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Wednesday, November 03, 2021 

Comics exhibition at Jewish book fair in Detroit had an unsuitable guest or two

The Detroit Jewish News covered the recent Metro Detroit’s Detroit Jewish Book Fair and Motor City Comicon, where it's told how modern comics and the superhero themes were Jewish inventions, but unshockingly, there's some pretty big letdowns here:
“The comic book is a Jewish invention. The superhero genre is a Jewish invention. The comic con [convention] is a Jewish invention,” writer Roy Schwartz explained during Motor City Comic Con weekend.

On Oct. 17, the “People of the (Comic) Book” panel, presented by the JCC of Metro Detroit’s Detroit Jewish Book Fair, did a deep dive into the history of Jews in comics.

On the panel was Roy Schwartz, author of Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero, and E. Lockhart, author of the new DC graphic novel Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero, the first originating Jewish superhero to join the legendary DC Comics universe in more than 40 years.

As thousands of comic con-goers dressed up as their favorite character and roamed the inside of the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Schwartz and Lockhart dove deep into the much unknown, yet rich history of Judaism in the comic book world — and their own contributions to it.
I wonder what the use is of hosting somebody like Lockhart, a young-adult novelist whose leftist viewpoints sum up what her comic writings are bound to be like to boot? Because I seriously doubt whatever she's bringing to the convention table will be altruistic. Why, what's this they say about alleged historian Schwartz:
Comic books, superheroes, comic cons … How are all these Jewish inventions?

Schwartz explains that during the 1930s and 1940s, Jews were ostracized and marginalized in respectable creative industries, and the comic book industry was seen as the lowest rung on the ladder of publishing. As result, Jews effectively created something out of nothing.

“These were working-class, Eastern European Jews in New York that couldn’t find a job due to the Depression and the rising antisemitism of the ’30s and ’40s, who, very much like Hollywood, created an industry of their own,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz says Jewish creators consciously and unconsciously borrowed from their background and tradition when creating comic book characters and stories.

“When you look at them from this perspective, they are very rich in Jewish themes and signifiers,” says the Israeli-born Schwartz.

Schwartz has written for newspapers, magazines, toy companies, production studios and writes about pop culture for CNN.com. He has taught English and writing at the City University of New York.
Why do I get a bad feeling whatever he's written will come with a very left-wing viewpoint, seeing as he's contributed to one of the worst TV channels around? All that aside, something missing from this whole conversation is what these would-be pundits think of the greedy ingrates who've since gobbled up the famous creations via conglomerates. What do they think of how DC/Marvel have been reduced to shoddy jokes, as their continuity's been destroyed, they've become political vessels for bad causes, the goals they're built on have been denigrated (as in the case of Captain America), the books have been oversaturated with jarring violence and corruption of justice, and even subject to censorship and cancel culture tactics? That isn't brought up here, so I'm wondering what good it does to converse about the history of the founders, any more than it does to discuss censorship in the 1950s if you won't cite modern variations? Interestingly, these questionable attendants even cited the following:
“Basically, these Jewish characters were explicitly linked either to the trauma of the Holocaust or to the specifically religious artifacts that gave them power,” Lockhart says. “That was how it went until recently when we get Jewish characters who are just Jewish. Some of them are retrofitted as Jewish, like Green Lantern. New writers came on and identified them as Jewish, or they were declared to have been Jewish all along, but we just didn’t know, like The Thing.”

[...] Harley Quinn was clearly Jewish from the get-go. Quinn’s Jewish heritage was officially canonized in 2010 when it was revealed she comes from a mixed Jewish and Catholic family. Quinn is also based on a real Jewish comedian.

In the early 1990s, Batman: The Animated Series co-creator Paul Dini was developing the supporting crew for the Batman villain the Joker. For the Joker’s No. 1 gal, Dini was inspired by Jewish actress, comedian and screenwriter Arleen Sorkin. Sorkin’s snappy, wisecracking personality, as well as her mannerisms, were incorporated into what would become Harley Quinn. Sorkin herself would go on to act as the character’s signature voice actress for 20 years.

In recording Harley Quinn’s voice, Sorkin spoke in her normal Brooklyn accent while putting in a “little Yiddish sound,” another influence from Sorkin. Quinn often uttered Yiddish words such as “oy” and “plotz” in the comics.
And we're supposed to admire Quinn why? Because she went on to be characterized taking up a career almost as lethal as the Joker's, and because villainy is literally fun? I don't think so. The Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey movies, where she's been so oddly prominent, didn't fare very well at the box office, and the emphasis on villainy has become so crass, I'm wondering why there's no serious criticism of this. It's not that they make a Jewish character a crook that's the problem, but rather, that there's such an alarming emphasis on villains of recent, mainly from Batman's world, that it becomes that much embarrassing. And they don't consider it? They also don't stress how Jews are still marginalized and ostracized today by Islamofascist antisemites whom the authors themselves have no interest in acknowledging make antisemitism a continuing crisis, and were collaborators with the German National Socialists during WW2. But since they mention GL here, what do they think of Hal Jordan, the character whose family name derives from Hebrew language, being turned into a homicidal villain back in 1994, at the time of the Zero Hour crossover? No dismay over the lack of respect for character creations whose overseers included Jewish editors/writers/artists? (Gil Kane's actual name was Eli Katz.)
Lockhart knows how important representation is in media, and hopes young adult audiences, Jewish or not, connect with it.

“It’s very valuable for young people to see themselves on the page in empowered situations, but I also really tried to write something that was morally complicated about being a superhero,” Lockhart says. “I hope the book will make people think about what it means to be a good person and how challenging it can be to find a path forward.”
It's also very valuable for people of any age to recognize the importance of judging by merit, and YA scripters don't seem to put much value on that. No merit, nothing to think about. Just a lot of divisive leftist ideology, is what we seem to get these days.
While Lockhart’s book is mostly targeted at young adults, Schwartz wrote his book with two audiences in mind.

“For comic book and pop culture fans, I hope it’s a fun, interesting journey through comic book lore and history,” he said. “For Jewish readers, I hope it brings them an appreciation for our cultural contribution. We know about Hollywood, Broadway and standup comedy, but now they’ll be able to fully appreciate our very significant contribution to such a popular and ubiquitous piece of Americana.”

As far as the future of Jews in the comic book world, Lockhart believes it’s a bright one.

“I think the comic book world is opening up and it’s going to continue to open up more,” Lockhart said. “I’ve seen tons of representation in really wonderful and creative ways.

“We’re at the start of a very exciting time when we’re going to see more and more heroes reinvented and invented by a wider range of creators.”
Uh oh. Now that's a pretty suspicious think to say, no different from dozens of other hints a left-wing activist's got no issue with race/gender/orientation swapping, which isn't brought up here. And Jews have otherwise been pushed out of their creations; the Siegel/Shuster family lineage hardly gets any respect from WB/DC, something else not mentioned here. So why say it's a bright future?

Schwartz also gave an interview to CBR, where he continued what Lockhart left off:
With so many iconic and founding superheroes for this genre and comic books in general created by Jewish people, why focus on Superman specifically, especially when he is not in a traditional sense Jewish in the comics, like other characters, looking at The Thing, Magneto or even Harley Quinn?

Most recently, Whistle, who was explicitly Jewish and created as Jewish, not retconned later on, and whose cultural background informs her personality much the same way that Willow Wilson's Ms. Marvel informs hers. Because like any other culture, it could be incidental or vital to the character. What you are is not what defines you. Who you are does, but those things also inform each other. That changes from person to person.
Oh, is this fascinating. This man, who was originally born in Israel, takes a superficial, lenient viewpoint of Islam, a religion that's advocated antisemitism? I can't offer much respect to somebody who's ignorant. Though it does make me wonder what Schwartz thinks of a Golden Age Superman story - possibly in Action Comics #30 - where the Man of Steel tackled some Islamic bandits. There were at least a few stories in that era where the writers weren't too PC they'd avoid such subjects. Neither for that matter did Will Eisner, and on that note, I gotta wonder if Schwartz harbors contempt for him because Eisner tackled Islamic antisemitism in his last GN.
Along with drawing from his culture, we also see the context of what was happening in the world at the time of Superman's creation was influencing who Superman was, specifically touching on how there was antisemitism in America. I would love to hear a little bit more about how that context of the late '30s, early '40s helped influence who Superman became and what type of stories we saw spawned from that.

I provide a lot of that background and context in my book because I wanted the readers to really be able to place themselves in that time and place and be able to understand the mindset of these comic book creators and their immense fear and frustration and anger. Superman before he was the Man of Steel, was the Man of Tomorrow, which emphasizes progressiveness. So much for the people who don't like his new slogan, "better tomorrow."

Before that, originally, he was a champion of the oppressed, which is a different thing. He was specifically a protector of people being oppressed. When you're created by people who are being oppressed to the highest degree, they're being massacred systematically in those years, that resonates very differently. Anti-semitism in the United States was swelling, parallel to what was going on in Europe. It was a very scary time to be a Jew in America. You had the American Nazi Party, the German American Bund, marching down Fifth Avenue, 22,000 people strong. They filled up Madison Square Garden. They had a giant militia training camp on Long Island.

Creators like Jeremy Siegel, Andrew Schuster, Jack Kirby, and Joe Simon got threats and bomb threats. People picketed at the offices. People tried to make their way into the lobby and all of these kinds of stories. It was a very scary time, which is one of several reasons why these creators all anglicized their names. They basically assumed a secret identity, but Superman was born out of that historical moment.
First, I think Schwartz's given a strong hint where he stands on the topic of a homosexual son for Superman, so it's not good news there. Second, how does he feel about today, where you have Antifa and BLM filling the place of the National Socialist Bundists in the USA in modern times, posing similar dangers? Again, I feel quite simply disappointed in how some people remain stuck on the past without considering the present. The emphasis on progressiveness is another clue to Schwartz's troubling positions. And when he does discuss contrasts:
When looking back at the original Superman, and then the Superman we have today, what changed the most would you say about his character or what has stayed the same?

Superman, particularly if people aren't actually readers of Superman, tends to be thought of as monolithic, never changing. He's always been Superman. How dare you change this? How dare you change that? How dare you remove a comma from this thing? But the fact is that Superman has always evolved and always changed to reflect the culture of the moment. The Superman of 1938 is very different from the Superman in 1943. He started out as this kind of pugnacious, angry New Deal liberal who bullied the bullies, and he would throw people out windows and beat up wife beaters and take on slumlords. He was what we call today a social justice warrior. Then come the war year, and he becomes a role model. He becomes this war bond salesman, all American flag-waving guy, but still promoting heavily FDR's new deal throughout the war.

He became this kind of buttoned-up super conservative patriarchal figure in the '50s. Often we have this heavy theme of misogyny come in because women coming back from war and the place a woman society -- all that is in the book. In the '60s, particularly his identity changed from every issue to every issue, just like American identity was in constant flux. He grows ant's head, the lion's head. He produces a homunculus from his hand. He shoots rainbows from his fingertips, etc. All these crazy stories that at the time appealed to the very young or the very high.

Today, we understand this really works as a metaphor of identity exploration at a time when that was in great tumult in American society. The Burn made him a super republican explicitly, that's what Burn was going for. We have the post 9-11 Superman, who is much more introspective and much more consequentialist in his attitude. Gone is the right and a wrong in the universe, and that distinction is not a difficult one to make. Now everything is, "Is this right? What is the responsibility to use my powers, but also what are my rights to enforce that on others?" -- which is very much an America post 9-11 question to ask. Superman has always changed. That's part of what makes him last. That's part of what makes him an eternal character.
Gee, this sure sounds very distasteful. Is he saying that post-September 11, Superman and other such heroes shouldn't fight the good fight they did during WW2? That only makes Schwartz yet another defeatist and apologist we could do without. If believes in justice, he's doing 9-11 Families a favor by taking an ignorant approach to the tragedy of 2 decades ago that makes it sound like he sees nothing wrong with depicting Superman as morally ambiguous when it comes to the Religion of Peace. All that does is suggest Schwartz is taking a position that avoids facing serious issues, in sharp contrast to a century ago. No wonder these modern "experts" only end up becoming disappointments. They have no interest in encouraging serious issues to be tackled by comic writers like they were yesterday, not even metaphorically. So what's the use of their would-be history lectures?

Update: while we're on the topic, I think I'll also link to Mike Baron's latest GN project, The Thin Blue Line, in case I hadn't yet. Something I'm guessing the people who were interviewed at the Detroit convention have no interest in promoting.

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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