Jewish Comics logo illustrated by Michael Netzer, copyright 2009

Jewish Comics Search Engine

Goodreads bookshelf montage

Google Search Window

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jews, Comics, & Film in Toronto @ TJFF - starting Apr. 18

From Saturday, April 17th to Sunday, April 25th, Torontonians (and visitors to the city) can experience the 18th annual Toronto Jewish Film Festival - an opportunity to watch films and listen to panels & lectures related to Jewish film and filmmakers (and some of them are even FREE!).

This year's special theme is "People of the Comic Book: The Creators of Superheroes, Graphic Novels and Toons". Ellie Skrow's curator statement includes the following :

Comic-book movies are now big business. Disney’s recent acquisition of Marvel Comics for $4.24 billion attests to the fact that this phenomenon will likely continue. The current crop of comic-book flicks are revamped with ever more spectacular digital technology and special effects. The same holds true for animated features — another huge box-office draw.

People of the Comic Book takes us back to the very beginning, when comic art began. As we witnessed in previous TJFF sidebars, it isn’t just the fact that Jews dominated this particular form of popular culture that is the cause for celebration; it’s the fact that they were fantastically good at what they created.

To read the full statement, go to

In this moderator's opinion, the best / most interesting / most relevant events are the following :

Sun., Apr. 18th

11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
Al Green Theatre
Paul Buhle Talk - "Jews and Comics"
The connections between Jews and comic art on the printed page and on screen (film, TV and computer) offer one of the most enigmatic and valuable sagas in all Jewish/popular cultural life. Before Jewish artists and entrepreneurs created the comic book and the archetypal superhero, Rube Goldberg and Milt Gross invented wildly imaginary machines and the first graphic novel. More important, the Fleischer brothers as much as invented animation, with Betty Boop’s syncopated madness. For 30 years, movie cartoons filled theatre screens between features, and as they crashed, William M. Gaines (EC Comics) and Harvey Kurtzman (Mad Magazine) reinvented comic art once more. And that was only the beginning! Comics scholar Paul Buhle (author of Jews and American Comics) opens up the TJFF’s exploration and celebration of this field with film clips and observations, high points, disappointments and, increasingly, Jewish self-identification.

4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Al Green Theatre
The Comic Art Forum

What’s new in Jews and comics, and … what’s old! This lively forum — with special guests and listeners joining the conversation — will probe familiar questions (what is it about comic art that drew Jewish artists in the first place?) and go on to recent ones (why is 90 percent of comic art on the web?). Just some of the other topics: Where is the comics industry going, now that the traditional comic book of the pulp variety is dying, and what has happened since comics became a growth industry, but mainly for the sale of superhero characters to Hollywood? Paul Buhle (author or editor of 42 books, including Jews and American Comics) and Harvey Pekar (American Splendor) have collaborated on a series of comic art volumes, including The Beats, Students for a Democratic Society, an adaptation of Studs Terkel’s Working and the forthcoming Yiddishland. Graphic novelist Ben Katchor (“The most poetic, deeply layered artist ever to draw a comic strip”) is the only cartoonist to receive a “genius” MacArthur Fellowship. Katchor’s most recent Pop Opera (in collaboration with Mark Mulcahy) will be performed at Lincoln Center in May.

Mon., Apr. 19th

12:00 PM - 1:41 PM
Al Green Theatre
Screening of American Splendor (the movie)

Based on two of writer Harvey Pekar’s popular comic-book series (American Splendor and Our Cancer Year), this Oscar®-nominated and multi-award-winning feature ingeniously interweaves documentary footage of the real-life Harvey Pekar and his wife, Joyce Brabner, with uncanny performances by Paul Giamatti and Hope Davis. The story of the former file clerk from Cleveland — a compulsive jazz lover and collector, and a curmudgeonly “poet of the mundane who knows that all the strategizing in the world can’t save a guy from picking the wrong supermarket checkout line” — is innovatively captured in this cinematic gem, from Pekar’s friendship and collaboration with artist Robert Crumb and others, to the creation of his own unique brand of underground comic books and his rise to fame with appearances on the David Letterman Show.

{moderator's note : Harvey Pekar told about his experiences of having his life filmed in the trade paperback Our Movie Year}

Harvey Pekar will be a guest at the screening.

8:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Al Green Theatre
The False Forest and Other Picture Stories (slide show / reading)

In this special live appearance, graphic novelist Ben Katchor (The Jew of New York, Julius Kniple: Real Estate Photographer) will read from his works, accompanied by projected images of his comic art illustrations, on the subjects of architecture and urban design. Katchor, “the most poetic, deeply layered artist ever to draw a comic strip” (New York Times Book Review),is the only cartoonist to receive a “genius” MacArthur Fellowship. He has also written for the stage, including three pop operas with composer Mark Mulcahy; he’s a former contributor to Art Spiegelman’s Raw; and he’s a regular contributor to The New Yorker and The Forward. Katchor’s picture-stories appear in Metropolis Magazine. According to author Michael Chabon, “We have never — at least not since Herriman (Krazy Kat) — had a writer like Katchor.… Though his style in no way resembles that of Jack Kirby or Will Eisner, Ben Katchor is along with them one of the three great depictors of New York City in the history of comics.… Katchor’s style, like all the great styles, is addictive.… In the end it isn’t nostalgia but loneliness of an impossible beauty and profundity that is the great theme.…”

Tues., Apr. 20th

2:00 PM -3:30 PM
Al Green Theatre
Screening of the documentary Comic Book Confidential

Canadian filmmaker Ron Mann’s acclaimed documentary is a terrific introduction to TJFF’s sidebar series, offering an entertaining, insightful survey of a largely unrecognized art form. Through interviews, animated montages and readings, the film traces the journey of comic book art through the 1930s and ’40s and the explosive popularity of superheroes, through to the groundbreaking work of Will Eisner and the crime and horror comics of the 1950s. Comic Book Confidential also looks at the impact of the Comic Code, which cited comic books as a major cause of juvenile delinquency, resulting in the chilling effect of censorship. Mad Magazine defiantly survived the era, profoundly influencing everything that came after it. The film also looks at the rise of Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics and the independent and underground “comix” of the ’60s and beyond. Appearing as commentators and participants are a roster of Jewish masters of comic art, including Art Spiegelman, Harvey Pekar, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby and Harvey Kurtzman.

8:15 PM - 9:15 PM
Al Green Theatre
Screening of the documentary Last Son

“It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … Superman!” The Man of Steel took the world by storm when Toronto-born Joe Shuster (artist) and Cleveland native Jerome Siegel (writer) created the character for DC Comics in 1938. This new documentary traces the fascinating story of the invention of the iconic superhero, and posits several theories about the character’s origins, including Jewish and other influences that helped shape the Superman mythology. Incorporating never-before-seen archival footage, Last Son looks at the stories behind Superman’s mild-mannered secret identity, and what actually happened when Jerry Siegel’s father mysteriously died during a robbery. The son of Jewish immigrant parents from Rotterdam and Kiev, Joe Shuster moved to Cleveland from Toronto when he was 10. A cousin to Frank Shuster, of Wayne and Shuster fame, Joe worked as a newsboy for the Toronto Daily Star, which he claims was the model for The Daily Planet.

An unnamed special guest has been invited.

Wed. Apr. 21st

8:30 PM - 10:06 PM
Al Green Theatre
Screening of the documentary Will Eisner : Portrait of a Sequential Artist

Named “the most influential comic artist of all time” by Wizard magazine, Will Eisner transformed the “funny papers” by creating a new form of art — the graphic novel. Part of an extraordinary group of Jewish cartoonists of the time, as well as a successful entrepreneur, Eisner was perhaps the most highly regarded internationally. The Spirit, an urban crime-fighter series based on Eisner’s Jewish upbringing in the tenements of New York, was a realistic portrayal of life on the streets, filled with subtle humour. Other Eisner works that dealt overtly with Jewish themes include A Contract with God, The Plot, Fagin the Jew and Family Matter. Eisner’s life, work and times are brought wonderfully to life in this film, which includes interviews with Michael Chabon, Jules Feiffer, Neil Gaiman, Art Spiegelman, Frank Miller and others. A TJFF reprise screening.

An unnamed special guest has been invited.

To watch a trailer of the film, go to (MPG format) or (MOV format).

The short film Munro will be shown as well.

Fri., Apr. 23rd
4:00 PM - 5:26 PM
Al Green Theatre
Screening of the documentary Line King : The Al Hirschfeld Story

This delightful, Oscar®-nominated documentary is a rich and loving portrait of the remarkable Al Hirschfeld — best known for his caricatures of show-biz personalities (most notably of the Broadway stage) that graced the arts section of the New York Times for decades. Produced when Hirschfeld was a vibrant 93 (he died in 2003 at age 99), the film captures his touching relationship with his second wife, Dolly, and his daughter Nina (whose name is cryptically embedded in all of Hirschfeld’s drawings), his proficiency in sculpture and lithography, and his travels and interests. Perhaps best of all, the film reveals the true mastery of Hirschfeld’s work. His ability to depict the essence of an image in a deceptively simple line profoundly influenced other artists, including cartoonists and animators. Celebrities appearing in the film to pay homage to the legend include Lauren Bacall, Carol Channing, Katherine Hepburn, Jules Feiffer and Colleen Dewhurst.

Sat., Apr. 24th

7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Bloor Cinema
Screening of the documentary-in-progress Joann Sfar Draws from Memory

This work-in-progress, part of a special spotlight programme on documentary filmmaker Sam Ball (see also Balancing Acts), tracks Joann Sfar, author of The Rabbi’s Cat and Klezmer, on an odyssey through the dual Algerian and Eastern European family heritage that is the wellspring of his work. Co-produced by Sophie Constantinou, Estelle Fialon and Valerie Joseph. French comic-book artist/director Joann Sfar’s Le Chat du Rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat) is slated to be released as a feature film in June 2010.

Special guests at the screening will include director Sam Ball, executive director Valerie Joseph, producer Liam Romalis (Pleasures of Urban Decay)

Sun., Apr. 25th

6:15 PM - 7:45 PM
Al Green Theatre
Screening of the documentary-in-progress The Mad Playboy of Art

Will Elder, born Wolf William Eisenberg in the Bronx in 1921, was a comic-book artist who perhaps best epitomized the essence of the legendary Mad Magazine’s zany humour and irreverent parody and satire. Filmmaker Gary VandenBergh (who also happens to be Elder’s son-in-law) brings his exciting documentary-in-progress to the TJFF, with a fascinating, entertaining look at the man, his times and his work. Elder was best known for his frenzied and painstaking method of filling every inch of the page with hilarious things going on in the background — the “incidentals,” described lovingly by Elder’s colleagues as “chicken fat.” The preview includes terrific interviews with Mad editor Harvey Kurtzman, Jerry Garcia, Terry Gilliam, writer/cartoonist Al Jaffee and others who comment on Elder’s incredible talent, humour and influence, as well as his work on humour magazines Mad, Trump and Humbug, and the Little Annie Fanny comic strips in Playboy.

Special guests at the screening will include director Gary VandenBergh and Nancy VandenBergh (Will Elder's daughter)

Tickets are required for ALL TJFF events, including those that are free.

To order / purchase Toronto Jewish Film Festival tickets, go to

To purchase comics work by any of the writers / artists whose works are highlighted at the Festival, I would personally reccommend going to The Beguiling at 601 Markham St. Besides being one of the best comic stores in the city (if not the country), it's conveniently located very close to Bathurst and Bloor, a short walking distance from the Bloor Cinema and about a 12 minute walk from the Al Green Theatre.

No comments: