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Friday, September 13, 2013

The Jewish Side of the 2013 Montreal Comicon

This year's Montreal Comicon will take place at the Palais des congrès de MontrĂ©al from Friday, Sept. 13 until Sunday, Sept. 15th.

Alas, there's not many Jewish guests attending the convention this year. That may have something to do with the fact that not only is part of the convention held on Friday night and Saturday during the day (i.e. during the Jewish sabbath), but this year those two days coincide with one of the most observed holy days of the Jewish calendar (Yom Kippur). Even a large portion of otherwise-non-religious Jews attend synagogue during these two days (which usually requires purchasing tickets, just like Comicon). I suppose superstitious folks will also remian indoors on Friday, as it's Friday the 13th.

Nonetheless, there will be 3 Jewish artists in attendance and 1 Gentile who has done significantally "Jewish" work.

Below are the details for those who are interested.

Neil Adams is the illustrator of the "Son O' God" stories, which appeared in the pages of National Lampoon. That sounds more like a Christian story than a Jewish one, but it's actually a bit of both. Son O' God is that unique superpowered protagonist whose "superhero self" is a Christian deity and whose civilian alter ego is a Jewish kid named Bennie David and whose 12 Jewish friends act as "the 12 apostles" when duty calls. You may read all of the Son O'God stories (as well as the story of how Adams was recruited to be the artist) at the Dial B for Blog blog. Adams also illustrated the Batman story "Night of the Reaper" in which the vengeful Grim Reaper is revealed to be a Nazi-hunting Holocaust survivor. Adams pencilled "The Last Outrage" (which was inked by Andy Kubert's father, Joe Kubert), which appeared in both The New York Times and the final issue of the miniseries X-men : Magneto : Testament and which also appeared as a stop-motion video on YouTube.

* Chris Claremont is the writer who introduced the Jewish character Kitty Pryde (aka Shadowcat) and who wrote stories which implied that Magneto was Jewish (both in the pages of The Uncanny X-Men).

Andy Kubert is the cartoonist who illustrated an alternate cover for the miniseries Sgt. Rock : The Prophecy, based on the true story of the rescue of Rabbi Joseph Schneersohn, leader of the Chabad-Lubavitch chasidic movement, from Warsaw in 1940.

Shane Kirsheblatt is the illustrator who created the Dorothy Gale : Journey to Oz series and co-founded New Voyage Studios. Kirtshenblatt will be selling gorgeous Battlestar Galactica (the one in which Starbuck is a woman) limited 11 X 17 posters (only 50) for $20 with 5 of those dollars going to breast cancer research.

A version of this blog post was published at

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

using the comix format for Jewish fundraising in Toronto

Back in 1947, Hamilton-born James Winslow "Win" Mortimer illustrated a 4-page comic booklet for the United Jewish Welfare Fund in Toronto (a predecessor of the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto aka UJA), used for its Youth Division campaign. This year, the direct mail marketing for the UJA's 2014 campaign also utilized the comic format (thanks to its wonderful Creative Department staff which was responsible for all aspects of the look, from concept to layout to script to the finished artwork).

To allow you readers to compare the 2 campaigns, I am reproducing (with permission from the Ontario Jewish Archives) the comics artwork from both campaigns. Clicking on the images takes you to the full-sized versions.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

2nd interview with Barry Deutsch

Barry Deutsch, author-illustrator of the first 2 Hereville books kindly agreed to answer another set of questions which I recently e-mailed to him.

Below are my questions and Barry's replies.

Jewish Comics Blog : How has your life changed since wining the Sydney Taylor Book Award and having its sequel recognized as an SBTA Honor Book?

Barry Deutsch : I'm very grateful that my work has gotten some recognition.

One important change, is that I'm now more likely to be asked to come speak to children at schools. That's part of being a cartoonist that I didn't anticipate at all, and I also didn't expect how much I'd love doing it.

But there's nothing more rewarding or energizing than talking to kid audiences. It's like when I was a kid and saw Star Wars for the first time - that kind of energy boost. I think of it as the chocolate candy part of my job.

JCB : In my last interview with you, you told us to expect a wedding in the 2nd book. Yet, that wedding never materialized. Why did you change your mind and will we be seeing a wedding in a future Hereville book?

BD : I still intend to do that story! But my editor felt that the themes of that story were too mature for the second book, so it should be put off until later. At this point, I'm imagining it as book five, but one thing I've learned is that these things I laughably call "plans" are actually just speculations.

JCB : It has already been speculated by comix scholars that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster may have been alluding to the Kindertransport when they had Superman's parents send him away from a world on the verge of destruction to the safe haven of Earth. This was mentioned in Harry Brod's recent book Superman Is Jewish? In Hereville 2, you cleverly made a parallel between Mirka's great-great-bubba's journey from the Old Country to the New Country (presumably because of antisemitism, though that's never mentioned) and the separation of the meteorite from her meteor sisters. Were you inspired at all by the Superman origin story?

Kal-el rocketing away from the doomed planet Krypton towards Earth
A black and white photo of people in the 1940s waving at people on a train

BD : I've thought of Superman's story as a Jewish immigration story for so long I no longer remember where I first encountered that interpretation. (Umberto Eco, maybe?) But that wasn't consciously in my mind when I wrote Hereville 2, and actually the parallel didn't even occur to me until just now, when you asked that question.

I agree with you that Mirka's great-great-bubba probably left the Old Country because of antisemitism, but I deliberately avoid mentioning antisemitism much in Hereville. That's something that has been covered again and again in Jewish literature for kids. There's always room for more if it's done well - see, for instance, the terrific Resistance  series of graphic novels - but I think that one thing Hereville offers readers is a view of Judaism being important in people's lives, in a way that is joyful, and doesn't require antisemitism to drive the story.

JCB : I was pleasantly surprised to see that part of this story took place during Shabbos and that it wasn't an exact replica of what we saw in Book 1. After all, not every Mirka adventure needs to start before Friday night and end after Saturday night. Plus, I thought that since you already had a Shabbos sequence in the first book that you had shown as much of what happens during the Sabbath as you had wanted to, but this time you focused on the hospitality aspect. Do you intend to have a Shabbos sequence in every Hereville book?

BD : I can tell you for sure that there will be a Shabbos sequence in the third Hereville book. And there's one planned for the book with the wedding, too.

That said,I don't intend to have a Shabbos sequence in every book. I never know until I write the story. I love including Shabbos, because it's such an important part of Mirka's life. So if the story can be propelled forward by including Shabbos, I will do that. But if a story ends up working better if it takes place entirely during the week, then that's the way it'll be.

JCB : The intellectual "defeat" in this book happened because of the observation that by being stronger, faster, etc., the meteorite was not a better Mirka than Mirka because Mirka would never be that strong or fast. It reminded me of the times I want to give a zetz (a soft one) to whomever is trying to convince me to do something different by starting their argument with "Well ...if I were you..." But, they're not me. I'm me and I know what I would do because that's exactly what I end up doing. I was wondering if there was any event in your life that led you to include this solution to Mirka's dilemma.

BD : Well, I have a love of technicalities and loopholes, so I suppose that's why I included it in this story. It was also nice to give Rochel a chance to shine.

But (at least in my view), that was a false solution to Mirka's dilemma. It prevented Mirka from being kicked out of Hereville, but it didn't convince Metty to leave. The real solution came when Mirka was able to reach into herself and find empathy for Metty. Which is something I often struggle to do in my own life, when I'm dealing with people who are making me angry in some way.

JCB : Not so much a question as a comment. I'm coming to appreciate the subtle foreshadowing that you've used in both books (and which I'm presuming will be found again in future books). The way that Fruma tried to impress upon Mirka the importance of learning to knit was actually not as big a surprise to most readers since there's a huge ball of yarn of the cover (though my own initial reading experience didn't include that, since I first read it as a webcomic). However, in Hereville 2, Mirka protests that, "You can't kill a king with a pawn", though Mirka the "pawn" keeps defeating her king-like enemies despite the fact that she's the weaker one.

BD : Thank you! I think all writers try to build in connections within their stories; it just makes stories more satisfying to read and (even more) to reread. Most writers are re-readers, so we like to build in some treats for the rereaders out there. :-)

JCB : Among Christians, there is a wonderful credo, "What Would Jesus Do?" which has appeared on t-shirts and bumper stickers and has sometimes been imitated by others, "What Would Moses Do?", "What Wold Muhammed Do?". In Joss Whedon's Buffyverse, Xander once admitted that he solves problems by asking himself, "What Would Buffy Do?" I find the Fruma version found on page 8 to be more empowering, though, when she tells Mirka to ask herself what imaginary (idealized) Mirka would do. What led you to write that into the story?

BD : Well, that's something I try to ask myself - what would the person I'd like to be, do in this situation?
The trouble with asking yourself that question, of course, is that "who do I want to be?" is a question with an answer contingent on what my current values are. And if my current values are wildly wrong - as they are in Mirka's case, with her idealization of combat heroics - that can lead you to an answer that won't really help. (So in a way, that scene was a rare instance of Fruma giving Mirka bad advice.)

At the start of Hereville 2, Mirka thinks that she'd like to be Metty - that if she was only incredibly powerful and a great monster-fighter, then everything would be perfect. But then she actually meets her ideal self, and her ideal self is a real jerk. I'm not sure if Mirka really learned anything from that, though. She's very stubborn about everything, including learning lessons. Which is part of what makes her so fun to write.

JCB : When I was younger, I read the story "The Super-Exiles of Earth!" which first appeared in Justice League of America #19 (May 1963). In that story, the members of the JLA have to face off against doppelganger versions of themselves who are better than them (stronger, faster, smarter). It was a wonderful premise, though the ending wasn't as great as I had hoped it would be. I'm curious if you had ever read that story or a similar comic book story.

BD : I never read that particular story, but of course I've read and seen a lot of doppleganger stories in my life. There were four separate doppleganger stories in Buffy, for instance - robot Buffy, Zander split in two, vampire Willow, and the Buffy/Faith switch story. In comics, Dopplegangers are a staple of superhero comics, from bad guys disguising themselves as the hero and robbing banks, to the dozens of robot doubles Superman keeps stashed in his Fortress of Solitude (and how creepy is that?). Evan Dorkin's Bill and Ted comics - which were actually hilarious and witty - did great things with the robot doubles.

It's a pretty irresistible device, if you're working in a genre that lets you get away with it. As a writer, you're always trying to bring your characters face-to-face with parts of themselves they'd rather ignore, and what more efficient way than literally bringing them face-to-face with themselves?

JCB : I feel like I need to bring up Mirka's age again for 2 reasons. Firstly, those who were 11 when they read the first Hereville book in 2010 now find that they are 3 years older than the main character. Assuming that they will continue to read every Hereville book that's published, they might find that they are less and less able to relate to her because she's still a preteener while they are now coping with teen life. Also, the readers won't get to see her Orthodox Bat Mitzvah (assuming that it will be depicted) until she turns 12. When are you planning to make Mirka older?

BD : I write Hereville with myself in mind as the intended audience - these are the sort of action-adventure comics I want to read. And I'm WAY older than Mirka. So hopefully, readers will be able to continue enjoying Mirka's stories even as the readers age.

And in the end, there's nothing to be done about it; I can only work as fast as I can work. Alas.

But to answer your question, my plan (remember what I said about plans?) is to have Mirka remain 11 years old for the first three books, and then begin aging her.

JCB : Will we ever see Mirka using a library? I'd think she would certainly be curious to look up info on trolls, witches, meteors, etc. given her penchant for getting into certain situations and reluctance to ask Fruma all the time.

Plus, we might get to meet one of the Hereville librarians

BD : We might see Mirka using a library! That's not in any of the scripts I've written so far, but I could easily imagine that fitting well into a story I'd write.

Here's a confession: I might hesitate to do a lengthy scene in a library, simply because it takes so much time to draw a bookshelf full of books, and libraries are full of bookshelves. I'm not a very fast cartoonist, and part of my creative process has to be managing my drawing time carefully.

JCB : You're no doubt hard at work on the 3rd Hereville book. Can you give any kind of hint as to what readers can expect to see in this story (without giving too much away)?

BD : The third book is tentatively entitled Hereville: How Mirka Caught A Fish.

The story begins with Mirka forced to babysit Layele, her death-obsessed six year old sister - but things very quickly spin out of Mirka's control. I think a lot of readers will be thrilled that this story has a bigger role for Fruma than book 2 did. And I can promise a very big change in Mirka's home situation.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Rutu Modan special presentation at the Miles Nadal JCC (Toronto) - May 12th

The Toronto Comics Arts Festival and the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre will be co-hosting a special audio/visual presentation by Rutu Modan on her new graphic novel The Property

The Property is a work that will inspire, fascinate, and delight readers and critics alike. Savvy and insightful, elegant and subtle, Modan’s second full-length graphic novel is a triumph of storytelling and fine lines. After the death of her son, Regina Segal takes her granddaughter Mica to Warsaw, hoping to reclaim a family property lost during the Second World War. As they get to know modern Warsaw, Regina is forced to recall difficult things about her past, and Mica begins to wonder if maybe their reasons for coming aren’t a little different than her grandmother led her to believe.
Rutu Modan offers up a world populated by prickly seniors, smart-alecky public servants, and stubborn women – a world whose realism is expressed alternately in the absurdity of people’s behavior, and in the complex consequences of their sacrifices. Modan’s ever-present wit is articulated perfectly in her clear-line style, while a subtle, almost muted color palette complements the true-to-life nuances of her characterization. Exit Wounds made a huge splash for this signature combination of wit, style, and realism, and The Property will cement Modan’s status as one of the foremost cartoonists working today.

Date : Sunday, May 12, 2013 
Time : 5:00 - 8:00 PM
Address : 750 Spadina Ave. 

New Narrative conference in Toronto - Fri., May 10th

Today, the 4th annual FREE one-day comics conference known as The New Narrative will be held on the campus of University of Toronto. Full details (including the schedule) may be found at

One of the paprs being presented is titled “’Maybe they’ve mixed me up with Joe Sacco?’: Reportage, Autobiography, and the (non-)Touristic Gaze in Guy Delisle’s Graphic Travelogues”. Both Joe Sacco and Guy Deslisle have had their comix travelogues published (though Sacco's work is always referred to as comic journalism). Both have also written and illustrated stories about Israel (Joe Sacco's Palestine and Guy Deslisle's Jerusalem).

The conference will be concluded with a keynote address by  Rutu Modan (author-illustrator of the graphic novel Exit Wounds and the newly-published graphic novel The Property).

Jewish Side of TCAF 2013

This weekend, readers, writers, artists, publishers and fans of comix will converge at the Toronto Reference Library to take part in the the FREE Toronto Comic Arts Festival.This yearmarks the 10th anniversary since the first TCAF was held (at a much smaller venue) in 2003.

Among the talented people who will be at TCAF this year are a small number of comix professionals who have done comic art using Jewish characters or themes.

Jonathan Baylis (author of So ... Buttons mini-comic)

Willow Dawson (illustrator of the anthology No Girls Allowed : Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventurewritten by Susan Hughes and published by Kids Can Press. The anthology includes the story of Esther Brandeau, the first Jewish person to immigrate to Canada.)

 Sarah Glidden (author-illustrator of the autobiographical How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less!, which was nominated for the 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list)

* Gilbert Hernandez  (author-illustrator of Love and Rockets X, which features the half-Jewish character Kris Nesnick)

David Malki! (author of the Wondermark webcomic, which has been collected in trade paperback. Among the comics that have appeared on the site is one with the punch line "Hannukah bush"one about the Jewish New Yearone that uses the juice/Jews homonym joke and one about Hebephiles.)

Dylan Meconis (author-illustrator of the webcomic Family Man, about a Jewish academic named Luther Levy, who was unable to defend his dissertation because he was not Christian ; volume 1 may be purchased in person at TCAF or ordered online)

Rutu Modan (author-illustrator of the graphic novel Exit Wounds and the newly-published graphic novel The Property)

Josh Neufeld (author-illustrator of A Few Perfect Hours)

Paul Pope (author-illustrator of the story "Berlin Batman" in The Batman Chronicles #11 [reprinted in Batman : Year 100], in which Batman is a Jewish painter named Baruch Wane)

* Jon Rosenberg (author-illustrator of the webcomic Goats, which includes the Jewish character "Jon", as seen in the strip from Nov. 24, 2005)

Art Spiegelman (author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Maus and one of the main characters in the online story "The Night I Met Art Spiegelman")