Is Superman Jewish?, by Harry Brod

Our member Marilyn Katz writes:

I recommend that a reader approach this book as a series of essays: chapters consisting of separate, but loosely related subjects.  I expected to find details about Superman’s Jewish roots.  This topic was covered in detail by page 21.  The remaining 188 pages cover a variety of topics relating to Jews in Europe, Jews coming to America, Jews hoping to improve their lives, and more about Jews and comic books.  I had the feeling that the author wished to include every Jewish reference possible, no matter how tangential.

Douglas Wolk, in says “By the point at which Brod is attempting to gerrymander Isaac Asimov’s prose, science fiction and Marc Chagall’s paintings into the discussion, he’s really pushing it.”

One aspect of this book is useful.  When Brod describes events, he gives geographic references.  I found that the artist and writer Art Spiegelman (referenced below) lived in my neighborhood.

There are several chapters which I found to be of great interest.  I particularly recommend the section on Art Spiegelman researching and writing Maus, describing Spiegelman’s interviews with his father.  The material about Bay Area writer Michael Chabon, is of great appeal to local readers.  Chabon has written several novels, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning  The Amazing Adventures of Kavelier and Clay.  This book tells the fictional story of two young men of European Jewish background who create comic book heroes.

At times the author’s style is overly pedantic. For example, he tells us: “the formal elements of Lissitzk Had Gadya drawings point toward Cubism, with its scattered planes and geometric forms….The geometric forms tie Lissitzky to the Constructivist and Futurist art movements that dominated Russian modern art at the time, including the Vitebsk school.”  In today’s simpler forms of communication such as email, twitter and texting, this is TMI.

At other times the information is well written, in a style reminiscent of a friend telling stories to another friend.