Most of us know the alter egos of such iconic comic book heroes as Superman, Spider-Man and Batman. But what about the men behind the men behind the masks—who were these creative artists and writers? Well, many of them were Jewish. In the winter edition of B’nai B’rith Magazine, read about the Jewish pioneers in comic books and how their Judaism may have influenced key characteristics of these American heroes.
Author Jeannie Counce writes about the numerous Jewish individuals who created superheroes like Superman (Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) and Spider-Man (Stan Lee). Counce explores how it came to be that so many Jews found a creative outlet—and a job in Depression-era America—in the budding comic book industry. With rampant anti-Semitism blocking their entryway into other media, many Jews stumbled into comics because it was one of a few creative media available to them. Nevertheless, many of these Jewish comic book pioneers felt the need to change their names to mask their Jewish identities.
Despite their attempts to downplay their Judaism, many of the creators’ Jewish backgrounds can be discerned through the storylines of their superhero creations. From allusions to the Bible to utilizing the Hebrew language, these comic book creators demonstrated that much of their inspiration and gift for storytelling likely can be traced back to their Jewish roots. Many Jewish writers and artists continue to make a name for themselves in the comic book industry today.
Also read about a childhood fan of the comic genre: Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin reminisces about his childhood fascination with comics, expressing his preference for Classics Illustrated over traditional action comic books. Classics Illustrated, created by Jewish entrepreneur Albert Lewis Kanter, printed famous novels in comic-book form.
Mariaschin’s personal collection, still well preserved, features such titles as Charles Dickens’ “David Copperfield,” Jack London’s “The Sea-Wolf” and Alexandre Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
Elsewhere in B’nai B’rith Magazine, Uriel Heilman explores Israel’s growing prestige as a first-responder to natural disasters across the globe. In a world where Israel is often portrayed negatively in the media, Israel’s dedication to providing prompt and pivotal assistance to those in need is doing much to enhance the country’s image. Israel also provides lasting support beyond first-responder assistance, maintaining Israeli-run establishments long after the initial disaster has struck and many other countries and support networks have left.
Writer David Elfin sits down with Jewish National Hockey League player Jeff Halpern of the Washington Capitals to discuss how Halpern balances his religious convictions with his duties to his NHL team.
In this issue, we also explore the Jewish community of the U.S. Virgin Islands. With a history steeped in tradition dating back to the 17th century, the Jewish community on the islands remains vibrant today.
To read the magazine, visit: www.bnaibrith.org/magazines.