Superman Is Jewish? How Comic Book Superheroes Came to Serve Truth, Justice, and the Jewish-American Way. By Harry Brod. New York: Free Press, 2012. xxviii + 208pp.
The significant role of American Jews in the fledgling comic book industry is already well documented, especially in the cases of creators such as Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Joe Simon, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, and Joe Kubert, who helped create the colorful mythology of heroes that now dominates much of popular culture. Harry Brod's Superman Is Jewish? returns to this topic, but its title is slightly misleading. In this book, Brod does look at Superman, the first superhero, but he also offers a wide range of chapters that explore the breadth of ways that comics, past and present--in their broadest definition--may be read as Jewish.
Brod's thesis differs from similar works that focus more on the Jewish men who imagined, wrote, and drew characters such as Superman, the Thing, and the Spirit, among many others. Brod instead argues, "we should be primarily looking at the work itself, not its creators" if only to avoid giving "everyone a blanket license" to equate a creator's religious background or any one-off Jewish references in comics stories with actual narrative meaning. (xxii) Such a content-based approach to analysis allows Brod to make some interesting points as to what makes a comic Jewish. With Superman, it is not then really the Orthodox background of his creators, but the...
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