academia | advice | alcohol | American Indians | architecture | art | artificial intelligence | Barnard | best | biography | bitcoin | blogging | broken umbrellas | candide | censorship | children's books | Columbia | comics | consciousness | cooking | crime | criticism | dance | data analysis | design | dishonesty | economics | education | energy | epistemology | error correction | essays | family | fashion | finance | food | foreign policy | futurism | games | gender | Georgia | health | history | inspiration | intellectual property | Israel | journalism | Judaism | labor | language | law | leadership | letters | literature | management | marketing | memoir | movies | music | mystery | mythology | New Mexico | New York | parenting | philosophy | photography | podcast | poetry | politics | prediction | product | productivity | programming | psychology | public transportation | publishing | puzzles | race | reading | recommendation | religion | reputation | review | RSI | Russia | sci-fi | science | sex | short stories | social justice | social media | sports | startups | statistics | teaching | technology | Texas | theater | translation | travel | trivia | tv | typography | unreliable narrators | video | video games | violence | war | weather | wordplay | writing

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Tough Jews

I had no idea that Ben Grimm, The Thing from Fantastic Four, was Jewish.

From a review by comics author Paul Jenkins in The Nation, 12 May 2003:

In case it has slipped your mind, The Thing began life as Benjamin Jacob Grimm, a poor kid in a New York neighborhood called Yancy Street, curiously reminiscent of the Lower East Side...

In "Remembrance of Things Past", published last August, Ben Grimm makes another trek to the old neighborhood, this time to return a Star of David that he stole as a teenager from a pawnshop owner named Mr. Sheckerberg...

When The Thing seems to be on the ropes, the Yancy Street Gang comes to his rescue, spraying Powderkeg with mace and pushing him down a sewer hole, but not before the villain wounds the elderly Sheckerberg.

It is here that the authors reveal Ben Grimm's religion. Bending over the fallen Sheckerberg, The Thing prays the traditional "Sh'ma Yisrael," the Hebrew confession at death. Sheckerberg survives and asks Grimm the question on many readers' minds: "All these years in the news, they never mention you're Jewish. I thought maybe you were ashamed of it a little." Grimm explains that, to the contrary, he did not want to bring shame on the Jewish community. "Figure there's enough trouble in this world without people thinkin' Jews are all monsters like me." When Grimm tries to return the stolen Star of David, the pawnbroker refuses it, likening Grimm to the Golem--the legendary living statue said to have protected Prague's persecuted Jews...

Ben Grimm's journey parallels, in some ways, the path of the first generation of comic-book writers, almost all of whom were Jews. In addition to Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who gave us Superman, the list includes Stan Lee (born Leiber), a former editor-in-chief of Marvel, and Jack Kirby (born Kurtzberg), who co-created the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. For all their success, these comic-book pioneers Anglicized their names and hid their religion, at least from readers, for decades. And so, the story's themes of prejudice, guilt and religious identity hold special meaning.

I learned this on incredible site, Religious Affiliation of Comics Book Characters, that also mentions on its page about The Thing that he literally died and was resurrected by God himself.

Many major comic book characters have died or apparently died only to be brought back to life later by various means (technological, magical, mystical, alien, etc., or simply by revealing that the character had not actually died after all). But as far as we know, this is the first time that God (the God, the Supreme Being -- not some powerful demigod or mythological pantheon member) has personally brought a character back to life in a mainstream comic book.

The site also provides a list of other Jewish superheroes and villains:

  • Shadowcat (aka Kitty Pride)
  • Doc Samson
  • Moon Knight (aka Marc Spector)
  • Songbird (aka Screaming Mimi)
  • Sasquatch (Dr. Walter Langkowski)
  • Izzy Cohen (of Sgt. Fury's Howling Commandos)
  • Greenberg the vampire
  • Bermuda Schwartz (of X-Force)
  • Magneto
  • Harley Quinn
  • The Atom
  • Quicksilver
  • Scarlet Witch
  • Ragman (avenger of Warsaw ghetto)
  • Sabra
  • Microchip (computer nerd superhero, must be Jewish!)


Blogger Jeff'y on Mon Feb 13, 10:22:00 PM:
Sh'ma Yisrael isn't really a confession at death. Lazy Jews like myself say it twice a day so that we could feel like we're cool with G-d (you know, just in case).
Blogger Ben on Tue Feb 14, 01:45:00 AM:
You're right... The Nation's factchecking f-cks up again!
Blogger Chaim Rubin on Tue May 29, 01:43:00 PM:
From Jeff's link - "Rabbi Akiva patiently endured while his flesh was being torn with iron combs, and died reciting the Shema. He pronounced the last word of the sentence, Echad ("one") with his last breath (Talmud Berachot 61b). Since then, it has been traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words." Non-lazy Jews all know this and there are unlimited ancient and modern cases.