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TitleThe Holocaust and Anti-Semitism in Jewish Made Comic
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TagsDc Comics Batman Comics Captain America Comics Avenger Comics Marvel Comics Adult Comics
LanguageEnglish
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ut It? :

The Holocaust and Anti-Semitism in Jewish Made Comic Books 1963-1989

By Cameron Fontaine



had lived through. It was always a given that they had liv

- Art

Spiegelman1

As Spiegelman wrote in Meta Maus, his parents really did not directly refer to or

openly discuss the Holocaust until the late seventies. There was a similar trend in the

comics industry. Many of the artists and writers in the early days of comics were Jewish

immigrants or born into a Jewish immigrant families. So the question raised is why is to

why is no one talking about the Holocaust? Why is there so little discussion of the

hardships faced by Jewish immigrants? There are a couple of reasons why these themes

do not emerge until later in comics. The Jewish immigrant experience and the legacy of

the Holocaust were unpleasant themes not suited for the stringent guidelines of the

Comics Code established in 1954. While themes of Jewish identity were discussed under

the code they were not openly discussed until the abandonment of the code in the late

e .

Comic creators discussed a myriad of different issues through the medium since

the first issue of Action Comics. Action Comics No. 1, published in 1938, is considered

the first comic book and the beginning of the medium as we know it today. Comics took

off almost immediately. Everyone read comics because there were comics for everyone.


1 Art Spiegelman. Meta Maus. New York: Pantheon Books, 2011, 12

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Not just Superhero comics but Romance, Horror, Crime and Western comics were also

popular. There was a comic for everyone. During World War II comics were extremely

popular with troops over seas. During this time heroes like Captain America, Superman,

and Batman emerged. Paul Buhle, author of Jews and American Comics, states

oes would not have been an 2

The closest thing in the comic industry was Steve Rogers, a scrawny kid from the Lower

East Side who became the super soldier Captain America. The mood of Superhero

comics was one of patriotism and the sentiment was widespread. After the war, however,

the comics industry took a major turn that shaped the next two to three decades of



After the war, comic book sales took a dramatic downturn. Men returning home

from the war were no longer interested in comics as they rejoined the work force and

started families. its attention toward the upward trend of

Juvenile delinquency. The adults needed a scapegoat to explain this youth rebellion.

Comic books were just the thing they were looking for. The industry included titles in

Romance, Horror, Crime, and Western genres, as well as Superheroes. It was at this time

that the comic book industry was gravely threatened by the crusade of Senator Estes

Kefauver, based on one book, Seduction of the Innocent, by the misguided psychiatrist Dr.

Frederic Wertham.3 In 1954, due to congressional hearings enacted by Senator Kefauver,

the industry faced

Comics cover tha


2 Paul Buhle, ed. Jews and American Comics: An Illustrated History of an American Art Form. New York:
The New Press, 2008, 56
3 Lougheed, David. 2012. "THE COMING AND GOING OF THE COMICS CODE

AUTHORITY." History Magazine 14, no. 2: 25-26. History Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed
November 22, 2013). 25

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The other panel which speaks to the idea of anti-mutant sentiment is a close up of

newspapers rolling o

21 This idea that the authority figure, Dr. Trask, is stirring up an anti Mutant

fervor based on false information and accusations is reminiscent of a document from the

early 20th century doing much the same thing for the Jews. The document known as the

Protocols of the Elders of Zion outlines a massive Jewish conspiracy to basically take

over the world. The Protocols first appear in a Russian newspaper in 1903. They were

presented as a series of twenty four secret lectures given by a Jewish elder outlining a

world wide Jewish conspiracy to consolidate power and control the entire world.22

This information was disseminated into the hands of ignorant gullible people.

These people in turn were frightened by the news and these forged documents were used

as justification for the carrying out of pogroms throughout Russia. In the wake of the

Russian Civil War many of the members of the defeated White Army fled west carrying

with them copies of the Protocols. In this way the literature was spread to the west

further fueling anti-Semitic sentiment.23 This document which makes claims about

Jewish conspiracy had a significant effect on the Jewish population.

The ideas of anti Mutant sentiment suggest a comparison to these forged

documents of the early twentieth century. Later in X-Men #14, Dr. Trask reveals his new

inventions in a televised debate with Professor Xavier. Trask creates the Sentinels which

are towering robotic foot soldiers who are programmed to locate and exterminate


21 Lee, Kirby. X-men #14, 3
22 Green, Ronald S. 2000. "Scholars Contending with Delusional Ideology: Historians, Anti-Semitic Lore,

and the Protocols." Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 18, no. 2: 82. Academic Search
Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed November 23, 2013). 82-83
23 Green, 84

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Mutants.24 There are two important ideas that come through in this story. First of all there

is the televised declaration of a Mutant Conspiracy generating anti Mutant sentiment

rapidly escalating to the national level which, as mentioned before, echoes the ideas of

the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Then there is the introduction of the Sentinels which echo another enemy of the

Jewish people, the Nazi foot soldiers. The idea that the sole purpose of these sentinels is

to exterminate mutant life forms gives them the exact same relationship as the Nazi

soldier had to the Jews during the Holocaust. Through the X-men universe, the sentinels

continue to be an ever present danger to the X-men as their sole purpose is to eradicate all

mutant life.

X-men #14 is an important issue for the Uncanny X-

known for making Superheroes seem human. Making them relatable, giving them flaws

and problems that readers of the comics might deal with. Spider-Man was a teenager who

had his powers thrust upon him one day by a radioactive spider. The X-men were born

different and there was nothing they could do about it. People hate the X-men because

they are different and they do not understand what makes them different they just do not

like it.

These examples from X-men #14 show how Jewish identity and hardship were

addressed even under the oppressive Comics Code Authority. The Comics Code

Authority had for years controlled the output of any comic that you would find on your

local newsstand. However a very important event takes place about six years after this

issue is published which will put a crack in the code and begin to question its legitimacy

and its necessity.


24 Lee, Kirby. X-men #14, 8-10

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Approaches. London: Rutgers University Press, 2008.

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