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From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books

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From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books

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From Krakow to Krypton
Jews and Comic Books

By Arie Kaplan
Foreword by Harvey Pekar and JT Waldman
Jewish Publication Society, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-8276-0843-6

Reviewed by Herbert White - August 14, 2009

One aspect of Jewish history, which is virtually unknown, is the role that Jewish writers and artists have played in the comic book industry. This oversight has been corrected by the publication of Arie Kaplan's fantastic book, From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books. Within the pages of this informative and fun to read book, Kaplan traces the development of the comic book and highlights the leading role that Jews played not only in their creation, but also in the continuing success of the comic book and comic strip genres, as well as related fields. As Kaplan states in the books introduction, "...Jews almost single-handedly built the comic book industry from the ground up." After reading this book you'll have no doubt as to the validity of Kaplan's statement, and you'll understand the important role that the Jewish experience has played in the development of some of the best loved comic book characters, including Superman, Batman, the Hulk, and the X-Men. Kaplan also shows the role that the authors' experiences, as Jews, played in the development of some of the most influential story lines. To get you in the mood for reading this delightful and edifying book, you'll discover that the book's foreword, written and drawn by Harvey Pekar and JT Waldman, is presented in comic book format complete with artwork and thought bubbles.

The book is divided into three main parts: Part One: The Golden Age (1933-1955) The Birth of the Comics, Part Two: The Silver Age (1956-1978) The Growth and Development of Jewish Comics, and Part Three: The Bronze Age (1979-the Present) Comics in the Modern World. Throughout this amazing history book you will find an array of illustrations from comics books, both historic and modern, as well as sample pages from a variety of comic books ranging from Captain America to American Flagg. This book is more than simply a history of the intersection between Jews and comic books. It also illustrates how these artistic Jews have interpreted their own history and culture with the American milieu in which they work. Kaplan also provides keen insights into how their creations have been received by both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences.

Kaplan, who is a comedian, writer, and author of several comic books has crafted an unforgettable history that chronicles both the history of the comic books and the essential role that Jews have, and continue to have, in their creation. More important, Kaplan clearly shows the integral role that Jewish history and culture have played in many of the story lines and characters that populate the comic book realm. While this book will fascinate historians, it will also enthrall comic book enthusiasts of every ilk. For examples, interviews with the likes of Jerry Robinson, Art Spiegelman, Will Eisner, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Neil Gaiman, and Al Jaffee are interwoven throughout the text. As well, Kaplan provides a 'behind the scene' look at the various steps that go into the production of a comic book, from the development of a story line and the characters that will people it, to the creation of the artwork that will bring the story to life. These insights, combined with the historical data and plethora of illustrations makes this book as much of a 'must have' for comic book fans as it is for historians with an interest in Jewish history, art, and comedy. It is an ideal text for placement in both school and public libraries, and it will also make wonderful gift for the comic fan in your life!

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