68 minutes | Feb 26, 2019

Episode 1 - The Thing - Part 1

Welcome to Funny,They Don’t Look Jewish, where Judaism appears in the panels. Our purpose is to find characters, stories and issues of comics that explore explicitly Jewish content. In this episode, we cover the canonical Judaism of Benjamin Grimm, THE THING. Fantastic Four #56 (485) (2002) Credits: "Remembrance of Things Past" Writer: Karl Kesel Penciler: Stuart Immonen Inker: Scott Koblish Cover: Gabriele Dell’Otto Colourist: Liquid! Letterer Richard Starkings Albert Deschesne Editor: Tom Brevoort Special Thanks to Greg Rucka Jen Rucka Steve Leiber Eve Celsi https://marvel.fandom.com/wiki/Fantastic_Four_Vol_3_56 Henry's notes:: Man wandering around downtown, lost and on his cell phone wondering if it’s not a nice part of town, when all of a sudden Thing appears and says, “This part of town...some things ain’t so nice.” Splash page with Thing in trench coat under a street lamp at the corner of Yancy St and unnamed st. with title and credits. Flashback to Mr. Sheckerberg lecturing young Ben Grimm about throwing a stone through his window. Older brother Daniel Grimm tries to pay him off. Fast forward, Danny is limping, mentions the other guy got “clobbered.” Fast forward to cop talking to Mrs. Grimm about her “loss.” It appears Danny has died from nefarious circumstances. Cop says danny is in a better place and Ben responds, “But God left us here.” Fast forward to Ben running away from Mr Sheckerberg with a stolen Magen David, to give to the Yancy street gang. Until reading this point I always thought of the gang as like a lovable group. I didn’t think of them as actually terrorizing the neighborhood. Back to present Thing is in the store and Mr. Sheck is threatening whomever is there with a baseball bat. Sheck tells Ben he’s never been afraid of hoodlums. Flashback to Ben looking for the gang, flash forward to Ben being pummeled by garbage and paint. It seems like the gang is basically telling him to go away of panel. I don’t really understand this part. Why are they talking off panel in the past and here? All of a sudden Powderkeg attacks. Punchy punchy fight fight until Ben realizes Sheck is on the ground. It seems like Thing thinks he’s dead because he says both lines of “Shema.” This is unprecedented and one of the most Jewish moments in comics. Shema, being the central prayer of the Jewish people, is said by a major Marvel character. This panel brought tears of joy to my eyes. Sheck wakes up and points out that it’s good to see Ben hasn’t forgotten everything he learned at Temple. He speculates that perhaps Thing has been hiding his Judaism. Ben basically shares that you could find out on the internet but never wanted to draw attention to it. Doesn’t want people to think Jews are monsters like him. This seems very meta to me. It seems like it’s almost what writers and other artists were thinking. Hiding in plain sight, fitting in etc. They share a tender moment saying perhaps it’s Yom kippur and Ben returns Sheck’s Magen david. Sheck humorously does not forgive him and they continue. Sheck says that he doesn’t forgive Ben because there’s nothing to forgive him for. It’s not Ben’s fault what happens to him. He compares Ben to the Golem of Prague and gives him the Magen David to protect until he needs it back. It ends with Ben holding up Powderkeg and he says the age old joke, “You don’t look Jewish.” Overall I’d give this book ⅘ Stars of David. There are only a few explicitly Jewish moments but they are rich, heavy and meaningful. I can’t overstate how much seeing the Shema in a comic book means to me. If I had seen this in a comic when I was 9 or 10 I imagine it would’ve had a tremendous impact on me. Sheck seems like a stand-in for Jack Kirby. The two of them seem to be sharing an inner monologue that Jack might have had with himself, wondering how much of his Judaism to share with the world. On Word Balloon Podcast, Karl Kesel confirms that he was the one that made Ben officially Jewish. “Tom Breevort wanted important stories, and I said, “y’know, Jack drew Ben as Jewish, why don’t we do that story?” I’m convinced that at the beginning, Ben was just a character, but I’m convinced the longer Jack worked on him, the more of himself he put into Ben Grimm. Stan Lee has said they never intended the character to be Jewish at the start, but I think by the end he was clearly a stand in for Jack himself in so many ways.” The Thing #8 Writer: Dan Slott Artist: Kieron Dwyer Publisher: Marvel Comics Release Date: July 5, 2006 The Thing has a Bar Mitzvah! 5 pages including splash page. Thing wears a kippa and tallis. Job as Torah portion – no such Torah portion exists. Location of Bar Mitzvah is possibly the Eldridge St synagogue https://www.google.com/maps/place/12+Eldridge+St,+New+York,+NY+10002/@40.714752,-73.9937083,3a,75y,89.95h,150.02t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s9G9mDHOtz71BfWNe2PJ1kQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192!4m5!3m4!1s0x89c25a28605536c3:0x75a62ace8cfe8dae!8m2!3d40.7146872!4d-73.9934249 15 minute walk from parts of Delancey Street Brandon's notes: Thing first appeared in Fantastic Four #1, published in November 1961, by Stan the Man Lee and Jack the King Kirby Transformed into a rock monster Fantastic Four Vol. 3 #56 (legacy #485), 2002 The Thing Vol. 2 #8, 2006 Fantastic Four Vol. 6 #5, (Legacy 650), 2018 Marvel Holiday Special 1994 Marvel Holiday Special 2004 Marvel Holiday Comic 2011 Hanukkah Card Incredibly cool artifact - 1976 You have the Thing wearing a kippa and a tallis, clutching a siddur in his hands Star of David on one side, what appears to be a couple letters on the other side. IT looks like yud bet, which might be a reference to the 12 Tribes. The greeting - ee-chulim l’hanukkah, or wishes for Hanukkah Is it common? Most common error in depicting a hanukkiyah is actually showing a menorah as found in the Temple. Rather than 9 or 7 branches, this one seems to only have 5. I assume it’s a matter of simplicity in the artwork more than design error I like to imagine this means he’s davening hallel on a Hanukkah morning Fantastic Four Vol. 3 #56 (Legacy #485), 2002 Written by Karl Kesel Drawn by Stuart Immonen Inked by Scott Koblish Colored by Liquid! Lettered by Richard Starkings and Albert Dechesne Karl Kesel - what a mentsch. He and his wife adopted a baby that was ADDICTED TO HEROIN. So he sold his comic book collection to pay medical bills So Carlos Pacheco had been the artist on the book and plotting, and they brought in writers to help him out with dialogue. For 55 and 56, Karl is writing solo. Waid/Wieringo run starts with #60 Fantastic Four Headquarters - a UK based website. Karl Kesel interview It's inevitable that the FF issue you’ll always be most known for is Remembrance of Things Past, a funny and poignant tale where the Thing finally reveals that he’s Jewish. How much editorial approval did you have to get to do this story, and what was the reaction in the industry? Tom Brevoort asked for single-issue pitches, but he didn’t want them to be filler— he wanted them to be consequential and worth reading. I remembered that Kirby had done a drawing of Ben in a yamika and prayer shawl, reminded Tom of it (he knew exactly what I was talking about, of course), and said “How about a story where we reveal Ben is Jewish?” Tom gave a quick thumbs up, and there was no editorial problems after that, that I remember. The biggest problem was finding the right villain for the story! I’d add that I doubt Kirby thought Ben was Jewish when the character was created, but as years went by and he put more of his own personality and personal background into the Thing, the idea that he’s Jewish isn’t that big of a leap of faith. So to speak. Open with a guy telling his friend he's lost after a day wandering NYC “This part of town, some things ain't so nice” downtown, LES First 6 pages - Dark colors give way to lighter flashback. Halcyon days, better remembered, compared with crummy modernity (closed stores, XXX) Mr. Sheckerberg keeping Ben in line More concerned with morality than $ Danny wants Ben to fight for what's his. Ben points out the stars (FF, but also Abraham and covenant?) P. 6 - Alluded to Danny died, Ben seems to lose faith Officer: “I'm sure Danny was a good kid, and I'm sure God took him to a better place.” “But God left us here, didn't he?” P. 7 - Ben tries out for Yancy street gang Sheckerberg, “You're no better than your brother, may he rest in peace!” - so Jewish Steals Sheckerberg's star of David, which is one piece not for sale Implication that his pride in identity cannot be bought P. 8 - pawn shop is still there Rest of Jews moved uptown. Henry, I imagine this hit a particular resonance for you (Family in Chicago) P. 9 - Sheckerberg thinks Ben is extorting him for protection money. Typical comic book coincidence Reveals first name: Hiram, “high-born” in Hebrew Both II Samuel 5:11 and I Kings 7:13-14 mention a King Hiram of Tyre who helped Solomon with building of the Temple P. 11 - a flip. Now modern day is bright (orange Thing) and memories are hazy, faded colors) Ben confronts the Yancy Street Gang, hijinx ensue Returns to shop to discover true villain is “Powderkeg, the man with the explosive aura!” Teams with Yancy Street to take him out P. 19 - the big one Ben thinks Sheck might be dead, can't give CPR realizes all he can do is recite the shema, a prayer (from the Torah) recited twice a day, but also before death P. 20 - Sheck is worried Ben will have gang say Kaddish for him Shema is part of the deathbed vidui. It's not tempting fate or jinxing to recite it Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 338 If you feel death approaching, recite the Viddui. Be reassured by those around you. Many have said the Viddui and not died, and many have not said the Viddui and have died. If you are unable to recite it aloud, say it in your heart. And if you are unable to recite it, others may recite it with you or for you But Kaddish is clearly not ok to recite Sheck thought Ben was ashamed of being Jewish. Relates back to Sheck's magen david “Figure there's enough trouble in this world without people thinkin’ Jews are all monsters like me” So Jewish. Concern that something is good or bad for the Jews Sheck says maybe in your youth Radak on Noah says kids ARE bad in their youth Genesis 8:21 כִּ֠י יֵ֣צֶר לֵ֧ב הָאָדָ֛ם רַ֖ע מִנְּעֻרָ֑יו Radak says the evil inclination is in a kid from birth (in utero, actually). Yetzer tov, the impulse to do good, only comes later with maturity P. 21 - Ben returns the star Thought today was “the Day of Atonement” - very writerly move. No Jew would say that. YK Sheck says he won't forgive Ben because it isn't YK, but also because it's not the jubilee (yovel) 50th year Never heard this idea that yovel is time of forgiveness Forgiveness of debts, merciful god. Sheck knows Ben lost faith P. 22 Sheck thinks Ben feels guilty for getting out What you learned at synagogue, you can always go back to Brings up the Golem as protector, not monster Definitely a Ben analogue Judah Loew ben Bezalel of Prague (late 16th century) Ben’s not going back to synagogue - every joke I've heard Ends with the joke, “you don't look Jewish” Emphasizes the point of this issue. Ben definitively Jewish. In a cultural way The Thing Vol. 2 #8, 2006 Creators: Written by Dan Slott Drawn and inked by Kieron Dwyer Colored by Laura Villari Lettered by Dave Lanphear Whoa! Dan currently writing FF In an episode of the podcast Word Balloon with Jon Siuntres, Slott comments on the importance of representation. For him, Shadowcat was trained by demons and Moon Knight resurrected by an Egyptian deity. He felt it was messed up. wanted better Jewish representation Last issue of series Opens with a superhero poker tournament GLA show up uninvited, but Thing lets them stay because Squirrel Girl is cool Hachnasat Orchim? Side story with Impossible Man getting cured of his hiccups but destroying a Himalayan village Alicia’s romantic interest (?) goes to fix teh village, freeing her to date Ben again Not until PAGE 14 that we finally learn why this party is happening. Well, page 15 Mr Sheckerberg introduces Ben to Rabbi Lowenthal False idea that you have to be 13 to have a Bar Mitzvah (as opposed to BEING one) They say “our faith” believes you can get another one at 83, since 70 is life expectancy I have NEVER heard of this idea before Did some research. Apparently it’s a relatively recent phenomenon (definitely no earlier than 20th century) Textual basis pretty universally agreed upon: Psalms 90:10 “The span of our life is seventy years, or, given the strength, eighty years; but the best of them are trouble and sorrow. They pass by speedily, and we are in darkness.” Though an Aish HaTorah article connects it to Yehuda ben Tema’s statement in Pirkei Avot 5:21 that age seventy is שיבה, a white head of hair, though a homophone of “satisfied” - hence, an occasional translation of a ripe old age Earliest example I could find was December 1999 when Kirk Douglas (Issur ben Heshel) Page 16 - thirteen years of Ben as The Thing, hence his second life Rabbi Lowenthal runs it by “some rabbinical scholars,” who okay it Rabbinical scholars know it’s not necessary, it’s just an aliyah Ben studies Hebrew, practices for his Torah and haftorah portion (pretty good) Invitation has a note not to forget the big poker party afterward (typical Jewish American experience) Page 17 - double page spread Large synagogue with clergy sitting on the bima (feels very Reform or Conservative to me) Thing wearing the yarmulke and tallis, which is pretty awesome to see visually Thing gives his “speech” about his Torah portion from the book of Job No torah portion comes from Job, Job not in the Torah In fact, no Haftorah portion comes from the book of Job These are the moments of frustration, when something is represented incorrectly. And then Thing kicks everybody out so he can have sex with Alicia Masters
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