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Chanukah: A Time For Superheroes


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Doctor Leonard Samson, better known as “Doc Samson,â€? strides down the corridor and into the classroom, massive muscles rippling beneath his skin-tight red costume. He sports a long mane of hair, just like his biblical namesake (except the real Samson’s hair wasn’t green, presumably).

Today, Doc Samson, taking a welcome break from his crime fighting, is visiting the children at his old Hebrew school to tell them all about Chanukah. It’s a very special occasion, so Doc Samson’s wearing a navy kippa along with his skin-tight red costume. The teacher, an aging bubbe named Mrs. Klein, proudly introduces our colorful hero: “I was his teacher here at the yeshiva when he was a very little boy.â€?

Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, author of Up, Up and Oy Vey!: How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero explains how superheroes can make the story of Chanukah come alive and sets the stage for a radio show you may want to listen for:

I just contributed to a Public Radio International special called “Chanukah: A Time for Superheroes,â€? set to air during the holiday season. Writers Michael (Kavalier and Clay) Chabon, Neil (Sandman) Gaiman, Stan (Spider-Man) Lee and The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Goldberg explore the legends of ancient and modern Israel that have shaped today’s Jewish psyche. The show also features an audio voyage to Joe (Sgt. Rock) Kubert’s cartooning school in New Jersey, where Irwin (the Green Lantern) Hasen teaches, and visits with Joker creator Jerry Robinson. These genre celebrities recount the story of Chanukah through their own experiences. And sure enough, many of them cite biblical archetypes as the inspiration for their comic book creations.

  1. True story: When I was a kid, the best (and, I might argue, only) reason I tolerated Hebrew school was because I was in the drama club, which put on a play for Hannukkah in the winter and Purim in the spring. Because I usually attended Wednesday evenings, I always had to be in the bumper sequences, which had the smaller casts, until one Purim play I was conscripted to play Ahashveros as a caricature of Reagan.

    When I was, ohhh, 11, I think, I tried my hand at writing a Hannukkah play, where I grafted the Marvel heros onto the standard cast, with scenes in the Marvel bullpen for the bumper sequences, which included Stan Lee and Jim Shooter. There was at least one female Marvel editor I threw in there… Jo Duffy? This is 19 years ago, folks. Were I a little more versed at the time I would have tried to make it just the classic Jewish creators, but at the time I was only two years into my collecting career. Probably best that it was never fully produced (I think some of the song parodies I worked out made it into other productions), ’cause the temple might have gotten sued. Now there’s a stereotype inversion.

  2. quote “And sure enough, many of them cite biblical archetypes as the inspiration for their comic book creations…”

    But the Jewish audience would be a small percentage of the total comic book audience.

    The mostly Christian raised other comic book readers would share some of the biblical archetypes David – Samson – etc.

    This connection would seem obvious to some of us.

    But I say it as maybe the new youth readers of today have FORGOTTEN (or never knew) their Christian or Jewish heritage of heroes i.e. the STRONG caring for, protecting the WEAK.

    Comic books put that great concept into their special form…

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