If you enjoy science fiction—like “The Long Journey Home”—you might also enjoy reading comic-books, which feature an aspect of science fiction, popularly known as the superhero sub-genre. For almost 70 years, comic-book characters like Superman and Batman have battled forces of evil that threaten justice and the American way. These caped crusaders, along with other invincible superheroes, such as the X-Men and Spider-Man, were created by young Jewish illustrators, writers, and editors, during the Golden Age of Comics (late 1930s to mid-1950s). “We couldn’t get into newspaper strips or advertising,” says Al Jaffee, one of the original artists at MAD magazine, and creator of the now-famous MAD foldin. “One of the reasons we Jews drifted into the comic-book business,” Jaffee observes, “is that most of the comic-book publishers were Jewish. So there was no discrimination there.” According to some experts, Jaffee’s point is understated: Jews didn’t merely drift into the comic-book business, they practically invented it. As a result, Jewish symbolism weaves its way through character profiles and storylines. What do you think…is Superman Jewish?
Weigh the Evidence!
- Two Jewish teenagers, Jerry Siegel (writer) and Joe Shuster (artist), created the man of steel in the early 1930s.
- The circumstances around Superman's escape from Krypton mirror the Kindertransports of the 1930s, which involved thousands of German Jews putting their children alone on trains to Great Britain to escape Nazi rule.
- Superman's personal history parallels Moses's background. For example, Superman's life is saved by his parents, who put their child in a tiny spaceship and send him to an alien planet to be raised by others. Similarly, Moses's mother placed her son in a small basket to escape Pharaoh's death decree, and Moses is raised in an alien culture, until he assumes his true identity.
- Superman's name on Krypton was "Kal-El," which resembles the Hebrew transliteration of "All is God."
- In an effort to fit into his new world, Superman assumed an alter ego, Clark Kent. Likewise, many Jewish immigrants to America changed their names to blend more easily into society and avoid persecution. Notable examples from the constellation of Jewish comic-book inventors include: Stan Lee (Stan Lieber) and Jack Kirby (Jack Kurtzberg), who created Spider-Man, X-Men, and the Fantastic Four; and Bob Kane (Robert Kahn) who created Batman, the Dark Knight.
Superman's Ancient Ancestor
Although he’s slower than a speeding bullet, and less powerful than a locomotive, the Golem rises under the shroud of darkness each night to prowl alleyways and streets, defending Jews from their foes. According to this famous myth, which originated in the 10th century, cer tain rabbis learned to create a humanoid creature from mud and clay. In every version of the tale, the creator-rabbi writes the name of God, or emet, truth on the creature’s forehead, an enchanted act that breathes life into the monster. Will Eisner—one of the early geniuses in the comic-books industry—believed that the superhero idea came from Judaism’s Golem myth.