The superhero genre was practically invented by Jews in the comic industry. Take some time to appreciate their work and legacy with this book list, which features character origin stories, step-by-step guides on how to draw in the comic book style, and intriguing biographies on the people who made superheroes what they are today.
Books For Younger Readers:
Recommended for Ages 3-7
PJ parents may recognize Michael Chabon's name as the Pulitzer Prize winning author of books such as The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. This book is his first foray into children's literature and features the amazing sidekick, Moskowitz the dog. Awesome Man is a fun introduction to superhero stories with messages especially appropriate for younger kids.
Superman and Batman are the direct results of Jewish ingenuity and imagination. Author and illustrator Ralph Cosentino developed a successful series that introduces young readers to the origin stories and universe of well-known superheroes in age-appropriate ways.
Superman was created by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster when the two were just high school students. Some scholars believe that Superman’s origin is a metaphor for Jewish immigration. This book, also by Ralph Cosentino, brings readers into the world of Superman, introducing his alter-ego, Clark Kent, as well as some of the villains that Superman encounters.
An engaging way to get your kids reading is through these Marvel superhero origin tales. Much like the Superman and Batman ones above, these short stories are designed to develop reading skills. Not to mention that both of these heroes have a special place in Jewish comics history! Captain America was especially known for combating anti-Semitism during World War II, and Spider-Man’s philosophy of “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility,” is notably related to the social responsibility of tikkun olam (repairing the world).
Books For Middle Grade Readers:
Recommended for Ages 8-12
Stan Lee’s life and success is best described as inspiring. This children’s biography of his life can be an interesting read for kids who not only want to learn about the comics industry, but also want to follow in his footsteps. This book is also a PJ Our Way selection. To sign your 9-11 year old up to pick their own Jewish novels each month, visit pjourway.org.
As another biography, this book chronicles the life of Bill Finger, the often forgotten co-creator of Batman. Finger, like Lee, was Jewish, and his religion played a large role in his work. This book is a great read for any kids who want to learn about what it takes to create a character like the Dark Knight. If you enjoy this book, be sure to read Nobleman's other work, Boys of Steel.
Comic art remains a famous form of Jewish visual expression, and this book is a must-have for children who love to draw. The book is written by Stan Lee, creator of beloved Marvel heroes like Spiderman, Captain America, and many more, with John Buscema, and provides step-by-step instructions on how to draw superheroes in classic fashion. If Marvel isn’t your child’s preference, they can check out the companion book, How to Draw DC Super Heroes and Villains.
Suitable for all ages, these vintage comics, penned by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, were some of the first ever published by the company that would eventually become Marvel Comics. The Fantastic Four embodies curiosity, bravery or ometz lev, and family devotion as they battle evil throughout space and time. The team even features a heroic Jewish character, Benjamin Grimm (“The Thing”).
Marvel Her-Oes by Grace Randolph
In addition to the many heroes that Stan Lee brought to the comic book universe, he also created, with his writing partners, incredible heroines like Carol Danvers (Captain Marvel), the Scarlett Witch, She-Hulk and the Wasp, Ant-Man’s partner in crime. Follow the adventures of She-Hulk and the Wasp in this all-ages adaptation featuring some of the greatest super heroines of the Marvel universe as they take on high school. Looking for more superhero stories featuring women and girls? Read A Mighty Girls’ List of 13 Books About Mighty Girl Superheroes.
This vibrantly illustrated graphic novel tells Lily Renee’s real life story, from her idyllic pre-war, 1930’s childhood in Austria through her challenging experiences as a refugee in England, and finally, as she begins her new life as a comic book artist in America.
This book offers a full understanding of the connection between Jewish culture and superheroes. The publisher’s note says that Superman is Jewish relates the story of how the “people of the book” became the “people of the comic book.”
This book provides an in-depth discussion of how many characters and stories in this genre reflect Jewish beliefs, lifestyles, traditions, and struggles.
This set of essays is written by various veterans of the comics industry, such as acclaimed artists and writers Will Eisner and Art Spiegelman. It offers crucial advice about creating in this genre, as well as insight about the role of Jewish-influenced graphic novels in society.
September 25, 2017