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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Jewish David & Irish Eileen

Last year, "Sleestar" over at Lady, that's my skull commented on the silliness of the Charlton editors using "Jewish David" and "Irish Eileen" as a shorthand for telling the casual reader that the story inside involves a Jewish man named David and an Irish woman named Eileen.

If my name was Jewish David or Irish Eileen I'd first slap my parents and then get my name legally changed to something that sounds less like an insult from the neighborhood bullies.

Although those names don't actually appear in the story, David gave Eileen the annoying term of endearment "Irish". Thankfully, she doesn'r return the favor by calling him "Jew".

"Sleestar" also notes how short-lived the Soap Opera Love series was and makes the erroneous (but understandable) observation that
If Charlton had the foresight to better name their characters maybe it wouldn't have been cancelled after 3 issues.
Actually, the "Jewish David & Irish Eileen" storyline was told in 9 parts and had appeared back in 1973 in the series Just Married.

A little over a month ago, Eli Valley offered his commentary on this storyline at Jewcy, which also reproduced select pages from the stories.

In the storyline’s solitary visit to a Jewish house of worship, we glean fascinating insights into Orthodox Jewish customs – the burning incense, the rabbi wearing a circular necklace, the resemblance of the rabbi to Jesus, the prayer book inscribed with a Jewish Star drawn to resemble a Pentagram. It is as if the comic book is asking, are not all religions the same? Especially if they all look like Christianity? Finally, the comic book reveals that in Orthodox Jewish weddings, it is customary for the rabbi to make out with the bride, particularly if she is a Gentile.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Stuck in the Middle book launch - Friday night

What better way to attract Jewish comix lovers to a book launch than to hold the launch on erev shabbes (i.e. Friday night)? It'll be at The Rocketship, a fabulous comics shop in Brooklyn at 8 P.M. (208 Smith St.).

In all seriousness, though, not all Jewish comics fans -or- Jewish comics writers -or- Jewish comics illustrators are observant Orthodox Jews.

3 comics writer-illustrators who will be at the Stuck in the Middle comics anthology book launch Friday night (May 18th) are Lauren Weinstein, Tania Schrag and Ariel Schrag (who also edited the collection). I have already discussed Lauren's "Horse Camp" story in a previous blog post. However, I didn't mention that I've been told that both Tania and Ariel are "half-Jewish". This is suggested in Tania's story "Snitch" (p. 17-35), in which Tania is called "The Nose" and is made fun of because of the size of her nose. Not that Jews have a monopoly on big schnauzers. When I showed Prof. Andrea Most the story, she pointed out to me that Tania draws her nose the same as the other characters --- something I hadn't noticed myself. Also in the collection is the story "B.F.F." by Vanessa Davis (p. 1-8), in which she mentions being in a "Jewish private school".

Rashi - the graphic novel

The following press release is from From Mahrwood Press

Rashi Is HERE!

Mahrwood Press is pleased to announce the official release of
"Rashi - A light after the Dark ages"

written by: Berel Wein and Aryeh Mahr
Art by: Sofia Federov-Polonsky Mike Netzer with Sventlana Pekarovsky

This is it, the book everyone has been asking about.

The 11th century in France marked the beginning of the "Reign of Terror" - the
Crusades. Rashi, one of the greatest and most beloved Torah sages of all time,
guided the Jewish people through many of the trials of that time. A true Jewish
hero, he defended the right of the Jews to learn Torah and live a life of
spiritual freedom.

Rashi's 900-year old commentaries open the door to the true meaning of the words
and even the letters of the Torah and Talmud. To this very day, Rashi is the
most studied commentary in the world. Every student, from the beginner to the
most knowledgeable sage, is enriched by his study of Torah with Rashi.

Rashi - a light after the dark ages explores hyis life from his youth in Worms
to his old age in crusader ravaged Alsace-Lorraine.

Rashi - A Light After The Dark Ages

A Family Secret & The Search - Holocaust graphic novels from the Netherlands

Info below sent by Theodoor Westerhof

two comic books published by the Anne Frank House (the foundation, so in Dutch it is called the Anne Frank Stichting). Currently there are two museum expositions in Amsterdam related to these books. The first book is already available in English and German. The second will be. The English titles are "A Family Secret" and "The Search", the original Dutch titles are "De Ontdekking" (The Discovery) and "De Zoektocht"(The Search/The Quest). The first book was made in cooperation with the Resistance Museum Friesland, The second with the Hollandsche Schouwburg. Both were drawn by Eric Heuvel.

The available book (from 2003):

The Frisian Resistance Museum, click on General:

It does have in its Dutch section a page on the first book, which was a free gift to all kids in the second year of secondary education in 2005, to promote the education about WW II. The second book is on the same age level. The cooperation here is with the Hollandsche Schouwburg.

Where the education part of the first was about the War, with quite some attention to the Holocaust/Shoah, the second is much more about the Shoah. (Sometimes I think that the attention for the Shoah part of the Holocaust is a bit overdone, the Jewish victims outnumbered in the Netherlands the other "ethnic" victims just by a factor 400 or so.)

Site of the first book (Dutch, with animation and stuff to print out) :

Site of second book (Dutch, with animation and stuff to print out):

The other Resistance museum (The one in which they have an exposition like they had in the Frisian some time ago, but inspired by both books, it's saving grace is that it is very close to De Hollandsche Schouwburg.)

Anyway the story: Dutch boy Jeroen looks for stuff to sell in his grandmother's attic, he finds stuff and Grandmother tells about (German) Jewish friend Esther Hecht, the invasion, Nazi-obeying police officer (father), resistance brother, SS-volunteer brother, the German violence against peaceful protest against the persecution of Jews, aunt in the Indies, more about the persecution of Jews, the hunger. The liberation, (NOT a nice period either). On memorial day (4th of May), Jeroen goes to the Memorial thing, where a Jewish lady living for over half a century in the States, (of all places! That must have been an Anne Frank idea, if you ask me, why not a nice country like Israel or Canada?) turns out to be Esther Hecht, now Mrs. Leibowitz, the old friends are reunited and grandma's dad turns out to have saved Esther.

(This story you can already order in English, cheaper than the regular hardcover edition).

It's quite unclear how much time passes in between the book. Has Esther been to the States or is it just the 6th of May or so? It turns out that Esther has a son and a grandson living in the Netherlands (except for the bar mitzvah pic always in baseball cap), that the name of the grandson has a Dutch spelling, that the Bar Mitzvah of Daniel (with ".." on the e) is the reason Esther is in the Netherlands. (Text balloon in said picture is in Hebrew, interest in a scan?). It's a bit weird, why should a nice US-Jewish boy move to the Netherlands, a country with a very clean history when it comes to religiously motivated violence against Jews, or the same violence native in origin (MIND the qualifiers), a country where Easter has never been a reason to worry. Two reasons come to mind, nice Dutch Jewish girl and job, the former seems more likely (NAME of SON!).

We get a bit of her history in Germany, rise of Hitler, lots of the A-S word description and so, move to the Netherlands, she knows a Jewish athlete, Bob Canter, a fighter, boxer, which was more or less the typical Jewish sport. Nazis came, and all, quite limited but rather instructive. After the nice hiding history, we get the story of Auschwitz and the death marches. That is by way of Daniel using internet to contact the family of Bob Canter. Esther visits Bob and after Esther telling her friends and grandson. Grandma finds an old photo book that belongs to Esther and Esther and Daniel watch the past that was taken from them in an attempt to take their future.

There are quite some things which do irritate me a little:

1. 55% of the surviving Jewish Dutchies did NOT emigrate. Emigration to US and Israel, who stayed or at least stayed in the country? A bit attention for the folks who refused to move in a way which would make at least Europe a bit more Judenrein, is deserved, at least a sketch of the absolute non-discrimination policy (I would guess that it helped getting anti-Jewish feelings back to the normal level, the government not being (extra) nice to Jews, but it still was heartless and callous, though it may have been the wisest thing to do in the long run).

2. The [cursed] route from Westerbork to Auschwitz starts wrong, those trains went NORTH from Westerbork, not south. Believe me, I have been travelling on that track twice a week for years.

3. Westerbork was not really a bad place to be either(provided you could STAY, which nobody could (be sure of)), Erika that was a bad place for Jews, a bunch of really monstrous Jew haters, getting a reward if they KILLED a Jew FLEEING. Westerbork had enough good sides to leave the prisoners hope. So what's so bad about transporting Jews TO Westerbork? And FROM Westerbork? That question should have been given more attention.

4. Auschwitz bombardment- indignation. "The gas chambers should have been bombarded." I am convinced that that would not have been a rational decision.

There was a WORLD WAR going on, dropping bombs on a prisoner camp would very likely just have helped the Nazis killing Jews and other "unwanted people". There was no strategic purpose served, justifying the expected collateral damage and it would have given the Germans an excuse. Realistically, if it had been possible to bomb the gas chambers, the elite units capable of doing so, should not have been wasted on such an unimportant, difficult and hard to reach target.

5. The "Joodsche Raad" is getting a bit too much of a positive press, should be more balanced. There was a joke, but one with more than a core of truth about Jews being more afraid of the Jewish Council than of the Green Police. Mind you, that was the Amsterdam one.

Some others really tried to resist and could have a somewhat better survival rate (a loss of two-thirds of the congregation is still an excellent survival rate!)

[THIS is the very exposition Krolik (Rebeca R.) comes from.

Reading in the links about the toys, especially Bear helps to discover what Krolik means. You see that the exposition in Mechelen ended January 2004, so that must be about the time Rebecca R. is situated, the toys in this exposition are (at least mostly) not the ones from Jersusalem, but "Dutch" ones.

(some of the toys in this expo). (No English text available)]

Sorry, but this is quite important about another "Jewish" comic. That one was presented in De Hollandsche Schouwburg, though it's fully Belgian, except for the pre-publication]

My own judgement:

Based on the original Dutch set:

Good, if you want an introduction to WW II in general and the Shoah in specific from a Dutch p.o.v. these books will be probably the best that will be available in the English language. With the continued popularity of Anne Frank, they might be welcome gifts to somebody with a deep interest in a combination of the topics.

Here and there a bit too one-sided pro-Jewish, though not very much so, to the reader who is either neutral or pro-Jewish already, but taking into consideration that the intended public for the original version might well include people who grow up with rather negative connotations concerning Jews, that is understandable.

If you want to have all the (educational) comics on the topic, buy it. If you want an introduction to the topic, but aren't much of a reader you should get them too, but if you got to the end of this message, you cannot fall in this category.

It is an education comic, definitely not EDUTAINMENT, OK there are happy endings, two friends reunite, a Jewish boy and his grandmother get a book with family pictures back, a man whose remembrance was black turns out grey, looking at the pictures even light grey. But that doesn't change the fact that many of the characters are murdered. Whether it is a fitting present I don't know, but in many contexts it is not.

On the other hand, it definitely would deserve a place in a library, the Dutch ones are much borrowed from libraries, and as an "easy" introduction to a difficult topic, backed by the Anne Frank House, with Esther Hecht more or less a surviving Anne Frank, it would certainly have value, if only as introduction level background to Anne Frank.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

reviews of Testament #10 (Vertigo)

Comics Should Be Good review by Brian Cronin

There were almost enough really cool scenes towards the end of the comic to make me recommend the book, but ultimately, the other 3/4 of the comic has to count for SOMEthing, doesn’t it? Slightly Not Recommended.

Chickity China review by JP

Again, the real genius is in the details. One character asks why people would be anxious to give up their freedoms for this new currency, and another answers that the initial release of it will give some bonuses like “two second advantages for online auctions.” People hand over their privacy for silly things all the time, like affinity cards at grocery stores for a small discount on purchases.

Page Thus Turned review by KcKelley

This one is really deep ... The storytelling is phenominal in how he parallels the events in the bible to those that happen in a future that is very possible. Douglas Rushkoff (the writer) cites this as the new bible.... I don't see that, but he certainly does reveal some of the dirty secrets that the churchs don't like to acknowledge. Most importantly, it's a damn good story.

Douglas Rushkoff's Testament - reviews and opinions

I don't know if it will be possible to read every issue of the Vertigo series Testament, but with many of the issues reviewed to date, that may yet happen.

Below, I'm providing hyperlinks to various reviews, as well as quotations from them.

general reviews

"Epic Trip" in Heeb magazine (February 2007?) - mini-review and interview with Douglas Rushkoff by Jeff Newelt

The series ranks among the triumvirate of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, Grant Morrison’s Invisibles and Alan Moore’s Promethea, and alongside Jack Kirby’s ’70s psychedelic cosmologies/comics, The New Gods and the Eternals.

10th Zen Monkey by RU Serious

The “Testament” series is a startling attempt to bring Biblical mythology back to life.

Ishush blog (as in "I shush people" ; it's a blog by a librarian)
What Testament should have been was a story that started as a story -- instead of a manifesto that got a spackling with plot.

Akedah (volume 1 trade paperback)

Silver Bullet Comics "Line of Fire" review by Robert Murray

This is one comic book that, though polarizing in subject matter, utilizes all the bells and whistles of traditional hero comic books to tell a tale unlike anything we have seen before. Sure, there are instances when the momentum of the story feels forced or gimmicky, but this is a title that is guaranteed to make you think and ponder long after you’ve finished reading it.

Testament #1
Suspension of Disbelief blog - review by Loren Collins

The theory is that Abraham's story itself is the anachronism, a later-scripted message from a time when Moloch-worship was prevalent, written to condemn child sacrifice by retconning God's opposition to it far back into Israel's history. It's not a theory I'm particularly fond of, but I suspect it's one that Rushkoff may subscribe to, and it's one that seems to be on display here.

Bags and Boards review by Tom McLean

the comic itself is impossible to put down once you start reading it as Rushkoff retells the biblical story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac alongside a futuristic tale of a young man preparing to enter a mandatory military draft. Many will surely find this approach pretentious or on-the-nose, but it’s done well and chock full of the sort of cool, forward-looking ideas that made classics of such cool 1980s comics as “American Flagg!” and just about anything written by Alan Moore. Sharp’s art is terrific and sexy, and should draw in readers on that level alone.

Testament #2
IGN review by Hilary Goldstein

I commend Rushkoff for managing to take a very modern story and relate it to the Old Testament, but I wonder how long this can last. In some respects, I think the series might prove stronger if the parallels were merely implied rather than demonstrated repeatedly throughout the issue. The problem, though, is that Abraham has become a more believable and relatable character than the modern-day star of the series.

Silver Bullet Comics "Line of Fire" review by Keith Dallas

Testament is the epitome of what Vertigo prides itself as being: thoughtful, sophisticated, controversial, avant-garde. Comic book enthusiasts are always on the look-out for titles that legitimize and dignify the medium, titles that reveal the grandest of possibilities for sequential narrative, titles that are worthy of being taught in the college classroom alongside canonical literature, titles like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Art Spiegelman's Maus.

Testament is such a title.

Testament #3
IGN review by Hilary Goldstein

I've been trying to stay "in the moment" with this series, but this issue killed some of my enthusiasm. The parallel storytelling was a great convention in the first two issues, but seems less exact for issue 3. There are a few supernatural elements to this ish that come out of nowhere.

Testament #4
Speculative Friction blog - review by Bill Baker

This issue starts with violence and a miracle, and ends with the promise of a very big bang. Along the way, it strikes the perfect balance between building suspense and furthering the story, all the while giving the reader something astonishingly fun and easy to read. ... I honestly can't rave enough about this series, and what these folks are doing with the comic medium. My highest recommendations. review by Blake Petit

You know, I find that I want to like this title a lot more than I actually do. There are a lot of interesting ideas here, but Rushkoff seems to have arbitrarily tethered his story to Biblical allusions that, thus far, really haven’t added very much to the story. ... Overall, this book just feels like it’s trying too hard to be relevant, and the story is getting lost in the mix.

Silver Bullet Comics "Line of Fire" review by Keith Dallas

Testament is one of the most ambitious comic books being published today. ... My one concern about Testament (and this might come across as a weird complaint considering everything I have just written) is the infusion of the supernatural into a technology-focused dystopian tale. Supernatural displays suit the Biblical tale, but not the dystopian one. The manner in which Jake is saved by Astarte in this issue is so supernaturally fantastic that it doesn’t fit within the modern story involving robots, implanted homing chips, and the like.

Comic Book Resources forum - online discussion of the issue
comment by "dude_abides" :

it is in the preposterous premise that angry and forgotten, old testament deities are possessing pseudo-punk teenagers in a technological and totalitarian dystopia. it's yahweh meets philip k. dick. it's like some crazy hallucination. in fact, i'm not sure what it is, and that is precisely why i like it. it keeps me on my toes: a rare thing, and for my money that's worth $2.99.

Testament #5
Obssesed with Comics review

mostly your enjoyment of this series will be directly proportional to your willingness to read a story that's full of bizarre moments, unexplained complexity, and odd mysteries. Testament is a book in which very strange things happen in very strange world to very strange people. Not a lot is explained. Much is implied, often by analogy, but little is actually spelled out for readers. For example, readers receive no explanation of the evil Mr. Fallow, with no explanation for the bizarre libertine lifestyle that surrounds him. It's not even clear if Mr. Fallow is a literal presence or one of the Gods, since his world is so abstracted from the real world of the story. The series seems to carry the promise that Mr. Fallow's motivations and background will come out in time, but without that, the reader is left to interpret cryptic pieces such as the weird cover of issue #5 or the bizarre things shown in the background in his mansion without a lot of help from writer Douglas Rushkoff.

Testament #6
Comics Should Be Good review by Brian Cronin

What I was most impresse by in the comic was the part where Rushkoff showed how the story of the Bible was a plot by three gods to gain power over the other gods, because when there was a multitude of gods, no ONE god could become too strong. However, in this story, three gods banded together to create “God” and they did so through the Bible. Through the issue, we see them write and then do revisions on the Creation story. Very clever stuff. “Hmmm…no, I think we’ll make Eve come from Adam’s rib,” stuff like that. ... All together, I thought this was an engaging story. I would recommend it without reservations, as you do not even need to have read the first five issues to pick up on the story.

Testament #7
IGN review by Jesse Schedeen

It is slightly annoying that most of the characters from the first arc were taken away just as I figured out who they were. Unlike other Vertigo titles such as Y: The Last Man, DMZ, or American Virgin, Testament hasn't provided readers with a true main character to latch onto. I think if the creators slow down a little and let readers catch their bearings, this could become a series truly worth following.

Testament #8
Comics Should Be Good review by Brian Cronin

When we go to the modern parallel story, it is interesting how the “Joseph” character is positioned in an ANTagonist position, rather than as a PROtagonist. I thought that that was particularly clever on Rushkoff’s part, in a way to really keep the whole “parallel story” idea fresh, which can be quite difficult at times. There is a clever idea presented in the modern story, which is the question, “If everyone was praising you for the perfect crime, and you wouldn’t be punished for it, would you take the ‘blame’ even if you knew it was not you?” Very clever scenario. review posted by Blake M. Petit

I know the Biblical allusions are really the whole point of this series, but honestly, I think they’re holding the story back more than anything. Since the first arc the allusions have been more and more strained, and with one exception we haven’t seen any reason to believe that the ancient gods that are watching both stories from the gutters really have any impact on the plot, and thus far that one brief exception hasn’t really been enough to justify their existence. Testament is a very difficult title for me – it has an interesting premise and I want to like it, but the more I read the more I feel like the ideas are simply too big for the story Rushkoff is trying to fit them in.

Testament #9 review posted by JJ Fresh

My only qualm with this issue is our hero Jake getting involved in all kinds of debauchery, such as smoking dope and getting busy in brothels. I'm not saying heroes have to be squeaky clean, but if this character is considered a part of a messainic line his actions are pretty deplorable. On the flip side though, Biblical characters also had thier shortcomings, yet thier return to good made them champions of virtue. See how deep this book goes with the premise? Still, while Jake is in this dark time it's kinda hard to root for him.

Testament #10
No online review found.

Testament #11
pop syndicate review by Cornelius Fortune

God and Satan make a wager concerning one of God’s faithful servants, a man who has everything—what if you took these things (essentially his life) away from him, would he still worship you? God then allows Satan to put his servant to the ultimate test including the death of his children, the defamation of his body, and even the jeering of his wife, who pretty much tells him he has nothing to live for.

This is told in both a Biblical timeline as well as a retelling in our present time. This is like the clock on Fox’s 24, the device can kind of holds the thing together, but you either dig high concept shows (and comics) or you don’t. Casual readers can get easily confused with this book, because like Promethea it doesn’t just read from left to right and requires active participation to get the most from your reading experience.

Testament #12
Chickity China review by JP

the Babylonian god Marduk is summoned by the other gods. Originally he assumed a place as head god of the Babylonians, so it will be interesting to see where this leads. This continues to be a good but dense story, and it’s well worth the effort to read.

Testament #13
Broken Frontier - Guiding Lines review by William Gatevackes

last issue the modern day cast went “off-script”, breaking from the allegory and causing the deities to take a more active role in the proceedings. This added a bit of excitement to the series and renewed my interest in the book. If you have turned away from the comic, this issue might be one to get you started reading it again.

Testament #14
All About Books & Comics Blog review by Phil Mateer

I couldn’t keep the story straight, didn’t really feel like rereading previous issues to figure it out, and was eventually reduced to just skimming through each new issue to see if it had any nude scenes. Comics serials like these, to be successful, need a delicate blend of long-term mystery and short-term reader satisfaction (see Preacher), and this, I’m afraid, seems to have lost its way and is just sputtering to a bad end.

The Kingdom review by Big Bibbowski

Issue #14 has perhaps the least Biblical content of any so far, which would be a weakness if it weren’t for the fact that Rushkoff’s writing relies more on the human experience than riding on the tails of Bible history. As it is, this issue turns out to be one of the best. The Dr. Green character is compellingly portrayed as a flawed, complicated man whose quest for redemption would feel right at home in the Old Testament. Rushkoff’s confidence as a storyteller is evidently growing and his craft is in rare form from the first to the last heartbreaking pages.

pop syndicate review by Jared Blumberg

Once again series writer Douglas Rushkoff deftly handles the intertwined tales, ratcheting up the tension without leaving anyone behind. While all this plot builds to its climax, he still manages to keep us up-to-speed on the smaller details, such as the peculiarities of the artificial intelligence, Green’s underlying motivations, the schemes of Atum-Ra and Moloch, and Astarte’s pregnancy courtesy of Krishna.

Testament #15 review posted by JJ Fresh

Some scene shifts in this issue don't quite flow, and anybody who remembers thier creative writing classes knows the importance of "flow". This disjointedness isn't that evident enough to totally remove a reader, but moments do cause the reader hesitation, and with that the escapism stops as well.

The Kingdom review by Big Bibbowski

One page of Liam Sharp’s art packs more kinetic energy than 24 frames of most films whether it’s a quiet office scene between a student and her professor (who looks an awful lot like Rushkoff) or after that a giant world-eating god raping a goddess in the cosmic deep. ... If you’re interested in a book that tries to be about everything, and like the source code, succeeds, take a trip on the Testament wagon.

Testament #16
Comic Book Resources - The Buy Pile review by Hannibal Tabu

The "As above so below" rule gets all muddled as the actions of mortals are powerful enough to fell divinities, as the Bible Gods (that's how solicitation copy referred to 'em, let's go with that) are undone by their alliance with the Babylonian god of cities Marduk, himself all rage and expectations. ... Challenging allegory, densely informative storytelling and not for the easily distracted or dissuaded, but quite a reward if you can grasp it.

Testament #17
No online review found.

The essay version of the "Another Abraham: The Exegesis of Douglas Rushkoff’s Testament" presentation that A. David Lewis recently gave at the annual conference of the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association in Boston may be found online at (Word format)