from a single instant and apply that generalization to an entire class of people.

“Untitled” by Winston Rowntree (SPX 2004)

The SPX 2004 anthology includes “Untitled” by Winston Rowntree.

Here's a description from a review of the book by Jessa Crispin ( :

“Untitled” by Winston Rowntree begins with two teenagers, late for some unspecified event, talking down a country road. The conversation quickly turns to politics. “Can I assume you’re referring to old you-know-who, the leader of a certain country which shall remain nameless?” the boy asks. The girl responds, “One look at that beady-eyed monster and it’s hard not to just give up on life.” It becomes obvious they’re talking about the Bush administration, with the references to a stolen election and a non-responsive left wing. But no! It’s not Bush, but Hitler! These are two Jewish youths late for their meeting… with DEATH! Nazi soldiers strip the girl and kill them both and the inevitable comparison to Hitler has been made. It’s a lazy, boring political statement, and unfortunately, Rowntree is not the only writer to use it.

Israel : The Cartoonists' Diagnosis: A Viewpoint From Within

Cartoon Art Museum exhibit information from their website -

About the Exhibition:

Israel: The Cartoonists’ Diagnosis: A Viewpoint From Within explores the top 15 political cartoonists’ share their viewpoints of contemporary Israeli issues in a first-time U.S. exhibit of their work. This exhibition will be on display from Wednesday, February 1st through April 9th, 2006.

Israel’s complex affairs - made all the more provocative with the recent turn of events with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s illness - provide prolific fodder for cartoonists. Every part of Israeli life has political overtones, making the medium of the published cartoon a perfect vehicle with which to respond to the continual contentious affairs. The artists featured in this exhibit are an impressive mix of political and social activists who bring their front-line experience to their work in a candid yet comical view of issues as they unfold. A true demonstration of democracy, the Israeli political cartoon allows artists to deal with highly sensitive issues with a mix of humor and seriousness. Appreciated for their provocative nature, these cartoons are often as effective a means of providing opinion as any political speech, newspaper article or newscast.

Israel: The Cartoonists’ Diagnosis is a project of The Israel Center of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties in partnership with the Cartoon Art Museum and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. For more information, contact the Israel Center, 415.512.6203,

New Zionist's interview with J.T. Waldman

Posted by Yoav on Monday, November 7th, 2005 at 1:02 am

We present to you our newest interview with the wonderfully creative JT Waldman, author of the recent graphic novel Megillat Esther. Many thanks to Arielle Levites at the Jewish Publication Society for being the catalyst. Read our review of the book here.

New Zionist: Let’s begin from the beginning. When did you come up with the idea of making a graphic novel about Megillat Esther, and what was your motivation behind this project?

JT Waldman: The spark of inspiration to make the Book of Esther into a comic book came to me in the summer of 1998 in a cornfield in Upstate New York. I was with a new friend, who was Modern Orthodox and she related to me the story of Esther, as she was taught-and I was simply floored. Her recounting of the tale of Esther was nothing like what I remembered from my Reform Hebrew School education. I was so intrigued by the discrepancy between my recollected version of the story and the actual story that something just clicked. I thought that if I had no clue about the real text, other American Jews like me would be clueless as well- and there’s a lot of crazy stuff going on in this story! Almost immediately I thought that it would make a great comic. Just after college I was determined to flesh out my understanding of Judaism on my own terms and in a language that felt comfortable and authentic to me. So I thought why not kill two birds with one stone and satisfy my childhood dream to make a comic book while exploring a text that is essential to Jewish ritual and thought. Along the way, my motivations and angles of interest changed, but the initial impetus of making Megillat Esther stayed the same.

NZ: Rumor has it that you spent 7 years, on and off, researching, preparing, and creating. Is this true? What happened over those seven years?

JTW: When I started the project, I thought I would make a 22-page comic- Ah naivety! I started my research where I felt most comfortable, in Art History and Comparative Literature. I snuck into the University of Pennsylvania Libraries with a friend and began digging. Soon I ran into all the academic debate surrounding the historic veracity of the text, the multiple versions of translations, and all these weird and confusing elaborations called Midrash. I couldn’t get a clear picture of what the story was really about. I felt shaky deriving my understanding of the text and its cultural significance from other people’s opinions. I wanted my own voice not an amalgam of regurgitated academic scholarship. And the only way to do that was to the learn Hebrew and get down and dirty with my own translations, while also discovering how the Book of Esther fits into Judaism in terms of history (Diaspora), literature (Midrash) and ritual (Purim). There’s a lot to digest there and only one place where I could really get my serving. So in January 2000, I moved to Israel, did a Kibbutz Ulpan and enrolled in the now defunct Liberal Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

In Jerusalem I worked with Bible Studies professor, Amira Meir of Hebrew University, on the literal translations of the text. I also worked with my mentor of Midrash, R. Moshe Silberschein to understand how the Book of Esther related to the rest of the Bible and where to look for the meatiest commentaries and interpretations of the text to validate my retelling. When it was all said and done I had spent three years researching the Book of Esther placing it within an academic and Jewish framework.

Then I entered the production cycle of the project. I moved to Spain and took advantage of the then favorable exchange rate and lived the vida loca in Barcelona while I illustrated the book. Months went by and the book kept growing and eventually I had 160 pages of drawings.

When the money ran out I returned to Philly where I began work as an academic tutor for kids and as a Hebrew School teacher (Perish the thought!) Once my finances were sorted out I began the tedious and most time consuming phase of the project- inking and scanning the book. There was a big learning curve and I had to teach myself design and layout programs to assemble the book while concurrently beginning the daunting task of finding a publisher. So from conception to completion seven years had passed.

NZ: Why Esther? Why not Noah or the Ten Commandments?

JTW: Call me crazy, but what kinda chutzpah would send a secular American Jew raised in the Burbs to make a comic book version of Moses or Abraham? What more could I say about those seminal texts of religious doctrine? But a story on the fringe…a tale set in the Diaspora, with no mention of God, and attached to a holiday devoted to bamboozlement and drunken irreverence… even I could take a stab at that! And again, the fact that the real story was so clouded and lost to me proved that the educational system that reared me had missed a step. So Esther became an appropriate means to align my secular and religious identities in the helter-skelter world of comics

NZ: Did you have difficulty finding distribution considering the Biblical subject matter?

JTW: When I started, I naively spouted off about the personal goals and vision of the project. Distribution was some vague term I learned in Accounting class. Somewhere in year three of the project my mentor’s cousin who works in book publishing got wind of the idea and told Moshe, my mentor, that this project had great commercial potential. I was sort of stunned. I knew that there was commercial viability in biblical themed entertainment a la the ecumenically watered down Prince of Egypt cartoon. However, it was the success of Gibson’s Passion that really got me going in the hunt for a literary agent and or publisher. But graphic novels are still a hot potato in the book industry. I’ve been told my work is too Jewish and esoteric and just too risky. And that’s what I heard from the half-dozen publishers I specifically courted. All my rejection letters asked, “Who’s the audience for this book?”

The comic book industry, though politely intrigued, stayed away with a ten-foot pole. Religion and God have a hard time finding shelf-place next to X-men, Sin City or anything Manga. So self-publishing soon became my daunting task, and one that is quite common and esteemed in the Independent niche of the comic book industry. I was two weeks away from going this route when the Editor-in -Chief of JPS, who had balked on the project, nearly two years prior, came back and said, “Hold off on going to print, we want to publish Megillat Esther.” It took a lot of courage for JPS to even make the offer. And I guess life-imitated art here, for just as in the story, a crazy amount of back and forth negotiation ensued in a condensed period of time and produced triumphant results.

NZ: Now that your book is completed and heading to mass publication next
month, what are your final goals for this project?

JTW: I’m just glad the book is done! I have no master plan to adapt the entire Bible into some edgy comic or turn Esther into a cartoon. I used this project as an apprenticeship to hone my storytelling skills while learning about my heritage…STAM.
I’m exhibiting artwork of the book at galleries and doing some talks and workshops on using comics to generate Midrash, but aside from that, no grandiose plans.
Right now I’m more interested in the educational and academic value of comics and the disproportionate participation of Jewish minds in the creation and production of this medium. Where do comics fit alongside Medieval Illuminated manuscripts, Talmud, or artist books? Is the union of text and image in comics mending the Golden Calf and leading to our destruction or enlightenment? Books like, Gerard Jones’ Men of Tomorrow, or the literary investigations of Will Eisner’s work by academics like Laurence Roth of Susquehanna University spark my interest. But, it’s time for me to move one…I’m actually going back to school in January for Interface Design.

NZ: Your book presents some of the ugly glossed-over undersides of the story of Esther; the sex, the boozing, the vindictive nature of the main characters. In addition, your drawings are not necessarily provocative, but definitely suggestive of the more hedonistic and animalistic nature of human beings. How has your more corporeal interpretation of the story been accepted by the more religious audience, who might possibly expect a children’s novel at first glance?

JTW: Orthodox folks don’t know what to make of the book or me, for that matter. The female characters are far from sneas. Even thought there is nothing overtly explicit in the drawings, the text itself points to lewd and violent conduct that would be characterized as PG-13. My book was never intended for little kids. But comics in the USA are just coming out of the puerile stereotype that many old school people still hold onto. If anything, I’ve found that my use of Midrash, and my presentation of variant commentary that strays from Tradition is more of a thorny issue for Orthodox people.

NZ: For that matter, how has your book been received by the secular community?

JTW: When I previewed the book at the San Diego ComicCon in 2003 I was pleasantly surprised by how well received the book was by Goth kids! Other people seemed interested in the “historic” elements of the book or the value of the piece as an example of Jewish folklore. Most people appear familiar with the name of Esther but unclear of her participation in the Bible. That curiosity, along with the apparent feminist aura of the book has been my hook with many secular readers.

NZ: Speaking of the back-story of Megillat Esther, your drawings depict a boorish king who is easily manipulated because of his penchant for hedonistic pleasures. What does this say about government today?

JTW: I started the book during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. I thought it was just too perfect to have a nice Jewish girl subverting the Head of State with her womanly wiles. Then came along the current monkey in the White House known for his penchant for boos and so apparently manipulated by his advisors. It’s a pretty transparent comparison and a testimony to how little has changed because of the base human values that, to borrow a term, have been intelligently designed.

NZ: Besides government, how else is this 2500 year old story relevant to Jews of today?

JTW: I think the story of Esther reinforces the idea that, if one of us is in danger we all are. The global rise of anti-Semitism post Intifada II corroborates this notion. But the greatest lesson I have gleaned from the text relates to how Jews, women, and eunuchs (read as non-breeders)- people on the “fringe” of society- can manipulate communication to achieve their goals and change society. Vashti is banished for trying to buck the system. However, Esther, Mordechai and the eunuchs mold the system through patience, deft word play, and some well-placed liquor.

NZ: One of the most interesting things about your book is that interspersed in the narrative are four separate “interludes”. The first is about Timna, the riches-to-rags convert to Judaism who was the mother of Amalek. The second is about whether the Mashiach hails from the House of Jacob or the House of Yosef. The third is about the conflict between Saul and David over who will be the rightful more about these four side stories and how they relate to Megillat Esther.

JTW: Thanks! I’m especially proud of the “interludes” or subplots- as I call them- since they are my contributions of Midrash to the Book of Esther. There are actually ten subplots in all, one for each chapter of the book. The first page of the graphic novel depicts the Tree of Life. I read this Tree as a family tree, mapping out the relationships between the main characters of the Esther narrative, the relations between their ancestors, and the relations between their descendants. Each subplot intends to connect the story of Esther to another character or situation in the Bible, to try and suggest larger themes in the entire Bible. I developed the subplots on an almost instinctual level. As I discovered the far reach of Midrashim connected to the Book of Esther I wanted to find a way to include them in my work. Developing the English translation and visual translation of Megillat Esther was very cerebral and literal, so I used the subplots as a sort of playground to toy with significant ideas suggested by the text.

There are two threads of the subplots. One concerns Timna, the mother of Amalek and the matriarchal ancestor of Haman. The other thread highlights the rivalry between the House of Judah and the House of Joseph. I wanted to show that family competition lies at the heart of Judaism as insiders and outsiders vie for acceptance.

The prologue with Timna sets the stage for the entire book and suggestions the ramifications of exclusion. Timna returns in chapter 8 with Amalek and Esau for a more expressive moment inspired by a Midrash I found about Timna dissuading Eliphaz and Amalek from attacking the children of Israel. There’s something powerful in the notion that the ancient Jewish Boogieman is really just trying to vindicate his mother, who’s really pro-Semitic, yet he still has it out for the Jews because they hurt her feelings.

Meanwhile, I explore the nature of sibling rivalry between the offspring of Jacob in the other subplots. In chapter 2, the subplot explores the rivalry between Mashiach Ben David and Mashiach Ben Yosef, two characters associated with the End of Days. Mashiach Ben David is depicted as the political and spiritual leader of the messianic age while Mashiach Ben Yosef is more brutish and warlike and responsible for the defeat of Magog. This debate is infamous for being hyperbolic, so I set up this scene as a game-show, an incongruous setting that frames an equally absurd dispute. The placement of the subplot as Mordechai’s dream is an allusion to the Greek addition to the original Hebrew text where Mordechai dreams of two fighting dragons. At the end of the nightmare, Mashiach Ben David is felled; foreshadowing that Esther and Mordechai (in line with Mashiach Ben Yosef) are the heroes of the day.

The Saul/David subplot is connected through a line in the Bible that states that ‘wicked proceeds from the wicked’ (Samuel I 24:13). This line is used in a Midrash to explain “the wicked” ways of Haman. As I connected disparate Midrash to the story of Esther I tried to find the clal (Hebrew for key literary devices or elements) in each chapter and use that as my jump off point with connecting Midrash. So in the fourth chapter of the Book of Esther I found that clothing played a crucial role in symbolizing power. So not only did this episode in the saga of Saul and David include the aforementioned “wicked “ quote but it also used clothing as a symbol of power as well (David cuts off the fringes of Saul’s robe to prove that he could have killed him). Meanwhile in chapter 4, Esther places an odd emphasis on clothing because she is peeved about Mordechai’s fashion sense at the King’s Gate (an arguably petty concern) while the rest of the Judeans in the land don sackcloth to represent their lack of power. It’s hard to describe the midrashic mindset-which is very stream of conscious – but that’s what I was going for in this subplot.

Some subplots are obviously apart from the narrative, like the Tales of Justice comic inside a comic, while others are embedded in the story like the Bezalel/Joshua images or the prophetic musings of Ezekiel at the conclusion of the book. Some are straightforward Midrash, like the quote from Deuteronomy in the beginning of chapter 3, while others are specifically more vague like the Timna/Esau vignette of chapter 8.

The Midrashic subplots are intended to add layers of depth and context to the Book of Esther. I really enjoyed developing them, but if the reader finds them extraneous they can simply skip over them. I wanted there to be some mystery to my interpretation and not have everything be on the nose. The subplots manifest the mystique of the work.

NZ: Another interesting aspect of your book is the extensive use of footnotes and references from various religious sources. Tell us more about these footnotes and their significance.

JTW: The greatest work by Maimonides, his Mishneh Torah, was very controversial because he failed to cite his sources- a requisite that finds biblical precedence in Esther 2:22. I felt that if I included the sources of images and dialogue, then my comic book would be just as legit as any other scholar’s work, except there’d be pictures to get your mind going too. The bibliography and footnotes are my attempt to champion the medium of sequential art as an academic tool.

NZ: Douglas Rushkoff has been hard at work writing his own graphic novel, to be released by DC Comics, entitled Testament, which claims to “expose the real Bible as it was actually written” and “reveal how its mythic tales are repeated today”. Do you think you have started a trend in religiously-tied comics?

JTW: In no way have I started a trend in Bible comics. They’ve been around in the comic industry since almost the beginning. They normally have different distribution than mainstream comics so you don’t hear much about them…but they’ve been there all along. I think the current zeitgeist that I am a part of is the need to take religious texts and filter them through a secular lens. Comics are an amazingly pliant medium for that endeavor, as is film or performance art. But it is a popular trend…Crumb is working on Genesis now and Mike Allred (creator of Madman and Red Rocket) is doing the Book of Mormon. There’s already a comic book called Testament, put out two years ago by Metron Press…the trend is in full swing!

NZ: A recent article came out entitled The New Jew, by Richard Greenberg and Debra Nussbaum Cohen. The article describes how younger, more independent-minded American Jews are discovering plenty of new avenues to explore their Judaism, through paths like Heeb Magazine and Congregation Kol Zimrah. Do you think your book, and the medium of graphic novels as a whole, is part of this movement on either a communal or personal level?

JTW: I guess, but the New Jew sounds like some weird remnant of the Weimar Republic or something?!? The great thing about Judaism is its flexibility. Whether it’s the growth of the Reform movement in 19th century Germany or the transcribing of Oral Law by the Tanaim 2000 yeas ago. Jews are constantly reevaluating their relation to community, God and themselves. As a third generation American Jew, I have the luxury and responsibility to reclaim the heritage that my great grandparents were running from. My grandparents and parents had to fulfill the assimilated American dream of their parents, so figuring out how to relate to Jewish text and ritual wasn’t a high priority for them- Israel was their issue to champion. I don’t know who the authors of that article are but I bet they are of the previous generation so what they deem new I see as evolution or recuperation.

As to graphic novels, I think they are fast becoming the most viable tool for presenting History, Math, Language and Science to kids. The multiple intelligence models, and the wide range of topics now covered in comics point to this. My work is just picking up the Jewish leg of this movement.

NZ: Do you have plans for another project in the future? Is there a second installment in the making?

JTW: No concrete plans as of yet for another project, and no Megillah 2: The Revenge of Amalek in the pipeline. I have some brainstorms brewing but nothing I can coherently describe yet. As I mentioned before I’m expanding on the language of sequential art by going back to school and focusing on Interface Design…we’ll see what ideas come from that!

NZ: Even though we have largely avoided talking politics, we have to ask you the same questions we ask all of our interviewees. First, what do you think will happen in the next 15, 50 years of Israel? (feel free to talk politics here)

JTW: I hope that in 15 years people will be able to bring Jerusalem back onto the table as the crux of the debate. If the religious world leaders can share Jerusalem then maybe the politicians can follow? Maybe it can be an internationally shared city? Am I being too naïve? Who knows? Personally, I see the vain attempt to claim land as a form of idol worship and the root of all this mess.
In 50 years there will be umpteen thousand more Palestinians because they breed more. This will change the face of Israeli demographics forever. Combine this with the growing of global identity politics and there will probably evolve urban Jewish centers among the masses of Arabs. Tel Aviv and Herzilaya will remain Jewish enclaves, Haifa will go to the Ba’hai, Jerusalem will be international, and the rest…

NZ: Lastly, what do you think will happen in the next 15, 50 years of American Jewry?

JTW: Like I said, Identity Politics is the way things are going in the world so Jews will just fall into line. I think that the Jewish communities that started to grow in the Red States during the 19th-20th centuries will dissolve due to lack of retention. The older folks will stick around but the young ones will flock to the coasts or urban centers where other Jews are. J-Date will replace the JCCs as the primary organizer of Jewish social interaction, and the movement to ban circumcision in the USA by those liberal uppity Jews will dissociate American Jews from the global Jewish community. I hope that in fifty years the Deep Space Jew project is underway as the Jewish people head off into Diaspora II and spearhead deep space exploration. We’ve proven competent in thriving in an isolated society and Asimov, Captain Kirk and Spock will become the new figureheads of Jewish Tradition as we leave the Jerusalem below in search for the Jerusalem above!

JT Waldman was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, PA. A proud third-generation inhabitant of the area, he styles himself as an ambassador of the city of brotherly love. As a graduate of the University of Michigan he earned a Bachelor of Arts that prepared him for nothing, but made him suitable for anything. Currently, he is an Artist/Educator working as an independent tutor in his hometown. Megillat Esther was conceived in Upstate New York, researched and translated in Jerusalem, illustrated in Barcelona, and brought all together in Philadelphia, PA.

There's also a review of the GN at

The Lost Tribe : A Mile in the Devil's Shoes


Appearing quarterly in COMICULTURE Magazine, debuting this summer at the 33rd Annual San Diego Comic Con (Booth #2204), THE LOST TRIBE: A MILE IN THE DEVIL'S SHOES is a supernatural horror/noir crime story with a modern twist on an old Eastern European Jewish folklore…

Set in modern Prague, it's the story of EMMET HALEV, a Jew with a dark, secret past and great and terrible supernatural powers. For over fifty years, he has wandered the world searching for the meaning of his tortured, faithless existence. Now that he's found it, he has returned to his mother's native city to exorcise an Evil festering in the long shadows of its twisted, cobblestone streets. And, perhaps, to save his soul…

THE LOST TRIBE is currently AVAILABLE for option for feature film/television development.

The site also has 8 pages from the third chapter of the story, drawn by series co-creator/penciler ALLEN GLADFELTER.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

webcomic - Infinite Paradox

Back in Nov. 2004, for the 18th comic strip posted to the site, Drachis produced the 2-panel "Kosher Ninja". He also announced that for each 18th comic strip, he'll try to produce a comic based on "some odd Jewish custom".

Strip #54 "To Cross A Vampire" (July 25, 2005) had a Jewish vampire, but he apparently couldn't think of a joke for the 36th strip.

Strip #72 wasn't Jewish at all, but maybe #90 will be.

Steady Beat

In a post to Newsarama, author-illustrator Rivkah Greulich describes Elijah Peter, one of the main characters of Steady Beat, an Original English Language (OEL) manga that follows the life of Leah Winters as she "comes to terms with her sister’s… sexual preference."

He's originally from NYC, so there's quite a bit of culture clash between him and Leah, a Southern girl. And like all great romances, neither get along very well with one another. He has a secret of his own, too... but I can't tell until the next volume! Since the focus of the first volume is on Leah and her sister, things don't pick up with him until a little bit later in the series. However, I have a secret crush on Elijah, so he gets to run around with his shirt off in several scenes. Oh! And he's half African-American (father) and half Jewish (mother).

Action Philosophers #4

cover image at

This issue has a comic story on the Jewish founder of Marxism (Karl Marx), as well as one on the kabbalah (with the golem).

MOCCA presented “Monstrous Protectors” on Feb. 10th

from the press release at

NEW YORK – At 9:30pm, on February 10th, 2006, the Rubin Museum of Art, in conjunction with the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, will present “Monstrous Protectors”, a multimedia presentation by MoCCA curator and comic book writer Fred Van Lente before a screening Paul Wegener’s 1920 silent monster movie classic The Golem.

The multimedia introduction traces the history of Jewish folklore’s premature “creature feature” in comics, from the Jewish folklore creature’s brief stint as a lead feature in Marvel’s Strange Tales, down through graphic novels by James Sturm and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Adventures of Kavalier & Klay. Van Lente also uses images from his own Xeric-winning, Ignatz-nominated non-fiction series Action Philosophers!, which features the story of the golem and the Jewish mystical tradition, the Kabbalah, in its fourth issue (on sale Feb. 8).

The Golem is being presented in conjunction with RMA’s “Demonic Divine” exhibition, tracing the horrific in Himalayan Art.

The silent film classic will be screened with live musical accompaniment by acclaimed musician Gary Lucas.

Sgt. Rock : The Prophecy (Crown Heights blog)

Brief description of the series with a 1-page color reproduction and a photo of author-illustrator Joe Kubert.

Kubert’s story is based on a true tale, the rescue of Rabbi Joseph Schneersohn, leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic movement, from Warsaw in 1940. It was the subject of Bryan Mark Rigg’s 2004 book “Rescued from the Reich: How One of Hitler’s Soldiers Saved the Lubavitcher Rebbe.”

A friend gave Kubert the book last year. “I felt it was a real interesting story,” he said. Sgt. Rock and the rabbi in Vilna — called Vilnus in the comic — were born.

“The Prophecy” comes out three years after “Yossel” (IBooks), Kubert’s graphic novel that ponders what would have happened to his family had his father, a kosher butcher and cantor, not brought them out of Poland in 1926. “Yossel” is set in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Kubert is not going through a late-in-life literary Jewish phase, he tells The Jewish Week. “I don’t want to be taken for a crusader.” He doesn’t see a Shoah-in-graphic-novels trend, though several similar books have followed Art Spiegelman’s 1986 “Maus.”

“These are stories that are striking to me,” he says. “They are exciting stories — things that should not be forgotten.”

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Thing is Jewish

Yes, it is old news by now. However, some people are still just finding out about it. People like Ben Wheeler at Ben and Alice.

Ben quotes from Paul Jenkins's piece in The Nation and then discusses the website Religious Affiliation of Comics Book Characters.

If you've never been to the "Religious Affiliation..." site, I'd reccommend it as a cool site to visit. You'll notice that the site backs up their info on the characters by quoting other websites. Not surprisingly, much of the Jewish data comes from the sites of Mikel Midnight &/or myself.

Another review of Yossel April 19, 1943: A Story of the Warsaw Ghetto

I feel especially obligated to steer people towards this review, since it's written by a Texan librarian (I used to live in Texas and have been working as a librarian for 8 years).

Gypsy Librarian's review

Maybe Superman's Jewish, after all?

Take a look at the 3rd entry of April 23, 2005 of Scott's Polite Dissent blog ("Passover, Superman Style").

Now, why would Superman make such a casual reference to "matzo ball soup" if he wasn't Jewish?

Diana Marsh's adaptation of "The Bleeding Tree"

Marsh's adaptation of the Jewish folk tale was available at the Alternative Press Expo back in August 2005. Her blog quotes a reviewer who was impressed with it :

Diana Marsh's The Bleeding Tree is a Jewish folktale with lush drawing and a truly disturbing last two pages. It seems like there's always a comics adaptation of some folktale or another, their brevity, I suppose. It's rare that someone takes advantage of the visual oppurtunities provided in these neat little stories and it's rarer that the comics are anything more than illustrated expositions. Marsh's talent really shows through in the last three wordless pages as she lets her drawing capture the quiet moment of something happening in the woods and nobody around to hear. I'd love to see this a little bit extrapolated, but maybe that's just because I've gotten so immersed in the Jewish religion and its prohibitions against blood lately.

The Thing: The World’s Strongest Jew

The 10-paragraph research paper proposal may be read at Nathan Mutchler's blog.

Peter Soloway adaptations of 2 Jewish stories

The Dying Wish (adapted from a Jewish folk tale)

Gimpel the Fool (adapted from the short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer)

The 37th Tzaddik

"Lamed Zayin" (Hebrew for the letter combination that equals "37") has a blog at which he occasionally uses as a place to display his one-panel Jewish comics.

Thus far, there are 6 comics.

His latest, titled "Barnyard Cops" involves a sheep-cop, McGruff the Crime Dog and a pig.

Israely [sic] Anti-Semitic Cartoons Contest

Amitai Sandy (of Dimona Comix) and Eyal Zusman have responded to the anti-Mohammed Danish cartoons and the Iranian Holocaust cartoons contest by having their own cartoon contest - an anti-Semitic cartoons contest.


“We’ll show the world we [Jews and Israelis] can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published!” said Sandy.

I can understand judging a cartoon's offensiveness &/or its humor, but how are they going to determine if the author / illustrator is actually Jewish. Will they be rejecting cartoons by suspected Gentiles?

Oh no! Not another potential who-is-a-Jew debate.

To read about the contest, go to the official website at

Friday, February 17, 2006

Jewish Book Week 2006 - "The Art of the Graphic Novel" session

This year's Jewish Book Week (in London, England) program includes a session on graphic novels. The panelists are :

* Paul Gravett (comics historian, author of the book Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life, as well as an as-yet-unpublished essay about American-Jewish graphic novels)

* Steve Marchant (author of The Cartoonists Workshop)

* Corinne Pearlman (Jewish Quarterly cartoonist and author of the short comic story "The Non-Jewish Jewess")

* Marion Baraitser (coauthor of Home Number One, "a gripping graphic novel for teens featuring a young heroine from the year 2020 who travels through time to meet her distant cousins in Theresienstadt, 1944")

Robert Leiter's critique of Jewish graphic novels

In response to the Hadassah cover article on graphic novels by Leah Finkelshteyn, Robert Leiter wrote an opinion piece basically saying that he still finds comics to be a juvenile format.

I really can't figure out why anyone would pay good money for such supposed "adult" versions of the stuff I read back then, or why reams of words have been wasted explicating such "books."

Books by Danny Fingeroth and A. David Lewis

Jason Tondro's blog entry for Mar. 26, 2005 reports on his trip to San Diego, where he attended the 35th National Popular Culture Conference.

Jason mentions how guest of honor Danny Fingeroth was (and still is?) working on a book titled Disguised as Clark Kent, described as a look at the Jewish role in the creation of the superhero.

Jason also mentions A. David Lewis's book The Lone and Level Sands.

A Google search for that title brought up a review at Comic Book Galaxy. The reviewer, Jim Witt, describes the book as "a re-examination of the Jewish exodus from Egypt".

"Malopolska" by Yirmi Pinkus

The first issue of Guilt & Pleasure magazine contains the short comic story "Malopolska". The Table of Contents for the issue, as it appears on the website, provides the following description :

Pinkus’s comic strip asks whether there is really anything new about renewal. As Jews move on, do Jews just create new versions of the places they left behind? After visiting Poland, Pinkus wonders whether his hometown of Tel Aviv could be seen as a kind of shtetl redux as opposed to a medieval city? This article can be a nice complement to Josh Kun’s memoir and Nathaniel Deutsch’s essay. To what extent are we always recreating what we know, for better or for worse?

A comic for the genizah

A genizah is, in the Jewish tradition, "a place where worn-out ritual objects, as well as any piece of paper on which the four-letter Hebrew name of God is found, can be placed for sacred storage and/or eventual burial".

Though it's a Christian comic, not a Jewish one, it seems that copies of the comic book Captain Miracle would need to be eventually buried in a Jewish cemetery, since the 4-letter Hebrew name of God appears in it. The four-letter name (יהוה) is spoken by the main character, Billy Batista (not to be confused with Billy Batson), to transform him into the Christian superhero Captain Miracle (not to be confused with either Captain Marvel or Miracleman).

You may view a preview of page 3 of the first issue (which shows Billy speaking the name) at

Neil Kleid, author of "Shomer Negiiah" and Brownsville

Over at Sequential Tart, reviewer Rebecca Henely gave the anthology True Porn a "9" and declared "There is so much great stuff in this anthology, it's amazing." Among the stories she describes is the following :
Practicing Jew Neil Kleid’s "Shomer Negiah" portrays being tempted in such a strong way that you can almost feel his passion simmering off the page.

That was back in Nov. 2004, but noone told me about it back then.

How does Neil feel about being a contributor to such a risque issue? During his Silver Bulletin interview, he said :
Let's just say Mom isn't getting a contributor copy.

In more recent news, preview pages of Kleid's Brownsville (a graphic novel about the Jewish mob group known as Murder, Inc.) may be found at the NBM website.

Cargo - Comic strip reports from Germany and Israel

I don't have a copy of this yet, but there's an article about the book at,7340,L-3193303,00.html

Comic book journalism

Israeli, German artists team up to create a comic book illustrating their personal perceptions of Tel Aviv and Berlin
Ashley Perry, EJP

After visiting each others countries earlier this year, a group of three German and three Israeli artists have joined together to create a book about their experiences.

The end product is called ’Cargo’ and was produced in both an English and German version. It is one of dozens of projects instigated to make the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany.

The book launch and comic fair will be held at the Goethe-Institut Jerusalem on Feb. 23rd at 7 PM.

See for details.

The Chaykin-Netzer dialogues

A series of dialogues between Howard Chaykin and Michael Netzer

For those who don't want to follow the hyperlink to, I'll try to summarize.

What started out as some one-liners between Jewish cartoonists Howard Chaykin and Michael Netzer has become a long-running in-joke between them. Of course, now that Netzer has blogged about it, the joke isn't as private as it once was.

The punch lines of the jokes involve Netzer being characterized as a "crazy Lebanese Jew" and Chaykin fearing that he needs to find himself a bullet-proof vest.