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Friday, November 17, 2006

Move over X-Men,here come the Jewish Super Heroes

I think, Earl Krugel, being a hero, as well as a man with a fine sense of humour, would find the humour in this story, and the value of trying to reach Jewish Youth about heroism in a non-dogmatic way.

-- THE X-MEN, for a film that begins in a concentration camp and ends on Ellis Island, is not big on Jewish values, although there's an odd comparison struck between Jews and another hunted, persecuted minority, super-powered mutants.
Based on the Marvel comic book of the same name, “The X-Men” addresses the problems of a specific group of Super-Heroes who, by accident of birth, have gained extraordinary powers in what we are told is “the next step in human evolution.”
The notion that a series of first-generation mutants would spontaneously develop such varied abilities as walking through walls, weather control and magnetism strains credibility. Still, it makes for a richness and variety that makes oddly flattering the heavy-handed analogy between Jews and mutants.
That comparison would seem to be the primary motivation of “Magneto,” (pronounced Mag-neat-oh) a super-powered mutant who has some rough plans for the rest of us. As a child, he survived in a concentration camp while his family and community died.

Based on this trauma, whose victims’ only crime was being born different, his life experience has developed into a siege mentality. This is brought to a head when a senator demands that the United States government begin registering mutants, whose strange ways and talents - it seems - could make them a danger to the rest of us.
Patrick Stewart, most famous as the suspiciously Shakespearean captain Jean-Luc Picard on television’s “Star Trek, the Next Generation,” portrays Dr. Xavier, a mind-reading mutant who, unlike his magnetically empowered counterpart, chooses a series of more positive pursuits.
Notably, he runs a school for gifted children. Their giftedness runs much deeper than verbal, mathematical and creative talents and runs more in the "laser-vision," “walking-through-walls” or “moving objects without touching” area.
Despite Magneto’s concentration camp number tattoo, the audience never quite buys into his updated paranoia, in large part because the modern mutants he worries about are a far cry from defenseless European Jews. One might question the wisdom of having the only clearly defined Jewish character a murderer (and arguably a madman), but there seems to have been a feeble attempt at sensitivity in demonstrating Magneto’s commitment to keep history from repeating itself.
There is another Jewish X-Men character, but in this film she only has a walk-on . . . or rather, walk-through role. At Dr. Xavier’s school we catch a glimpse of a young lady walking through a doorway without bothering to open the door. This character will become Shadowcat, a walk-though-walls heroine who - as they say - “happens to be Jewish.”
But there is a new Super-Hero team a bit more on-target with the Jewish Values and positive Jewish Role modeling. The long-awaited first issue of the Jewish Hero Corps Comic Book will be published this Fall.
Three years ago the Jewish Hero Corps came out as the first ever Jewish Super-Hero Comic Book on CD-Rom. Now, Electric Comics is producing a real printed paper standard comic book with a brand new story drawn by some of the world’s top comic book artists.
The essential concept is to have a diverse group of Jewish heroes whose common enemies are assimilation (“Jewish Amnesia”) and the unraveling of our collective Jewish past.
This is the case in the upcoming full-length comic, which will be out before Chanukah. “Continuity - A Crisis in Time” features the villainous Fobots, who, in the CD-Comic, inverted computer memory chips to create “Forget-me-Chips” whose function was to erase Jewish memories. This time out they’ve partnered with the mysterious Apathons to use a time device called “The Zmonitor” to try to unravel history by going back in time and “nudging” out of existence the origins of Jewish Super-Heroes. In the process, the reader gets a look at some until-now secret origins of members of the Jewish Hero Corps. This comic is built around the origins, with epic tales that take the reader from Medieval Japan to the brink of Space, from a small Jewish shop on Manhattan’s Lower East side to a top secret laboratory.
The Heroes include Menorah Man, who can abruptly find himself with eight flamethrowing arms. The just as aptly named “Dreidel Maidel.” Her powers, which come from the alignment of electron orbits, allow the “Emerald Hurricane” to spin around at speeds so tremendous that no one can see her perform her good deeds. Yarmulkah Youth, (The Capped Crusader) inadvertently gets a name change to “Kipa Kid” in this comic, the result of some tampering with time using the unraveling device also known as the Time Loom.
The story opens with the origin of the centuries-old shield carried by the Sephardic superhero who calls himself “Magen David (Shield of David) in honor of a mysterious heirloom forged by a distant ancestor, a shieldmaker to kings.
Also appearing in the story is Shabbas Queen whose electromagnetic wand incapacitates villainous electrical and mechanical devices . . . giving them a “rest.”
Her wand, we learn, needs to be recharged for one day in seven, just as we do.
Only Minyan Man -- who can multiply into ten when necessary – has an origin that will remain secret for now.
The Title: “Continuity, A Crisis In Time” addresses Jewish communal issues while referring to the standard comic book concern of retaining story threads and logic in cause and effect, influencing both the past and future of characters. The Comic is being published in cooperation with Leviathan Press, a company with a great reputation for producing innovative materials that combat assimilation with Jewish education for a cross-the-board Jewish audience. In the spirit of keeping entertaining and educational Jewish available at reasonable cost, the comic book is expected to be priced at $3.95.

For further information on the Jewish Hero Corps, click here.
By Alan E. Oirich
Alan E. Oirich, a syndicated film columnist, covers Jewish pop-cultcha for JWR.

Irv Rubin and Earl Krugel