It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s… Beta-Sigma-Rho Man?
The recent discovery of a 75-year-old pencil sketch by Superman creator Joe Shuster hints that Man of Steel’s origins have roots in a Toronto fraternity.
The Ontario Jewish Archives in Toronto recently released an image of the circa-1937 drawing, which depicts a familiar caped figure with a “BSR” logo emblazoned across his chest in place of the more recognizable “S.”
“This superhero is not saving the citizens of the fictitious Metropolis from evildoers,” the OJA said in a tongue-in-cheek press release. “Rather, he is a mascot for the University of Toronto’s Beta Sigma Rho fraternity.”
While Joe Shuster wasn’t a member of the frat, whose Toronto chapter launched in 1930, his first cousin Frank, a University of Toronto student, did belong. Joe Shuster would leave Cleveland often to visit his Toronto cousin; the two would spend days watching movies in downtown theaters. Frank Shuster would go on to form the legendary Canadian comedy duo Wayne & Shuster with Johnny Wayne.
A Jerusalem shop settled out of court with two comic book companies that charged it sells unlicensed kippahs bearing the images of Superman and Spider-Man.
Avi Binyamin, owner of the Kippa Man store on Ben Yehuda Street in central Jerusalem, will pay Marvel Comics and Warner Brothers $17,000 each for the unauthorized use of their superheroes’ images. The companies had sued for about $27,000 in damages.
Numerous shops along Ben Yehuda sell merchandise featuring Batman, Spider-Man and other characters, as well as college mascots and professional sports teams.
“They make them in China, I just bring them,” Binyamin told The Jerusalem Post in September after the Marvel Comics lawsuit was filed, adding, “There are 20 stores on this street, they all sell the same thing.”
Lawyers for the two companies told the Israeli daily Maariv that they will file lawsuits against other small stores in Israel that sell their characters’ images without authorization.
Earlier, Harry Brod wrote about how Jews don’t have a “middle range,” speaking backwards, a couple of sayings with which he disagrees, and why he always has a valid passport. His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
Every Thanksgiving I think of the Thanksgiving scene in the 1990 film “Avalon,” one of Barry Levinson’s semi-autobiographical Baltimore films. “Avalon” tells a multi-generational tale of a Jewish family, ranging from the immigrant generation who arrived at the start of the 20th-century to the Americanized generation of mid-century.
At the large family Thanksgiving gathering a feud develops between the two brothers of the central, transitional generation because they start the meal before the arrival of the older brother. The family tries unsuccessfully to soothe him by explaining that they waited but couldn’t delay the meal any further because the young kids were getting hungry. The two brothers end up not speaking because the older brother remains so deeply offended that they carved the turkey without him.
Earlier, Harry Brod wrote about speaking backwards a couple of sayings with which he disagrees and why he always has a valid passport. His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
“Jews don’t have a middle range,” I said to my friend and colleague.
He was telling me about his experience teaching a new course at our university. Faculty from very different fields had come together to develop a common core of readings and topics for a course designed to introduce first year students to college life. Each professor would teach their own section but the students would receive a common experience. The format meant that every instructor would be out of their area of expertise and comfort zone for at least part of the course, most likely for most of it.
“So there I was,” he told me, “standing in front of these new students as an experienced teacher, not just nervous but terrified.”
“Yeah,” I said, “Jews don’t have a middle range. We go right from a little bit scared to absolutely terrified.”
Earlier, Harry Brod wrote about a couple of sayings with which he disagrees and why he always has a valid passport. His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
I’ve been told that students in my college courses sometimes have trouble following what I’m saying because I speak backwards.
The problem is the order in which I put words in a sentence. Having grown up in a Yiddish and German speaking household, I seem to think in the structure of those languages even when I’m speaking English. Maybe if I looked like Yoda they’d get into it, but as a New York Jew in Iowa, I’m just strange.
I think of Cynthia Ozick, who has said that she writes Yiddish sentences in English. Some years ago I was invited to deliver a lecture on Ozick’s wonderful paired short story and novella “The Shawl” and “Rosa.” I made this point by reading a few words from one of the first sentences in “Rosa”: “Her meals she had elsewhere.” That, I pointed out, is not standard English prose. In English one would normally say “She had her meals elsewhere.” Standard Yiddish sentence construction is what it is.
Yesterday, Harry Brod wrote about why he always has a valid passport. His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
“It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” I first realized I didn’t agree with this saying when I spoke at a commemoration of Kristallnacht at Kenyon College where I was teaching in 1988. “The Night of Broken Glass,” as it’s known in English, is often cited as the beginning of the Holocaust, so by that reckoning November 9, 1988 was the 50th anniversary of the start of the Holocaust. I was asked to speak as both a philosopher and a child of Holocaust survivors. The evening’s ceremony included a brief march in which people carried lit candles.
The symbolism of the candles was on my mind because I’ve also got my own, more personal associations with candles on that date. November 9, but in 1965, was the date of the East Coast blackout, where much of the northeast US went dark, including New York City where we lived. We had a lot of candles at home because November 9 was also my father’s birthday. Living in Poland then, he had turned 16 the day of Kristallnacht. Maybe one of these days I’ll write something more about my connections to November 9, because that date in 1989 was when the wall came down in Berlin, the city of my birth, the city where my parents met and married.
Harry Brod is a professor of philosophy and humanities at the University of Northern Iowa and the author of “Superman Is Jewish?: How Comic Book Superheroes Came to Serve Truth, Justice, and the Jewish-American Way.” His blog posts are featured on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog Series. For more information on the series, please visit:
I always have a valid passport. I keep it within easy access and I know just where it is, and I’ve made sure my kids have one too. You never know. It’s not that I’m paranoid — well, maybe it is, but that’s not how I think of it — it’s that I’m a child of Holocaust survivors. I used to think of my need to be exit ready as a fear of being trapped, but I’ve realized it’s got very little to do with what I think about the present or future. It’s about the past. It’s a link to my parents, a way of keeping their worldview alive in me. As bizarre as it may sound – at least to those who aren’t children of survivors, but I expect those who share my background will understand – not to have a valid passport feels to me like a betrayal of my parents, a failure to heed hard won lessons.
Actually, I should clarify that, when I speak of myself as a child of Holocaust survivors, the identity I really claim is that I’m a child of temporary Holocaust survivors. What I mean is that while my parents survived the war years, they both died younger than I think they would have had they not had to endure the hardships and traumas of those years. They survived, but only temporarily, my mother having died by age 49 and my father by 59.
We Jews like to pride ourselves on the many things we’ve invented: the ballpoint pen, blue jeans, and the atomic bomb, to name a few. (How about the theory of relativity — does that count?) We’ve also had a strong hand in shaping the world of modern entertainment, helping to build Hollywood, create the modern sitcom, and, not least important, invent that beloved American lowbrow figure, the comic book superhero. Whether you consider it a feat or a flaw, Jews dreamed up Superman, the Fantastic Four, Spider Man, Iron Man, the Hulk, the X-Men — in other words, nearly every big-name character that came to life during the Golden (late 1930s–1940s) and Silver (late 1950s–1970) Ages of comics.
Captain Marvel — the “World’s Mightiest Mortal,” as his creators billed him — is an exception, wildly popular in his day but not called into existence by Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Will Eisner, or any other of the Jewish comics greats. Instead it was a magazine publisher named Roscoe Fawcett who, two years after Siegel and Shuster’s Superman first appeared in DC Comics in 1938, allegedly told his company’s art director he wanted a comparable character whose alternate identity would be a young boy rather than a grown man. Thus Captain Marvel was born, and proceeded to outsell Superman throughout the following decade, sometimes by as many as 14 millions copies a month. He met a premature demise, however, at the hands of DC, who sued Fawcett Comics for copyright infringement. After three trials, a financially beleaguered Fawcett settled in 1952, agreeing never to publish Captain Marvel again.
In 1947, nearly a decade after Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster sold the rights to Superman — an infamously raw deal that earned the comic’s creators a paltry $130 — the duo attempted to avenge their exclusion from the franchise’s lucrative rise to the top of the comic book heap. But their new effort, Funnyman, a bizarre fusion of the archetypal American superhero and Jewish vaudevillian humorist, tanked after six issues and spelled the end of Siegel and Shuster’s partnership.
A new book to be released in July, titled “Siegel and Shuster’s Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero,” by pop culture historian Thomas Andrae and Mel Gordon, a professor of Theater Arts at the University of California, Berkeley, details the genesis, influences and demise of Funnyman.
The book, luminously printed by Feral House, reprints the original six-issue color series, which debuted in January 1948 and began appearing in newspapers later that year.