Up, Up and Oy Vey!: How Jew­ish His­to­ry, Cul­ture, and Val­ues Shaped the Com­ic Book Superhero

  • Review
By – December 16, 2011

It may not be true in all cas­es, but it’s a pret­ty good rule of thumb. If the word man’ appears at the end of someone’s name you can draw one of two con­clu­sions: A) They’re Jew­ish, as in Gold­man, Feld­man, or Lip­man: or B) They’re a super­hero, as in Super­man, Bat­man, or Spi­der- Man,” (Zed­dy Lawrence, a tele­vi­sion writer). This is the open­ing quote in the intro­duc­to­ry chap­ter of Up, Up, and Oy Vey! How Jew­ish His­to­ry, Cul­ture, and Val­ues Shaped the Com­ic Book Super­hero by Sim­cha Wein­stein. This quote typ­i­fies the whim­sy of this delight­ful tale of the cre­ators of the super­heroes and their char­ac­ters. This short book includes col­or­ful graph­ic nov­el sequences from Cap­tain Mar­vel, The Fan­tas­tic Four, The Incred­i­ble Hulk, The Amaz­ing Spi­der-Man, and The Uncan­ny X‑Men, address­ing such issues as the Holo­caust, the yahrzeit can­dle, and kvetch­ing. The book has its seri­ous side as well. Wein­stein describes how anti-Semi­tism in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry severe­ly lim­it­ed the work oppor­tu­ni­ties of Jew­ish writ­ers and artists. Com­ic book writ­ing pro­vid­ed them with a vehi­cle to uti­lize their artis­tic skills and engage in tikkum olam (repair­ing the world) through their won­drous super­hero golems. It’s a per­fect gift for young or old com­ic book aficionados. 

Sim­cha Wein­stein holds a bachelor’s degree in film his­to­ry from Man­ches­ter Met­ro­pol­i­tan Uni­ver­si­ty in Eng­land and is a for­mer film and tele­vi­sion loca­tion scout. He went through a life-alter­ing par­a­digm shift,” stud­ied at a yeshi­va, and became a rab­bi. Cur­rent­ly he is the rab­bi of both Pratt Insti­tute and Long Island Col­lege Hos­pi­tal. Illus­tra­tions, index, notes.

Car­ol Poll, Ph.D., is the retired Chair of the Social Sci­ences Depart­ment and Pro­fes­sor of Soci­ol­o­gy at the Fash­ion Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy of the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. Her areas of inter­est include the soci­ol­o­gy of race and eth­nic rela­tions, the soci­ol­o­gy of mar­riage, fam­i­ly and gen­der roles and the soci­ol­o­gy of Jews.

Discussion Questions