Though the Shoah seems out of place amid the bright colors, tights and capes of comic books, graphic novels have a long history of depicting the Holocaust. Art Spiegelman started writing the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus” in 1972, and the mutant known as Wolverine was given a history in the Polish extermination camp Sobibor. Last week, in Philadelphia, Marvel Comics announced that Greg Pak, best known for writing such characters as Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk, would be penning a new miniseries in September called “Magneto: Testament.”
The miniseries, according to Pak, “follows a Jewish boy and his family through Germany and Poland from 1935 to 1945.” The character is probably best known as the magnetism-controlling supervillain played by Ian McKellen in the X-Men films. In fact, though Magneto was created in 1963, it wasn’t until the mid-’80s that writer Chris Claremont gave him sympathetic origins as a Jewish child during the Holocaust.
To prepare for the admittedly difficult task of telling a Holocaust story in a comic book, Pak has read multiple survivor narratives and histories of the Third Reich and the Final Solution, watched documentaries, and gone back to graphic novels like “Maus.” The Magneto of “Testament,” Pak emphasized, will be not a tragic anti-hero (the Forward once compared him to Rabbi Meir Kahane, the Israeli activist) but a “three-dimensional human being.”
“This isn’t a fantasy about a costumed superhero changing the course of history,” Pak told The Shmooze. “This is the story of a Jewish boy and his family struggling to survive.”
“Part of the goal of this story is to explore religious identity, and history, through fiction,” said Warren Simmons, “Testament” editor. “I’d say [Magneto] is one of the single richest and most intriguing characters in our medium. I think to Jewish kids, he’s a very important, complex character. I know that he was to me.”