Jew­ish Comix Anthol­o­gy, Vol­ume 1: A Col­lec­tion of Tales, Sto­ries and Myths Told and Retold in Com­ic Book Form

Steven M. Berg­son, ed.
  • Review
By – June 1, 2015

Shar­ing a long­time pas­sion for sequen­tial Judaica,” Berg­son has gath­ered his trea­sured find­ings and solic­i­ta­tions of forty-one graph­ic ren­di­tions of Jew­ish folk­lore, plus orig­i­nal sto­ries, into one unique vol­ume. He show­cas­es artists and writ­ers over a span of almost sev­en decades, from 1946 to 2014. Pro­duced with care on glossy stock, there is a vari­ety of work in full col­or and black-and-white, with many moods and many styles, includ­ing humor, hor­ror, won­der, and wis­dom in abstract and lit­er­al illus­tra­tion. Joe Infurnari’s Workin’Girl Golem” is one page long and tells a sto­ry in twen­ty-four frames with hard­ly any text; Joe Kubert retells the more well-known medieval Golem sto­ry in ten pages (the longest sto­ry in the book) and sets it in a 1944 Prague ghet­to with many frames and tra­di­tion­al com­ic text dia­logue in each. The major­i­ty of tales are adap­ta­tions of folklore. 

Some meld­ings of text and design, like Miri­am Libicki’s Flock of Angels,” are giv­en tra­di­tion­al peri­od set­tings with perky mod­ern dia­logue and cre­ative images which open new paths into Tal­mu­dic, midrashic, and folk tales and songs. Oth­er sto­ries have been cast in total­ly new sur­round­ings. Steve Sheinkin’s Rab­bi Har­vey proves a point to snobs in the Wild West when he feeds their food to his new suit. Nomi Kane’s Ishtar, who would like to be a mete­or in the night sky, wears jeans and play­ful­ly calls the winged man who comes down from the sky and falls in love with her Cap­tain Kirk. Berg­son includes entries by some of the more well-known names — Art Spiegel­man, Robert Crumb, Har­vey Pekar, and Will Eis­ner — but reprints and excerpts con­sti­tute less than one-third of the book. Many tal­ent­ed women are rep­re­sent­ed among the new­er artists. As for audi­ence, select­ed comics, such as Art Spiegelman’s Prince Roost­er” may also eas­i­ly tick­le chil­dren, but the pres­ence of graph­ic vio­lent tales, such as the“Chaste Maid” who removes her eye­balls when the city ruler takes her against her will, reserves this anthol­o­gy for adults and old­er teens. As in any col­lec­tion of short pieces, some retellings com­bine sto­ry and art work more suc­cess­ful­ly than oth­ers to cap­ture depth and bring new insights. The arrange­ment of sto­ries is a mys­tery when read­ing straight through, but there is much here to explore and delight.

Relat­ed Content:

Sharon Elswit, author of The Jew­ish Sto­ry Find­er and a school librar­i­an for forty years in NYC, now resides in San Fran­cis­co, where she shares tales aloud in a local JCC preschool and vol­un­teers with 826 Valen­cia to help stu­dents write their own sto­ries and poems.

Discussion Questions