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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Pow! Kosher superheroes!

Now the British newspaper The Jewish Chronicle has published a review of Danny Fingeroth's book (Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero).
Fingeroth’s book covers the territory thoroughly — but haven’t there been a heap of other similar tomes on the relationship between Jews and comics? Fingeroth insists that he brings an added insight to the genre.

“What I bring to the table of any study in a comics-related topic is the point of view of someone who actually has created comics and characters professionally for decades,” he argues.

Disguised as Clark Kent / Up Up and Oy Vey

The book Disguised as Clark Kent : Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero by Danny Fingeroth has been getting quite a bit of attention, both online and in print. The most recent review appeared in The Forward : "Marvel’s Mavens" (along with a review of The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America). My thanks go out to Jana Burkhalter for pointing this out to me.

Some of the articles mention or compare his book to Rabbi Simcha Weinstein's Up Up, and Oy Vey!: How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero.

Douglas Wolk's "Just Plain Super" argues that both books are trying too hard to Judaize superhero characters who clearly aren't.

Weinstein’s book, in particular, indulges in far-fetched exegesis ... Fingeroth, at least, notes that the themes he’s hunting for are mostly “unconscious and subconscious” on the part of comics creators.

Amy Gluth wrote a review for Jewcy :

I went into Disguised As Clark Kent thinking it would be about the same book as Up, Up And Oy Vey!: How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero by Simcha Weinstein (Oy Vey is jokier and with more Biblical parallels tossed in), but, despite having nearly the same title and subject, Disguised, I have to admit, is really the leader on the topic with greater contemporary historical detail and wonderful captured social and emotional subtleties. At least in my humble little opinion, it seems to be about Jews first, particularly the immigrant Jewish psyche, and comics we drew second.

Jack Fishel, editor of the forthcoming (Encyclopedia of American Jewish Popular Culture) wrote a review for The New Jersey Jewish News :

a plethora of books have recently appeared that explore the Jewish origins of the comic-books creators. Among the better studies are Up, Up and Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero by Rabbi Simcha Weinstein (Leviathan Press) and, now, Fingeroth’s latest work.

In Jennifer M. Contino's interview with Fingeroth (for The Pulse, reprinted at, he lists Rabbi Simcha's book as one of his sources for material :

I interviewed some fascinating Jewish comics creators including Stan Lee, Irwin Hasen, Joe Kubert, Jerry Robinson, Jules Feiffer, Neil Gaiman, Brian Bendis, and the late Arnold Drake. Aside from that, Arie Kaplan’s, Simcha Weinstein’s, Jules Feiffer’s, and Gerard Jones’s writing on the topic was very helpful. And thanks to the Internet, I was able to read dozens of articles and essays from all over the world about related topics. conducted an e-mail interview with Fingeroth :

stories about such topics as--especially in post-Holocaust comics--characters who were survivors of one form of tragedy or another--indeed, the 1950s-and-beyond emphasis on Superman’s status as a survivor of the doomed planet Krypton--echoed what was going on collectively in the minds of Jewish Americans. ”Why did I survive, and not my cousins in Europe?” and so on. The whole point of Disguised as Clark Kent is to explore the nooks and crannies where ethnic identity may have crept into the work when no one--including the writers and artists--was conscious that it was

Jason Berek-Lewis interviewed Rabbi Weinstein for Broken Frontier and discussed the book in the column he wrote a week earlier.

pastordan reposted the press release from State of Belief which was promoting the then-upcoming show (May, 2007) in which Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy interviewed the "Comic Book Rabbi," Simcha Weinstein.

Sean Kleefeld provided a brief review at his blog :

The book wasn't bad at all. My biggest complaint was really that it didn't have enough weight to it; I think a lot more could have been done with the subject matter. Perhaps it's because I've done so much reading on these creators and characters already that I'm far too familiar with the material. This might well be wholly new for many people and, if you didn't know that Bob Kane or Stan Lee were Jewish, this is probably an excellent book to introduce you to those ideas. But it really strikes me as a more introductory text than what I'd be looking for and I have to admit some disappointment with it because of that.

The Jewish Life provides a brief glance at the book with several excerpts from it.

Finally, for those of you who missed Rabbi Simcha's interview on CNN, here's the YouTube video, courtesy of wadeisdead (thanks also go out to the Gruntig blog for pointing it out).

You may read the transcript at (scroll down)

Religion as Apart and a Part of Comics

A. David Lewis has written a general article on the subject of religion and comic books titled "Religion as Apart and a Part of Comics" for Publisher's Weekly. Though it doesn't say much about the specific representation of Judaism in comics, it does mention that Kitty Pryde is Jewish and inludes The Rabbi's Cat as an example of a graphic novel that examines and respects religion.

Not all comics dealing with religion need to challenge it. Many of the most lauded incorporate it, examine it, respect it and remain inconclusive yet affected by it. Some examples are Blankets, Persepolis, Maus, The Rabbi’s Cat, Invisibles. Even as they represent some of the most select comics work, they also represent the medium’s scarceengagements with religion as well. It isn’t hard to find religion within American mainstream comics, but finding it addressed meaningfully is. For all of the innovative exceptions named above, it remains the third rail of the adventurous, dominant genre, only temporarily shocking its characters. Thus, religion in comics can be likened to several concepts of God: it is everywhere and nowhere all at once.

Spider Man is a Jew!

Hana Levi Julian wrote the "Spider Man is a Jew!" article for the online Israel National News, using material from Rabbi Simcha Weinstein's Up Up and Oy Vey : How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero.

Fantastic Four & Jewish "family values"

The Jewish Press published an op-ed piece titled The Fantastic Four's Jewish Family Values about the Jewish underpinnings of the Fantastic Four written by Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, author of Up Up and Oy Vey : How Jewish History Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero.

While Judaism has its roots in the accomplishments of powerful patriarchs and matriarchs, a special emphasis is also placed upon the tribe: the synthesis of everyone’s talents for the greater good. The Hebrew word for tribes, shevatim, means “branches,” alluding to their separate yet united nature. In Lee and Kirby’s universe, not even superheroes live in a vacuum. Sometimes they have to rely on their fellow super-colleagues to assist them when the going gets tough.

In an age of terror we all – more than ever – need a return to family values, working together to combine our powers and talents for the greater good. Even a flashy Hollywood movie based on a popular comic book can be a way to convey this important message (in between onscreen explosions and corny jokes, of course).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Purim!

The Festival of Purim is upon us once again.

As good an excuse as any to borrow (or buy) a copy of JT Waldman's Megillat Esther to read - even if you don't plan on attending a public reading of the Book of Esther.

If you don't know much about JT and his book (beyond what is on the website I linked to), you can read the article "Megillat Esther: The Graphic Novel By JT Waldman", which appeared in last month's The Jewish Press. Part of the impetus for the article was the exhibition of JT's original pages at the Bronfman Gallery, which continues until Easter Monday (March 24th).

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Comics Journal interviews Jewish cartoonists

The February 2008 issue of The Comics Journal contains an interview with Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan by Joe Sacco, as well as an interview of Peter Kuper by Michael Dean.

Today (Sunday, March 16, 2008) is, unfortunately the last day for the free online preview of issue #288.

To read the interviews (today only), please go to the following sites :

Rutu Modan :

Peter Kuper :