a kid when America entered World War II.
I knew was confident of victory. Even my father, a world-class worrier,
said we would "put this thing to bed early". But I wasn't
so sure. Those Germans looked pretty mean to me. And though we lived
in a safe neighborhood on New York's West Side, I had a regular
dream of being captured by Nazi's and tortured for information I
just a kid," I'd explain, "I don't know anything."
Jewish," snarled my tormentor. "You know plenty."
that as a backhanded compliment but still felt powerless before
such a merciless foe. You see, in those years, my vision of the
world as from comic books. Black and white, strong and weak, good
and evil. In the newsreels, even captured Germans look confident
and sneeringly defiant. In contrast, our triumphant GIs appeared
tired, muddy, at the edge of their resources. Since I saw Hitler
as the classic, remorseless villain, my big concern was that there
was no Jewish superhero to oppose him. (The only pictures of European
Jews I ever saw showed them fleeing, terrified, or collapsed in
grateful tears, or the horribly emaciated survivors of the camps.)
Without a great Jewish leader-god, I feared for our cause.
to: Six years later. The war is over. At the summer hotel my father
manages, I meet Bob Kane, a famous cartoonist. He takes a liking
to me because, I believe, we are both cartoonishly akin with slit
eyes and razor blade noses. He sends me hand-drawn postcards which,
to my lifelong shame, I found too childish to share with my sophisticated
pals. Over the years, Bob and I talk occasionally, mainly about
art (he aspires to be a serious satiric painter like Daumier) and
literature (I want to be respected popular writer like John O'Hara).
The subject of religious affiliation never comes up.
however, the truth seems obvious. In the thirties and forties, when
many Jews felt it necessary to hide their true identities, Jewish
artists like Jerry Schuster and Joe Siegel who authored Superman
and Bop Kane, who gave us Batman, cloaked their heroes as acceptable
gentiles---"mild-mannered Clark Kent" and "playboy
Bruce Wayne". But beneath those bland WASP exteriors burned
their real power, their Jewish souls. (And, unlike Superman, Batman
was born on this planet and used scientific ingenuity rather than
superhuman powers. Also, he was rich, educated, good-looking and
had a great car. What more of a role model could any Jewish boy
Kane lived until 1998, long enough to reap the benefits of the superhero
revival. I never asked him if Batman was really a landsman. However,
recently, in my imagination I posed the question and, in answer,
he took up pen and pad and, with quick, sure strokes, drew the caped
crusader crowned by a kippah with tallis flowing. And beside him
was Robin, a recent convert, brandishing a copy of the Ten Commandments.
that, Adolf! Pow! Bam! Whack!
book image that allows the scared kid inside me to sleep easier.
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