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Goodreads Israel Comix Bookshelf

Thursday, January 10, 2008


During the 1980s, there were 3 stories which depicted ancient Israel.

In France, Massada : La Première Guerre Des Juifs Contre Les Romains (Dargaud, 1987) retold the story of the revolt on the mountain fortress which ended in mass suicide.
the Jewish rebels at Masada say their last goodbyes before the mass suicide

the Romans prepare to attack, but the Jews have taken their own lives already

Buy Massada

Joe Kubert published a series of 2-page stories featuring Yaakov and his friend Isaac for the Lubavitch children's periodical Moshiach Times. Some of these have been reproduced online and a collection of them were published in the book The Adventures of Yaakov & Isaac (Mahrwood Press, 2004). "The Kutim" takes place during the time of Alexander the Great.
the Kutim plot to turn Alexander the Great against the Jews of ancient Israel

Buy The Adventures of Yaakov & Isaac

In 1981, the 26th book in the Astérix series was published - L'Odyssée d'Astérix, which was translated into English as Asterix and the Black Gold. Though credited to both Rene Goscinny (who was Jewish) and Albert Uderzo, in truth the story was written solely by Albert Uderzo, as Goscinny had already passed away. The story involves a quest to retrieve oil which is used as an ingredient in the special potion that gives Asterix and his townspeople their magical strength. The quest takes them to Israel, where Asterix and his companion Obelix befriend Joshua Ben Zedrin and Samson Alius (Rosenblumenthalovitch).
Asterix and Obelix arrive in Jerusalem with their friend Joshua Ben Zedrin

Buy Asterix and the Black Gold

A second Israeli superhero comic was attempted in 1987 - Uri-On written & illustrated by Michael Netzer (nee Nasser).
cover of Uri-On #1

Though Shaloman lives in Israel (where he spends time as part of an Israeli mountain when he's not helping those in need), his adventures often take him elsewhere. An exception is the Shaloman story "Intifada and Israeli Commandos" (Shaloman #2, 1989).
Shaloman socks an Arab soldier on his jaw

Buy Shaloman #2

Israeli superheroes rarely have a series of their own and, when they do have them, they are usually short-lived. Most of the comics that have Israeli superhero comics are rather formulaic. The Israeli superhero(es) assist(s) the non-Israeli superhero(es) in defeating the villains (who are often Arab or Palestinian terrorists).

Two other superhero characters who were introduced during the '80s were :

Dust Devil (Blasters Special #1, 1989)
Dust Devil uses his power on schoolyard bullies

Buy Blasters Special #1

Sabra (Incredible Hulk #256 Feb. 1981)
Though Sabra could have become a positive portrayal of an Israeli woman in comics, her character is often written into stories where she ends up being a threat &/or exercises poor judgement. It's unclear whether this is just an unfortunate coincidence -or- whether this reflects how Marvel's writers feel about women, in general -or- whether this reflects how they feel about Israel & Israelis. Perhaps it's a bit of each.
Ruth Ben-Sera changes into Sabra to pursue the Hulk

Buy The Incredible Hulk #256

The incidence and usage of Mossad agents in comics is similar to that of Israeli superheroes - they are usually simply guest characters who help foil the plans of the "evil Arabs". In several stories, the writers choose to make the agents female.

Among the Mossad agents introduced during the '80s are :

"Rose" (Punisher #7 March, 1988)
Rose Kugel and Frank 'The Punisher' Castle watch a video made by an Arab  terrorist

Buy Punisher #7

Rachel Elazar (Jon Sable Freelance #22-24, 1985, reprinted in The Complete Jon Sable Freelance Volume 5 (IDW, 2005)
Jon Sable surprises Rachel Elazar

Buy Jon Sable Freelance #22 #23 or #24

Buy The Complete Jon Sable Freelance Volume 5

Beth Stein (Cloak and Dagger #11 March 1987)
Beth Stein, on the trail of her child's killers

Buy Cloak and Dagger #11

Sharmin Rosen (Batman #426 Dec. 1988)
Sharmin Rosen saves the Batman from getting shot by a sniper

Buy Batman #426

Yousuf Tov (Super-Villain Team-Up #16 May 1979)
Yousuf Tov, pampered prisoner, protests his situation

Buy Super-Villain Team-Up #16

an unnamed group of agents (Justice League of America #226 May 1984)
Mossad agents try to capture Lord Arsenic in Egypt

Buy Justice League of America #226

Jacob Ram (Mark Hazzard : Merc #3 Jan. 1987)
Mark is angry, having learned how he was being manipulated by Jacob

Ibrahim and a group of Sephardic agents (G.I. Joe Special Missions #2 Dec. 1986). It should be noted that depictions of black Israelis and Sephardic Jews are rare in comix.
Ibarahim and his team meet the G.I. Joe team en route to the safehouse of Dr. Otto Totenschadel (a Naxi in hiding)

Buy G.I. Joe Special Missions #2

In the short piece, "Casting Stones" (World War 3 Illustrated, reprinted in The Mammoth Book of Best War Comics, Carroll & Graf, 2007, p. 511-512), Eric Drooker both compares King David's slinging a rock at Goliath with the rock-throwing of Palestinian youth during the Intifadah and suggests that "King David" (Israel) has turned into a giant "Goliath" due to its greater military strength compared to the Palestinians living in the occupied territories.
David kills Goliath with a stone and eventually becomes the king

King David doesn't like stones being thrown at him

Buy The Mammoth Book of Best War Comics

In 1982, an Israeli peace organization appropriated a page from an American war comic story, removed the English captions and dialogue, and replaced them with Hebrew, thus creating the 1-page story "Pilot B", incorporated into a flier advertising an upcoming event.
Pilot B

Weird War Tales #83 (Jan. 1980) included the 8-page story "Prison of the Mind", in which an Israeli soldier who is captured during the Yom Kippur War is released after being mind-controlled through surgery. The enemy Syrian soldier tries to use him for political assasination (a la Manchurian Candidate).
an Israeli soldier awakens in a Syrian hospital following the Yom Kippur War

Buy Weird War Tales #83

In Teen Titans #24 (Oct. 1986), an Israeli commando - Israel Harel - rescues hostages on an airplane before being shot by one of the terrorists. His body is later recovered and he is transformed into the super-powered being Pteradon and recruited into a team called the Hybrid.
Israel Harel and his team help free the hostages
Buy The New Teen Titans #24

In Scout #12 (Oct. 1986), which takes place in the future, the Israeli military lends a hand to the American military by lending them a "Big Moishe" - a manned, heavily-armed, gigantic robot. Sergeant Rosa Winter (an American) teams up with Avner Glanzman (Israeli) to take on a charismatic cult leader who has hidden out in the mountains.
cover of Scout #12, showing Big Moishe

Buy Scout #12

During the 1980s, Dutch cartoonist Bernhard Holstrop (aka Willem) put together a collection of short "country studies" by creating illustrations based on photographs from newspapers and magazines and then assembling them together like a collage. The only words in these narratives are words that were in the photos themselves. "Jerusalem" was one such narrative.

Although such work may not seem original, Willem could take creative license in how he redrew any particular image, adding details, removing details, or exaggerating for effect. He made deliberate choices in which photos to recreate (& which to exclude), how many to use in total, how many pages to use, how many illustrations on a given page, the size of specific images (which varies throughout the piece) and the order of the images. Though the totality cannot be casually dismissed as totally anti-Israeli, it cannot be labelled as totally pro-Israeli either. The only clear-cut point-of-view to be found in the piece is at the top of the 3rd page, where Willem juxtaposes the logos of major oil companies.

title page of 'Jerusalem'

1st set of images

2nd set of images

3rd set of images

4th set of images

5th set of images

Buy The New Comics Anthology


David H. said...

i remember that page from the Death of Robin saga. i think part of that subplot in one of the issues was the Joker trying to sell a cruise missile to arab terrorists.

David H. said...

i used to have that Punisher issue along with that Hulk issue that guest starred Sabra.