The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches

By Laga, Barry | Shofar, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches


Laga, Barry, Shofar


The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches, edited by Samantha Baskind and Ranen Omer-Sherman. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008. 292 pp. $49.95 (c ); $28.95 (p).

Defining the "Jewish graphic novel" as "an illustrative narrative produced by a Jew that addresses a Jewish subject or some aspect of the Jewish experience" (p. xvi), editors Samantha Baskind and Ranen Omer-Sherman celebrate the "flourishing of unbound Jewish imagination" (p. ix) in The Jewish Graphic Novel: Critical Approaches. While presenting "focused and illuminating discussions of major trends, developments, and figures intrinsic to the Jewish graphic novel" (p. xv) the editors want to "attract conceptual approaches that were as diverse as the works themselves" (p. xvii). Admittedly, the anthology goes a long way towards accomplishing this goal. The collection is organized thematically. Part One covers "The Jewish American Experience" and addresses several foundational issues, including Laurence Roth's exploration of the "tension between abject pasts and heroic futures" that defines the Jewish comic book (p. 3), Jeremy Dauber's acknowledgement of Will Eisner, who shapes the medium and content of sequential narrative and graphic art, Josh Lamberts tracing of the shift in readership in his chapter, "Wanna watch the grown-ups doin' dirty things?," and Roxanne Harde's examination of Jewish masculinity in ""Give em another circumcision': Jewish Masculinities in The Golem's Mighty Swing"

Part Two focuses on "The Holocaust across Borders," and these borders include Lisa Naomi Mulman's discussion of the "mouse as victim" (p. 86) in Spiegelman's Maus as well as Horst Rosenthal's Mickey Mouse in the Gurs Internment Camp. "When time stands still" by Erin McGlothlin, frames Spiegelman's work in terms of trauma, the super-present, and postmemory. Brad Prager's contribution, "The Holocaust without Ink," explores Yossel: April 19, 1943 and maintains that Joe Kubert is "addressing his own absence of memories" by creating a "lengthy and personal What If? comic" (p. 126). And like many memories described by children of Holocaust survivors, Miriam Harris uncovers the pain involved in reconciling the past with the present and the future in Bernice Eisensteins I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors. "Witness, Trauma, and Remembrance" by Cheryl Alexander Malcolm completes this section by examining "how the Holocaust underpins the distrust and uncertainty that characterize X-Men comic books and makes mutants a metaphor for Jews" (p. 144).

The third section of the collection moves beyond the United States and celebrates work created by French and Israeli artists and writers, Paul Eisenstein considers the problems with rabbinic authority, doubt, heritage, and certainty in Joann Sfar's The Rabbi's Cat. Maria Harris adds to the discussion of Sfar's work and also discusses his Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East, exploring how "borders and border crossings - between Jews and Muslims, Jews and Christians, humans and animals, Africa and Europe, author and reader" (p. 182) address and complicate our notions of cosmopolitanism. Ariel Kahn studies the formation of Israeli identity and a re-imagined Akeda in Yirmi Pinkus' Margolis and Black Milk, Izik Rennert's Speaking of the Devil, Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds, as well as Asaf Hanuka and Etgar Keret's Pizzeria Kamikaze. Alon Raab explains how EH Eshed, Uri Fink, and llana Zeffren question the mythic proportions of key Israeli historic and cultural events and the development of the "nation's consciousness of itself " (p. …

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