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May 17th, 2010
08:43 am


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Jews and Comics - Yet Again
On Friday I gave a talk at my shul on Jews and Comics, as described here. I won't reproduce the whole talk here - it's long - but behind the cut I've interspersed a few images I used with the annotated bibliography I handed out.

Jews and Comics Annotated Bibliography


Buhle, Paul, editor. Jews and American Comics; an Illustrated History of an American Art Form. New Press, 2008. Buhle collects a bunch of pieces by Jewish cartoonists and comic writers showing –mostly through comics themselves, albeit with some text – the contributions of Jews to comic books, comic strips and cartoons. Covers underground comics extensively.

Chabon, Michael. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Beautifully conceived and executed, a novel about two comic book creators that manages to be at the same time full of magic and fantasy and extremely (and sometimes achingly) realistic. Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Eury, Michael. The Krypton Companion. Twomorrows Publishing, 2006. A history and scrapbook of Superman over the years. Lots of illustrations.

Hajdu, David. The Ten-Cent Plague: the Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed America. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008. A history of the comic book backlash, illuminating the roots of the hysteria and its consequences. Very well researched. Interesting musings on the results of demonizing popular culture.

Kaplan, Arie. From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comics. JPS. 2008. A history of Jewish involvement in comic book creation, production and distribution. Lots of illustrations from comic books throughout the different periods.

Sanderson, Peter. Ultimate X-Men. Marvel/Dorling Kindersley, 2000. An encyclopedic treatment of the X-Men, from their origins in the comic books to the first X-Men movie.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus: a Survivor’s Tale and Maus II, a Survivor’s Tale: and Here My Troubles Began. Pantheon Books, 1986. Harrowing memoir, in comic book format, of the author’s parents’ Holocaust experiences and the effect on the whole family. Winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

Weinstein, Simcha. Up, Up and Oy Vey: How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero. Leviathan, 2006. A history of Jews and comics with an emphasis on subtextual Jewish elements in superheroes. A fair amount of conjecture.

Wertham, Fredric. Seduction of the Innocent. Reinhardt, 1954. Wertham, a psychiatrist, argued that comic books led to violence, sexual “deviancy” and juvenile delinquency. He famously suggested that Batman and Robin are a homosexual fantasy. Some of us think that, but think it’s a good thing.


Jews in Comic Books: How American Jews Created the Comic Book
Industry. http://www.myjewishlearning.com/culture/2/Literature/Jewish_American_Literature/Into_the_Literary_Mainstream/Comic_Books.shtml An article by Arie Kaplan on MyJewishlearning.com, summarizing information from his book (above).

Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters. http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html A fun website full of information on religion and comic book characters, both mainstream and less known. Links provide evidence for the conclusions.

Blogs and Communities

The Jewish Comic Book Blog http://jewishcomics.blogspot.com/ From the description: “primarily for announcements of new stories in comic books or strips that have a Jewish character in them, announcements about events related to Jewish comics (e.g. article publication, book publication, museum exhibitions, lectures, etc.) and for discussion about the Jewish comics themselves.”

StillJewish http://community.livejournal.com/stilljewish/ A livejournal community for discussing portrayal of Jewish characters and Jewish themes in popular culture. Not limited to comic books, but includes discussion of comics.

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)
How was the talk received? Was the audience mostly people who already loved comic books, or had at one point?
[User Picture]
Date:May 17th, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC)
It was very well received! Everyone seemed quite engaged; I got a lot of response when I asked questions of the audience; there were a number of questions for me (some of which I knew the answers to, and some not) and I got a lot of compliments afterwards.

I'd say maybe 25% knew anything about comic books beyond what you can't help knowing growing up in North America. Most were just shul regulars and/or people looking for something to do (or for the food :-)). Most were there for services, but some came afterwards just for the dinner and talk.
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