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Jews and Comic Books - References, Anyone? - Mo's Journal
March 2nd, 2010
09:53 pm

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Jews and Comic Books - References, Anyone?
I have to give a lecture on Jews and Comic Books. Other than the title, I don't have a lot of requirements, so it can kind of be whatever looks interesting. I'm thinking in terms of exploring:

- the role that Jews had in creating/refining the American comic book as we know it now
- Jewish characters and themes in comic books
- subtext that reflects the Jewish American experience
- the great comic book scare and Jews
- comic books as midrash

I've read The Ten Cent Plague: the Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed America.

I've reserved the following books at my library and should be able to pick them up shortly:

Comic book century : the history of American comic books / Stephen Krensky.
The Krypton companion : a historical exploration of Superman comic books of 1958-1986 / edited and
From Krakow to Krypton : Jews and comic books / Arie Kaplan.
Jews and American comics : an illustrated history of an American art form / edited by Paul Buhle.
Up, up, and oy vey! : how Jewish history, culture, and values shaped the comic book superhero / Simch


Does anyone know of other relevant sources - online or print media? Thanks in advance.

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From:executrix
Date:March 3rd, 2010 03:43 am (UTC)
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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, n'est-ce pas?
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From:ringthebells
Date:March 3rd, 2010 04:39 am (UTC)
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I was going to mention that too! —with, however, the warning that it is a novel, not a reference book. (A very good novel, imho!)
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From:mofic
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, Dana and Alice. I hadn't thought of Kavalier and Clay because it's a novel, but you're right. It's certainly relevant.
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From:taffimai
Date:March 3rd, 2010 04:24 am (UTC)
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You probably know about this and it may not fit with your topic, but I loved these comics growing up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendy_and_the_Golem
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From:mofic
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC)
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No, I didn't know. I'll have to look into that, thanks.
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From:liviapenn
Date:March 3rd, 2010 09:19 am (UTC)
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I was going to mention Jules Feiffer's "The Great Comic Book Heroes" which references the Superman-as-(Jewish)-immigrant trope and also talks a bit about the young Feiffer's assumption that of *course* the hero of Eisner's "The Spirit" was Jewish-- funnily, when googling some of the quotes I remembered, it appears that some of the relevant bits are quoted in "From Krakow to Krypton," so you probably would have gotten there anyway. *G*
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From:mofic
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for the reference - I'll look for it.
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From:talktooloose
Date:March 3rd, 2010 01:58 pm (UTC)
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Read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It draws lines directly from the shtetl and the Holocaust to the creation of the American super hero. Oh, executrix wrote the same below.

I am also reminded of Cat Yronwode's lament in the early 80s that weren't enough Jewish super villains. "What, we're not smart enough?" she asked. It's also interesting to note that Magneto's Jewishness seems to come and go in his competing origins.
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From:mofic
Date:March 3rd, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC)
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That's three votes for Kavalier and Clay.

I did want to talk about Magneto being explicitly Jewish in the movie. I thought he was not in the comics - that his ethnicity was unstated for a long time and then when it was stated he was Romani. Is that wrong?

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From:nomadicwriter
Date:March 3rd, 2010 03:15 pm (UTC)
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I was actually just about to drop in and post a link to this page, which has various meta pieces about Magneto including some discussion of the canon evidence for him being Jewish. (Only current up 1998, sadly, but very well-referenced.)
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From:mofic
Date:March 3rd, 2010 03:32 pm (UTC)
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Thanks so much! Very helpful.
From:psychdyke
Date:March 3rd, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
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There was a whole article on this (possibly even a two-part article) in either Lilith or Reform Judaism awhile ago. I don't have more details than that handy, but I may still have the magazines, and/or they may be searchable (I've not looked for either online so have no idea).
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From:mofic
Date:March 3rd, 2010 03:31 pm (UTC)
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If you find it, please let me know. I think more likely Reform Judaism since I don't read that and usually read Lilith.
From:psychdyke
Date:March 4th, 2010 03:08 am (UTC)
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Okay, I found it online - http://reformjudaismmag.net/03fall/comics.shtml is the first part. In googling the RJ magazizne site for "comic" I found a bunch of other refs also, if you're interested. but the link above is the story I'd meant.
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From:mofic
Date:March 4th, 2010 12:19 pm (UTC)
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Thanks so much! That looks very helpful.
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From:cleome45
Date:March 3rd, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
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From:mofic
Date:March 3rd, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
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Thanks so much. I think it's a very useful chart.
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From:talktooloose
Date:March 5th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)
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I'd love to know the evidence for some of these, especially Ben Grimm. Really? Langkowski is a name Jews have used?
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From:mofic
Date:March 5th, 2010 07:35 pm (UTC)
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There is what looks like good evidence for Ben Grimm here: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Thing.html. I don't think the evidence for Langkowski is more than speculation, though...

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From:freddie_mac
Date:March 6th, 2010 12:30 am (UTC)
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Uhm, the only thing that really comes to mind (and you may have this covered in the Krypton book) is that Siegel and Schuster were both Jewish. IIRC, some of Siegel's personal experiences were the inspiration for Superman.

Also, not sure who created the DC character Ragman, but that was rooted in/inspired by the Jewish mythology of the golem.
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From:mofic
Date:March 7th, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for commenting.

I did know they're Jewish, but I'm intrigued by the idea that there were personal experiences that inspired Superman. Several of my books are waiting for me at the library. I hope to go tomorrow.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:March 8th, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
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Try this story from USA Today

http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2008-08-25-superman-creators_N.htm
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From:devildoll
Date:March 18th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
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Belatedly remembering that I was going to find this for you:

http://devildoll.livejournal.com/579094.html
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