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Friday, June 30, 2006

Pilgrimage : Two Weeks in G-d's Country, a mini-comic by Neil Kleid

Since I don't have a copy yet (having only just noticed it at the bottom of Neil's Rant Comics website), all I can present you with is the website description :

PILGRIMAGE, an illustrated travel journal, documents thoughts and musings upon the author's return to his homeland of Israel after seven years. In the spirit of Craig Thompson's Carnet de Voyage and Josh Neufeld's A Few Perfect Hours, Pilgrimage arms readers with sketchbooks,and anticipation as they walk G-d's Country alongside one of its long-missed sons

Migdal David sample pages

Brownsville and "Shomer Negiah" author Neil Kleid has released the first 12 (13?) pages of Migdal David online at the Seraphic Secret website. Personally, I predict it will be one of 2007's shining stars of Jewish graphic storytelling.

Criminal Macabre: Feat of Clay (golem comic)

from The Comic Brief (CBR News) :

STEVE NILES’ "CRIMINAL MACABRE" RETURNS TO DARK HORSE IN SPECIAL ONE-SHOT!
by Jonah Weiland, Executive Producer
Posted: March 29, 2006
Official Press Release

He’s ba-aaaack! Cal McDonald—the hair-triggered, smart ass, tough guy, private dick- monster hunter comes back to Dark Horse this month, and he’s brought his strangest nemesis with him.

Horror maestro Steve Niles collaborated with fantastic artist Kyle Hotz (Marvel’s Manthing, Dark Horse’s Billy the Kid ) to bring to vivid, spooky life Cal’s first-ever encounter with a real-deal golem. From the folklore of Jewish mysticism, the earthy homunculus is given shape and purpose by a grief-stricken father, out to exact vengeance on the man who attacked his daughter. In a bizarre twist of fate, the golem is loosed on the world with no master and only one known purpose—to kill! Cal’s gotta do whatever it takes to stop this marauding hunk of clay from a pointless killing spree or . . . or, there’s gonna be a pointless killing spree!

Criminal Macabre: Feat of Clay features story by Steve Niles with art by Kyle Hotz. This special one-shot arrives on sale May 31 with a retail price of $2.99.

review of Brownsville

One of the books reviewed by Greg at Comics Should Be Good on 9th was Neil Kleid's Brownsville :

The high concept of Brownsville is "Jewish gangsters of the 1930s." We tend to think of gangsters as Italian, but in Brooklyn and parts of Manhattan in the 1930s the Jews ran things, and Kleid and Allen do a great job of bringing this forgotten world to life. They focus mainly on Albert Tannenbaum, who begins like a lot of youngsters, in awe of the riches and power of the local gangsters and is looking for a way to rebel against his father. He starts small, as usual, but eventually gets in tight with the gangsters and the bosses, including Louis Buchalter. The book is about his rise and fall, but also the rise and fall of organized crime in New York, as it spans the decade of the 1930s and shows the violence these men were willing to commit and the consequences of their actions.

It's not the most original idea, but it is interesting to see it from a Jewish perspective. The book is full of historical figures and what I can only assume is factual data, and Kleid keeps everything humming along, showing what these men do and how they eventually sell each other out. There is no honor here, only looking out for themselves, which is an interesting counterpoint to the myth of the Mob. Allie, especially, is a fascinating character, as he never quite seems to fit in with the gang, even when he's committing murder. He's very much a man who yearns for his father's approval, even after he rejects everything his father stands for. In the last act of the book, when he has been arrested and must choose whether to testify against his former employers, it is his family and the reminder that you can be someone in this world even if you're not rich and powerful that pushes him to his choice. It's an interesting arc for the character.

The art is stark and powerful. Each character looks vaguely the same, but Allen still manages to give them each a distinctive look. The cast is very big, and only once or twice did I have trouble keeping track of who was who based on what they looked like. After some initial confusion, it was easy to identify each person even though they were all dressed alike and were drawn in similar fashion. Allen evokes the time period very nicely, and the book (in black and white) is a pleasure to look at.

One of the few complaints I had about the book is its lack of Jewishness, for want of a better word. Very rarely does Kleid show how these gangsters were so different from Italians. It would have been interesting to see more of a contrast between the Catholic Mob and the Jewish one. He delves into it late in the book, and it made the characters even more interesting, so it was disappointing he didn't do it sooner. After all, we think of gangsters as good Catholics, getting their babies christened while their underlings gun down competitors, and although I wouldn't have wanted Kleid to dip into those sorts of clich├ęs, it would have been nice to see the religious aspect of these men (if it existed) fleshed out a little more.

Behind the spandex: secrets of the superheroes by David Levy

The following article about A. David Lewis and his graphic novel The Lone and Level Sands appeared in The Jewish Advocate (Oct. 20, 2005)

It’s a bird … It’s a plane … No, it’s comic book writer A. David Lewis

BOSTON – When over 8,000 people gathered at the Bayside Expo Center at the start of the month for Boston’s first WizardWorld comics and pop-culture convention, there was the expected smattering of fans dressed like their favorite superheroes waiting in long lines to snag an autograph from the likes of Margot Kidder (Lois Lane in the “Superman” films) and Lou Ferrigno (TV’s ‘Incredible Hulk”). But tucked away in the back corner of the convention hall was a room devoted to a program called Wizard School, a series of classes offering aspiring writers and artists the chance to learn from industry professionals.

Most of the Wizard School classes centered on practical skills and technique. But Saturday night, the room was packed with fans for different kind of class. The session was entitled “Ever-Ending Battle: Superheroes and Mortality.” The brainchild of Allston resident A. David Lewis, the program brought together comic book pros to look at superheroes through the lens of thanatology, the study of death. Thanatology is still a relatively young area of inquiry, but two of its products have already permeated the culture: hospice care, and the stages of grief identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.

Lewis is quick to note that “it’s not a bad thing to be concerned about death.” However, he came to the project through comics first. “Over the last few years, I was finding it curious that all these characters were getting killed and brought back. I don’t have any agenda other than discussing it.”

While his research is at an early stage, he has amassed the support not only of convention organizers, but also of the Popular Culture Association, comics journalists, and comics writers and artists. However, he is not new to the field of comics research, having taught classes on comics at Georgetown University and presented papers at conferences on topics such as “The Relationship Between Biblical Midrash and Comic Retcon.”

Although he’s an academic by day, currently teaching at Northeastern University, Lewis has a secret identity of his own as a comic book writer. “I can never decide if I like writing or writing about them better,” he said.

Lewis’s latest project looks at a different kind of superhero: Moses. His graphic novel “Lone and Level Sands” retells the biblical story of the Exodus from Egypt from the perspective of the Egyptians. “I had the idea a long time ago,” he said. “I went to Hebrew School [at Temple Beth Am in Framingham], had my bar mitzvah, but the first time I really gave it any thought was then the movie “Prince of Egypt” came out and I didn’t like it.”

The film’s account of Moses’s life didn’t mesh with Lewis’s memories of the Torah text, so he launched into a research project to find out what Egypt was really like during the time. “The challenge became how to make history and biblical myths live together.”

Lewis cites films about the Holocaust as well as modern American disasters as providing an important conceptual frameworks for him. “I didn’t want it to paint all Egyptians as evil,” he said. “I wanted to tell the full story, see their reaction to the plagues – not just being freaked out when frogs are falling. When everything is done, was there an emergency response plan to deal with the frogs on the ground?”

While Lewis deals with the details of the events, there’s one big detail he’s left up to the readers’ imaginations: “You certainly don’t see God [in the book]; there’s no guide with a beard, voice from the heaven, or hand pointing down,” he said.
He’s also left open to interpretation whether the Egyptian gods are present in the story. “A lot of characters are asking these questions,” he said. “I just never let them have an answer.”

The product is a 160-page story, illustrated by mpMann [yes, that’s how it’s spelled on the cover] that debuted in a black and white edition last April, published by the authors. It generated enough press and sales that Archadia Studios Press has picked it up for broad release. The publisher is now readying a full-color, hardcover edition for December.

“I would love for Hebrew Schools and Jewish groups to read and discuss this,” Lewis said. “But it’s not toeing the company line. It’s

4 Joe and Monkey comic strips

How long canyou keep an in-joke going? Zach Miller managed to keep a joke about Judaism and wearing pants going for 2 years!

Here are the links to the 4 strips :

Totally Drewish!
It's Gotta Be The Pants
Post-Weekend Unwrapping
Required Reading

Is Superman gay? Jewish? Christian? (online comic strip)

Thanks to rhiannonstone for telling us about this PVP cartoon.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Superman #226 - "NEVER AGAIN!"

Daniel Crandall's summary at The Flickering Mirror of the scene that compares the 1950's US of A to Hitler's Germany :

In Superman 226, an Infinite Crisis Crossover title, Superman is reliving his life as a Superman from an alternate earth smacks him around. During these flashbacks Superman tries to stop Hitler but cannot. Something about Dr. Fate and Hitler possessing the Spear of Destiny.

Flash forward a few years and Superman is fighting no greater a foe then ... Wait for it ... The United States of America. Why, you ask? Because, a thought bubble tells us, "The witch hunts have begun." In this rendition of Congress's investigation into Communist spying on American soil, the Justice Society of America has been hauled before the Congress and ordered to remove their masks. Never mind that half that folks standing there aren't wearing any masks. Superman makes his grand entrance to call a halt to this outrage.

In case you failed to get the analogy between the America during the 50s and Nazi Germany, the writers spell it out for you. In a full page panel Superman stands before an empty concentration camp and cries out, "NEVER AGAIN." As Superman flies into Congress during hearings on Communist Spies in America, his thoughts are "NEVER AGAIN." Being asked to testify before Congress on Communists in America is no different than being in a Nazi Concentration Camp.


Nick Newman gives us the following in his review in the "Mild Mannered Reviews" section of the Superman Homepage :


My favorite part was definitely the World War II scenes though. I've always liked the idea of tying the heroes into the conflict, and watching the whole JSA go to war is a great concept. The holocaust page was also very appropriate, and very in key with the Earth-2 Superman.

I also loved the scenes with the JSA standing up to congress (if you haven't read The Golden Age, by James Robinson, go do so now... I'll wait) and Superman standing up to congress was great.

Rats : A "Sin City" Yarn



Commentary below is from "Rasp-Barrie Clart" at Hmmmmmm - The Musings of a Bear :

Having loved the collection of short stories from 'Booze, Broads & Bullets' i remebered this one rather vividly. It is (i assume) the last day of a former Concentration Camp refugee who has survived but still has memories of his time in captive and takes his frustration out on the rats that live with him. They are perhaps a metaphor for the other captives who were brutally gassed in many of the camps. Basically watch the vid, then compare it to the actual comic strip. It is word perfect, shot perfect and colour perfect. A masterpiece.

Testament - Responses to Criticisms of Douglas Rushkoff’s comic

JP gives his opinion of Loren's commentary on Testament at Chickity China :

One complaint from the this-is-history viewpoint regards Moloch as the deity worshiped at Mount Moriah’s altar. Moloch isn’t specifically mentioned until much later in the Bible, so Rushkoff placing him as the altar’s god seems very odd, if not totally inaccurate. Criticisms like that often stem from a belief that the Bible sprang from the ethers completely formed as we see it today. The truth is that myths and stories from the Mesopotamian areas all fed off one another, and the Hebrew myths changed as the people’s environments and experiences changed. If that is Rushkoff’s view, then it would make sense that the Moloch he uses in the story is really an amalgam of various versions of Moloch’s archetype. Moloch could just as easily be called Ba’al, while Astarte go by Inanna, Ishtar, or Aphrodite. It makes more sense to view Moloch as Inanna as continual forces of violence and sexuality despite any name changes.

The Further Adventures of the Wandering Jew by Andrew E. Harrison and Norman J. Finkelshteyn

This work-in-progress was entered in an online Comic Book Idol contest.

The Silk Road Design Arts website has sample pages, as well as a concept summary :

Not quite 2000 years ago, Yishai was mistakenly cursed by a powerful magician named Jesus.

Condemned to live forever, he pledged to fight against earthly magical beings and mystical forces, so that no one would suffer his own fate. In medieval times, he was known in legends as the Wandering Jew.

Now, calling himself Jesse, he has decided to reclaim his once mundane life. He works as a temp in an office to avoid his extraordinary destiny. But the powers that be aren't having it. Jesse's old nemesis Merlin has returned, and is running an electronics store. The Archangel Michael still wants to use Jesse for his own purposes. And - his old brain inundates him with quixotic hallucinations.

Somewhere in between past and present, magic and banality, tradition and assimilation... is the Wandering Jew.

At the comics shop, religion goes graphic by Alex Johnson

Judeo-Christian themes woven into comic books you might not expect

from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12376831/

“With comics,” said Greg Garrett, the author of “Holy Superheroes! Exploring Faith & Spirituality in Comic Books,” “the fact that we’re dealing with ultimate questions of good versus evil — all of those things that we wrestle with in theology — it makes it a natural place for those to be part of any important story.”

Those ultimate questions are being asked in unexpected places. Four years ago, we learned that The Thing is Jewish when he was shown praying in Hebrew over the body of a friend he had sought to protect. (“It’s just ... you don’t look Jewish,” a surprised character tells the enormous, destructive orange rock-man, who explains to another character that he never said anything about it because he didn’t want to embarrass other Jews, seeing as he was, after all, an enormous, destructive orange rock-man.)

Reading the roll
You can track who’s what by diving into a database at ComicBookReligion.com, a project of the exhaustive religion reference site Adherents.com. The database links to closely argued, heavily referenced essays that, for the most part, build compelling cases for its identification of a particular character’s church ways.

Why is Israel relevant today? Read this comic book by Chanan Tigay

from http://www.jewishtribune.ca/tribune/jt-060202-21.html

NEW YORK (JTA) – Glimpsed from certain angles, the wild tufts of white hair that leapt skyward from David Ben-Gurion’s head looked like wings. Even so, the diminutive first prime minister of Israel seems an unlikely comic book character.

But if William Rubin has his way, Ben-Gurion – along with Moses, Theodor Herzl, Golda Meir, Ariel Sharon and a host of other historic Israeli heroes and heroines – will grace the pages of a new graphic novel set to tell the story of Israel from the Bible to statehood and right up through the present day.

“People today aren’t reading the great works of Zionist history,” says Rubin, executive director and CEO of the Community Foundation for Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago. “We require ways to teach this magnificent living history for the general and Jewish marketplaces in a real engaging and exciting framework.”

That’s where HOMELAND: The Illustrated History of the State of Israel, comes in.

Its creators hope the book will tell Israel’s story in an accurate and entertaining way, educating both Jews and non-Jews about the Jewish state, encouraging readers to visit Israel and answering one overriding question: why is Israel relevant in the modern world?

“I happen to love comics and I think it’s a form of storytelling that returns stories to where they belong – to the people, not just experts,” says Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, vice president of CLAL – The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

HOMELAND will target an audience ranging from sixth-graders through adults. It seems a wide swath at which to take aim, but Rubin sees the enormous success of the Harry Potter books as instructive.

“My 9-year-old son reads Harry Potter before he goes to bed,” Rubin says. “Then my wife takes it and reads it, too.”

The text is being written by Marv Wolfman – an award-winning comics and cartoon writer who created Blade The Vampire Hunter and co-created the very popular Cartoon Network show, The New Teen Titans. He is aided by members of the foundation staff. Mario Ruiz, an evangelical Christian and president of Valor Comics, is composing the art.

Scheduled to hit the presses in May, Homeland – the first title by Nachshon press, an imprint of Chicago’s community foundation – will become available to the public the following month.

The story will be told through narration by a female professor teaching a Middle East studies course at an American university. Students’ questions will serve as jumping-off points for Israel’s narrative.

The project is being funded largely by the Rosenwald School Initiative, and the Chicago foundation has backed it with significant use of its staff’s time. Information is available at Nachshon’s preliminary Web site, www.nachshonpress.com.

Some 10 per cent of the 120-page book will focus on the biblical period; another 10 per cent will deal with the post-biblical period; and 80 per cent will tell the country’s story from the 1860s through today. It will include 24 pages of archival photographs.

Aware that Israel’s history is controversial and hoping to take the rug out from under those who might challenge the book on a factual basis, the creators are making a point of depicting Israel in its entirety – warts and all.

It will include, for example, episodes dealing with Jonathan Pollard, the Jewish US Navy analyst imprisoned for spying for Israel, and the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps by Christian militiamen in Lebanon, for which many blamed Israel.

“This is a look at Israel with its blemishes, because it has to have academic integrity,” Rubin says.

Jacob Lassner, a Jewish Studies professor at Northwestern University, has been engaged as a consultant to check the book’s historical accuracy. The authors have also included a poem on Page 1 that, Rubin says, acknowledges that the Palestinians have their own narrative about the region’s history.

Eventually, the foundation hopes to translate the book into Hebrew and other languages, and plans to write a teaching curriculum to accompany it in both formal and informal Jewish educational situations, from day schools to adult education classes.

Comic books began to appear in the late 1920s and early 1930s. At that time, they were essentially compilations of strips that had appeared in newspapers. Will Eisner, a Jewish writer and artist and a father of the modern comic book, later coined the term graphic novel to refer to longer collections comprising self-contained stories.


Today, Charles McGrath wrote in a New York Times Magazine article in July 2004, comics are “enjoying a renaissance and a newfound respectability.

“In fact,” he went on, “the fastest-growing section of your local bookstore these days is apt to be the one devoted to comics and so-called graphic novels.”

As editorial and creative director for the American Bible Society’s Metron Press, Ruiz – the HOMELAND artist – drew 2001’s Samson: Judge of Israel and 2003’s Testament, a compilation of stories from the Hebrew Bible told in a pub. Their popularity was unexpected, he said.

“Who would have ever thought that comic fans would get excited over Bible stories?” he asks.

But graphic novels have addressed Jewish themes in the past, from Eisner’s semi-autobiographical A Contract with God, considered the standard-bearer for the genre, to the extremely successful Maus, a Holocaust book by Art Spiegelman.

CLAL’s Hirschfield, an Orthodox rabbi who wrote the introduction to the Bible society’s Testament, says he “made the shidduch,” or match, between Ruiz and the Chicago foundation.

“You can tell a story for a particular audience that people beyond that audience want to hear about,” says Hirschfield. Israel’s story is “both dear to Jews and important to Christians,” he says.

Arye Mekel, Israel’s consul general in New York, said he hadn’t been familiar with the HOMELAND project. While he thought it was potentially a good idea, he wasn’t sure that it would achieve the desired effect.

“There’s a reason why the Hebrew world hasbarah cannot be translated into English,” says Mekel, using a Hebrew word that means something like public relations. “This unique word deals with the unique situation which is called Israel. By and large, what we have found out over and over again is that what you might think of as regular techniques do not necessarily apply to hasbarah because the situation is unique. Experiments may not work here.”

Nevertheless, Rubin says, “We are going to find a way to really nail this – for us, for our children and for our grandchildren.”

David Campbell and Passover (the comic book, that is, not the holiday)

from Dave's Long Box

In honor of the holiday, I present the comic Passover, from Maximum Press and the year 1996.

I got this comic back in the day so that one day I could teach my daughters the story of the Jews’ deliverance from bondage. Imagine my surprise when I found that Passover the comic and Passover the holiday have very little in common. I know, you’d think I would have figured that out by the cover alone. I thought maybe they were just embellishing the Passover story a little with the scary angel with the bloody axe. You know, jazz it up for the kids.

But no.

Apparently this comic is about the Angel of Death, who is responsible for the ten plagues that afflicted Egypt and goes by the name Passover.

That is stupid. That’s his name? Passover? What did all the other angels call him before the ten plagues? I guess Passover is a better choice than Lord of Boils or Frogsummoner, but still – lame.


Dave then goes on to reproduce choice panels and then adds his own biting commentary.

This is followed by 29 cxomments from visitors to Dave's blog.

Some examples :

kjmrcr said...

Did they ever release that team up issue with Tom Kippur?


Scott said...
"Belongeth" ?? That's worst than Thor-speak


bostonpenguincat said...
Passover and Good Friday in tag team action Vs. ARR-borday and Killer (C)Kanukah!


Rasselas said...
Is it stupid to wonder whether Passover is part of a super-team with Easter?

Graphic novels drawing the young to faith by Mark I. Pinsky

from http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/newssentinel/living/14544506.htm :
For more than 2,500 years, Jews have been telling their faith's sacred stories, in written words on parchment and the page, and through the oral tradition of rabbinical debate.

Now they're trying something new: a graphic novel.

The Jewish Publication Society, a venerable group that is the closest thing to an official press for all the religion's denominations, is turning to a very modern way to reach young Jews. "Megillat Esther" is a graphic novel - an extended, black-and-white comic book - based on the holiday of Purim, and probably rated PG-13 for a few borderline racy drawings.

"We all understood that it was a way to reach a much younger generation," says Ellen Frankel, CEO and editor in chief of this Philadelphia-based publisher. "Even though it is a stretch for JPS, it is right on point because it's Bible commentary."

This Jewish foray into the world of graphic novels is just the latest example of believers creating alternative forms of religious messages in print.

...

Nor did the Jewish Publication Society want to limit itself to already committed observant Jews with "Megillat Esther."

The story, about a Jewish maiden in ancient Persia who becomes a queen and saves her people from genocide, is told both in the original Hebrew and English, although some pages are wordless. Other pages have numbers at the bottom indicating rabbinical commentaries from books such as the Talmud, and there is a detailed, scholarly bibliography at the back.

At the same time, it is a typical graphic novel: Female characters tend to be voluptuous, and the pages are peppered with self-deprecating wisecracks. Near the end of the story, one small character says, "The whole thing seemed a bit overdrawn to me."

The author, JT Waldman, spent seven years working on the book, including 18 months in a Jerusalem yeshiva learning Hebrew and studying the Bible and commentary.

"First came the love of comics and that way of storytelling," says Waldman, 29, who is now studying computer graphics in Canada. "The Bible and Jewish angle didn't come until I graduated from university and was trying to flesh out my Jewish identity. I wanted to merge my new interest in Judaism with my more established language and vernacular of illustrating comics."

Turned down by religious and commercial publishers, he was about to self-publish the book when the offer came from the Jewish Publication Society.

"I looked at it and thought it was amazing, but I thought that JPS would never agree to publish it," Frankel says, even though it includes every word of the Hebrew scroll. She was uncertain how the board of her 118-year-old press would respond.

"Before the meeting, I took a number of Post-its and flagged the pages that were the most outrageous," she says, but to her surprise, "They all loved it. Their response was: 'It's time.' "

In the introduction, Rabbi Moshe Silverschein, Waldman's teacher at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, calls the book an "expanded biblical narrative" and "not just a simple comic book."

Neil Kleid's special day

MAZEL TOV to cartoonist Neil Kleid, who recently got married
to Laura Sternberg. A 4-page mini-comic of how L & N met was included
in the program/processional. Neil has kindly reproduced it at his
blog.

Steve Bergson on Sirius

The host of this Jewish comics blog (Steven M. Bergson) is scheduled to be interviewed on the Covino & Rich Show broadcasting on Sirius sattelite radio on June 29th at approximatley 11:30 AM EST. The topic will probably have something to do with the alleged Jewishness of Superman which has gotten quite a bit of press lately.