and other comic book facts.
Published on November 12, 2006 By Larry Kuperman In Current Events
Regular readers of mine (if there are any such) know that I teach Sunday School at the Ann Arbor Jewish Cultural Society, a secular Jewish institution. Today we went on a field trip to the JCC West Bloomfield for “Zap! Pow! Bam!” an exhibit on the Jewish influence in comic books. The trip was fun and also educational. Among other things that we learned were:

Superman the character was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish teenagers from Cleveland. Superman embodies the Jewish value of doing good for good’s sake. His “true” family name of “El” (his father was Jor-El and Superman was born Kal-El) is from the Hebrew term Elohim, meaning G-d. Superman’s own story parallels that of Moses.

Both Superman and Moses were sent away by their parents in order to save their lives, Superman going to the Kent family on Earth and Moses to the court of the Pharaoh. Moses would learn his true identity in the desert and Superman in the Fortress of Solitude. Both would have amazing powers.

Siegel first used the name in 1933 for a science fiction story titled, “The Reign of Superman,” with illustrations by Schuster. Inspired by the German philosopher Nietzsche, Siegel's first Superman was an evil mastermind with advanced mental powers. After Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933 and proceeded to distort Nietzsche's concept of Superman, Siegel and Shuster decided to rethink their own concept of Superman's character. They changed their Jewish-created Superman to a force for good. The new Superman obeys the Talmudic injunction to do good for its own sake and heal the world where he can. Siegel and Shuster had created a mythic character who reflected their own Jewish values.

There are many other Jewish contributors to modern comics. Will Eisner was a pioneer in comic books, creating the character of the Spirit and influencing many artists. He was born in Brooklyn, NY and was the son of Jewish immigrants. Eisner established a comic studio in Brooklyn that was instrumental in the future of comics. Among the many students influenced by Will Eisner no one is more prominent than Stan Lee.

Stan Lee was one of the founders of Marvel comics and was born Stanley Martin Leiber in Manhattan, NY. He created or co-created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and Daredevil, and his success helped change Marvel Comics from a small publishing house to a large multimedia corporation.

Jack Kirby also helped create the Marvel comics empire was born Jacob Kurtzberg to Jewish Austrian parents in New York City. He grew up on Suffolk Street in New York's Lower East Side Delancey Street area, His father was a Conservative Jew and young Jacob attended Hebrew school. His rough and tumble youth on the Lower East side would inspire the character of Ben Grim, also known as the Thing, one of the members of the Fantastic four.

Even today, the Jewish influence is felt in comics through the work of such Jewish authors as Neil Gaiman, creator of the Sandman graphic novels. Neil Gaiman was born in Portchester, Hampshire in the UK. He studied both Jewish and Christian theology and these influences can be felt in his work.

For many Jewish authors, comic books were a way of sharing their values and philosophy.

Comments (Page 1)
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on Nov 12, 2006
The only thing I don't understand is how Superman ended up with a shiksa like Lois Lane.

Wait a minute. Lois is a strong, independent woman. A little bossy maybe, but still....Maybe her family changed their name to "Lane" when they came over from the old country....

What do you think?
on Nov 12, 2006
Lois Lanestein?
on Nov 12, 2006
"Lois Lanestein?"

Why not?
on Nov 12, 2006
As obviously Jewish as his origins may be, the modern Superman is not Jewish. In fact, while the themes you have identified all came pretty much directly from a Jewish mindset and lore, even in the early stories he would not have been identified as "Jewish" (possibly because it might turn many readers off, sadly). This would be further reflected in the works of the other greats you have mentioned; very few comic book characters are "actually" Jewish in the stories.

Still, a nice summary and a few details I hadn't realized.
on Nov 13, 2006
pseudosoldier, the article was written "tongue in cheek" as the saying goes. Not only wasn't Superman Jewish, he wasn't REAL. However....the transformation of Superman from the evil ubermensch of the original sci-fi story to the hero of the comic book, coinciding as it did with Hitler's rise to power is worthy of note.

If you study the Golden Age of comics, you know that many of the super-heroes fought the Nazis. Captain America may be the prime example. Captain America was the creation of Joe Simon, the son of a tailor for Rochester, NY and Jack Kirby. See Link for details.

In every aspect Steve Rogers was the Aryan ideal, but he fought against the Nazis. Why? It was the Jewish authors way of striking back. Powerless themselves (the authors, I mean) and observing the Holocaust happening in Europe, the authors were saying "If I had powers, this is what I would do."

These comics were written by Jewish authors as an outlet and a form of protest.

on Nov 13, 2006

I always thought Lois was too pushy.  I like Lana better.

One thing I never figured out was how Superman could fly through space.  Ok, supposedly the yellow sun made him invulnerable, but space is not filled with yellow suns.  And the effect out by pluto would be minimal.  I guess if you look at comics with a logical eye, you miss the fun.

on Nov 13, 2006
Maybe after all these years Superman is more of an "assimilated" Jew. And really how Jewish can he be, he's powerless against something green? We either spend or cook green things, don't we?
on Nov 13, 2006
The sinister end of this, I think, is how this article would have been received back IN the golden age of comics. We can't forget that while we were busy fighting nazis, Jews were still being abused and demeaned here. People our age are accustomed of seeing "American" propaganda with multiple races and religions represented.

Not so back then. We still assume enough racism to believe it effects election. The fact that JFK was a catholic was considered a strike against him. I think decades before that the idea that Superman was Jewish would have spawned outrage.

I'm wracking my brain but I can't pin it down. I would have sworn in my comic-hound past I remember seeing Superman in a "churcy" setting. I'll have to rummage a bit. I remember Superman's mother being religious, but I can't remember any direct comment on her faith other than 'prayer' and the like.

Anyway, one would assume most superheroes are jewish, simply by looking at their name, right? Superman, Spiderman, Kuperman...

on Nov 13, 2006
I always thought Lois was too pushy.  I like Lana better.

Lois is a goddess! Er... g-ddess?

One thing I never figured out was how Superman could fly through space.  Ok, supposedly the yellow sun made him invulnerable, but space is not filled with yellow suns.  And the effect out by pluto would be minimal.  I guess if you look at comics with a logical eye, you miss the fun.

His body acts as a large solar battery. As long as it's not depleted, he maintains his abilities whether in contact with yellow-sun rays or not. Otherwise, he couldn't fly at night.

When he "died" it was because the fight with Doomsday was so intense it almost completely drained him. If they'd left him out in the sun for a few days instead of burying him, he'd have been fine. (Someone in the crowd outside of the hospital at the end of Superman Returns says something similar.)

(Actually, though, the interplanetary travel was always too much of a stretch for me, too. But that's the explanation. Interestingly, in the cut opening of Superman Returns -- yes, it was originally even longer than 2 hours and 40 minutes! -- he uses a spaceship to fly to Krypton, the same ship he crash lands with in the theatrical opening. That was strictly a screenwriter's conceit, though, since the Krytponite remains of his dead homeworld overcame him and the ship's autopilot had to save his life. How convenient then that he used a ship....)

(Not that I pay any attention to this stuff, mind you.)

Superman IS Jewish

Now we know what those "Jews in Space" at the end of History of the World, Pt. 1 were doing. They were off founding Krypton.

I guess that's one way to get away from the Palestinians.

on Nov 13, 2006
One thing I never figured out was how Superman could fly through space.

He wore a spacesuit in the recent cartoons.
on Nov 13, 2006
I think the time you saw "Superman" in a churchy setting was when he was supposed to marry Lois.
on Nov 13, 2006
KuperMAN! Able to bore people for hours on end about useless information about Sci Fi books, KuperMAN! More powerful than a Jack LaLanne 98lb weakling. KuperMAN! Who disguised a a mild mannered bespeckled computer software salesman, fights for truth(most of the time), justice (some of the time) and the American Way (yea.....Halliburton!)
I love you man.....Chuck
on Nov 14, 2006
Mr. Chuck said:"And really how Jewish can he be, he's powerless against something green?"

I figured that Kryptonite was traif (non-kosher.)
on Dec 19, 2006
Hey Larry...let me see you without the glasses...........
on Dec 19, 2006

Your second paragraph reminded me of something in the Talmud I learned recently

El Melech Ne'eman

"EMN" This is where we get our AMEN from. El means God, Melech means King or Kingly and I think the NE'eman means trustworthy, faithful etc.

So when we say AMEN we are saying The Lord is Trustworthy and faithful.


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