For Hanukkah: Jewish superheroes


Speaking as a Gentile, of all the Jewish holidays, I like Hanukkah best.



Fine, it’s not a High Holiday, it’s an observance.  The gifts are bush-league: chocolate coins, colorful pencils.  Maybe, if you’re lucky, you get a shirt and pants.  But the candles are pretty.  And it’s eight days long.  And who doesn’t like potato pancakes?  Or playing dreidel?



But I was especially amused to find the above image on Tumblr recently.



Evidently Ben Grimm – the everlovin’ blue-eyed Thing from Marvel Comics – is Jewish!  



I love the yarmulke, and the prayer shawl, and most especially the big smile, and most most most especially the fact that this was drawn by classic Marvel artist Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg).


I like the idea of Jewish superheroes.  They’re fictional characters right alongside Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Artur Sammler and Genji, so why not?  I looked online, and found that Doc Samson (who’s a sort of semi-Hulk in the Marvel universe) and Volcana (a heroine/villainess in the Marvel world) are both Jewish, as are a few others.  (Evidently the DC universe is non-denominational.  Although I would not be surprised to discover that the Kents brought up Clark as a Methodist.)



A Kuwaiti Muslim writer named Naif al-Mutawa has, for the past few years, been developing a line of Muslim comics called “The 99.”  The backstory is that a group of Medieval Muslim thinkers / philosophers / clerics harnessed the energy of the 99 names of Allah, but a villain tried to absorb all the power himself; he mostly failed, but the energy of the 99 names went out into the world, and has been absorbed by 99 other people.  One by one they come forward: The Light, The Powerful, The Listener, the Healer, the Destroyer.



I like this too.



We still love mythology, don’t we?  And superheroes are the playactors in our modern versions of those miracle stories and myths.  Did you notice, in last summer’s “Thor,” that the title character died to save his friends, and came back to life?   And I seem to recall the very same thing happening in 2006’s “Superman Returns.”  And think of all the angst and cosmic love triangles in the various X-Men stories –






Cosmic drama and resurrection are terrific things, but sometimes it’s nicer to have candles and potato pancakes and chocolate money.



Gut yontif, Ben Grimm, wherever you are.



I am a pathetic nerd


Last summer, my student assistant Noah and I went down to the mall bookstore; he wanted to buy something, I forget what, and I just wanted to browse.  He came up empty, but I came up with an old DC Comics World’s Finest anthology, with Superman and Batman in color on the cover.  I could tell Noah, when he saw me holding it, was withholding judgment.  (Do I need to tell you that he was more than thirty years younger than me?) 



“I can’t help it,” I said defensively.  “I used to love these comics when I was a kid.  I still do.  It’s like comfort food.”



“Yeah,” he said unconvincingly.  “I understand.”



No, he didn’t.  But maybe he will in thirty years. 



Okay.  So Partner and I were in Universal last month, and there are X-Men and Marvel characters running around all over the place.  Partner kept photobombing them: I have pictures of him sneaking up behind the Green Goblin, and Rogue, and Storm, while they were being photographed with other people.



Then we found Cyclops!



You could tell, even under the costume, that this guy was cute.  The suit had built-in muscles, and that stupid visor covered most of his face, but sometimes you can just tell.



Partner saw his chance.  “Who is he?” he said, trembling.



“Cyclops,” I said.  “Go pose with him.  Oh, and call him ‘Scott.’  It’s his real name.  He’ll like that.”



“What do you mean, his real name?”



“He’s Cyclops,” I said impatiently.  “It’s his secret identity.  If you call him ‘Scott,” he’ll know that you’re a real insider.”



So he made friends with Cyclops (see above picture).



He was giggling as we walked away.  “I said, ‘Thanks, Scott!’  And he liked it!”



So: do you see the benefits of having a nerd for a wife?



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