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From Krakow to Krypton: Jews & Comic Books

[1]4,228 words

German translation here [2]

Arie Kaplan
From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books [3]
Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2008

I’d like to follow up my essay [4] about comic books with a review of the book From Krakow to Krypton by Jewish author Arie Kaplan. This book looks at the history of comics from a Jewish perspective, and how Jews and Jewish sensibilities shaped the comic book medium and, by so doing, influenced society.

1933 was a time of change, as Franklin Roosevelt became President of a Depression-ridden America, Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, and a Jew named “Charlie” Gaines (Max Ginsberg), father of later MAD magazine publisher William M. Gaines, essentially “invented” the comic book. Gaines/Ginsberg, looking for a way to support his family in troubled economic times, hit upon the idea of reprinting old comic strips from the “Sunday Funnies” into a “comic book” form. Another innovation was dating the comic book two to three months after it actually hit the newsstands, a practice still mostly in force today, in order to prolong the “shelf-life” of the issue – essentially a mental manipulation of the consumer, to convince them that a months-old issue is “new.” Gaines/Ginsberg was an entrepreneur and no creator, not a writer or artist, but his creation Famous Funnies laid the groundwork for all that would later come.

By the mid-1930s, Detective Comics (DC) was ready to publish comic books with original material, the first “hero” stories. Now we enter the period of Jewish domination of the creative, as opposed to merely the business, end of the comic book business. Thus, two Jews, Jerry Siegel (writer) and Joe Shuster (artist), first came up with the hero “Doctor Occult,” leading up to their most famous and enduring creation, “Superman.” The impact of Superman to modern culture as been such that Siegel has been listed as among the “100 most influential Jews of all time” — no small achievement for a group that has, for better or worse, profoundly affected human history. Kaplan stresses that although the term Superman was originally adapted from Nietzsche’s Ubermensch concept, Nazi ideology later adopted (or so Jews claim) the “Aryan Superman” concept; thus, Kaplan asserts, it sure is ironic that “Superman” was invented by a couple of Jews! Take that, you Nazi swine!

Superman is viewed as having Jewish “overtones,” not only in reference to the “golem story [5]” (which crops up as background for many a Jewish-created comic character) – that is, the monster created by Jews to defend Jews that later turns against its creators – but also because Superman is, analogous to Jews, the alien immigrant, but in Superman’s case from another planet rather than from the ghettoes of Eastern Europe. Further, like Moses, Superman was cast away by his parent(s) for his survival, and, of course, the alien immigrant Superman becomes the “quintessential American,” allegedly just as Jews did. And, Superman defends America and American values; after all, isn’t that what Jews have always done?

Finally, the fact that Clark Kent is bespectacled, bookish, and mild-mannered (sic!) is considered the Jewish stereotype; Kaplan asserts that this is how Siegel and Shuster saw themselves.

Indeed, Superman is seen not only as a modern-day “golem” but also as a would be Jewish Messiah. After all, as Al Jaffee [6] states, the poor Jews are always discriminated against, no matter all the wonderful things they have done for the gentile world, the Arab world, or whatever world they have lived in. Isn’t it expected that this warm, wonderful, wise people, who have given the world so much but have been tormented so much by the haters, isn’t it understandable that they would yearn for a golem or a superman to save them? Of course, during WWII Superman (as well as Marvel’s Captain America) fought the dreaded Nazis, underscoring the Jewish undertones and “Messiah” aspect of the Superman character. I note for the record that the other major DC super-hero, Batman, also has strong Jewish antecedents; however, unlike Clark Kent/Superman, I do not see the Bruce Wayne/Batman character has being as strongly Jewish as is Superman.

What about Marvel comics? The noble Ben Grimm (“the Thing”), college football star and fighter-pilot hero, is Jewish. [7] Further, the orange-skinned monstrous Thing is deemed by Kaplan to be a hero representing the battle of minorities against discrimination because they “look different”; thus, Ben Grimm is a Jewish role model to these minority youths. The guilt-ridden, neurotic hero “Spider-Man” (Peter Parker) is also said to be very Jewish in character, despite being overtly portrayed, in surname and phenotype, as founding stock American. The physically slight, bespectacled, science-loving, straight-A student Parker seems to fit Jewish stereotypes. Further, Parker was bullied by white gentile jock Flash Thompson, a stand in for the brutal, dumb, persecuting white goy, the gentile threatened by Jewish cleverness, who deals with these hidden feelings of inferiority by lashing out like the stupid goy brute that he is. Ostensibly, the Thompson-Parker feud was that of white gentile co-ethnics, but was that really what Stan Lee had in mind? What else was Lee thinking of in those years at Marvel?

Kaplan stresses that Marvel comics and the Lee/Kirby combination introduced noble minority characters such as the Black African Black Panther and the Native American Wyatt Wingfoot. Kaplan writes:

Stan Lee, a strong opponent of prejudice, was instrumental in bringing more African American characters into comic books . . . Marvel had the most diverse dramatis personae of any comic book company in the 1960s.

Of course they did. With guys like Lee and Kirby leading the way, what else would one expect? Kaplan also spends a lot of time dissecting Jack Kirby’s viewpoint. According to Kaplan, Kirby was channeling Jewish experiences and Jewish archetypes in his characters, even if he was (allegedly) not consciously aware of what he was doing. Comic book cartoonist Bogdanove asserts:

It’s possible, if you’re a genius like Jack Kirby, to end up tapping into some kind of Jungian thing, and putting out all kinds of archetypes – and mythic metaphors – that really you might not be aware of, or no one would be aware of until retrospect and reexamination a generation later. And although [comic books] were the lowest rung in the illustration ladder, a volume business and all that sort of stuff, we wouldn’t be thinking of these things as great if they didn’t trigger something, if something in these stories didn’t trigger something deep and real.

Was Kirby channeling racial memory? Not the memory of our race, of course, but his. Amusingly, after his break with Marvel, due to his anger at not being given the same credit as Stan Lee for the creation of the many characters they collaborated on, Kirby was not shy about modeling a distasteful character, Funky Flashman [8], after his co-ethnic Lee.

At this point, a quote from Lee himself, cited in Kaplan’s book, is enlightening:

To me you can wrap all of Judaism up in one sentence, and that is, “Do unto others.” All I tried to do in my stories was show that there’s some innate goodness in the human condition. And there’s always going to be evil; we should always be fighting evil.

That’s quite remarkable (and what would Funky Flashman think?). Lee’s take is not what one would take away from reading Dr. Kevin MacDonald’s trilogy on Jews and group evolutionary strategies; indeed, MacDonald’s points about Jewish self-deception in Separation and Its Discontents seems to apply to Lee’s comments. Lee sounds sincere; he sounds like he really believed what he was saying. But how can anyone familiar with Judaism, and the ethnocentric dual moralism inherent in its teachings and practices, come away with that “Do unto others” as the core (!) of Judaism? Christianity perhaps, but Judaism?

Another interesting Jewish comic book story, that sheds light on “Do unto others,” is that of “Colossal Boy,” from the 30th century, who is Jewish and married to an alien from the planet “Durla.” His parents were concerned about intermarriage, and Kaplan asserts that this story was writer Paul Levitz’s:

. . . way of saying that interfaith relationships will still be an issue in the Jewish community a thousand years from now.

A thousand years! And these are the same people who promote miscegenation for white gentiles! “Do unto others?”

One important point that Kaplan makes is that while Jewish writers and artists created stories that promoted a Jewish worldview and Jewish interests, they usually did so in the context of gentile characters meant to appeal to the general population – a form of comic book crypsis. Thus, the Captain America story (Marvel comics) does reflect Jewish sensibilities – a physically frail (like the Jewish stereotype) young man takes a “super soldier serum” and becomes a muscular superhero fighting the dastardly Nazis! Every 1930s-1940s-era Jewish youth’s dream! Except Captain America is the blonde, blue-eyed, very goyisch Steve Rogers, not a Jew. This issue of crypsis was touched on in Kaplan’s book with a quote by Jewish cartoonist Will Eisner, famed for The Spirit character (emphasis added):

Remember there was a strong threat of assimilation here. Many of the Jewish artists in comics changed their names! . . . They felt if their names changed, it would be easier on them . . . they knew there would be no equity . . . What we’re talking about is a sociological explanation for the things that happened.

Assimilation as a “strong threat” — this from a people promoting multiculturalism and racial miscegenation for white gentiles. “Do unto others?”

Meanwhile, I find it hard to believe all this crypsis was due to discrimination within the industry, when Jews dominated the comics field, and were even publishers. Perhaps they thought that their subversive messages would be better accepted by the gentile readers if the openly Jewish identity of the writers and artists were covered up? In addition, some individuals, like Lee, used pseudonyms because they thought they’d later do “real writing” under their own names, and in some cases, writers and artists produced work under multiple names to make it appear that the companies they worked for were larger and more successful than what was actually the case. Granted, they could have used openly Jewish names for pseudonyms, but, again, it seems the crypsis was aimed not at their co-ethnics in the industry (who were in fact likely involved in ethnic nepotism and networking and knew the ethnicities of all involved), but at the reading public, who may have balked at buying comics if virtually all involved in their creation were Jewish.

Marvel’s commitment to multiculturalism, “anti-racism,” and tolerance continued after Lee stopped writing and Kirby left the company. One important comic line that exemplified Marvel’s agenda is this regard was, and is, the X-Men. Indeed, Marvel’s X-Men were a model of the fight of the “other,” the “different” against discrimination; in the case of the X-Men because they were mutants. Kaplan writes:

. . . the X-men are a metaphor for the ethnic “other” (African Americans, Asians, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, and homosexuals, among others). But Lee and Kirby had just scratched the surface themselves since they rarely employed the “mutant as minority” metaphor. That metaphor that (sic) would be more often employed by later X-scribes like Len Wein and Chris Claremont [Sallis: both Jews].

Putting aside that homosexuals are not an ethnic group, note that Kaplan includes Jews with a variety of non-white racial groups. Kaplan also asserts that the mutant-hunting robots called Sentinels could be a metaphor for “Nazi stormtroopers to Klansmen to rabid McCarthyites.”

The differences of opinion between the pro-human integrationist mutant Professor X, and the anti-human separatist mutant Magneto, a Jew, discussed in my previous essay [9], was supposed to mirror the Martin King/Malcolm X divide.

Kaplan writes:

In 2003, Neil Gaiman wrote the Marvel miniseries 1602, which asks the question: What would Marvel Comics characters have been like had they lived in the year 1602? The series also explores Magneto’s Jewish identity, because if he had been alive then, he would have been at the mercy of the Spanish Inquisition. In the story, the ever-cunning Magneto tries to hide in plain sight by becoming the feared Grand Inquisitor, until his Jewish lineage is discovered and he has to come to terms with who he really is.

Those damn dirty Spaniards and their Inquisition! Clearly, only innocent Jews suffered, and crypsis such as described here was perfectly understandable. Of course.

The same thing was going on at DC comics. Kaplan writes:

And the fact that Broome and Kane were “members of the Tribe” meant that occasional Jewish signifiers filtered into the stories . . . The intergalactic diversity of the Green Lantern Corps is a metaphor for the ethnic diversity Broome wished for all peoples.

All peoples? Including Israel?

Another point that Kaplan stresses is the worldview of Jews as a (non-white) minority group, associated with, and in solidarity with, various other non-white groups such as Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, etc. From Krakow to Krypton does not promote the idea of Jews as another white ethnic group, but, essentially, views Jews as a “people of color,” a minority at odds with the Euro-American white majority. This view, not uncommon among Jews, is reflected in political ads such as this [10], and suggests a “have their cake and eat it too” attitude in which Jews are “persecuted minorities” when it serves their purposes, while passing themselves off as “assimilated white Americans” when the latter identity is more useful.

The Jewish influence in comics was not limited to Marvel and DC. EC Comics, in the 1950s, was a very Jewish oriented company churning out propaganda to fit a specific Jewish worldview. Kaplan gives two excellent examples. The story “Hate!” (written by Al Feldstein) from Shock SuspenStories #5 (Oct.-Nov. 1952) has a character, John Smith, that Kaplan describes as “ultra-WASPy” (is Kaplan mocking old stock Americans?) and who engages in anti-Semitic “hate crimes.” However, Smith’s mother admits that John was adopted and is really ethnically Jewish. Smith’s anti-Semitic friends turn against him, and viciously attack him. This allegedly teaches us all a lesson about the futility of “hate.”

Another revealing story was the “morality tale” (Kaplan’s words) “Judgment Day” (also written by Feldstein) from Weird Fantasy #18 (March-April 1953). Here, a human astronaut named “Tarlton” goes to a planet called “Cybrinia” to assess whether that planet’s robot inhabitants are worthy to join Earth’s so-called “Galactic Republic” (an interplanetary new world order?). Tarlton rejects this society because the “orange robots” discriminate against the “blue robots.” At the end, Tarlton finally removes his helmet, and, lo and behold, he is a handsome, dignified Black man! Kaplan writes:

Gaines and Feldstein [Sallis note: both Jews] were clearly aware that since many children read comics, they had a moral responsibility to provide images of minorities that weren’t degrading or cruel.

To put it in plainer language: these individuals, even in the 1950s (!), were already using comic books to brainwash American youth to accept multiracialism and multiculturalism.

Despite this propaganda, comics took a down-turn in the “intolerant” 1950s, as they were linked to juvenile delinquency through a book Seduction of the Innocent, by psychiatrist Dr. Fredric Wertham [11], whom Kaplan identifies as being Jewish. If this ethnic designation is correct, then it is yet another example of that remarkable Jewish tendency to be leaders on all sides of an issue – in this instance, both the comic book writers, artists, and publishers, as well as the leading national critic of comic books.

In the winter of 1954, the Hartford Courant published an editorial labeling comics as “the filthy stream that flows from the gold-plated sewers of New York” – with Kaplan speculating that “New York” was a “code phrase” for “Jewish businesses.” There were congressional hearings, some comics were seized by police, and the comic book Jews, and their gentile hanger-ons, decided that to save the industry they would need to police themselves, agreeing to a “Comics Code Authority” which censored comic books from depicting “vampires, zombies, werewolves, and ghouls” (an injunction which lasted until the American “monster craze” of the early-mid 1970s, after which Marvel published a number of titles featuring these previously banned subjects), and which also drew sharp lines between positive depictions of authority figures and very negative portrayals of “evil.”

Of course, the 1960s brought a comic book resurgence, the so-called “Silver Age” (“Golden Age” being the pioneering period of Superman and Batman, while the “Bronze Age” commenced after Kirby left Marvel) centered on the near decade of creative triumphs of Lee and Kirby at Marvel. In the 1960s though, Jewish influences were more cryptic and covert. That would soon change.

As Jewish power in America skyrocketed in the 1970s, the Jewish influence in comic books became more overt, changing, as Kaplan suggests, from “subtext” to “text.” Openly Jewish characters and Jewish storylines became more frequent from the 1970s to today, with the treatment of X-Men villain and Holocaust survivor Magneto becoming more and more favorable, and with him being more and more openly identified as Jewish.

Important in this process were the contributions of Chris Claremont, he of the Jewish mother and Israeli kibbutz experiences, who took the cryptic “implicit Jewishness” of Lee and Kirby into a more in-your-face “explicit Jewishness” that, as MacDonald’s work suggests, always seems to follow increasing Jewish confidence about their power and status in a society in which they have achieved great success. Claremont, who described his writing career as being defined by “Cute babe, miniskirt, and Uzi” (based on an experience with a female IDF member in Tel Aviv) not only stressed the Jewishness of Magneto but of female X-Men member Kitty Pryde, a character he “readily identified with.”

Even “Mr. Implicit” Kirby was not immune to this process, although he never reached the level of Claremont and other Jewish writers. When Kirby moved to DC comics, he started his Fourth World/New Gods series (as both writer and artist), which Kaplan reads as having stronger Jewish overtones, with moralistic heroes fighting totalitarian dictators in apocalyptic settings. Thus, with increased Jewish power in the 1970s, Kirby, who was always more comfortable sublimating Jewish concepts into more subtle forms, became more and more comfortable in more overtly integrating the Jewish experience in his comics.

Also interesting are comments by Paul Kupperberg, in which he states that he is proud to be Jewish, he’s not going to be quiet about it, and think about all that his people have endured (at whose hands?). There seems to be an angry in-your-face ethnic defiance here; indeed, the age of crypsis is over.

Further, in the last few decades, we have seen an explosion of “independent comics” and related small “independent companies,” many of which have strong Jewish influences and openly Jewish characters. Sometimes these Jews make comics about themselves and their own lives, such as Harvey Pekar [12] in American Splendor, all with strong Jewish influences.

Another Jewish-oriented “underground” comic was World War 3 Illustrated, started in 1979 by Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman, “committed to the pursuit of social justice.” One fascinating story in issue 18 (1993), was Jew Black Jew Black Jew Black Jew Black Jew Black, by New Yorker illustrator Erik Drooker, which Kaplan tells us “compared the struggles of Jews in Nazi Germany to the current struggles of ghettoized African Americans.” Kaplan quotes Drooker’s take on the story:

Jewish people have “made it” in America. For the time being they are treated as honorary whites – but this can always change . . . Meanwhile, they find themselves pitted against African-Americans who are totally fed up with the double standard of justice. I wonder what the future holds . . . will we see each other as potential allies – or be blinded by rage?

That’s fascinating. First, Drooker doesn’t really consider Jews to be “white” – and holds this in common with many “white racial nationalists.” Despite having “made it” in America, Drooker considers the Jews’ position to be uncertain – after all, another wave of anti-Semitism may be just around the corner, in which “they” will strip Jews of their “honorary white” status and begin the persecutions. Drooker considers blacks to be the victims, not the beneficiaries, of racial double standards. Finally, and most importantly, I see this as a call for a Jewish-black alliance, renewing the one forged in the “Civil Rights” movement. Any alliance of course is always formed against a real or potential enemy. Which enemy is the target of Drooker’s proposed Jewish-black alliance, I wonder? A purely rhetorical question, since we all know the answer to that.

Jewish influences of course continue, and increase, as comic books are adapted to the movies, Hollywood long being a Jewish preserve. Kaplan writes:

And with Jewish directors like Bryan Singer ad Brett Ratner handling the X-Men franchise, one shouldn’t be surprised that the Jewish subtext inherent in the idea of “mutantkind” has been preserved in the characters’ journey to the silver screen.

No, I do not think any of us are surprised that Jewish directors use their position to promote ethnic interests. It’s good that someone named “Kaplan” openly admits it, though.

There are of course even more direct comic book depictions of Jews’ Nazi-era experiences. For example, Kaplan also describes the comic phenomenon Maus [13], used to inculcate guilt over the Holocaust, in which not only were Jews depicted as mice and Nazis as cats, but Poles were depicted as pigs – the Jewish hatred of Slavs, a subtext of much of Solzhenitsyn’s work, possibly coming out there.

Indeed, throughout Kaplan’s book, it is hard not to discern the chip-on-the-shoulder anti-gentile ethnic hostility that served as motivation for many of these Jewish comic book writers, artists, and publishers. For example, Will Eisner’s Fagin the Jew gives the “back story” of that character – a victim of anti-Semitism of course! Eisner admitted that one motivation was his anger at Charles Dickens for helping to promote prejudice against Jews with the Fagin character.

And so it goes. More and more openly Jewish characters have come to the fore, including, but not limited to, Ragman, Reuben Flagg, Seraph, and GoGirl. The need for crypsis and subtext is over — why hide when you rule the roost? – although Drooker would argue that the next pogrom is just around the corner. Nothing like a little paranoia to justify considering oneself an oppressed minority while being at the very top, the pinnacle, of the human energy pyramid.

Indeed, the minority mindset is evident with so many Jewish comic writers and artists promoting openly Jewish characters, similar to what one would expect from blacks, Hispanics, or Asians. I am unaware, for example, of Irish, Italian, or Slavic descended comic book writers and artists specifically creating characters of their ethnicity to promote a particular ethnic worldview. That Jews continue to do so, despite their power and status in modem American society, speaks volumes of their “assimilation,” or the lack thereof.

In the end, Kaplan praises the Jewish pioneers of comics as heroes, and to him they are. If From Krakow to Krypton could be summed up in one sentence it is this: Jews were and are dominant in the comics business, and they have used their position to advance Jewish interests, including deconstructing the old traditional White America by a pro-minority promotion of multiculturalism.

That’s the sort of thing one may expect to be said by “far-right haters,” the sort of thing that would make squat Armenoid astrophysicists scream vulgarities and storm out of meetings. But it wasn’t said by a “far-right hater,” it was the subject of a book by “Arie Kaplan” – a man proud of his people and their moral vision as manifested in comics. The problem is that this moral vision is destructive to the survival and well being of Western Man. Indeed, this is the whole problem: the incompatibility of two very different, bioculturally distinct peoples. One cannot, in the end, blame Jews for promoting their interests and for Kaplan being proud of that, but, likewise, one cannot blame Westerners for recognizing this profound incompatibility, and calling for peaceful separation. Cannot we have our own moral vision of which we can be proud?

Thus, it would be a mistake, as some racial nationalists make, to ascribe all of the negative memes described here to malice. I doubt that most of the Jewish writers and artists Kaplan discusses actually created the stories they did out of an intentional desire to do harm to white gentiles. Instead, it’s likely they are sincere (if self-deceptive), although motivated by a desire to promote Jewish interests. And here is where the problem develops, because, simply, Jewish interests are incompatible with white gentile interests. Even if there is no active, intentional desire to harm white gentiles, the mere act of pursuing Jewish interests will harm white gentile interests, for example, through the promotion of diversity, multiculturalism, pro-minority memes, alliances with other minorities to increase minority influence, and the inculcation of guilt over “racism” and “anti-Semitism.” The two populations, Jewish and white gentile, flourish in radically different ecological niches, and the transformation of America into a niche where Jews can prosper will, in due course, make the country increasingly hostile to white gentiles. No malice need be ascribed to anyone in this, merely conflicting interests.

Is not our survival moral and an intrinsic good? If Jews are concerned, understandably, with their own survival and if, as Stan Lee asserts, the fundamental core of Judaism is “Do unto others,” surely they should have no problem with white gentiles promoting white racial preservation?