The Jewish community often complains that it's losing young people's attention. Have Jewish leaders checked the comic shops recently?
...Modern comic books -- lively keystones of American popular culture -- aren't afraid to feature numerous new heroes... who have clearly Jewish backgrounds. Nor do comic books shy away from topics of particular Jewish interest, such as interdating...
Where did the idea of Jewish superheroes originate?
A number of years ago Paul Levitz, DC's executive vice president and publisher, was writing DC's Legion of Super-Heroes series. Levitz, who is Jewish, says he was reviewing notes on the heroes when he noticed that Gim Allon was the real name of the Legionnaire nicknamed Colossal Boy.
Gim Allon reminded Levitz of Yigal Allon (aka Paicovitch), a member of the inner Cabinet that mapped out the Six Day War strategy. So Levitz began developing the character's Jewish identity.
In 1983, Colossal Boy married Yera, an alien shape-shifter. The hero introduced his new bride to his parents a few issues later. After that meeting, the bride asked her husband, "I wonder if I can find a way to convince them to bring their kids up Jewish?"
"It was a sincere attempt to touch on the issue of tolerance," Levitz said recently. "There are obviously very strong issues in our faith and in our cultural background." One of these issues, he noted, is whether intermarriage will eradicate Jewish culture entirely.
...In the Colossal Boy series, Gim Allon was sand-skiing on Mars in the 30th century when he was accidentally bathed in a meteor's radiation. The radiation gave Allon the power to grow, at will, to a height of some 25 feet. When Allon grows, his mass and strength increase proportionately. Allon later joined the Legion of Super-Heroes as Colossal Boy.
DC recently revamped many of its characters, including Colossal Boy, who is now known as Leviathan. DC has not revealed Leviathan's religious affiliation.
From: Leah Finkelshteyn, "Thwak! To Our Enemies", published in Hadassah Magazine, June/July 2003 Vol. 84 No. 10 (http://www.hadassah.org/news/content/per_hadassah/archive/2003/03_JUN/art.htm; viewed 19 June 2007):
From: "Who's Jews in the Marvel & DC Universe?", posted on Orthodox Union website (OU.ORG - Your Gateway to the Jewish Internet), (http://www.ou.org/ncsy/projects/kp/5763/kpwint63/thing.htm; viewed 20 December 2005):
...Shadowcat is far from the only Jewish superhero found in the pages of comic book adventures. Colossal Boy's problems include grappling with whether he should be dating an alien instead of a nice Jewish girl, and Sabra, outfitted in blue-and-white, is Israel's defender...
...Sometimes the Jewish influence is more subtle. According to Jewish educator and comics fan and writer Alan Oirich, artist Gil Kane based his design of the large-headed, balding Guardians of the Universe in DC's Green Lantern on David Ben-Gurion. The President of Earth was also Jewish - and a woman - adds Oirich. Her son, Colossal Boy from DC's Legion of Superheroes, identifies as Jewish, he says, and so does she...
The Thing may be the heaviest hitter to announce his Jewish roots, but he's far from alone. There are plenty of fellow Israelites in tights to join him at the Seder table.
Several characters were created with the obvious intention of being Jewish heroes (as opposed to heroes who happen to be Jewish)... Then there are characters who happen to be Jewish... Colossal Boy of the 30th Century Legion of Super-Heroes was revealed to be Jewish in Christmas with the Super-Heroes #1 of all places. After that, he was shown to have been born in Israel and raised in Jerusalem with summers at the kibbutz. Oy.
From: "Progenitors, Prodigies and Assorted Black Sheep" (http://www.geocities.com/soho/study/4273/relate.html; viewed 4 July 2007):
From: Jeffrey Weiss, "Comic-book heroes seldom reveal their faith: Recent revelation of the Thing's religion was a rare moment for pop culture", published in Dallas Morning News, 24 August 2002 (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/thingjew.htm; viewed 21 December 2005):
Northguard was created in 1984 by Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette as the lead feature for the black & white Canadian comic book New Triumph... Northguard was also Jewish (although, not an especially religious kind of guy). So, like C.C. [Captain Canuck, a Latter-day Saint], the character chosen to epitomize Canadian identity was not a stereotypical WASP figure. In fact, Northguard is one of the only superheroes in comic book history identified as Jewish (X-Man/Excalibur-ian Kitty Pryde, Fathom of the Elementals, and Colossal Boy of The Legion of Super-Heroes are the only others that come to mind) -- and certainly the first to star in a comic (as opposed to being part of a team).
Over the years, the writers told readers all kinds of things about the habits and foibles of the characters. We knew about their taste in clothing, their troubles with relationships, their sense of humor. But we rarely discovered whether they followed any particular religion.Selections from: Steven M. Bergson, "Jewish Comics: A Select Bibliography" last updated 28 June 2005 (http://www.geocities.com/safran-can/JWISHC.HTM; viewed 23 December 2005):
That seems odd in one way. Back in the dawn of the modern comic book, more than 90 percent of Americans self-identified with a particular religion, mostly some kind of Christianity. Why wouldn't reality-linked superheroes have a particular religion?
Explicitly Religious Comics Characters
[list of 20 characters features 10 characters under the "Jewish" subheading, including:]
Colossal Boy, Gim Allon, is a member of the Legion of Super Heroes.
Gelbwasser, Michael. "Cool Characters Entice Kids: Jewish Superheroes Work Wonders in American Comics" Boston Jewish Advocate Jan. 7, 1997.
Gelbwasser, Michael. "Look! Up in the Sky! Jewish Superheroes." Jewish Advocate Oct. 19, 1995, pg. PG.
Discusses the Jewish super-heroes Seraph, the Blasters, Colossal Boy, Ragman, Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family, Mindboggler, Ramban, Golem, Judith, Dybbuk, Nuklon, Phantom Stranger and Sabra.
From: Robert JustusFrom: "List of Superhero Religions" discussion board, started 14 March 2006 (http://s8.invisionfree.com/Superdickery_Forum/ar/t2607_0.htm; viewed 24 April 2006):
Date: Mon, Apr 5 1999 12:00 am
To keep this on topic (sorta), why are most heroes not as religious as they could be? ...the only really religious person that's sane that I recall in DCU is Huntress, and I guess Wonder Woman... Anyone else...?
From: Moon Cry9
Date: Wed, Apr 21 1999 12:00 am
In the Legion (Preboot) Collosal Boy was shown as Jewish, and his mother who was president of earth was very religious.
nunnilium - March 14, 2006 06:55 AM (GMT)From: "Religion in comic books" discussion forum started on 24 April 2006, on DC Comics official message board website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072787&tstart=0; viewed 1 May 2006):
Colossal Boy was Jewish? Huh. The Legion always seemed to have a Star-Trek-esque attitude towards religion.
Kamino Neko - March 14, 2006 08:27 AM (GMT)
Gim [Colossal Boy] wasn't particularly devout, as far as I could tell, but he was clearly Jewish by a few indicators.
In one version of his origin story, he was living on a kibbutz in Isreal when he got his powers (this is reconciled with the other version, where he gained them on Mars by saying he lived on the kibbutz part time, and was on Mars at the time).
And, the stronger one...after he married Yera (his Durlan wife), he brought her to meet his parents. Cue funny misunderstanding, where he thinks his parents are being bigots, then Yera and Marte become best of friends. At the end of the story, after Gim and Yera have left, we see his parents in bed, and Marte wonders if they could convince Gim and Yera to raise any kids Jewish.
(The marriage story was during Levitz run, I can't remember who wrote the kibbutz origin.)
jimjacksonjimFrom: "What Religion is Your Favorite Superhero?" discussion board started 20 April 2006 on official website of DC Comics (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072337&start=15&tstart=0; viewed 8 May 2006):
Posted: Apr 25, 2006 7:13 AM
...Colossal Boy (now Micro Lad) in the Legion has been portrayed as Jewish since at least the early 1980s.
Posted: Apr 23, 2006 1:45 PM
re: "Statistically speaking..."
Here's the problem. Unless that character has been shown to be a particular religion (Colossal Boy used to be Jewish, for example) you can't know. Statistics might be useful sometimes, but not here.
From: "Wasn't Superman Supposed to be Jewish?" discussion board started 24 April 2006 on the official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread. jspa?threadID=2000073412&start=30&tstart=0; viewed 27 May 2006):
Posted: May 10, 2006 3:24 PM
At DC, I know that Ragman and at least one Legion of Super-Heroes members are Jewish (I can't remember which one, but this may have been retconned anyway).
From: "Superman Wedding -- why a Christian ceremony?" newsgroup discussion started 11 October 1996 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4d17a1ff0ee9c715/d141c36005b90ea4; viewed 5 June 2006):
Date: Wed, Oct 23 1996 12:00 am
re: "Just out of curiosity, is there any major character in the DC Universe definitely shown as being Jewish? Several months ago, several people listed Jewish characters in other universes, but I don't recall any in the DCU."
Pre-Crisis, Colossal Boy (now Leviathan) of the Legion of Super-Heroes was portrayed as Jewish. Nuklon of the Infinity Inc. and the JLA is Jewish. Ragman is Jewish.
From: Elayne Wechsler-Chaput
Date: Wed, Oct 23 1996 12:00 am
Post-Crisis/ZH [Zero Hour] as well; his [Colossal Boy's] funeral was led by a rabbi.
From: "Any Christian Superheroes?" thread began 22 April 2004 on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4e5839f075fecf76/8821b5db671e7ce1; viewed 20 June 2006):
From: Gustavo Wombat
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 12:03 pm
I can't think of any major superheroes that strongly believe in any real faith, and that surprises me. Certainly not in the DC Universe. I think there are more minority superheroes than religious ones...
From: Mr Vo
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 8:32 pm
Pre-Crisis, Gim Allon - Colossal Boy was Jewish.
Brother Voodoo is rather obvious with his faith.
From: "Islamic super heroes: Are there any?" forum discussion, started 23 August 2005 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-76010.html; viewed 28 May 2007):
08-23-2005, 10:06 PM
Well, anyways, I was thinking of an idea for a UN-sanctioned super hero team with represenatives from different countries, and one of them is a female telepath from Turkey... named Sultana. And I suddenly realized that for the life of me I can't think of a single Muslim super-hero from either Marvel or DC.
So, are there any? And please don't turn this into a political debate.
08-24-2005, 07:17 AM
In any case... Note how few Jewish super-heroes there are in an industry whose biggest names are very often Jewish.
I'm thinking of Kitty Pryde, Gim Allon and Barry Allen as the biggest name ones. And I think it's been an afterthought in all three.
I think the characters are supposed to represent us all even if they don't reflect us all.
From: "Wonder Woman and Religion", posted 21 February 2006 by Ragnell on "Written World: Hyper-Feminist Comic Book Culture Commentary" blog website (http://ragnell.blogspot.com/2006/02/wonder-woman-and-religion.html; viewed 20 June 2007):
In a way, I feel this discussion gives the writers at DC more credit for nuance and intent than they actually deserve. Speaking as a lifelong non-Christian, it's always seemed pretty obvious that the DC (and Marvel) position on religion and philosophy is exactly that of mainstream America. Some sort of nondefined Protestantism is the default "normal" state and characters who are anything else -- including Catholic or Jewish or atheist -- are only those things because it's immediately vital to their histories or a significant plot point. There might be one or two exceptions (Kitty Pryde got to be a Jewish character without her backstory involving the Holocaust or Israel or the Golem of Prague or anything like that) but overall, a generalized nonspecific Christianity is the rule...
re: But as a rule, comics writers are so immersed in the default assumption of the Protestant God being the one real God -- even if they themselves aren't believers -- that they can't get outside that headspace.
Sorry to hijack Ragnell's blogspace but I disagree with this completely. A great many comic book creators *aren't* actually of a Protestant background...
Over at adherents.com, there is a fantastic list [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html] that compiles character beliefs based on creator and writer commentary and visual clues.
Let's look at some of the Jewish characters listed:
Kitty Pryde as you mentioned, Ben Grimm, Ragman, Colossal Boy/Gim Allon, Atom Smasher/Al Rothstein, Firestorm/Martin Stein, The Atom/Ray Palmer...
Now many of these characters are lapsed/non-practicing, it's true, but quite a few are pretty devout in their own quiet ways. And none of them have really had their Judaism used as a Holocaust/Israel related plot point...
From: "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters (Doug Ramsey Fans, please help)" forum discussion, started 17 October 2006 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-87949.html; viewed 20 June 2007):
10-17-2006, 02:42 PM
I found this site white tries to identify the religious affiliation of comic book characters.
10-17-2006, 08:54 PM
Okay, how the heck can the say any Legion member is Jewish or Catholic or whatever? Most of them are freaking aliens!
From: "Stuart Moore's A Thousand Flowers: O Deadly Night" forum discussion, started 2 December 2003 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-6949.html; viewed 28 June 2007):
12-02-2003, 02:35 PM
...BTW, I believe Gim Allon - Colossal Boy was also Jewish pre-crisis.
12-02-2003, 02:44 PM
Yeppers ["Yes"]. Fred Hembeck made a joke page out of that one where Gim laments about having to wear a giant Yarmulke and having to catch up on the Torah :-)
From: "Micro-Lad and other little things..." forum discussion, started 11 May 2006 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-22329.html; viewed 20 July 2007):
March 11th, 2006, 10:14 AM
When will we find out more of Gim Allon's origin? This has been the most troubling change in a main character to me...
March 14th, 2006, 10:13 PM
What I think is odd about Gim Allon and family, is that the Bio's in the front of each issue say he's from Earth. However, he says he's from a planet full of giants. Confusing...
March 15th, 2006, 10:57 AM
Jewish aliens? Possible, but I'm thinking not. Maybe there was an exodus from Earth many centuries ago and the diaspora is just now returning to their homeworld.
March 15th, 2006, 11:55 AM
Gim Allon before Waid was Terran and Jewish.
I don't think we've seen any evidence Micro Lad is Jewish or of any faith so far. I don't think they've even given his real name yet. That would make it very possible for his community of giants to be outworlders colonizing Earth.
March 15th, 2006, 12:02 PM
There was a Star of David pendant on the night table next to his brother's bed. Not proof, but certainly evidence.
March 15th, 2006, 01:54 PM
There's also the possiblity that when Humans went out into space, there were Missionaries as well.
March 15th, 2006, 02:35 PM
re: "There was a Star of David pendant on the night table next to his brother's bed."
I didn't notice that. I'll recheck that when I get my Waid Legion books back from my friend...
Well, even if so, it could be a souvenir from a vacation or something. I've visited shrines and other vacation spots to pick-up souvenirs that don't necessarily reflect my religious background.
It could even be a nod to the previous Colossal Boy while not actually meaning anything to where Waid intends this version to go.
I say we wait for something more definitive. Being Jewish wasn't a controversial issue before. Heck, being gay in the Legion was caused more of a stir and they still did it. If Waid intends Micro Lad to be Jewish, I'm sure he'd not be shy about it.
April 13th, 2006, 01:56 PM
re: "There's also the possiblity that when Humans went out into space, there were Missionaries as well."
Then he would be a Mormon, not a Jew. However, that would explain the special underwear.
April 13th, 2006, 03:21 PM
Any chance saying he is from earth was a mistake????
May 1st, 2006, 12:58 PM
Perhaps this can be re-interpreted as "grew up on Earth" even though he is native to SOMEWHERE ELSE? I just know that Earth is populated by giants who shrink.
Fairly sure of this.
May 1st, 2006, 02:34 PM
Before this series started Waid did a Q&A [Question and Answer] on the PULSE about his new LSH [Legion of Super-Heroes] series, and I asked him if Gim was still Jewish and why Starboy was now black. All he did was make some lame joke and dance around the question.