Jewish Resemblences that Comic Book Characters have

By Avi Green

May 29, 2002

Many of the industry’s founding fathers included plenty of men and women from Jewish backgrounds, as both writers and editors. These include such famous figures as the legendary Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster from Cleveland who were both co-creators of Superman , and the legendary Stan Lee and Jack Kirby ( Captain America and Spider-Man, among others), whose real name was actually Jacob Kurtzburg, Gil Kane, the legendary artist who drew the Green Lantern during the Silver Age. To which we can even add the legendary Max Gaines, the late father of the just as late William Gaines, the late publisher of magazine, who was one of the editors of Wonder Woman during the Golden Age.

But aside from just being Jewish in real life, some of the characters they’ve given us have Jewish resemblances too. And in this essay, I shall take a look at how these things can be so, and what characters can have them.

First off, there’s Superman. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were his creators, respectively, and you could say that they gave him a fairly Jewish “look” too, ditto Lois Lane, his lovely and legendary flame and now wife. And the way the last son of Krypton chose his way is fairly similar to one of the themes in the bible: he chose life.

Then, there’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man. His creator, Stan Lee, or, as his name actually was, Stanley Lieber, after all, was Jewish, and gave him the template of a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn. And while it may have only been mentioned in exactly one issue of Spider-Man, that being Web of Spider-Man #19, his middle name is Benjamin, which was originally the name of one of the most famous leaders of the 12 Jewish tribes of Israel. The same could also be said for his lovely now wife, Mary Jane Watson, as being a nice Jewish girl from about the same place.

And then, we have Cyclops and Jean Grey. Yep, they too can be described as a pair of lovestruck Jewish teenagers and they make quite a lovely couple too. He being the shy Jewish boy, and she being the nice Jewish girl who’s also, better yet, a redhead.

Psylocke and Archangel I can also see as being Jewish in some ways, since a]she wears blue, he wears white, b]she’s got some nice Jewish girl template in her too, and even her own name, Elizabeth, is Jewish in origin, (pronounced Aliza-bet) he’s inspired in some ways by the angel Gabriel. (And yes, even her brother, Captain Britain, has some Jewish template in him too.) And even in the Chinese body that she’s had since the mid-1980’s, she’s still quite Jewish.

And then, there’s professor Charles Francis Xavier himself. Him I can see as being inspired by two templates in one: Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin, and probably more the former than the latter. What do Jabotinsky and Xavier have in common? Jabotinsky wanted to live in friendship with the Arab and the non-Jewish world, but did not want to give up parts of the land of Israel, which would mean endangering national security and committing national suicide. Xavier wanted to live in friendship with the non-mutant, non-powered humans of this world, but did not want to have to give up his freedom by registering with the government, as envisioned by the X-Men’s late political nemesis, senator Frank Kelly, which could very easily end up enabling the government to exploit him for their own evil purposes.

A most amazing thing about Xavier is that Lee and Kirby, you could say, came up with this bald superhero mentor several years before Menachem Begin himself went that way! The prophecies can be most astonishing, when you look at them more closely.

And the X-Men and their academy itself, the Xavier Institute, was inspired by the Irgun/Lehi/Etzel movements, since they too had to work in all but secrecy. And the Sentinels, you could say, take the place of the British mandate soldiers occupying this country who constantly sought to destroy them for daring to be Zionist/Patriotic and loyal to their country. And, for the record, the Etzel's headquarters, located on the coast of Tel Aviv, now a museum, is in some ways similar to the Xavier institute, since it's also a base from which the courageous crimefighters would go out to fight the evil British imperialists occupying their country.

And then, lest we forget, there are the two most notable and authentic Jewish personalities in the Marvel universe, Shadowcat and Sabra of the Israeli Super-Soldiers. Ruth Bat-Seraph/Sabra is an Israeli woman whose son was murdered in an Arab terrorist bombing who underwent a Captain America-like experiment to gain super-strength who first made her debut in the Incredible Hulk in 1982. A most impressive thing about her is that she's one of the "older" characters in the Marvel universe. Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat, who was written as being around about 14 or 15 years old when she first made her debut back in 1980 in the X-Men, is a Jewish teenager with the ability to turn herself intangible and to fly. Just the kind of power that some girls can dream of having.
 
No wonder I so admire Siegal, Shuster, Lee, Kirby and company so much. They knew how to make good use of their Jewish side, and in the comics, it’s featured as making good use of your superpowers. And, as Stan Lee once wrote it, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Funny, stretchy story in JLA #65

Joe Kelly's just dished out one of the best JLA stories during his current stint on the book. As a huge fan of Plastic Man, who outdoes even the Elongated Man in the comedy department, I was highly entertained by this witty self-contained story in JLA #65 which Batman helps out Plastic Man on a mission of his own, and, it turns out, Plastic Man has a son with similar powers. It's one of the funniest, and really fleshes-er, stretches -out the character by giving him the spotlight he's been waiting for all these years. Go get it, you won't be sorry.

Avi Green, who’ll be attending the opening of the Begin Memorial Center when it opens later this year, can be reached at avigreen2002@yahoo.com

Copyright 2002 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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