The Death of a Jewish Superhero Creator

Martin Nodell, creator of the Green Lantern comic-book superhero, has died at 91. Nodell used “Mart Dellon” as his nom-de-comic. Nodell, like just about every other creator of the golden era superheroes, was Jewish. And a lot of those superheroes had Jewish shadings. Here’s what I wrote on the subject in my book Confessions of a Hero-Worshiper:

Superman, Batman, the Green Lantern, Spider Man, Captain America-all of them, it turns out, were Jewish creations. As Alan Oirich, a scholar of the field, told me, “the list of early comic-book pioneers reads like a synagogue mailing list.” Binder and Blum, Fine and Klein, Gillman and Meskin, Schuster and Siegel. Many took Anglicized bylines, the same sort of country-club names they gave their superhero characters (Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Alan Scott). But if you knew where to look, Oirich explained, their Hebrew-school roots showed.

Superman, the first and greatest of the superheroes, was also the most Jewish. He was born into the House of El (“House of God” in Hebrew) on the planet Krypton, which was run by a male council of elders much like the Sanhedrin of ancient Israel. When Krypton was destroyed, Superman mourned its loss much like the Jews mourned the loss of Jerusalem, vowing to keep alive its rituals and language. In time, he learned that a small remnant of Krypton had survived, called Kandor (“here is the generation” in Hebrew). Superman was famous for his red boots, but they were a last-minute change; originally he wore lace-up sandals modeled after Samson’s.

Superman was invented by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, a pair of high-school students in Cleveland. The only night they couldn’t work on him was Thursday-the breadboard they used for drawing belonged to Joe’s mother, and she needed it to bake her Sabbath challah.

The Green Lantern also had a pretty interesting Jewish element. It has been said that its Guardians of the Universe were drawn (by Gil Kane, I believe) to resemble David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel. FWIW, I am pretty sure that Iran would also deny this to be true.


socialismisevil

Its a shame that the Jewish populace that has ( its all on the record) done so much good for sociey have to "hide."
What a commentary on society that the jews/ the asians and a few others as a group have contributed so much good to society and are very low -key about it while big mouths ( can you hear me Al/Jesse) who have contributed some but very little to society in a positive way, yell and scream how much is "owed" them and that their woes are so much worse than anyone else.
thanks for your blg

stevelibbey

It has been widely suggested that Superman's creators drew inspiration from Philip Wylie's 1930 sf novel Gladiator, which depicted a Superman-like character -- he possessed super strength and resilience, grew up in a small town, and desired to fit in, which Superman does more successfully.

Wylie's superhuman, however, struggles with his increasing alienation from humanity, and ultimately calls for his own death from the heavens above. While I don't think Wylie was Jewish, I wonder where the young Siegel and Shuster chose to veer from Wylie's example, and whether it was a conscious or unconscious cultural decision.

ptavares

Very interesting information, all in all. I knew of Superman's jewish roots, but I didn't realize they went so far.

Also, it's interesting to point out that the great Gil Kane was another Jewish creator working in comics under an pseudonym: his real name was Eli Katz.

SteveSailer

Were there any comic book superhero creators who weren't Jewish?

rcarroll

Does Alan Moore count as a superhero creator? He was raised christian and has since changed to an ancient religion worshipping a giant snake god.

yahelc

Speaking of a jewish superman...

I grew up in a jewish household, thus two things were constant: 1) people talking during movies, and 2) an obsession with finding Jewish references in pop culture. Number one made us watch everything with subtitles, and that led us to an interesting number two.

in the reeves film, Superman 2, in the scene at the Niagra Falls, where the little boy falls and Superman jumps down to save him, theres a bit of commotion and everyone makes a comment of some sort in the crowd, not much too intelligable. but. lo and behold, out of nowhere, the captions read: "OF COURSE HE'S JEWISH". We saw this, rewound, and played it again. Sure enough, one of the women watching Superman jump down to save the little boy says "OF COURSE HE'S JEWISH."

Classic.

jledbet

For what it's worth, the Village Voice published a cover story in 1992, rather exhaustively teasing out all the reasons to think that Superman is Jewish.

Alan Oirich

For those interested in Jewish Super-heroes, Issue #2 of Jewish Hero Corps Comics has finally arrived!

The Secret of The Solar Succah is available now at:
http://www.indyplanet.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=1320&osCsid=4a6e739d7280559156ad37b0b7359fc3

A radiation-ridden asteroid heading for Earth can only be stopped by a vintage 1955 solar-powered, succah-shaped force-field, whose components were camouflaged fifty years ago and hidden in important Jewish historic spots across the globe.

In a race against time, The Jewish Hero Corps follows clues to track down where their predecessors hid the devices more than half a century ago.

In February, it will ALSO be available at the Jewish Hero Corps' Web site, www.jewishsupers.com.

The Jewish Hero Corps, the world's only Jewish superhero team, fights for truth and justice, and against ignorance. Charter members Magen David, Menorah Man, Dreidel Meidel, and Minyan Man, have recruited Shabbos Queen, Matzah Woman and Kipa Kid ... and the adventures have
only begun!

Read more...

socialismisevil

Its a shame that the Jewish populace that has ( its all on the record) done so much good for sociey have to "hide."
What a commentary on society that the jews/ the asians and a few others as a group have contributed so much good to society and are very low -key about it while big mouths ( can you hear me Al/Jesse) who have contributed some but very little to society in a positive way, yell and scream how much is "owed" them and that their woes are so much worse than anyone else.
thanks for your blg

stevelibbey

It has been widely suggested that Superman's creators drew inspiration from Philip Wylie's 1930 sf novel Gladiator, which depicted a Superman-like character -- he possessed super strength and resilience, grew up in a small town, and desired to fit in, which Superman does more successfully.

Wylie's superhuman, however, struggles with his increasing alienation from humanity, and ultimately calls for his own death from the heavens above. While I don't think Wylie was Jewish, I wonder where the young Siegel and Shuster chose to veer from Wylie's example, and whether it was a conscious or unconscious cultural decision.

ptavares

Very interesting information, all in all. I knew of Superman's jewish roots, but I didn't realize they went so far.

Also, it's interesting to point out that the great Gil Kane was another Jewish creator working in comics under an pseudonym: his real name was Eli Katz.

SteveSailer

Were there any comic book superhero creators who weren't Jewish?

rcarroll

Does Alan Moore count as a superhero creator? He was raised christian and has since changed to an ancient religion worshipping a giant snake god.

yahelc

Speaking of a jewish superman...

I grew up in a jewish household, thus two things were constant: 1) people talking during movies, and 2) an obsession with finding Jewish references in pop culture. Number one made us watch everything with subtitles, and that led us to an interesting number two.

in the reeves film, Superman 2, in the scene at the Niagra Falls, where the little boy falls and Superman jumps down to save him, theres a bit of commotion and everyone makes a comment of some sort in the crowd, not much too intelligable. but. lo and behold, out of nowhere, the captions read: "OF COURSE HE'S JEWISH". We saw this, rewound, and played it again. Sure enough, one of the women watching Superman jump down to save the little boy says "OF COURSE HE'S JEWISH."

Classic.

jledbet

For what it's worth, the Village Voice published a cover story in 1992, rather exhaustively teasing out all the reasons to think that Superman is Jewish.

Alan Oirich

For those interested in Jewish Super-heroes, Issue #2 of Jewish Hero Corps Comics has finally arrived!

The Secret of The Solar Succah is available now at:
http://www.indyplanet.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=1320&osCsid=4a6e739d7280559156ad37b0b7359fc3

A radiation-ridden asteroid heading for Earth can only be stopped by a vintage 1955 solar-powered, succah-shaped force-field, whose components were camouflaged fifty years ago and hidden in important Jewish historic spots across the globe.

In a race against time, The Jewish Hero Corps follows clues to track down where their predecessors hid the devices more than half a century ago.

In February, it will ALSO be available at the Jewish Hero Corps' Web site, www.jewishsupers.com.

The Jewish Hero Corps, the world's only Jewish superhero team, fights for truth and justice, and against ignorance. Charter members Magen David, Menorah Man, Dreidel Meidel, and Minyan Man, have recruited Shabbos Queen, Matzah Woman and Kipa Kid ... and the adventures have
only begun!

Read more...