Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's a Jewish Thing . . .

The religion of The Thing (Ben Grimm) of the Fantastic Four

It's no secret that many of the folks behind the classic comic book heroes of the Golden and Silver Ages of comics (including Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Will Eisner, etc.)  were (and Stan still is) Jewish.  That fact raises the question of which of their characters were Jewish, given that most superheroes' religious affiliations.  Michael Chabon has made the point that while Superman certainly doesn't look Jewish, he was an immigrant who changed his name from the Hebrew Kal-El to, well, Clark Kent.  Jules Feiffer commented that Eisner's character The Spirit's nose may have turned up, but he was Jewish.

Which made this Internet article about the most popular member of Lee and Kirby's FANTASTIC FOUR, the Thing (aka Benjamin Jacob Grimm) so interesting to me.  About six years ago, Marvel published a story acknowledging the Thing was Jewish.  But according to the article, Lee and Kirby always thought of him as Jewish; they just didn't have much of a chance to mention it in the sixties.  Ben, too, assimilated.

All of which makes this 1976 sketch by Kirby so wonderful.  I know that if I had seen it as a kid, growing up Jewish in a small town and wondering if any of the superheroes I read about were like me, it would have made me quite happy.

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