Superheroes and Jews

In a three-part project discussing different pop cultural themes and Judaism; we dissected aspects of comic book characters and connected the similarities to the Jewish religion.

Superheroes are all the rage. Whether we read their stories in comic books, or watch the action packed movies, we’re enthralled. And almost everyone can relate to these comic book characters. We understand their emotional motivation to save the world, their hardships, and romantic experiences. We root for their wins and sympathize with their struggles. But one thing most people don’t relate to comics? Religion. Maybe it’s the idea that superheroes don’t typically have religious views, or because religions are not based on the simple theme of good verse evil. And while these obvious factors don’t tie the two together, there are still various subtle similarities that intertwine these characters to Jewish beliefs.

The golem is a clay-like figure that resembles Frankenstein. The purpose of the golem is to defend the Jews from anti-Semitic events. His tough exterior and need to protect his people relate to a few comic book superheroes. The Hulk is a well-known comic book character created by two Jewish men, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Hulk and golem are quite similar. The exterior of both characters have an angry face with a large build. Their strength helps them fight villainous characters and cruel people. Mentally, the Hulk and golem are also on the same page. Their mission is to punish and protect.

While Batman’s physique is unlike golem, psychologically Batman and golem share a common goal to seek vengeance. Golem’s job is to keep the Jewish people safe, while terminating anti-Semitic actions. Batman is a protector as well. He witnessed the murder of his parents as a child, and has since set out to rid the world of evil altogether. We think of Batman as a vigilante for his unruly actions that keep the people safe. Golem portrays a hero willing to hurt anyone against the Jewish people. These resemblances help us connect popular comic book characters to a character in Jewish mysticism.

Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster are the creators of Superman. Both men were children of Jewish immigrants, which influenced the favored character. Superman’s relationship to Judaism is prevalent with simply his real name. While Superman went by the name Clark Kent, where he replaced his cape with glasses and a suit, he was actually born with the name Kal El. In Hebrew Kal El is translated to “voice of God”. Superman’s responsibility is to save the people from planet Krypton and get them off safe. This relates to the biblical story of Samson, who was born to save Israel from the Philistines.

Connecting comic book characters to Judaism puts the reality of the Jewish people into a fictional universe. It demonstrates the core problems Jewish people face and fear, but it is used as entertainment. Identifying with comic book characters because of the same religion can help us feel that we are not alone.

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