Critical Takes: Recent Books on Jewish Comics

by Derek Royal

The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches, edited by Samantha Baskind and Ranen Omer-Sherman (Rutgers University Press)
Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and the New Land, edited by Harvey Pekar and Paul Buhle (Abrams ComicArts)
Jewish Images in the Comics: A Visual History, by Fredrik Strömberg (Fantagraphics)
Superman Is Jewish?: How Comic Book Superheroes Came to Serve Truth, Justice, and the Jewish-American Way, by Harry Brod (Free Press)

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My review of recent critical works on Jewish comics and graphic novels has just appeared in the latest issue of MELUS. In it, I provide a brief context of the scholarship on Jewish comics that has appeared over the past decade — including such significant studies as Danny Fingeroth’s Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero (2007) and Arie Kaplan’s From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books (2008) — and then focus on four of the most recent contributions to this field: The Jewish Graphic Novel, edited by Samantha Baskind and Ranen Omer-Sherman; Yiddishkeit, edited by Harvey Pekar and Paul Buhle; Jewish Images in the Comics, by Fredrik Strömberg; and Superman Is Jewish?, by Harry Brod. I point out that these recent books on Jewish comics, to varying degrees, straddle the line separating academic discourse and comics fandom. Also, each text approaches its subject from a different angle: Jewish comics as literature (in the case of Baskind and Omer-Sherman), Jewish history as comics  (as we see in Pekar and Buhle), Jewish image as signifier (the focus of Strömberg’s study), and Jewish culture as Jewish comics (the emphasis of Brod’s approach).  Taken together, these four works testify to a growing trend in comics studies, investigations into the ways that particular communities are determined by and largely determine the visual narratives that surround them.

Click here to read the complete review essay.

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The Comics Alternative is a podcast and blog focused on the world of alternative, independent, and primarily non-superhero comics.

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