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Goodreads Israel Comix Bookshelf

Sunday, January 13, 2008


In Jan. 1973, Yaakov Kirschen's comic strip Dry Bones debuted in The Jerusalem Post. It has become one of the oldest & well-known continuously-published English-language syndicated comic strips about Jewish & Israeli life. Although the artwork is simplistic and often consists of little more than a talking-head monologue or a dialogue between two talking heads, it is the sharp wit and timely obersvations that have gained it a worldwide following. Since 2005, Kirschen has published his new cartoons on his blog in full color, in addition to selected "classic" ones. His website allows him to comment on his cartoons and he welcomes comments from visitors to his site, as well.

cartoon about the situation in Sderot

Buy What a Country!: Dry Bones Looks at Israel

Buy Trees: The Green Testament (also by Yaakov Kirschen)

In Italy, a series of fumetti books by Roberto Raviola (aka Magnus), Lo Sconsciuto, told the story of a fictional mercenary. The following pages, which are self-explanatory, are from book 6 - Vacanze a Zahl.

Israeli fighter jets on a mission

the missiles are fired

Arab women and a girl, oblivious to the impending attack

the bombs hit their targets

outrage at the destruction and loss of life

One of the superheroes introduced in the '70s by Marvel was The Living Mummy. However, the character didn't become very popular and not many stories were published. In the first few pages of the first story, The Living Mummy (a seemingly Egyptian archetype) encounters a pair of Israeli soldiers. Although it would seem like a modern version of Egyptian-Israeli conflict, that isn't the case. The mummified hero turns out to be African, the leader of an enslaved tribe, giving him a historical connection to the Jews and, thus, Israelis. Though at first, the Mummy seems ready to retaliate against the soldiers (who felt threatened by his monstrous appearance), the Mummy changes his mind after seeing the female soldier close up (Supernatural Thrillers #5, Aug. 1973).

the Mummy happens upon two Israeli soldiers who are having a romantic interlude

Buy Supernatural Thrillers #5

In another story ("A Choice of Lions", Supernatural Thrillers #10 Dec. 1974), the Living Mummy finds himself stepping into the middle of a one-sided battle between a female Israeli soldier and a tank. Recalling his own need to prove himself as a warrior long ago, the Mummy helps even the odds, allowing the lone Israeli soldier to blow up the tank and pass her "test".
the Israeli soldier is losing the battle against an Arab tank, but then the Mummy shows up

Buy Supernatural Thrillers #10

In 1972, Israeli cartoonist Dudu Geva published a short English-language cartoon called "Super Golda" in the publication Lillit, which was reprinted via the Jewish Student Press-Service. Rather than duking it out with dangerous super-powered criminals, Super-Golda-Meir must battle ... intellectuals who criticize her government policy!
splash page of the SuperGolda story

Super Golda Meir must defend her policies (from criticism by academics) with slogans

"Introducing Mind-Wave and His Think Tank!" (Daredevil #133, May 1976) guest-starred real-life Israeli celebrity (& alleged super-psychic) Uri Geller.
cover of Daredevil #133

Buy Daredevil #133

"The Warning of the Wonder Twins" (Super Friends #7, Oct. 1977) introduced the Israeli superhero Seraph, a walking Biblical stereotype, seen here teamed up with Superman, whom he rescues from a gravity field.
Seraph explains his abilities to Superman

Buy Super Friends #7

The following year, 15-year old Uri Fink wrote & illustrated the short-lived Israeli superhero series Sabraman.
cover of the first issue of Sabraman

He also published an illustrated mini-biography. Though the writing and artwork of both are understandably amateurish, Fink's skill would improve over the years and he would become of the most successful & well-known names in the Israeli comics scene.
young Uri Fink's interest in comic books continues to grow

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

Monday, January 7, 2008


During the '90s, a Christian anthology of comix stories (Aida-Zee #1, Nate Butler, 1990) included a story featuring Bukki, Warrior of Ancient Israel - a Samson-like man of strength who helped defend Israel from the Philistines circa 1050 B.C.E.
Bukki reads the 'Shema' passage on a scroll and is then attacked

Buy Aida Zee #1

In one of the storylines in the syndicated Dick Tracy daily comic strip, Dick teams up with Israeli policeman Detective Stern.
Dick talk to Detective Stern on an airplane

In a 2-part Green Arrow story ("...And Not a Drop to Drink", Green Arrow #57-58, Feb.-Mar. 1992), the title character assists Mossad agents who have travelled to the U.S. on the trail of terrorists who have stolen radiocative material.
Green Arrow tries to learn more about the stolen radioactive iodine from the Mossad agents

Buy Green Arrow #57 or #58

The Israeli military was depicted in both a serious and a humorous way during the 1990s.

In The New Two-Fisted Tales #1 (1993), legendary underground cartoonist Spain Rodriguez tells the story of the rescue of airline hostages in Entebbe, Uganda, based upon a script by Jessica Steinberg.
introductory panel for 'Raid on Entebbe'

the soldiers quickly leave the Entebbe airport, along with the freed hostages and their wounded colonel

Buy The New Two-Fisted Tales #1

In "Fiddler on My Face" (Cud #5, Dec. 1993), author-illustrator Terry LaBan puts himself into a parodied version of the Broadway show Fiddler on the Roof, itself based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem. In this tale, the villagers of the shtetl aren't at the mercy of Coassacks during a pogrom, but instead are saved by a heavily-armed modern Israeli paratrooper. Though unexplained, it's probable that he arrived through a rift in the space-time continuum.
Yossi Ben Moshe arrives in the shtetl

Faced with the impending threat of an onslaught of sword-wieleding soldiers on horseback, Yossi Ben Moshe of the Elite Israeli Commandos guns them all down, leaving a mess of corpses on the ground.
Ben Moshe salughters the attacking Cossacks

Threatened no longer, Terry decides to immigrate to the Promised Land - not Israel, but the United States! However, he soon discovers that it isn't quite as promising as he was led to believe.
Terele rejects Israel, choosing to go to America instead

Buy Cud #5

Four Israeli superhero characters were introduced during the '90s. As with the ones of previous decades, the stories they were used for tended to be formulaic and uninteresting.

Among these superheroes were :

Golani (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #53, Feb. 1994)
Ariella transforms into Golani to assist the turtles

Masada, who hears voices in her head - the voices of those gave their lives in the name of Judaism, from whom she dervies her super-powers (Youngblood Strikefile #6, Aug. 1994)
Deborah's nights are filled with the agony of multiple voices and difficult choices

Buy Youngblood : Strikefile #6

Sentinel, a member of an international team of superheroes called U.N.Force (UNForce #5, 1993)
'saved by the bell' - Sentinel flees from a confrontation with Palestinians to learn about his new mission

Buy UNForce #5

The Hayoth - a team of Israeli superheroes, composed of Golem, Dybbuk, Judith and Ramban (The Spectre #15, Feb. 1994)
The Hayoth reluctantly give protection to an Arab terrorist

Buy Spectre #15

In The New Warriors #58 (Apr. 1995), Sabra is assigned bodyguard duty for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin during a trip to the U.S. to negotiate for peace with Syria's Hafez Assad. This time, Sabra's seemingly irrational behavior (attempting to kill the leaders of both countries) is caused by her being brainwashed during an operation.

cover of New Warriors #58

This may be the only depiction of Yitzhak Rabin in an American comic book.
Sabra rides with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, en route to the UN buildiing

Buy New Warriors #58

Although, there were no Jewish characters in any of the Star Trek films or television shows, one of the Star Trek comic series - Starfleet Academy - had a half-Jewish, half-Muslim character named Kamilah Goldstein. However, she was killed in the 5th issue. The first pages of 6th issue (May 1997), show her funeral in Jerusalem.
the funeral procession includes Jews, Muslims, an Andorian, and a Frerengi

Buy Stat Trek : Starfleet Academy #6

The miniseries The Nostradamus Chronicles (1997) attempted to show, in pictures & words, how many of Nostradamus' predictions have seemed to come true. Among the verses chosen is Quatrain III verse 97, which seems to predict Israeli statehood.
summary of the history of Israeli statehood, with a reproduction of a photo of Jews celebrating after the partition vote

Buy Nostradamus Chronicles : 1917-1945

In Japan, the "godfather of manga" (Osamu Tezuka) serialized one of his lengthy (over 1000 pages) masterpieces Adolf ni Tsugu. For its English translation, the story was divided into 5 books. The major themes dealt with in the story are militarism, racism, and nationalism. Specifically, it examines how these ideologies can become dangerous, particularly when they are combined, as was the case with both Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany (the settings for the first 4 books). It might have been easy for Tezuka to conclude that the modern equivalent of those regimes is the state of Israel.
Tezuka's brief recounting of Israeli statehood and its aftermath

However, Tezuka seems to have chosen not to go that route. Instead he aimed his critical pen at Arab nationalism, comparing the anti-Semitism of its extremist proponents with that of their Nazi predecessors.
Adolf Kaufman, ex-Nazi, is worried that the Arabs might be making the same mistakes that Germans had made by raising their youth to hate 'the enemy'

Buy Adolf : 1945 and All that Remains (book 5)

Desert Storm Journal combined docu-drama with historical facts. In its 2nd issue (Dec. 1991), the main character - an American journalist - finds himself in Israel where his daughter is working as a volunteer during the days of Iraqui bombardment.
introductory page to Desert Storm Journal #2

In this simplistic, pre-Palestine 2-page piece, comics journalist Joe Sacco depicts the actions of Palestinians cheering the bombing of Israeli targets by Iraqui scuds, while transcribing an excerpt from Menachem Begin's book The Revolt. By doing so, Sacco tries to demonstrate that the Palestinians of the present are reacting in the same ways that the Jews of pre-1948 Israel did prior to statehood. This piece was reprinted in War Junkie : Illustrated Tales of Combat, Depression & Rock 'n Roll (Fantagraphics, 1995, p. 120-121).
Sacco gives quotes from the book 'The Revolt'

Buy War Junkie : Illustrated Tales of Combat, Depression & Rock 'n Roll

Although Sacco's Palestine miniseries sold terribly in its comic book form (Sacco claims that it was Fantagraphics' worst-selling title at the time), his publisher decided to publish the entire 9-issue run and - later - republsuhed the content in 2 trade paperbacks subtitled In the Gaza Strip and A Nation Occupied. These books fared considerably better, both critically and financially. A collected edition was later published and last year a hardcover "special" edition with added content (e.g. original artwork) was also produced. The story "Hebron" from the issue of Palestine was reprinted in The new Smithsonian book of comic-book stories : from Crumb to Clowes (edited by Bob Callahan, Smithsonian Books, 2004).

Among the recognition Sacco has won for his work on Palestine are the VPRO Grand Prix of Harlem Award, the Firecracker Award and the American Book Award.

According to a Worldcat search performed on June 18th, 2008, at least 837 OCLC libraries (or library systems) own at least 1 copy of Palestine (the collected edition).

In this text-heavy page from Palestine #3, Sacco compares illegal Palestinaian homebuilding to illegal Israeli homebuilding.
Sami shows Sacco an area of confiscated land

Buy Palestine : The Special Edition

Harvey Pekar and his wife Joyce Brabner recounted the period during which Harvey battled cancer in the graphic biography Our Cancer Year (Four Walls Eight Windows, 1994). During that year, Joyce travelled to the Middle East to meet with idealistic youth who were trying to work towards peace. She ended up being in Israel during the first Gulf War.
Dana and Zamir argue about what Saddam Hussein is doing and threatening to do

Buy Our Cancer Year

Author-illustrator Peter Kuper (formerly of Cleveland) spent a year in Israel when he was a child. In his short piece "Promised Land" (Bleeding Heart #2, March 1992), he reflects on how his views and feelings towards the state have evolved.
Kuper recalls his boyhood apprehension about the 'dangerous Arabs'

Buy Bleeding Heart #2