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Superman Is Jewish?: How Comic Book Superheroes Came to Serve Truth, Justice, and the Jewish-American Wayby Harry Brod
Synopses & Reviews
andlt;Bandgt;Many of us know that the andlt;/Bandgt;superheroes at the heart of the American comic book industry were created by Jews. But weand#8217;d be surprised to learn how much these beloved characters were shaped by the cultural and religious traditions of their makers. andlt;Iandgt;Superman Is Jewish? andlt;/Iandgt;follows the and#8220;people of the bookand#8221; as they become the people of the comic book. Harry Brod reveals the links between Jews and superheroes in a penetrating investigation of iconic comic book figures. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;With great wit and compelling arguments, Brod situates superheroes within the course of Jewish- American history: they are aliens in a foreign land, like Superman; figures plagued by guilt for not having saved their families, like Spider-Man; outsiders persecuted for being different, like the X-Men; nice, smart people afraid that nobody will like them when theyand#8217;re angry, like the Hulk. Brod blends humor with sharp observation as he considers the overt and discreet Jewish characteristics of these well-known figures and explores how their creatorsand#8212;including Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Stan Lee, and Jack Kirbyand#8212; integrated their Jewish identities and their creativity. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;Brod makes a strong case that these pioneering Jews created New World superheroes using models from Old World traditions. He demonstrates how contemporary characters were inspired by the golem, the mystically created artificial superhuman of Jewish lore. And before Superman was first drawn by Joe Shuster, there were those Jews flying through the air drawn by Marc Chagall. As poignant as it is fascinating, this lively guided tour travels from the Passover Haggadahand#8217;s exciting action scenes of Mosesand#8217;s superpowers through the Yiddish humor of andlt;Iandgt;Mad andlt;/Iandgt;to two Pulitzer Prizes awarded in one decade to Jewish comic book guys Art Spiegelman and Michael Chabon. andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;Iandgt;Superman Is Jewish? andlt;/Iandgt;explores the deeper story of how an immigrant group can use popular entertainment media to influence the larger culture and in the process see itself in new, more empowering ways. Not just for Jewish readers or comic book fans, andlt;Iandgt;Superman Is Jewish? andlt;/Iandgt;is a story of America, and is as poignant as it is fascinating.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andnbsp;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;***andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;andnbsp;andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;A surprising question, one that takes a certain amount of chutzpah to even raise. To add even a bit more chutzpah, this book considers questions about the Jewishness of more superheroes than just Superman, and offers answers that will surprise many. You mean Spider-Man is Jewish too? Well, actually, yes, but in a very different way than Superman is. And, as weand#8217;ll see, the shift between them reflects the evolution of Jewish life in America itself in the generation between the two, the generation that gets us from World War II and the and#8220;Golden Ageand#8221; of comics to the 1960s and the and#8220;Silver Ageand#8221; of comics. The historical turning points of those tumultuous years and others, like the powerful 1950s crusade against comics for supposedly causing juvenile delinquency, turn out to be central to our story because these events, and their great impact on American Jews, appear on comic book pages themselves, and behind the scenes in their production. For it turns out that the history of Jews and comic book superheroes, that very American invention, is the history of Jews and America, particularly the history of Jewish assimilation into the mainstream of American culture.
"A veteran comic book fan, Brod, a professor of philosophy and humanities at the University of Northern Iowa, uncovers the connection between America's most popular comic superheroes and their Jewish creators in a surprising series of cultural and psychological links. The author notes there is a common characteristic among the Jewish artists who developed the superheroes akin to the Jewish studio heads in the early days of Hollywood: 'The Jewish men who created Supermen were men who were themselves seen as not measuring up to the standards of what real men were supposed to be.' What is fascinating is Brod's detailed take on the many Old Country values and Yiddish traditions used to forge the templates for Superman, Batman, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and such. From the themes of golems, aliens, and outsiders, the WASP identities of Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby permitted them to revolutionize the American comic book industry, allowing youngsters to fantasize cartoon struggles of good vs. evil in every issue. On his highly enjoyable trek through popular comics, Brod's subjects become a metaphor for the immigrant experience in America. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
As brilliant as it is witty, Harry Brod’s surprisingly insightful exposÉ delves into the secret identities of the world’s most famous superheroes.
Zeddy Lawrence once said, “It may not be true in all cases, but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb. If the word ‘man’ appears at the end of someone’s name you can draw one of two conclusions: a) they’re Jewish, as in Goldman, Feldman, or Lipman; or b) they’re a superhero, as in Superman, Batman, or Spider-Man.”
In Superman Is Jewish? Harry Brod reveals the links between Jews and superheroes in a penetrating investigation of iconic comic book figures. He describes how the role of each hero reflects the evolution of the Jewish place in American culture—an alien in a foreign land, like Superman; a figure plagued by guilt for not having saved his family, like Spider-Man; outsiders persecuted for being different (X-Men); a nice, smart guy afraid people won’t like him when he’s angry (the Hulk). Brod blends humor and sharp observation as he considers these well-known figures’ overtly and discreetly Jewish characteristics and talks about how their creators—including Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby—integrated their Jewish identities and their creativity. His lively guided tour takes us from the Passover Haggadah’s exciting action scenes of Moses’s superpowers to acclaimed Pulitzer Prize winners and overseas animators.
Brod has written and lectured extensively on this fun and provocative topic and through his expertise explores the deeper story of how one immigrant group can influence the larger culture through entertainment and, in the process, see itself in new, more empowering ways. Not just for Jewish readers or comic book fans, Superman Is Jewish? is a story of America, and is as poignant as it is fascinating.
About the Author
andlt;Bandgt;Harry Brodandlt;/Bandgt; is a professor of philosophy and humanities at the University of Northern Iowa. He has appeared on CNN, andlt;iandgt;Todayandlt;/iandgt;, andlt;iandgt;Geraldoandlt;/iandgt;, and other TV and radio programs, and his articles have been published in many journals and popular magazines. He is the father of two children and still has his old comic book collection.
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