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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Oscar Greenberg, a.k.a.
Greenberg the Vampire


The character of Greenberg the Vampire appeared, apparently, only in Bizarre Adventures #29 (December, 1981) and Marvel Graphic Novel #20: Greenberg the Vampire, with his story primarily told in the lengthier graphic novel. The character was created by writer J. M. DeMatteis and artist Steve Leialoha. The graphic novel (published in 1986, 70 pages) was painted by Mark Badger.

Greenberg the Vampire has never been part of the "Marvel Universe," and was part of his own self-contained stories. For some reason, perhaps because the graphic novel was particularly well-written, with appealing art and writing, Greenberg the Vampire became a relatively well known and well-remembered character.

J. M. DeMatteis is a well-regarded comic book writer whose popularity and production of quality output spans decades, but he has certainly created many other one-short characters who are less well known than Greenberg the Vampire. It seems likely that the novelty of being a Jewish vampire contributed signficantly to Greenberg's lasting impression.

From: Jeffrey Weiss, "Comic-book heroes seldom reveal their faith: Recent revelation of the Thing's religion was a rare moment for pop culture", published in Dallas Morning News, 24 August 2002 (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/thingjew.htm; viewed 21 December 2005):

Over the years, the writers told readers all kinds of things about the habits and foibles of the characters. We knew about their taste in clothing, their troubles with relationships, their sense of humor. But we rarely discovered whether they followed any particular religion.

That seems odd in one way. Back in the dawn of the modern comic book, more than 90 percent of Americans self-identified with a particular religion, mostly some kind of Christianity. Why wouldn't reality-linked superheroes have a particular religion?

Explicitly Religious Comics Characters
[list of 20 characters features 10 characters under the "Jewish" subheading, including:]
Greenberg the Vampire. He's Jewish. And he's a vampire. Go figure.

From: "Greenberg the Vampire" page on "The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe" website (http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/greenber.htm; viewed 29 December 2005)
Real Name: Oscar Greenberg
Occupation: Writer
First Appearance: Bizarre Adventures #29 (December, 1981)

Powers/Abilities: Greenberg and the vampires of his world differ somewhat from the vampires of [mainstream Marvel Universe continuity]. He does have enlarged canine teeth and requires blood to survive. He can easily live off of animal blood, preserved blood, etc., and he has almost never fed directly from a living person [etc.]...

Most vampires of Earth-Greenberg continue to live out an otherwise normal existence and continue their occupations if possible, and enjoy many of the same recreational activities as the living--although they are limited to the night-life. The vampires also have some sort of judicial system to prevent Feeders from attacking people and drawing attention to their existence. Oscar is also a skilled writer. He worked for many years as a horror writer, but after his mother's death he began to write more "touchy-feely" stuff.

History:

(Marvel Graphic Novel#20: Greenberg the Vampire [MGN] (fb [flashback])) - As an infant, Oscar Greenberg was visited by Lilith, who attempted to claim him for herself. Oscar's mother, Henrietta, whose father was a rabbi, called upon "Sanvi, Sansanvi, and Semangeleaf" for help, and drove her off.

(MGN#20) <1954> - The young Oscar Greenberg was visited and seduced by Lilith as he prepared for his own Bar Mitzvah.

(MGN#20 [flashback], Bizarre Adventures #29 [BizAdv29]- Oscar Greenberg met Denise Keaton while doing research for a novel at a meeting of a Satanic Cult. The two clicked instantly and soon ended up in a romantic encounter. In the heat of passion, Denise lost control of herself and bit into Oscar, draining his blood. Three days later, Oscar rose as a vampire.

Oscar continued his career after his rebirth, and he also continued to see Denise, whom he fell in love and eventually moved in with over a ten year time period.

(BizAdv29/2) - Oscar and Denise investigated the cult guru Leslie Townshend, and uncovered evidence of her murdering Tina D'Addario. At the same time, Oscar was stalked by the vampire hunter, Arthur Keaton. Keaton collapsed in defeat after seeing his sister, Denise, as a vampire, and Townshend was hurled out of a high rise window by the reanimated corpse of Tina.

(MGN#20) - Oscar, suffering from writer's block, decided to try his hand in cinema, working for Thad Turkel. He also worked with Geraldine Adams and her teenage daughter, Evie. However, Evie--a young, vivacious actress--turned out to be Lilith, and she again seduced him. She sought to use her work to seduce the rest of the world into the fiery lust of the world she had dwelled in before being brought to the Garden of Eden with Adam. Greenberg's family and friends--including Rabbi Zeydl, whom Henrietta had recruited--sought to drive off Lilith, but were each overpowered by her. However, Greenberg drew on the love of his family and girlfriend and shot Lilith, banishing her from the Earthly plane.

[Additional Notes]
Created by J. M. DeMatteis and Steve Leialoha

...the letter page of Dr. Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts (Dr. Strange (vol2)) #66 states that the story of Greenberg the Vampire did not take place in the Marvel Universe. This was in answer to a question of whether he was destroyed by the reading of the Montesi Formula in Dr. Strange II#62...

From: "MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #20: Greenberg the Vampire (1986)" page on "Mister Meesh's Nominees for the All-Time Coolest Marvel Stories of the '80s" website (http://members.tripod.com/mister_meesh/marv_greenberg.html; viewed 29 April 2005 version via google.com cache on 21 December 2005):
All together now: "Greenberg the WHA...?!?!?!?"

Now, before the misguided e-mail missiles start raining down 'pon my parade, let me clarify a few house rules re: this whole "all-time coolest" bit.

The twentieth book in the series, Greenberg the Vampire, was different. Indeed, if I may be so bold to venture, it was unlike anything that had ever appeared in comics... or anywhere else, for that matter.

Oscar Greenberg, the hero of our story, is a famous yet reclusive writer with roots in New York City, a sometimes overbearing Jewish family, and a woman who deeply cares for him. Oh, and if the title hasn't already made it clear, he's also a vampire trying desperately to keep his other life a secret from the world, a particularly dicey dilemma given his semi-famous, J.D. Salinger-like reputation. (As comics pro Dwayne McDuffie put it in an online list of his favorite stories, it's "Portnoy's Complaint meets Dracula" -- both, by the way, being very good selections for your reading list, if you haven't yet had the pleasure.)

After a brief prelude involving a rather ghastly act perpetrated by an unknown assailant, our story begins as all good stories must: with a writer sitting at his typewriter...

Specifically, Mr. Greenberg is writing "The Confessions of a Vampire," an autobiographical sketch explaining just who he is and how he came to be.

"Now hear this," he begins his piece. "I am a vampire. Allow me to repeat that: I AM A VAMPIRE! Does your skin crawl as you read that word? VAMPIRE! Do you see images of Bram Stoker's ridiculous Count, whipping his cape around and telling some hapless, helpless young female that he 'vants' to suck her blood? Let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen: Bram Stoker was an a--hole."

...Speaking of family members... we are soon introduced to this story's dramatis personae: Morrie, Oscar's impressionable nephew; brother Ira, who happens to be Morrie's dad and the proud owner of a kosher butcher shop (a profession that makes him particularly useful when Oscar and his colleagues need an O-positive lift); and Mama, proud matriarch of the clan and the only family member whom Oscar hasn't told about his alternative lifestyle.

"Those people... They weren't people!" the mortified mensch stutters after they leave said establishment. "They were... they were..."

"They were just like me, Ira!" Oscar replies, visibly annoyed at what his brother was implying about a group of people in which he, involuntarily or not, must claim membership.

...without going into the intricate details of the plot... I can say the real themes of the story are sin, redemption, and the often-overwhelming power of family, love, and tradition in our lives... things that even a jughead of a gentile like myself will recognize as common themes in Jewish literature and stand-up comedy acts...

...here is my own humble suggestion for your next blockbuster. It's got everything: love, honor, betrayal, sin, redemption, lust, romance, comedy, terror, the line "you're a good girl... for a shiksa vampire," ...and, not least of all, a leading-man role that every hunk in Hollywood would simply, if you'll pardon the phrase, die for (two words: Jewish vampire. I'm thinking Jeff Goldblum here. Or possibly Pauly Shore. Up to you, really.)

Mr. DeMatteis is on record as saying he would be very amenable to a motion-picture deal, but he doesn't imagine anyone at Marvel is remotely interested "unless they find out that it's the only character they have yet to option for a film."

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):
DeMatteis, J.M. "Greenberg the Vampire" Marvel Graphic Novel #20 (NY: Marvel, 1986).
Oscar Greenberg, a Jewish vampire who is also a talented horror writer, is stalked by Lilith. Lilith wants him to use his talent to "seduce the millions" through his writing, drawing them to Lilith and her dark ways. Oscar's family, accompanied by Rabbi Zeydl ("wisest of the wise"), try to foil her plan and save Greenberg. In the end, it is Oscar's love for his mother that saves him and defeats Lilith.

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Webpage created 21 December 2005. Last modified 29 December 2005.
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