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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Albert Julian Rothstein
Atom Smasher
of the Justice League of America
(also known as "Nuklon")


Atom Smasher says he is Jewish
Above: Atom Smasher (also known as "Nuklon") tells Supergirl that he is Jewish. [Source: Justice League Unlimited #16, written by Adam Beechen and illustrated by Carlo Barbieri. Thanks to Doug Glassman for sending this scan!]

Infinity Inc. #48: Origin of Nuklon (Atom Smasher), including his Bar Mitzvah

From: "Jewish Comics Exhibit Notes" webpage, last updated 5 December 2004 (http://www.geocities.com/hadassahfink/comicexhnotes.htm; viewed 4 July 2007):

Infinity Inc #48
On an airplane flight, Nuklon (a member of the superhero team Infinity Inc.) thinks back over important events in his life prior to becoming a costumed adventurer, including the day of his Bar Mitzvah.

From: Michael Gelbwasser, "Cool characters entice kids: Jewish superheroes work wonders in American comics", published 7 January 1997 in The Boston Jewish Advocate (http://www.jewishsf.com/bk970107/1bcool.htm; viewed 21 December 2005):

The Jewish community often complains that it's losing young people's attention. Have Jewish leaders checked the comic shops recently?

...Modern comic books -- lively keystones of American popular culture -- aren't afraid to feature numerous new heroes... who have clearly Jewish backgrounds. Nor do comic books shy away from topics of particular Jewish interest, such as interdating...

Ramban, Judith, Dybbuk and the Golem aren't the only Jews in comics published by DC, whose office is heavily populated by Jewish executives. In fact, there used to be one more -- Nuklon, a 7-foot-1 ponytailed power house who was a member of the Justice League America, DC's premier superhero team.

In one issue released last year, Nuklon had dinner with fellow Justice Leaguer Fire, who expressed a romantic interest in him. Nuklon told Fire he was "flattered" by her interest. But he said they couldn't get serious because "I'm going to marry a Jewish girl.

"You see, it isn't just my happiness that matters. I owe something to my family...to my heritage," Nuklon said. "I'm like a link in a chain. I can't be the one to break that chain."

Alas, the character's comic book didn't sell well so DC iced him from its list this summer.

From: "Who's Jews in the Marvel & DC Universe?", posted on Orthodox Union website (OU.ORG - Your Gateway to the Jewish Internet), (http://www.ou.org/ncsy/projects/kp/5763/kpwint63/thing.htm; viewed 20 December 2005):
The Thing may be the heaviest hitter to announce his Jewish roots, but he's far from alone. There are plenty of fellow Israelites in tights to join him at the Seder table...

From DC's largest hero [Colossal Boy], to the smallest: the Atom may be Jewish. Sure, he was married in a church, but in Justice League of America #188 he says that he is not familiar with the Chanukah story because he is "not very religious." Isn't that an odd thing to say if you're not Jewish? (As a side note, Nuklon, now known as Atom Smasher, protege of the Golden Age Atom is clearly Jewish. Could the whole Atom dynasty be Jewish?)

From: Steven M. Bergson, "Jewish Comics: A Select Bibliography" (http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/5756/JWISHC.HTM; viewed 21 December 2005):
Gelbwasser, Michael. "Holy Blintzes! Practising Judaism OK for Super-heroes." Jewish Advocate Oct. 19, 1995, pg. PG.
Discusses the Jewish super-heroes Ramban the magician, Judith, Dybbuk, Golem, Nuklon, Colossal Boy, Ragman and Sabra...

Jones, Gerard. "Where the Wild Things Are". Justice League America #95 Jan. 1995. (NY: DC).
Half of the comic shows superhero Nuklon (aka Albert Rothstein)'s date with superheroine "Fire" (aka Beatriz DaCosta). Towards the end of the date, Fire tells Nuklon that she asked him out because she wants to settle down with someone. Nuklon, though flattered, tells her that he couldn't marry her unless she converted to Judaism: "I'm like a link in a chain. I can't be the one to break that chain."

Selections from: Steven M. Bergson, "Jewish Comics: A Select Bibliography" last updated 28 June 2005 (http://www.geocities.com/safran-can/JWISHC.HTM; viewed 23 December 2005):

Gelbwasser, Michael. "Cool Characters Entice Kids: Jewish Superheroes Work Wonders in American Comics" Boston Jewish Advocate Jan. 7, 1997.

Gelbwasser, Michael. "Look! Up in the Sky! Jewish Superheroes." Jewish Advocate Oct. 19, 1995, pg. PG.
Discusses the Jewish super-heroes Seraph, the Blasters, Colossal Boy, Ragman, Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family, Mindboggler, Ramban, Golem, Judith, Dybbuk, Nuklon, Phantom Stranger and Sabra.

Discussion

Excerpts from: "Are Superheroes Religious?" forum page, started 13 May 2004, in "The John Byrne Forum" section of the Byrne Robotics website (http://jb.24-7intouch.com/forum/get_topic.asp?FID=3&TID=558&DIR=P; viewed 9 January 2006):
Neil Welch
14 May 2004 at 4:19 am
Very little religion in the DCU - there seems to be a pervading non-denominational deist philosophy (Spectre is an agent of God, but let's not be specific about what religion for fear of alienating the others).

Nuklon/Atom Smasher clearly Jewish.

Huntress presumably Catholic by reference to crucifix.

Pre-Crisis Superman presumably nominally a member of the Kryptonian religion (whatever that was) by virtue of his frequent "Great Rao!"s.

A bit tricky to address religion in a universe where there is quite a high preponderance of actual Gods!

From "He's strong! He's powerful! He's fantastic! And he prays!" forum discussion page started 1 October 2002 on ToonZone.net website (http://forums.toonzone.net/archive/index.php/t-50423.html; viewed 11 January 2006):
LadyM
10-01-2002, 03:29 PM

I don't know that religion is really ignored in comic books. I'd say it turns up at least as much as it would in a regular series of novels or a TV series. Moreso, even.

Other characters whose religions I'm familiar with:

Fire is Catholic
Nuklon is Jewish...
[More are listed]

From: "Religion in comic books" discussion forum started on 24 April 2006, on DC Comics official message board website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072787&tstart=0; viewed 1 May 2006):
dragonbat
Posted: Apr 25, 2006 4:28 AM

Atom Smasher is Jewish (So am I. That's why I kinda keep track.)

From: "What Religion is Your Favorite Superhero?" discussion board started 20 April 2006 on official website of DC Comics (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072337&tstart=0; viewed 8 May 2006):
relmurmot
Posted: Apr 20, 2006 9:30 AM

...What is the religion of the heroes we read about?... Don't get me wrong, not picking on anyone, just wonder what everyone thinks what our heroes believe... (maybe a moderater can have some imput..?) ....other threads touch on the subject in passing, time to discuss it!


crood
Posted: Apr 20, 2006 9:49 AM

For the vast majority, it is deliberately left unsaid and any distinct belief system is never referred to. Unless otherwise indicated, I pretty much assume most believe in God, but don't attend service very often. Here are the ones I know about.
Huntress - Catholic
Blue Devil - Catholic
Atom Smasher - Jewish
Ragman - Jewish
Mr. Terrific - Atheist
Wonder Woman - Greek Gods

From: "New Christian JLA member" message board, started 5 May 2005 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000023085; viewed 15 May 2006):
kissmyringagain
Posted: May 6, 2005 3:09 AM

I am a Christian... There is a reason there is no Christian superhero. Same reason as there is no real Jewish [superhero]... that flaunt their religion or fight for religious belief specific notions. It's because they would be offensive to many, if not most, of the readership.

Besides -- Zauriel, Bloodwynd, Wonder Woman, the Spectre, the Quintet, etc., etc., are all based on or are slaves to religious beliefs, but none actively flaunt it, or debate which is correct, so a hard-line Christian super hero would probably not sit too well.


hellstone1
Posted: May 6, 2005 3:50 AM

Well, I'm gonna hit you. Nightcrawler, Daredevil, [4 other Christian superheroes] are all Christians. Sabra, Seraph, Ramban, Atom-Smasher and the Thing are Jewish... Many of them have debated their beliefs in the comics - as you say, not the hardline way, but that is definitely not the same as saying that they are not Christian superheroes [or Jewish superheroes], or that they are not devoted.

As far as I know, none of them are fundamentalists, against other religions or...

From: "an Asian as a major hero. FINALLY. but..." message board started 21 April 2006 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072443&start=15; viewed 31 May 2006):
cycozombie
Posted: May 1, 2006 12:41 PM

...when was it established that Ray Palmer is Jewish? I know Atom Smasher (Albert Rothstein) is Jewish, but the Atom?


godisnowhere
Posted: May 1, 2006 5:18 PM

Ray Palmer isn't Jewish. This was clearly established in the original JLA series where his Jewish friend invites him to a Hannukah celebration.

Atom Smasher on the other hand is Jewish.

From: "Passover Wave! Ragman and--?" message board started 13 April 2006 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?forumID=29209087&threadID=2000071426; viewed 1 June 2006):
nigelowrey
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 10:54 AM

...Other Jewish heroes include Atom-Smasher (dunno if this makes the golden age Atom, his godfather, Jewish too) but I'm not overly familiar with the minutiae of DC lore...

Marvel wise, Kitty Pryde, the Thing, Doc Samson, Moon Knight and Vance Astro/Justice are all Jewish...


hateradereloaded
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 9:15 PM

So far my League of [Jewish Superheroes] is as follows:

Ragman ... A smelly homeless dude with possessed shmatas, great.

Atom Smasher ... Murderer, great...

Golden Age Atom ... A short little tough guy. Very much like the short little asskicking boxer (Jake Barnes?) in THE SUN ALSO RISES...I buy that he's a Jew.

[Five other Jewish superheroes listed, with comments for each]

From: "Superman Wedding -- why a Christian ceremony?" newsgroup discussion started 11 October 1996 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4d17a1ff0ee9c715/d141c36005b90ea4; viewed 5 June 2006):
From: PatDOneill
Date: Wed, Oct 23 1996 12:00 am
Email: patdone...@aol.com

re: "Just out of curiosity, is there any major character in the DC Universe definitely shown as being Jewish? Several months ago, several people listed Jewish characters in other universes, but I don't recall any in the DCU."

Pre-Crisis, Colossal Boy (now Leviathan) of the Legion of Super-Heroes was portrayed as Jewish. Nuklon of the Infinity Inc. and the JLA is Jewish. Ragman is Jewish.


From: Edward Mathews
Date: Wed, Oct 23 1996 12:00 am
Email: mathe...@is3.nyu.edu

Nuklon, formerly of Infinity, Inc. and Justice League America, is Jewish.

Ed (there are plenty of characters, but he sticks out as the most recent in my mind, at least in 20th C. Earth)


From: Carolina Lithgow-Bertelloni
Date: Wed, Oct 23 1996 12:00 am
Email: Carolina Lithgow-Bertelloni

re: "Nuklon..."

That's the only one I can remember.


From: larry
Date: Thurs, Oct 24 1996 12:00 am
Email: l...@jcn18.com

The Golden Age Sandman was just revealed to be half-Jewish. And I recall that Nuklon was strongly Jewish in the final issues of one of the recently axed JL [Justice League] titles.

Incidentally: If anyone out there is interested in starting a Web site devoted to Jewish spins on comic books, please e-mail. I have Web space I can make available for that purpose.

Larry Yudelson
editor, Jewish Communication Network

From: "Religious Inclinations of heroes" message board, started 1 March 2005 on StarDestroyer.net website (http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=63632&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=25; viewed 8 June 2006):
Stravo
Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 6:38 pm

Post subject: Religious Inclinations of heroes

What about other heroes? I notice religion rarely plays a part in mainstream superhero comics (absent things like the Vertigo line) but have you ever picked up on hints or outright admissions by some heroes as to their religious inclinations?

Seems that atheistic heroes are as rare in comics as in real life. If they are religious it's a sort Judaeo-Christian wishy washy sort of religion... Any other examples of guesses?


The Dark
Posted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:01 am

...Moon Knight, Sandman, and Nuklon are all Jewish by heritage though (IIRC) non-practicing...

From: "Superman Wedding -- why a Christian ceremony?" newsgroup discussion started 11 October 1996 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4d17a1ff0ee9c715/d141c36005b90ea4; viewed 5 June 2006):
From: PatDOneill
Date: Wed, Oct 23 1996 12:00 am
Email: patdone...@aol.com

re: "Just out of curiosity, is there any major character in the DC Universe definitely shown as being Jewish? Several months ago, several people listed Jewish characters in other universes, but I don't recall any in the DCU."

Pre-Crisis, Colossal Boy (now Leviathan) of the Legion of Super-Heroes was portrayed as Jewish. Nuklon of the Infinity Inc. and the JLA is Jewish. Ragman is Jewish.

From: "Banned for using this nic" thread began 4 Apri 1999 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/f38288dc4e56542/8a873a0a53da3d0d; viewed 12 June 2006)
From: Robert Justus
Date: Mon, Apr 5 1999 12:00 am

To keep this on topic (sorta), why are most heroes not as religious as they could be? ...the only really religious person that's sane that I recall in DCU is Huntress, and I guess Wonder Woman... Anyone else...?


From: Chuck Burke
Date: Sat, Apr 24 1999 12:00 am

...Albert Rothstein (Atom Smasher, I think it is now?) is Jewish...

From: "Any Christian Superheroes?" thread began 22 April 2004 on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4e5839f075fecf76/8821b5db671e7ce1; viewed 20 June 2006):
From: Gustavo Wombat
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 12:03 pm

I can't think of any major superheroes that strongly believe in any real faith, and that surprises me. Certainly not in the DC Universe. I think there are more minority superheroes than religious ones...


From: Dan McEwen
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 7:24 pm

...Atom-Smasher is Jewish...

From: "Up, Up and Oy Vey!", posted 19 June 2006 on "Justice League Animated Forum" website (http://www.passfailstudios.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8674&sid=dd2468fb558cd29c0667f991f8a127e1; viewed 4 June 2007):

Allie
Posted: Mon Jun 19, 2006 10:51 pm

Sure, they [Siegel and Shuster] were Jewish, but that doesn't make the character [Superman] Jewish.

The JL/JLU [Justice League/Justice League Unlimited] version is definitely not Jewish.

Oh hold on, I'll find that website someone pointed me to the other day...at this point, with everyone treating me like comics are the only thing I'm interested in, I don't even know if the link was given to me by someone off the board or on.

http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Superman.html

I got there from here:
http://www.beliefnet.com/features/comicbookfaith.html

which points out a few Jewish heroes that, y'know, SAY they're Jewish.

Atom Smasher is Jewish, too, right? And who is it in the Crisis that says they're Jewish? (TheMoosh is going to check it out...la la la... Ragman.)

From: Brad Meltzer, "Jewish Superhero Website Listing", posted 28 June 2007 on his official MySpace website (http://www.bradmeltzer.com/labels/Comics.html; viewed 9 July 2007):

Thanks to Jack G. for this. And I so admire The Acidic Jew [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/AcidicJew.html].

Jewish superhero website listing:

http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html

http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_collage.html#Jews


[reader comments posted in response to this, at:
http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=70196334&blogID=281610033&Mytoken=98182113-1D51-4F53-83316A28FAF456D570762504]

I love that site. It's informative, and also in some cases funny. I love Ragman, though. Of all the Jewish heroes, he's probably my favorite, probably because of how horrible his name is, yet how awesome his power is (he's like a non-killing Spectre). It's somewhat sad that Ragman is competing with Atom-Smasher for biggest Jew in DCU, since Ragman's the only one in a title right now (Shadowpact)...

Posted by Transit of the Earth, as seen by Mars. on Thursday, June 28, 2007 at 4:16 PM

From: "Barry Allen is Jewish?" forum discussion, started 13 May 2005 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-4308.html; viewed 20 July 2007):

Lady Obie
May 15th, 2005, 09:12 PM

I thought one of the most interesting aspects of Infinity Inc. was the way Roy Thomas portrayed the characters' various religions and how they influenced the characters lives.

Seeing the characters praying, lighting candles for loved ones, having Bar Mitzvahs, made them more human to me than characters in most other funny books ;).

Sure religion is controversial and people believe different things on both sides of the 4th wall but I find it interesting to see it having such a keen role in the lives of young people who might otherwise seem silly because they choose to run around in tights instead of trying to lead "normal" lives.

And even though I may never know what Roy Thomas' religion is, it showed me what an important role his beliefs had in his own life :).

From: "NY Times outs Batwoman. DUH SPOILERS!!!!!" forum discussion, started 27 May 2006 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-27770.html; viewed 23 July 2007):

grimston1
May 28th, 2006, 09:11 AM

I feel like DC is tying to be an advocate... Is DC just wanting quick media attention? If this were truly about diversity where is the devote Christian hero? What about a Pro-Life Republican? A priest that takes a vow of poverty to fight poverty?

For years people have praised or criticize liberal Hollywood. Are we now looking at a Liberal DC comics?


bgztl
May 28th, 2006, 10:32 AM

They're out there. But, once again, as with your examples, they tend to be supporting characters. The Spectre is probably the best example of an overtly relgious hero that DC has ever had. Jim Corrigan's talks with Father Cramer and his worldview are clearly deeply (and sometimes disturbingly) religious.

But there are many other examples. Atom-Smasher comes to mind.


Mark MacMillan
May 28th, 2006, 12:31 PM

Well here's some of the heroes I know with obvious religious ties:
The Spectre (Christianity/Catholicism)
Zauriel (Christianity/Catholicism)
Ragman (Judaism)
Judomaster (Buddhism)

Here are a couple I'm not sure about...
Monolith (Judaism?)
Etrigan (Catholicism?)

I know Atom Smasher is Jewish and Doc. Mid-Nite is Christian, but I'm not sure about anybody else and don't want to label anyone wrongly. Anyway, religion seems pretty well represented, IMO...

From: "Need Help With A Research Project" forum discussion, started 9 December 2005 on the "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-16070.html; viewed 6 August 2007):

Atom-Smasher
December 13th, 2005, 10:40 PM

Age: 19
Gender: Male
Religon: Reform/Conservative Jewish (somewhere in between the two)

...5a. Atom Smasher represents redemption. He made a mistake and sacrificed his life to correct it, and then was brought back from the brink of death and is now serving his punishment...


Atom-Smasher
December 13th, 2005, 10:57 PM

In relation to question 6: as a Jewish comic book reader, I look around a great deal for any sign of Jewish stuff in comics. It's a habit. Things like the upcoming Sgt. Rock mini about rescuing the rabbi in Eastern Europe are few and far between. Interestingly, the three highest profile Jewish characters at Marvel--Kitty Pryde, the Thing and Moon Knight--have a mini-series, an ongoing and an upcoming ongoing, respectively. On the DC side, Ragman is in the Shadowpact ongoing, but otherwise, Atom Smasher is in jail and... that's it. No one's heard from Seraph and Hayoth for years, and I think I'm the only person that considers Black Canary to actually be Jewish (I have my reasons). Atom Smasher could become a player in OYL considering his current imprisoned status and his apparent recruitment by Amanda Waller.

As for Jewish themes in writing, the legend of the Golem has influenced a number of characters, most notably Marvel's Thing.


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