The Jewish Experience in Comics

In the United States, a great many comics artists and writers have been Jewish. You might have heard of some of these men and not known their heritage because they changed their names to less ethnically identifiable names.

Stan Lee, co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor, etc.? He was born Stanley Leiber. Jack Kirby, co-creator of Captain America (among other characters), was originally Jacob Kurtzberg, son of Austrian Jewish immigrants. He was determined to leave his poor, Lower East Side childhood behind. The other co-creator of Captain America, Joe Simon, was born Hymie Simon in Rochester, NY. The comics industry owes a lot to the Jewish artists, writers, producers who have created some of the top characters and comics. The industry’s most prestigious award – the Eisners – are named for Jewish-American artist Will Eisner.

Some of these artists have captured distinctly Jewish themes and experiences in some of their work:
Buhle, Paul. (ed.) Jews and American Comics: An Illustrated History of an American Art Form. New York: New Press, 2008.
Eisner, Will. The Plot: The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005.
Eisner, Will. A Contract with God: and Other Tenement Stories. New York: DC Comics, 1996.
Kubert, Joe. Yossel: April 19, 1943: A Story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. New York: ibooks/Simon & Schuster, 2003.
Pekar, Harvey. (ed.) Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land. New York: Abrams ComicArts, 2011.
Sfar, Joann. Klezmer. Book One: Tales of the Wild East. New York: First Second, 2005.
Sfar, Joann. The Rabbi’s Cat. New York: Pantheon, 2005.
Speigelman, Art. Maus: A Survior’s Tale. New York: Pantheon Books, 1986. (1992 Pulitzer Prize Winner)
Speigelman, Art. Maus II: A Survior’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991.

Categories: Authors & Books.

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