From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books


Jews created the first comic book, the first graphic novel, the first comic book convention, the first comic book specialty store, and they helped create the underground comics (or “Comix”) movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Many of the creators of the most famous comic books, such as Superman, Spiderman, X-Men, and Batman, as well as the founders of MAD magazine, were Jewish. From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books tells their stories and demonstrates how they brought a uniquely Jewish perspective to...
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Jews created the first comic book, the first graphic novel, the first comic book convention, the first comic book specialty store, and they helped create the underground comics (or “Comix”) movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Many of the creators of the most famous comic books, such as Superman, Spiderman, X-Men, and Batman, as well as the founders of MAD magazine, were Jewish. From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books tells their stories and demonstrates how they brought a uniquely Jewish perspective to their work and to the comics industry as a whole. Over-sized and in full color, From Krakow to Krypton is filled with sidebars, cartoon bubbles, comic book graphics, original design sketches, and photographs. It is a visually stunning and exhilarating history.
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Editorial Reviews

Danny Fingeroth

"In From Krakow to Krypton, Arie Kaplan threads together the disparate elements of comicdom--Jewish culture, geek culture, fandom, sci-fi, adolescent power fantasies, outsider art, and the New York City of reality and myth--and ties them all together. . . . A smart, fun book."—Danny Fingeroth, author of Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero
Al Jaffee

"A new and fascinating look at the history of comic books . . . you really don't have to be Jewish to thoroughly enjoy this trip down comic book memory lane.”—Al Jaffee, long-time MAD Magazine contributor and author of the forthcoming Talltales
Children's Literature - Michael Jung
Most comic book fans can name several Jewish writers and artists who created some of their favorite superheroes—from Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman, to Stanley Lieber (aka Stan Lee) co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, and many others. Yet many fans may not be aware of how intertwined comic book culture is with the Jewish community—starting from the "Golden Age" of comics of the 1930s and leading into the present day. In From Krakow to Krypton, Jewish comic book writer Arie Kaplan traces this rich history, revealing how unemployed Jewish entrepreneur Max Gaines started one of the first comic book companies in 1934 by reprinting old newspaper comic strips in half tabloid size magazines. Readers will see how Gaines's need for new comic book material helped two Jewish teenagers introduce Superman to the world, even as dozens of other Jewish teens and young adults entered the comic book industry—which did not present a barrier of anti-Semitism since many comic publishers were themselves Jewish. Kaplan also examines how Jews negatively affected the comic book industry, showing how some publishers and creators prevented writers and artists from receiving credit for their contributions, while also revealing that one of the most outspoken crusaders against comic books, Dr. Frederic Wertham, was himself an atheist Jew. From superheroes to MAD Magazine to Harvey Pekar's autobiographical comic American Splendor, Kaplan's behind-the-scenes stories about the comic book industry are intriguing, while his Jewish interpretations of comic book stories will spark discussion (although admittedly most of these interpretations are a matter ofspeculation). Reviewer: Michael Jung
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780827608436
  • Publisher: Jewish Publication Society
  • Publication date: 9/8/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 811,133
  • Product dimensions: 8.40 (w) x 10.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Arie Kaplan is the author of From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books, a 2008 National Jewish Book Award Finalist and 2009 Sophie Brody Honor Book (awarded by the American Library Association). Kaplan is a comedian, MAD magazine writer, and author of the comic book miniseries Speed Racer: Chronicles of the Racer for IDW Publishing. His other comic book credits include the DC title Cartoon Network Action Pack and the Papercutz series Tales From the Crypt. Arie lectures all over the country about comic books, comedians, and popular culture. He is the author of Masters of the Comic Book Universe Revealed! (Chicago Review Press) and he’s also written for MTV, Cartoon Network, and PBS Kids.

JT Waldman is a comic book illustrator and interaction designer. His first graphic novel, Megillat Esther, drew from archeological, rabbinic and pop cultural sources to create a bold retelling of the biblical story of Esther. He later went on to design a web application for JPS called the Tagged Tanakh; a site that enables people to tag and contribute remarks to any word or verse in the Bible. JT is currently working on his next graphic novel with Harvey Pekar. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a B.A. in Arts and Ideas in the Humanities, Waldman also holds a technical degree in digital design from the Vancouver Film School. He also studied at the Facultad de Bellas Artes de Sevilla in Seville, Spain, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Liberal Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Israel. JT lectures and offers workshops on Jewish art, comix and midrash. He also contributed to two books, From Krakow to Krypton and The Jewish Graphic Novel, that both detail the intersection of comic books and Judaism.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Harvey Pekar Pekar, Harvey J. T. Waldman Waldman, J. T.

Pt. 1 The: Golden Age

(1933-1955) The Birth of the Comics

Ch. 1 Famous Funnies 2

Ch. 2 Leger and Reuths 6

Ch. 3 Supergolem 9

Ch. 4 Attack of the Clones 21

Ch. 5 People of the (Comic) Book 26

Ch. 6 The Spirit of the Times 32

Ch. 7 The Leaden Age 44

Ch. 8 Why We Fight 58

Ch. 9 New Trends and Innocent Seducers 63

Pt. 2 The Silver Age

(1956-1978) The Growth and Development of Jewish Comics

Ch. 10 Super Family Values 84

Ch. 11 Broome Makes a Clean Sweep 87

Ch. 12 Stan and Jack 92

Ch. 13 The Superhero from Queens 101

Ch. 14 Courting the College Crowd 107

Ch. 15 Outsider Heroes 111

Ch. 16 Openly Jewish, Openly Heroic 116

Ch. 17 Kirby's Fourth World 126

Ch. 18 Notes from the Underground 137

Ch. 19 From Novel Graphics to Graphic Novels 151

Pt. 3 The Bronze Age

(1979-the Present) Comics in the Modern World

Ch. 20 From Comix to Graphix 162

Ch. 21 The Maus That Art Built 171

Ch. 22 A Graphic Approach to Jewish History 176

Ch. 23 The Martian Jew 188

Ch. 24 Children of the Atom ... And Eve 196

Ch. 25 Vertigo Visions 203

Ch. 26 Up, Up, And Away But Where To? 206

Comics History Timeline 212

Bibliography 216


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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2008

    A must for all lovers of Comic Books and superheroes

    Written in Queens, NY, made in China but pure American is Arie Kaplan's From Krakow to Krypton, the story of how the Jews created comic books and brought to the United States a Mississippi-like watershed river of illustrated stories, humor and adventures that fired up every kid's imagination, lifting them from the doldrums of an otherwise tedious world. From Krakow to Krypton starts at the very first comic book created by Charlie Gaines (Ginsberg) during the Great Depression and flows from there fed by continuous tributaries but also through the dams and rough waters created by folks fearful of this new industry. Crisp, color illustrations adorn the journey. Imagine a crisp copy of the cover of ACTION Number One Published in June 1938- the magazine that not only heralded in Superman but all the Superheroes that today are making Hollywood history and stunning box office grosses. This is a must for everyone who loves the Comic Book and like Levy's Real Jewish Rye you don't have to be Jewish to love it. Raúl daSilva author: first place national book festival prizewinner, The World of Animation.

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