'The Great American (Jewish) Superhero'
- Author Weinstein Dissects the Great American (Jewish) Superhero
By Michael Aushenker, Staff Writer, Palisadian Post
With a stand-up comedian's delivery, Simcha Weinstein, author of 'Up, Up, and Oy Vey!,' lectured on November 6 at Chabad Jewish Community Center on Sunset and Monument about the connection between superheroes and their Jewish creators. The Manchester, England-raised Weinstein, today a Brooklyn resident, came as a guest of Rabbi Shloime Zacks, Chabad's director of adult education.
After Friday night services and dinner, Weinstein delivered his entertaining recap of the history of the American comic-book superhero. From the creation of the first superhero by two Cleveland teenagers in 1938 (Superman) and the trio behind 1939's Batman (Joker creator Jerry Robinson had met Batman co-creator Bob Kane on the Borscht Belt circuit at Grossinger's in the Catskills) to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, architects of the '60s superhero renaissance known as Marvel Comics Group (Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men) which today rakes in billions as Hollywood blockbusters, the superhero is an idiom almost exclusively created by Jewish-Americans as 'assimilation fantasies,' Weinstein said.
Weinstein used Superman to point out how the character, a Moses-like exile from the planet Krypton who arrives on Earth and adopts the less-ethnic name Clark Kent, resembled what Jewish immigrants did upon arriving at Ellis Island (Lee and Kirby themselves were born Stanley Leiber and Jacob Kurtzberg). Weinstein joked that even the names 'Superman' and 'Spider-Man' resembled Jewish surnames such as Silverman and Goldman.
He quoted a passage from Quentin Tarantino's 2004 movie 'Kill Bill Vol. 2' in which David Carradine's character delivers a monologue on how Superman'whose birth name is Kal-El (Hebrew for 'voice of God') and whose costume was fashioned from his Kryptonian blanket'was his real identity while his awkward, bespectacled alter ego Clark Kent was how this alien viewed us Earthlings.
Weinstein recalled a conversation with Spider-Man co-creator Lee in which the writer said the signature line he conceived for the origin issue of 'Spider-Man,' 'With great power comes great responsibility,' sounded biblically influenced.
On November 7 at Chabad JCC, Weinstein followed up his comic-book speech with a talk about Jewish contributions to American comedy, as derived from his book 'Shtick Shift: Jewish Humor in the 21st Century.'