Jewish Images in the Comics: A Visual History

Fantagraphics Books  2012

 

If books were candy bars, this encyclopedic treat would be a Chunky, both for its size and shape, as well as its ingredients: a savory assortment of information mixed together into one filling bite. Using examples from more than one hundred fifty comics, this six-by-six-inch brick of a book illustrates how Jews and Jewish themes have been depicted in comics over the years. Using the same format he employed in his earlier two books, Black Images in the Comics and The Comics Go to Hell, Strömberg divides the book into pertinent themes and then chooses a selection of comics that illustrates each topic. There is some overlap in the themes, but there are enough examples of comics to adequately cover the chapters on History, Culture, Anti-Semitism, The Shoah, Israel, Celebrities, Golem, Comics Culture, Kosher Comics, and Jewish Characters. Each comic is represented by one page, panel, or image, and accompanied by a short essay. Because Jews have been so undeniably instrumental to the development and success of comics, there is much ground to cover in one book. Strömberg does an admirable job, and this book will stand the test of time to become a useful resource. The usual suspects are included, such as Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman, and Harvey Pekar, as well as the many creators of superheroes, such as Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. French author Joann Sfar (The Rabbi’s Cat) gets attention, as does Israeli Rutu Modan (Exit Wounds), among many other graphic novelists and artists from around the world, giving the reader a very comprehensive guide to the topic.

The book could use additional editing in order to neaten up some awkward sentences and grammatical errors. The small format of the book makes it unique in a market saturated with books about graphic novels, but that same small size makes it difficult to fully read the text within the comics. Despite these minor complaints, this book should be required reading for anybody interested in studying how Jews have been portrayed in the very medium that they helped shape and nurture. Rather than reading cover-to-cover, it is best to dip into this volume and experience a few bites at a time. An annotated list of sources and an index round out the book.



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