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Friday, 12 March 2010

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nutellaontoast

yeah, man, the Golem was the original superhero. Or maybe it was kind david or some dude from the bible.

John Emerson

Why are you people all megalomaniacs?

Captain Marvel, Captain Video, Hopalong Cassidy, Ibis the Invincible, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Spy Smasher, Captain Midnight, Phantom Eagle, Mister Scarlet and Pinky, Minute-Man, Commando Yank, and Golden Arrow, were all published by Billy Fawcett of Cap'n Billy's Whizbang, who was a supporter of Minnesota's leftist Farmer-Labor Party, or at least gave a lot of free booze and other hosptiality to the Farmer-Labor governor. Fawcett went on to noir novels and Popular Mechanics.

The Farmer Labor Party was allegedly controlled by Jews, you'll be happy to know.

The Modesto Kid

(How do the Jewish Chess brothers fit into the white-people-stealing-rock n roll narrative?)

Ahistoricality

The list of things "allegedly controlled by Jews" is a lot longer than the list of modern things we had nothing to do with.

Actually, come to think of it, there's a fair bit of overlap between the lists, which is weird.

Rich Puchalsky

Chabon covered this territory pretty heavily in Kavalier & Clay, didn't he?

E. Rob

Eisner was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me.

Sorry, I couldn't resist that, but while your first five bullets are hard to argue with, the Eisner one is much more contentious (Osamu Tezuka might want a word with you, unless you're comfortable implying that "ever" = "in the United States"). He doesn't slot into the superhero tradition very smoothly, and, let's face it, as great as The Spirit can be, it's tainted by the presence of Ebony.

Rob MacD

In many cases, I think twas Jew(ish person)s who stole superheroes from other Jew(ish person)s.
http://www.robmacdougall.org/index.php/2006/03/superman-i-secret-origins/

AE

I don't get it. Ashkenazi Jews ARE white people. Have been in the US ever since WW II.

Ahistoricality

As I said at LGM,

My views on this are complicated — I’m an historian, so my views on everything are complicated — but as a Jew I can certainly say that the only time I truly felt “White” in that sense was in Asia. Insofar as “Jew” is a religious category, I am caucasian. But “White” is a cultural and ethnic category to which I do not belong.

JPool

The big difference worth noting, of course, was that rock and roll was developed from blues and boogie-woogie in the context of race records and other performing and distribution circuits that were consumed almost exclusively by African-American audiences (though of course there were also well-established practices of hipster and then mass-market white folks periodically rediscovering African-American arts; in that sense Elvis, as a force rather than an artist, was as inevitable as Benny Goodman). Jewish comics artists and writers, by contrast, did their creative work in mass-market publications, rather in, say, Yiddish language newspapers.

latinist

1. I'm an American Jew, and I've almost always felt White in the terms ahistoricality is talking about. Of course, I grew up in NYC, so that has something to do with it.

2. Building on JPool's comment, not writing in Yiddish is the least of it. When you create heroes who grow up with the Kent family in Smallville, and blond guys named Steve Rogers who turn into Captain America, and old-money aristocrats named Bruce Wayne, it takes some real chutzpah to turn around and complain that the goyim are stealing your comics.

SeanH

Isn't "Bill Finger" a great name, though? Crook in a film noir, I think.

Ahistoricality

Latinist, I believe that there's a fundamental divide in American Jewry: Not Reform/Orthodox, but between New Yorkers and the rest of us. It's two different experiences of ethnicity and culture.

I don't think I'd have used the term "stealing" the way Scott did, for precisely the same reasons that JPool describes. I'd describe it as a form of historical erasure, obscuring the ethnic origins of the art form in order to market it, and thus enabling non-ethnic artists (Elvis, Stan Lee) to reap the greater rewards.

Ahistoricality

And before anyone else catches it, strike "Stan Lee" from the comment above. Spiderman is the quintessential Jew: orphaned, nerdy, outcast, useful but maligned....

Ray Davis

The great early pre-P.J.O'Rourke National Lampoon prepared me for adulthood in many ways -- just last week, I re-read the Whole Earth Catalog parody targeting northern-Californian eco-racism, and not only did I understand it for the first time but (a generation later) it still applies -- and so I can answer this: according to Ivory, Jewish people are "White" "technically." (E.g., a list of "Famous White Intellectuals" includes "Spinoza, technically.")

Also, you don't get many crackers around these parts. Elvis wasn't just "white folks." He and his fellows were white trash. Down-home racist populists attacked him for putting tainted music on the airwaves complete with credits to black songwriters, and present-day ignorant dissers attack him for "theft," but Yankees of his own time were happy to attack him for being a redneck simpleton. Such obnoxious boundary-crossing is, of course, commonly associated with meddling by outside Jewish agitators, but in this story they didn't show up until Leiber-and-Stoller were roped in (and then chased off again).

SEK

Chabon covered this territory pretty heavily in Kavalier & Clay, didn't he?

He did, but that doesn't mean it doesn't bear repeating. (Plus, I read that book on a plane and barely remember it.)

He doesn't slot into the superhero tradition very smoothly, and, let's face it, as great as The Spirit can be, it's tainted by the presence of Ebony.

I was just being hyperbolic with the "ever" there: Eisner's the most prominent forgotten innovator of the medium (remembered for the award, but unfamiliar to the majority of comic readers), so I was overstating the case. That said, yes, Ebony; and so to his replacement, Blubber the Eskimo.

In many cases, I think twas Jew(ish person)s who stole superheroes from other Jew(ish person)s.

Let me just say: Rob, that's a fantastic post.

Jewish comics artists and writers, by contrast, did their creative work in mass-market publications, rather in, say, Yiddish language newspapers.

Obviously, you're right about the second half of that statement, and the analogy falls a little flat because of it. That said, I meant it more in the sense of an invasion: just as Elvis brought an African-American sensibility into lily-white American households, comics brought a Jewish sensibility into them. Of course, what with radio and the movies, there was already plenty of that, which is why Elvis's contribution was more significant (though not so significant that, as some have argued, there wouldn't have been a Civil Rights Movement without him).

When you create heroes who grow up with the Kent family in Smallville

That's not what originally happened, though; moreover, even when the Clarks adopt this brown-haired, brown-eyed foreigner, there's still a sense in which his outsiderness is of an immigrant quality. (As opposed to, say, Bruce Wayne's constitutional churlishness.)

I don't think I'd have used the term "stealing" the way Scott did, for precisely the same reasons that JPool describes.

I wouldn't really say "stealing" either, hence the long footnote. I was simply riffing on the common complaint about Elvis, Eminem, etc.

I can answer this: according to Ivory, Jewish people are "White" "technically."

I can't read through the irony there, Ray: they're not white, they're "white," but they're not really "white," and they're not technically "white," they're "technically" "white." Wait---never you mind, I see what you're saying now.

Ray Davis

Sorry, that citation was pretty clipped but you probably did get it: the idea is to claim as much as possible for the constructed identity while maintaining room for finer discrimination: Spinoza is "technically White" when being praised and "really Jewish" when being banned.

The highlight of that issue's tribute to bigotry, though, had to be the newsletter of "Americans United to Beat the Dutch," which beautifully caught the look of white American supremacist rags (I know, because my high school library had a subscription to one) with some great meta-gags. After all these decades, its Dutch jokes still stick with me:

Moe: "There are some Dutch cheeses on that plate."
Joe: "Gouda?"
Moe: "Are you kidding?"

Mack: "There are some Dutch cheeses on that plate."
Jack: "Edam?"
Mack: "Are you kidding?"

NickS

I thought of this post last night when I was reading Joe Glazer's description of how "We Will Overcome" went from being a song of the (mostly white) textile union workers to the anthem of the Civil Rights movement.

The short answer is that he doesn't know, exactly, but the chronology looks something like this. He, a child of Eastern European Jewish immigrants to NYC, was working for the Textile Workers Union in the late 40s and adapting a variety of traditional songs for use as union songs (for example "We Shall Not Be Moved" derived from a hymn "I Shall Not Be Moved."). He learned "We Will Overcome" from a friend who learned it from the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. She had learned the song from several black workers who were attending the school.

Glazer taught the song to various union groups all over the South and ended up making the first recording of the song in 1950. Around the same time Pete Seeger learned the song from the music directory at Highlander Folk School and changed "We Will Overcome" to "We Shall Overcome" which he thought sounded better.

Then in 1959 Guy Carawan (another white sociologist and folksinger) worked at the Highlander Folk School and then ended up traveling around the south working with the emerging civil rights movement. Glazer thinks that Carawan was important in spreading the song, but certainly wasn't responsible for it's popularity which he thinks is due to some mysterious combination of qualities of the song and circumstances.

But, it's interesting to note the various twists and turns in how the song ended up being what one of the speakers on Sing For Freedom (sorry, I don't remember which one) called, our gift to people in struggle all over the world.

The two things that struck me about that story were, first, that the question of who steals from who can get complicated quickly and, secondly, that the world of folk music in the early 50s was a small world. It's interesting that all three of Seeger, Glazer, and Carawan learned the song from connection to a small school in the Cumberland mountains, rather than from other singers or recordings.

Adam Kaiserman

Well, if you want to get technical, it's actually other Jews who stole superheroes from the Jews who created them. See Gerard Jones, Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book (2005).

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