Cohn’s Comic Corner: number 1

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Readers of the Jewish light know my lifelong obsession with comics. As a child, I had over 1,200 Golden Age comics in neat piles on my window sill in our Westgate apartment in my beloved college town. I knew most of the stories by heart and my big brother Arlan would amaze the neighborhood kids by reading a character’s words and then quote the answer and describe the story.

Welcome to Cohn’s comedy corner

My parents didn’t like my constant reading of comics. My mom warned that “reading this colorful print is bad for the eyes.” The comics have been ridiculed as a waste of time and a distraction from homework.

An almost fatal blow against comics was dealt with the publication of the book “Seduction of the Innocent” by German-American psychiatrist Fredric Wertham. He attacked the comics as a “corrupter of youth,” which he said should either be banned outright or heavily censored.

Cover of Crime Does Not Pay # 42 (1945) Lev Gleason. Cover by Charles Biro. Public domain

The comic book industry defensively created the Comic Book Code, which eliminated content on violent and bloody crime, sexual references, and “foul language.” I remember comics like “Crime Doesn’t Pay” where words like “damn” were used in their stories.

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Wertham also alleged that Batman and Robin were gay lovers and that Wonder Woman and her cohorts were lesbians or masochists. These concerns seem strange today, as issues of sexuality are discussed and validated more openly. The hysteria against comics paralleled the attacks on rock and roll in the mid-1950s. Needless to say, rock and roll and comics are here to stay.

Today, eight decades after “Famous Funnies,” recognized as the country’s first comic book in 1934, comics, cartoons and graphic novels have finally earned the respect they deserve. DC and Marvel superhero-based blockbuster films are making billions around the world – a far cry from the outrageous $ 130 that DC paid to Depression-era Jewish boys Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, for the exclusive rights to their Superman character.

Characters to the rescue

A recent the Wall Street newspaper Eric Schwartzel’s article reports that the comic-based movie “Spider-Man, No Way Home,” starring Tom Holland, “came to Hollywood’s rescue this weekend.” The article notes that the film, which “opened at a record-breaking $ 253 million at the box office this weekend,” reverses the pandemic slump in Hollywood.

In addition to his role in saving Hollywood, not a week goes by without a new book or lengthy article on the dominance of Jewish comic book and cartoon writers and illustrators. Biographies of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (Spider-Man), Bob Kane (Batman), the aforementioned Siegel and Schuster (Superman) and many more appear regularly in prestigious publications. Recently, I reviewed a superb book by comic book scholar Roy Schwartz titled “Is Superman Circumcised?” – The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero. This book received the prestigious international Diagram Prize from the Booksellers, the UK’s oldest publishing house, for “Most Unusual Book Title of 2021”.

Most recently, Roy Schwartz published an article for HBO titled “Why Green Lantern is One of the Most Jewish Superheroes of All,” in which he finds connections between the hero’s signature lamp and the Eternal Light in synagogues. .

Editorials

In addition to the comics and comics, there are one-panel editorial designs, like those of Herbert Block (Herblock), of which Washington post cartoons have upset Richard Nixon throughout his career, and the St. Louis Post-Expedition caricatures of Daniel R. Fitzpatrick, whose pen spit the Axis Powers during WWII. Even graphic novels and underground comics, once looked down upon by mainstream writers, are viewed with respect in “serious” publications.

Given the interest in comics and cartoons, this new feature, Cohn’s Comics Corner, will highlight Jewish news and features on the subject. For example, last week the prestigious New York Times Book Review, published two side-by-side reviews of comic book books: “All of the Marvels – A Journey to the Ends of the Biggest Story Ever Told” by Douglas Wolk (Penguin, $ 28) and “American Comics” by Jeremy Dauber (Norton, $ 35). Critic Junot Diaz says, “If Western popular culture has a common idiom, a force that binds us all together, the stories in the Marvel comics are probably these. “

In Dauber’s book, reviewer Michael Townsend says the volume “‘American Comics’ is an entertaining and richly detailed comic book story.” Of the two books, Dauber’s is almost encyclopedic in scope, spanning all platforms, including editorial cartoons like Thomas Nast’s, newspaper comics, and cartoons. Dauber’s book, like many volumes, is a bit too wordy and suffers from a lack of illustrations. Hopefully the next editions will fill this gap.

Stay tuned for more future hot news on comics, a medium that’s finally getting the respect it long deserves.

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