Superheroes and Judaism, Pt. 2Posted: 07/01/2013
When you research Jewish superheroes, you find dozens and dozens. They come out the wazoo. Songbird’s Jewish. Sasquatch’s Jewish. Nite-Owl’s Jewish. Harley Quinn’s half-Jewish. Iceman’s half-Jewish. The Atom’s kinda Jewish. Hal Jordan might be Jewish. Truthfully, Jewish proof remains hard to come by beyond an off-hand remark or Menorah in the background. Luckily, a few superheroes have entire stories based around their Judaism and we’ll get to those.
But first, I want to give DC their due when they introduced Kate Kane, the second Batwoman. If you want comics to show those skeptical friends about the artistic value of superheroes, shove them some Batwoman comics, like this beautiful panel from Batwoman #2, written by J. H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman and drawn by Williams III:
Now, Kane doesn’t get the recognition as much as a Jewish superhero because her sexual orientation trumps her religious affiliation. And honestly, comics probably need a positive lesbian role model more than another positive Jewish role model. Though fortunately for me, in 52 #33, written by Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, & Mark Waid and drawn by Tom Derenik, Keith Giffen, & Joe Prado, I can showcase both her lesbianism and her Judaism at the same time.
You know Renee Montoya? Former Gotham City police officer and now the Question, the superhero that inspired the creation of Watchmen‘s Rorschach. Also, she totally has the hots for Batwoman.
Hanukkah’s a big theme from Jewish superheroes. I imagine the more important holidays like Passover or Yom Kippur don’t really bring in the readers like Hanukkah does. And that’s fine. I’m not going to nitpick because Marvel and DC doesn’t give Sukkot its fair due. Like Target giving Jews that one shelf for Hanukkah decoration among three rows of Christmas stuff, at least we have something. And that brings me to Doc Samson.
Samson’s the green-haired, gamma-enhanced, Hulk supporting character/psychiatrist to the superheroes. Popular enough that he even had his own miniseries a time or two:
And, of course, he’s Jewish, proven in this scene from Incredible Hulk #373, written by Peter David and drawn by Dale Keown:
When David wants to write a Hanukkah story for Marvel in Marvel Holiday Special 1992, why not use Samson? I mean, he did write Incredible Hulk for twelve years. And like most progressive Jews, David used a loose interpretation of the story.
Regardless of that outfit, Doc Samson is (or was because he’s currently dead) an important part of the Marvel world. If just because of the multitude of mental trauma and disorders required to become a superhero, Doc Samson provides that psychiatric help one doesn’t receive from jump kicking the Green Goblin. Speedball’s redemption and self-forgiveness had instrumental assistance from Doc Samson. Yes, the man’s unorthodox, but so is wearing tights and punching bad guys. Here’s a brief scene from Thunderbolts #117, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Mike Deodato, Jr.:
How could you not love this guy? I mean, besides his morally ambiguous relationship with the Hulk and arrogance bordering on narcissism. Still, I hope he returns soon and not just as a vengeful ghost messing with Red Hulk.
Without a good transition, we’ll finish today with Moon Knight, who I hold near and dear to my heart. With his origin I’m copying from a previous article of mine, soldier and martial artist Marc Spector stumbled upon the Egyptian moon god Khonshu who then gave him super powers. Though you don’t have to remember all that jazz, because nowadays he’s a non-powered rich guy in a gadget-filled costume. More importantly, he battles daily with his schizophrenia/multiple personality disorder. But trust me, this is a superhero you want to become familiar with. His most recent series covered his exploits struggling against organized crime in Los Angeles, and the volume before that dug deeply into Spector’s faith, spirituality, and personal demons. Also, he kicks a whole bunch of ass, like as in these scenes from Moon Knight #12 (volume seven, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev) and Moon Knight #30 (volume six, written by Mike Benson and drawn by Jefte Palo):
You see that second picture? He hit a guy with another guy’s head. Good stuff. More importantly, Moon Knight may have more proof than any other superhero as to the impact of Judaism on his own life. Y’know, living with his rabbi father. In Moon Knight #37, volume one, written by Alan Zelenetz and drawn by Bo Hampton, it turns out Judaism peppers every detail of his childhood.
Moon Knight then goes and does what Jews always dream about: take down a gang of Neo-Nazis. While Captain America bonks Nazis all the time in his adventures, the satisfaction that comes from Nazi blood on the end of a Jewish fist makes the victory much sweeter. The good captain represents the best of American idealism and patriotism, but there’s nothing Jewish about him. Let Moon Knight handle this, for his vengeance bathes in a slightly richer light.
Let the beatdown commence:
While Moon Knight’s been off the radar the past few years, only majorly gracing his presence in the Secret Avengers series, I hope he shows up again soon. Also, I’m a huge fan of that costume; he used to gain strength when the moon came out, yet he patrolled the streets at night wearing a bright, all-white outfit — that takes major cajones.
Tomorrow we’ll finish up this little series with Sabra and the Thing. Thank you for indulging me in this, you guys rock!