Book Riot’s Schizophrenic Argument Regarding Jewish Comic Characters


 

Here’s a writer at leftist Book Riot talking about Jewish characters from a historical perspective, telling what a shame it is when they’re obscured, which is true, and then damaging the whole argument with the mere mention of Marvel’s worst propaganda vehicle of recent, the Muslim Ms. Marvel. First, if there’s something this at least gets right, and also points to something troubling:

 

DC marketed Whistle as the first new Jewish superhero from them in 40 years. First of all, if that were true, it would be an embarrassing self-own. But it’s not true. Harley Quinn was introduced on Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, and folded into the main DC universe in 1999. Kate Kane was reintroduced as Batwoman in 2006. And Al Rothstein, who has gone by Nuklon and Atom-Smasher, debuted in 1983, squeaking in just under that 40 year cutoff.

I sort of get why Harley and Kate might be excluded from that stat. After all, Harley’s usually somewhere on the villain to antihero scale rather than a pure hero. And Kate was technically a revamp of a much older character, Kathy Kane, who first appeared in 1956 — the 2006 version was significantly revamped to be Jewish, a lesbian, and Bruce Wayne’s cousin.

But it feels like splitting hairs to me to exclude them from the category of “recent Jewish heroes.” It feels especially icky when taking into account how high profile they both are: Harley has starred in three movies and her own TV show (the latter of has been called out for its use of anti-Semitic tropes), and Kate starred in the first season of Batwoman before the departure of the actress playing her, Ruby Rose, led to casting Javicia Leslie as a new, non-Jewish Batwoman. These are characters that hundreds of thousands of people who’ve never picked up a comic book know the names of; why is their Jewishness suddenly being rules-lawyered out?

And there’s no reason to exclude Al Rothstein from that list at all, so why does he disappear from the promotional statistic? When he’s played by Noah Centineo in next year’s Black Adam and goes from obscure C-lister to movie star, will his Jewishness be further downplayed or erased?

 

 

Yes, it’s true, Nuklon (I’d rather NOT call him by that Atom-Smasher codename, as it merely alludes to a time where DC was already falling into terrible pretensions at the turn of the century) came much earlier, and he was co-created by Roy and Dann Thomas in All-Star Squadron, and soon prominently featured in the more modern-set spinoff, Infinity Inc. But considering the political correctness Whistle reeks of, is it any wonder DC would obscure Nuklon? Hardly. (So it’ll be no shock if Jewishness doesn’t factor into an upcoming movie.) As for the new Batwoman, given she was one of DC’s earlier social justice pandering creations (by the dreadful Greg Rucka), what’s the point of citing her, since DC went downhill a long time ago?

 

See Also Jerusalem Post Focuses on Batwoman’s Faith, Ignores Identity Politics

Interesting they complain here that the Harley Quinn series contains anti-Semitic tropes, though I have reason to wonder if it’s not stemming from altruism. The columnist wonders why the Jewishness of certain characters is being thrown out? Obviously, it could prove antisemitism is still a serious issue in corporate-owned entertainment (just look at what Mark Ruffalo’s spewed out), but she doesn’t seem up to admitting the likelihoods. That’s exactly why I’m wondering what’s so special about a villainess who’s practically been pushed to faux-stardom for the sake of it? And lest we forget, if HQ began as a criminal, not a superhero, then why run the gauntlet of making it sound like she’s worth citation? In which case, why even bother to cite such a grossly overused character, whose very use has long gone past the point of embarrassment? Which is just what this next paragraph is:

 

Presenting a hot new character of a given marginalized identity as the first ever or first in X amount of years is not a new thing. When Kamala Khan debuted as Ms. Marvel in 2014, she was proclaimed far and wide to be the first Muslim character in the Marvel universe and/or superhero comics, neither of which is true. Yes, she was and remains by far the highest profile Muslim character in superhero comics, but that’s not the same as being the first, and this pattern of overemphasizing scarcity merely serves to whitewash (and straightwash, Christianwash, etc.) comics more than they’ve already done themselves. Kamala’s Muslim predecessors may have been obscure and often stereotypically presented, but that didn’t mean they weren’t important to Muslim readers.

 

If she’d take a more realist view, she’d realize they’re not important to most Muslim readers she assumes are actually reading these items…save for propaganda purposes. She sure doesn’t seem interested in story merit, that’s for sure, or maybe she’d consider that not only is much of the recent mainstream output so dreadful, but surely it’s not insulting how a villainess is being pushed as a sex symbol? I find that disturbing, as is the part implying heterosexuality and Christianity are literally bad things. It’s bad enough Superman’s franchise is being humiliated, and these leftist columnists are practically the reason why.

 

Similarly, it was important to me to see Al Rothstein speaking Yiddish on the page, years before Whistle came along. It was important to see Harley celebrating Hanukkah, or Kate struggling with a very Jewish ambivalence about her faith. As much as I loved seeing Whistle talk about concepts like tikkun olam — and I truly, truly loved it — I can’t help being frustrated that she seems to exist in a contrived vacuum. Harley’s given a passing cameo, but Kate is absent. And notably, so is the most prominent Jewish character in the entirety of superhero comics: Bruce Wayne.

 

But it’s not important to have merit, is it? Again, that’s something pretty absent here. I find it disgusting she thinks the sight of HQ celebrating the Hanukkah holiday is a big deal, based on the character’s villainy. All that does is sour the holiday. Say, how come Superman doesn’t warrant notice here, based on Kal-El’s being co-created by 2 Jewish artists and writers who were about 18 when they debuted the Man of Steel? Just more signs the columnist really is that poor in her views.

 

That forgetting feels familiar to the way the Jewish history of comics is “rediscovered” with every new think piece. Jewish characters, like Jewish creators, seem to disappear most of the time, only to be trotted out when they can be presented as a rare or surprising spectacle. But Jewish identity is baked into the very essence of the superhero, and has been since the beginning. After more than 80 years of the genre, when it’s grown from disposable entertainment for a dime to the biggest movies and TV shows in pop culture, I’m ready to see the Jewish heritage of the superhero acknowledged on a regular basis. It’s long past time.

 

Trouble is, this article is so superficial and self-important, it doesn’t sound like the writer wants to see Israel presented as part of that heritage. She doesn’t ask for Armenians to get any kind of significant heroic role in comicdom, nor Macedonians, and it’s just so frustrating, I’d be a lot happier if people like her wouldn’t talk about the art form any more. Mainly because she won’t take an objective view of the medium, and how it’s been terribly dumbed down, with the movies now catching up to the political correctness they’ve suffered from.

 

Originally published here.


Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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