About Those Comics

March 10th, 2009

After working for more than fifteen years in the world of comics, I suppose I really shouldn't be surprised when a publication doesn't bother to fact-check a piece that focuses on my chosen industry. But coming at the end of a year in which comic book stories and characters have dominated the entertainment landscape as never before, it was a shock to see the errors in Lawrence Goodman's "Funny Papers" (Finally, January/February).

To begin with, Jerry Siegel's name, one of the most famous in American comics, is misspelled as Jerry Siegal. Then Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, is erroneously listed as the creator of Captain America (for the record, Captain America was created in 1941 by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby). This is followed by a sin of omission: in the entire article, the name of Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) is nowhere to be found, even though he is widely regarded as perhaps the greatest American comic book artist in history and was the creator or cocreator of countless iconic characters, including the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, and Iron Man. A piece about the Jewish influence on American comics —even one as short as this—that doesn't mention Jack Kirby is akin to a piece on the development of jazz that doesn't mention Louis Armstrong.

In addition, I imagine that Paul Buhle would have liked to see a mention of his book, Jews and American Comics: An Illustrated History of an American Art Form, which is now available in hardcover.

Scott Nybakken '90
New York City


Those of us who are lifelong readers of comics take special pleasure in the wider appreciation the art form enjoys in our culture today. I therefore read with interest "Funny Papers," prompted by Senior Lecturer Paul Buhle's class and the John Hay Library exhibition on comics creators and their religious backgrounds. It is heartening indeed to see academics and archivists celebrating the art form that so many of us have enjoyed, in comparative obscurity, for so long. Here's hoping that their work with this art form will continue to honor its rich history, beloved characters, and fascinating personalities.

Ali T. Kokmen '92
New York City


So why shouldn't Jewish Americans warm up to comics? Indeed, the Bible's superpatriarchs and supermatriarchs called upon special powers to protect their people. Readers interested in the connection between comics and Judaism will enjoy Simcha Weinstein's Up Up and Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero. For keeping current, check out jewishcomics.blogspot.com, from Toronto librarian Steven Bergson. And for a gorgeous, artistically innovative exploration of one Old Testament story rendered in comics format, see J.T. Waldman's graphic novel, Megillat Esther.

As the graphic novel columnist for Library Journal, I can enthusiastically report that, with the recent explosion of graphic novels, Jewish-, Christian-, and Hindu-themed comics share shelf space in comics shops with superheroes, Japanese manga, and fiction and nonfiction of all varieties. Shuster and Siegel would be awestruck.

Martha Cornog '66


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Related Issue
March/April 2009