1) In 1933, two high school students in Cleveland, Ohio, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, created Superman. In 1938, the two young chaps sold the rights to Superman to DC Comics precursor for 130$.
2) Your favorite supervillain, Magneto from X-Men is indeed a German Jew named Max Eisenhardt — and a Auschwitz survivor at that. Some say he was modeled after Jewish Defense League Meir Kahane. In fact, it was was while working at a hospital in Haifa where he met Charles Xavier (Professor-X).
3) The first Israeli comic superhero was called SabraMan, created in 1978 by a 15 year old (!) boy called Uri Fink. He later became one of Israel’s greatest cartoonists, and went on to create the popular teen comic Zbeng.
4) Joe Kubert, who was born in a Shtetl in Poland, worked at DC Comics for many years and opened a vocational comics school, the Kubert School, in Dover, New Jersey.
5) Israeli cartoonist Dorit Maya Gur created Falafel Man after studying at the Joe Kubert School. Gur wanted to “smash all the existing myths evolving Israeliness” and created a chubby, adorable and freckled superhero. “He invokes the desire to hug or pinch him in the cheek like any good Jewish grandmother might do.”
6) Will Eisner, after whom the comics industry’s equivalent of the Oscars is named (The Eisners), created the masked vigilante ‘The Spirit’ and wrote the great and very Jewish graphic novel ‘A Contract with God’. But before that, he was commissioned to create Wonder Man, in the likeness of Super Man. The comic was short lived. After publishing one issue its publisher (a former DC accountant) was sued for copyright infringement.
7) In 1940, Jacob Kurtzberg and Hymie Simon, also known as Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, created Captain America for Timely Comics.
8) Stan Lee was born Stanley Martin Lieber. In the 1950s, while working for Atlas Comics (the 1950s iteration of Timely Comics), he and Jack Kirby created some of the most well known superheroes out there including The Hulk, X-Men and The Fantastic Four.
9) In 1962, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko invented Spider-Man. Because, you know, no big deal. Our red and blue web-spinning orphan was first seen in Issue 15 of ‘Amazing Fantasy’, published by…
10) …Atlas Comics, which later became Marvel Comics. The reason all your favorite superhero movies and animated films exist? You have Mr. Lieber to thank for that!
11) Claiming that Super Man was too WASPy, Al Weisner invented Shaloman in 1985. According to Wikipedia: “Shaloman is normally an inanimate rock, until someone cries out the words of help “Oy vey!” These words transform the rock into a muscular, curly-haired man known as Shaloman.”
12) “It’s clobberin’ time!”. Benjamin Jacob “Ben” Grimm was born on Yancy Street in New York’s Lower East Side. But he is better known as The Fantastic Four’s most orange member, the “Thing.” It took forty years for him to openly discuss his Jewish origins, but his wry Jewish sense of humor was always apparent to all.
Who’s your favorite superhero?
When the artists Rutu Modan and Yirmi Pinkus formed the publishing house Actus Tragedus in 1995, it was, in Pinkus’s words, “an effort to find ourselves readers outside of Israel” for their comics and illustrations. Actus published books in English, an act that Modan and Pinkus said was seen at the time as snobbish and unpatriotic, even anti-Zionist.
But for Modan, publishing in English found her an international audience for her two graphic novels, “Exit Wounds” — published in the early 2000s, a love story whose themes reflect the impact of the Second Intifada on Israeli society — and “The Property,” which takes a young Israeli woman and her grandmother to Warsaw, ostensibly in order to pursue the restitution of lost property.
“In Israel — a country almost entirely bereft of homegrown graphic novels — Rutu Modan is a one-woman industry,” Tal Kra-Oz wrote when he interviewed Modan for the Forward in 2013.
“I wrote what I consider to be my first graphic novel when I was in second grade during the Yom Kippur War,” Modan said at London’s Jewish Book Week earlier this month. “I grew up in a hospital because my parents were both doctors. During the Yom Kippur War, soldiers were coming back from the front, with the helicopters landing in my neighborhood.” Her drawings were generic, rather than of that war Modan was too young to comprehend, but they depicted “dead people and wounded people, as seen through the eyes of a child.”
Miss Lasko-Gross’s shrewd, poignant “Henni” (Z2 Comics) arrives at a charged moment for cartoons and religion. In the graphic novel — a marked departure from Lasko-Gross’ acclaimed autobiographical comics “Escape from ‘Special’” and “A Mess of Everything” — the female lead abandons her village in a quest for knowledge. The blind followers, cynical leaders, and “disruptors” she meets along the way enact a sly parable for the chains of religious absolutism — and the book sounds a call to reject mindless submission to dogma of any kind.
Lasko-Gross’s painterly style and unflinching eye make “Henni” as hard-hitting as it is heartrending. And like all of her work, it avoids easy answers to complex questions. The artist spoke to the Forward from her home and studio on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Full Disclosure: Lasko-Gross is one of the artists in “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women,” the traveling exhibition which I curated, and the Forward sponsored.
Michael Kaminer: Resistance to religion is at the center of “Henni”; has the Charlie Hebdo attack galvanized your feelings around the message and the medium?
George Mosse was a German-born, Jewish cultural historian best known for his studies on Nazism. This comic, devised by Nick Thorkelson for the occasion of a “Mosse Fest” in Madison, Wisconsin, is based upon Mosse’s many important books on European cultural and political history, but also his life as lecturer and public personality from Wisconsin to Tel Aviv. The artist, a sometime cartoon contributor to the Boston Globe and frequent comic art collaborator with Paul Buhle, was one of the thousands of students whose understanding of history and culture was shaped by Mosse’s lectures.
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