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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.