by Derek Royal
For the past few years, The Forward‘s Artist in Residence, Eli Valley, has been marking Halloween with his own special version of scary comics. He visits certain facets of current Jewish American culture and illustrates — literally! — the “horrors” lying just beneath the surface. These editorials often highlight a kind of fear mongering that is anything but subtle, scare tactics that align perfectly, according to Valley, with the Halloween season. As he puts it in a short video created for The Forward in 2011, “In the organized Jewish community, the unofficial mission is actually scaring Jews.” He points out that Israeli advocacy and fundraising is dedicated to getting Jews (and, one could add, Americans as a whole) to look at only one side of its national dilemma, and by doing so denies “the great Jewish tradition of being able to have more than one idea with nuance in your brain without imploding.” For Valley, Hasbara (Hebrew for Israeli public relations) “insists that we stop using our brain. And what you’re trying to do by curtaining your ability to think is horrifying.” Thus, what at first seems an unlikely pairing, Jews and Halloween, actually makes sense if you look at the internal communal dynamics. As one might expect, such graphic criticism has not gone unnoticed by the good folks at Commentary.
In 2011, Valley expressed this special brand of horror in his comic “Never Miss an Opportunity,” about the ongoing attempts to demonize, Crypt Keeper-style, the Arab community and the possibility of a Palestinian state. In his 2012 Halloween offering, “The Diary of Doctor Lowenstein,” a Zionist science experiment goes horribly wrong. A Frankenstein-like Jewish scientist is commissioned by David Ben Guiron to create a clone from the DNA of both Anne Frank and Judah Maccabee, and the result is a new kind of (Anne) Frankenstein’s monster. And this year for Valley is no less scary. In “It Happened on Halloween,” the artist mashes the recent exploits of anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman and the sensibilities Rod Serling, and the result is a Twilight Zone-esque answer to a nagging question for Valley, “What’s at the heart of Foxman’s antipathy for American Jews?”
In today’s Halloween Special episode of The Comics Alternative, Gene and I didn’t have time to thoroughly address Eli Valley’s recent contributions to this holiday. But his Halloween comics for The Forward are definitely worth checking out, and they are as good — if not better — than the regular fright-inducing fare coming out from the mainstream publishers. With the kind of creatures populating Eli Valley’s Halloween comics, who needs golems and dybbuks?
Visit EV Comics…and then watch Eli Valley’s 2001 video: