On the heels of its pioneering Holocaust-themed “motion comics,” Washington D.C.’s David Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies is launching a major initiative enlisting comics luminaries to educate Americans about the Shoah and other genocides.
Comics Creators for Holocaust Education is bringing together artists, writers and editors from the worlds of comic books, animation, and science fiction, according to its fundraising material. And the response — from towering figures like Stan Lee, Joe Quesada, Harlan Ellison, and Art Spiegelman — has been “overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic,” said Rafael Medoff, the Wyman Institute’s director.
The initiative will let the Wyman Institute expand its program of creating Holocaust-themed cartoons for print and online media, which have included work by Spiegelman in The Washington Post and Sal Amendola in The New Republic; artists will also explore new ways to disseminate cartoons across platforms. And Medoff plans to use Comics Creators for Holocaust Education as a platform to reach a much broader audience.
“Now that we’ve created an initial body of work — including editorial comic strips for major newspapers and the ‘They Spoke Out’ DVD with Disney — we’re going to be introducing these materials to the comics world, to teachers, and to the general public,” he said. “We’re holding workshops and panel discussions at major comic conventions, such as the recent San Diego Comic Con, which 150,000 people attended, and the upcoming New York Comic Con, which will have over 100,000. At the same time, we’re actively networking with teachers around the country to have these materials used in classrooms. And we’ll be communicating to the public as well, in the same way that the daily editorial cartoons in major newspapers use cartoon art as a vehicle for commenting on serious issues.”
The latest collaboration between Holocaust educator Rafael Medoff and comics giant Neal Adams is their most moving — literally.
“They Spoke Out: American Voices of Protest Against the Holocaust” uses “motion comics” — panels with scrolling text, voiceovers, and archival newsreel footage — to tell the stories of Americans “who raised their voices, marched in protest, or even helped smuggle Jewish refugees out of Hitler’s Europe.”
Medoff, the founding director of David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington, D.C., has written extensively on the American response to the Holocaust. He and Adams, the legendary illustrator whose portfolio includes Batman and X-Men books, teamed on an acclaimed 2009 comic about Dina Babbitt, a Warner Brothers animator and Holocaust survivor.
Educational-video giant Disney Educational Products is distributing “They Spoke Out” as a DVD series; episodes are viewable online at TheySpokeOut.com.
The Arty Semite caught up with Medoff by email from Washington, D.C., where the Wyman Institute is based.
Michael Kaminer: After “Maus,” comics by Holocaust survivors like Miriam Katin, and other graphic work that deals with the subject, what are you hoping to bring to the table with this body of work?
A song he composed 17 years ago has come back to bite a Toronto jeweler — but in a good way.
Sam Rosenbaum made pop history this weekend when his ditty “Why Did You Leave Me Now” made the soundtrack rotation on Sunday night’s episode of True Blood.
Rosenbaum, 61, told the Toronto Star that lyrics for “Why Did You Leave Me Now” came to him after a dream about his father, who had died seven years earlier. “The words came, the melody came, I couldn’t even explain it,” he claimed. “It was a song that expressed a loss.” The tune played this weekend over the closing credits of season six, episode nine, called “Life Matters.”
A onetime music manager, Rosenbaum recorded the song with Liz Rodrigues, one of his artists, on vocals. The song was promptly forgotten; when his entertainment business faltered, Rosenbaum made a career switch, becoming a jewelry salesman.
But last month, “out of nowhere,” “True Blood” musical director Gary Calamar called to request rights to the song. “At first, I didn’t believe it,” Rosenbaum told the Star. “But I Googled him and found out he was the Real McCoy. He was a Grammy nominee.” Rosenbaum called it “a gift from my father… Divine intervention. How else can something like this happen?”
But Calamar’s explanation was a bit more down to earth. “The title, “Why Did You Leave Me Now?” got the attention of the producers, as each episode title of “True Blood” is named after a song that appears in the episode,” he told the Star. “We came across it on an iTunes search, and we thought it worked perfectly in the scene.”
A plump, cherubic bar-mitzvah boy beams from the cover the new memoir “Oy Vey! I’m Glad I’m Gay!” (Intracoastal Media). That’s Barry Losinsky, the book’s author, a retired Maryland school psychologist and one of many unsung pioneers in a generation of gay men who came out when it still felt dangerous.
Born to Russian-immigrant parents, Losinsky grappled with his sexual identity — and weight issues — as the Vietnam war raged and race riots roared through Baltimore; with raw humor and disarming candor, the book details Losinsky’s journey from awkward fat kid to sexually confident, happily partnered activist. The Arty Semite caught up with him by email in suburban Baltimore, where he lives with his partner George.
Michael Kaminer: We’re talking just a few weeks after the DOMA ruling. Did you ever think you’d see something like it in your lifetime?
Barry Losinsky: I never in my wildest dreams ever thought that gay and lesbian individuals would be allowed to marry in my lifetime. My major concern, and that of my life partner of 46 years, had been the inheritance tax when one of us was no longer around. We’ve worked hard over the years for what we’ve got, and the inheritance tax in our state is the 10%. That’s a lot of money. So years ago, he legally adopted me as his son to avoid that 10%. It’s been a marvelous conversation piece.
A memorial to Austrian poet Josef Weinheber (1892-1945) stands in Vienna’s First District, the city’s business and historic core. While it honors his literary contribution to his homeland, there’s no mention of his Nazi past – or pro-Hitler works. But that may soon change.
A team of Vienna-based artists launched an “intervention” June 28 aimed at “recontextualization and artistic reconfiguration” of the monument, according to Eduard Freudmann, an instructor at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts and one of the instigators.
“Weinheber wrote very explicit Nazi propaganda poems,” Freudmann told The Arty Semite by email. “We aim at sparking a debate about how to proceed with the contextualization and artistic reconfiguration of a Nazi monument. And we are prompting the City Secretary for Culture to launch the official procedure for an artistic reconfiguration.”
The “intervention” will mark the first public demand for changes to the monument and its accompanying text, Freudmann said. “Weinheber is a very polarizing figure in Austria, and many people are extremely apologetic about him and his Nazi activities,” said Freudmann, who is spearheading the “intervention” with Vienna artists Chris Gangl and Tatiana Kai-Browne. “We expect a large public discussion by austrian artists, writers, intellectuals to follow our intervention.”
Michael Kaminer: Why are Austrians more forgiving about Weinheber than other Nazi figures?
Eduard Freudmann: Austria has a long history of overlooking Nazi biographies. In the 1980s we even elected a former Nazi stormtrooper as our president, Kurt Waldheim. Nowadays Nazi crimes are not considered minor offenses anymore. The international pressure on Austria, specifically from the U.S. and from Israel, contributed to that change. However, cultural figures seem to be a protected species and Weinheber is one of them. Apologists across the political spectrum advocate for a strict separation of the art work from its author.
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