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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
of the X-Men
Robert Louis Drake, typically known as "Bobby Drake," is better known as "Iceman," one of the founding members of the popular Marvel mutant superhero group the X-Men. The character of Iceman was created by Jewish comic book writer Stan Lee and Jewish comic book artist Jack Kirby. The character's first appearance was in X-Men (volume 1) #1, published in September 1963.
Bobby Drake comes from a solidly middle-class, mainstream American background. He was born in Floral Park, New York, the son of William Robert Drake and Madeline Beatrice Bass-Drake. Bobby Drake has always been portrayed as a very WASP-y character, although technically he could be said to not be a "WASP" (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), because he is apparently not a Protestant.
Details about Iceman's religious affiliation and religious beliefs are scarce. Bobby Drake's father was an Irish Catholic and his mother was Jewish. As is commonplace with mixed Jewish Catholic families, Bobby Drake apparently grew up in a religiously non-observant home.
When the character of Iceman was created there was a strong taboo against overt depiction of religious identification in comics and other popular media. Although Iceman was created as a sort of "All-American" teenager and was probably regarded by the writers as having a Christian background, the character's actual denominational affiliation was not overtly specified.
With regards to religious affiliation, Iceman has never been portrayed as anything other than a rather average American, with an vaguely Christian background, although even this level of information has only rarely been hinted at. Iceman has never been portrayed as overtly religious along the lines of later X-Men characters such as Nightcrawler, Storm or Shadowcat. The Judeo-Christian religious nature of Iceman's family background is more a part of the character's backstory or subtext than a significant, overt aspect of his character. Bobby Drake has, in fact, consistently been written in such a way that he is indistinguishable from somebody from a generic and largely lapsed Protestant background.
A relatively recent X-men story introduced the idea that Bobby Drake is ethnically half-Jewish. The character has never practiced Judaism, however, nor does he appear to have any Jewish identity. Iceman's partial Jewish ethnicity appears to little more than a bit of genealogical trivia. For all intents and purposes, Iceman appears to be only nominal as a Catholic Christian, as well.
From: Neva Huddleston, "A Patch of Love: A Bobby Drake Biography", on "un(frozen)" unofficial Iceman website (http://alykat.hispeed.com/unfrozen/biography/biomice.htm; viewed 22 December 2005):
I've been fascinated with Bobby Drake for most of my life, it started with "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends". When I got on the internet and began to write fan fiction so long ago, I proclaimed myself the Messiah of Drake. Now, I come to show why I deserve that title. This biography of odds and ends is everything I know of Robert Drake...
Robert Drake was born to Willaim Robert Drake and Madeline Beatrice Bass. William, affectionately called "Willie" by Madeline, who in turn is constantly called "Maddy", is Irish-Catholic and Maddy is Jewish. Robert's middle name has been speculated to be William because of his father's name, or it might even be George (see below), but it has never been mentioned in anything I have read.
From: "X-Men religious affiliations" thread started 1 June 2002 on rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks/browse_thread/thread/78e6830d00083d2f/102a03cd2dab9fda; viewed 13 June 2006):
From: Chris Dodson
Date: Sat, Jun 1 2002 9:38 pm
I'm looking for information on the religious beliefs of all the current X-Men for a story I'm submitting to Marvel. The only one I know for sure is Nightcrawler (Catholic). I get the impression that Wolverine is an atheist or agnostic, but I have no in-comic evidence to support this. Any help you guys could give me would be greatly appreciated. Also, in your responses, could you provide titles and issue numbers of the comics in which the information is stated? Thanks.
From: Justin Samuels
Date: Sun, Jun 2 2002 3:12 pm
...Iceman is probably Protestant...
From: "Up, up, and oy, vey!", posted 5 February 2006 on MetaFilter.com website (http://www.metafilter.com/39326/Up-up-and-oy-vey; viewed 19 June 2007):
...By the way, Marvel apparently recognized early on that its original books had been too whitebread. All five of the original X-Men [Cyclops, Iceman, the Beast, Angel and Jean Grey/Marvel Girl] were WASPs ["White Anglo-Saxon Protestants"], but when they revived the book in the 1970's, the new team members (Havok, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Wolverine, Thunderbird, Banshee and Sunfire) were WASP, German Catholic, African Pagan, Canadian, Native American, Irish Catholic, and Japanese, respectively...
posted by Asparagirl at 8:14 PM on February 5
From: "What are the religious beliefs of the main mutants in the X-Books?" forum discussion started 16 January 2007 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-160293.html; viewed 16 May 2007):
01-16-2007, 03:51 PM
What do you think the religious beliefs of the following mutants are?
01-16-2007, 04:38 PM
Kitty - Jewish
Jean - Protestant
Magneto - Jewish
Xavier - Protestant
Bobby - Jewish
Wanda - Jewish
Pietro - Jewish
Lorna - Catholic?
Storm - No idea...
Wolverine - Protestant?
Emma - Catholic?
Sam - Baptist?
Angel - Protestant?
Banshee - Catholic?
Chamber - Anglican?
Scott and Alex - Protestant
Psylocke - Protestant or Anglican
01-16-2007, 07:09 PM
Most comic book characters are blandly nondenominational with a tendency towards being WASPs [i.e., "White Anglo-Saxon Protestants"]. The only ones I would consider obviously practicing members of a faith are:
Jean: founder and prophet of the Church of the Phoenix
Storm: Neopagan, Goddess worshipper
01-17-2007, 10:57 AM
Bobby - Jewish
What the heck? When was this confirmed?
01-17-2007, 11:21 AM
re: When was this confirmed?
Take a chill pill! I never said they were confirmed... those were just my opinions. He is half-Jewish, so I was just guessing.
01-17-2007, 11:25 AM
Is his mother or father Jewish? If it is his mother then he is Jewish by decent, of course that does not mean he follows the religion.
01-19-2007, 11:37 AM
Just never knew he was ethnically Jewish at all because he sure as hell isn't religiously Jewish from what we've seen.
This changes my perspective a little bit on the gool ol' Bobby Drake. I don't know how but it just does.
I keep thinking about a Bobby-Kitty bond that never happened now...
From: "Jewish Heroes or Villians in Marvel Universe?" forum discussion, started 12 December 2005 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://www.xmenindex.com/forums/comicbooks/t-97146.html; viewed 31 May 2007):
12-12-2005, 05:50 AM
Reading the " Black Panther thread" got me thinking. Are there any Jewish heroes or villians in the Marvel Universe?
12-12-2005, 09:21 AM
As far as other Marvel characters that haven't been brought up yet, we've skipped the first one, Izzy Cohen of the Howling Commandos, Achilles of the Pantheon, the original Sin-Eater, the Gaffer from SHIELD, despite the new-age hoo-haw, I'm guessing that Wiccan has at least Jewish roots, Dominic Fortune, Volcanna, the Two-Gun Kid, Iceman is non-practicing half-Jewish, Songbird, Cap's ex Bernie Rosenthal... and that's pretty much it off the top of my head. And a couple of those probably aren't very observant, if not practising altogether.
From: "Religious Characters In Marvel" forum discussion started 15 September 2006 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-143850.html; viewed 25 May 2007):
09-15-2006, 09:01 PM
The other day I was thinking about religion and comic books... What I'm interested in is the way religious characters are portrayed in comic books...
I think the first step is listing what characters are what religion...
[Editor: The person posting the following message seems to think that an unusually large number of characters are Jewish:]
09-15-2006, 09:44 PM
Mags is actually a born Jewish who was raised by gypsies in his youth.
His kids, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are gypsy.
Dr. Doom is of course, gypsy.
Moon Knight is a former Jew who now practices worship in the Egyptian deity Khonshu.
Thing is Marvel's #1 Jew obviously (he had his bar mitzvah not too long ago).
Wolverine was probably raised Catholic or maybe somewhat like a Puritan. I got the gist of it in Origin.
Spider-Man should be Jewish if anything... Also, he did get married in a church, which kinda goes against this, though it may have just been Mary Jane's faith.
I also consider Juggernaut as Jewish since saying "the Jewggernaut" is really funny. Also, thinking of such a big guy being mortally afraid of his mother is even funnier.
Cable is Askani. At least I think it's a faith...
09-17-2006, 04:49 AM
re: Iceman's Jewish.
Just curious -- what's the basis for this? I'm not saying you're wrong; it's just that this is the first I've heard of this, and I've pretty much read just about every X-book out there.
09-17-2006, 06:34 AM
It seems to me that a lot of the "religious" beliefs of Marvel characters are modern retrofits.
For instance, Ben Grimm's being Jewish is something that was recently tacked on by modern writers... In older comics, he was shown celebrating Christmas, even.
I think Iceman's being Jewish is also an example of this.
In the early Marvel (up through the mid-late seventies, anyway), religion just wasn't that big of a deal. I think Nightcrawler was one of the first to have his religion spelled out, but even then, Dave Cockrum-- the man who invented the character-- was pretty upset when he found out Nightcrawler was being labeled a Catholic... so I'd say even that one was tacked on later.
I think it's a sign of the fairly conservative times (also political correctness gone wild) we live in that we're seeing all this stuff being retconned in.
09-17-2006, 10:55 AM
That's interesting. I'll definitely be looking into that. What I'm really looking for is characters that have story arcs, or are obviously religious in some way - and how it affects their actions or develops their character.
Nightcrawler being and example of someone who is always going around talking about Christianity. It's part of who he is.
Iceman, on the other hand, seems like he is a being called Jewish just for the heck of it. It's never really been a part of the character. And having Bobby talk about religion in a serious way would just be stupid and out of character.
09-17-2006, 12:08 PM
With Ben, it was less any kind of PC or conservativeness (kind of ironic shoving those together though) and more an attempt to actually make him Jack Kirby. If you notice the last couple of years, since at least the late 90s, Ben has become Jack's avatar in the MU more and more, even being drawn to look a little more like him when in human form. That, and apparently Kirby always considered Ben Jewish. There's a synagogue in Simi Valley in California that Kirby belonged to that has a piece of artwork from him hanging in it of Ben wearing a kippah and a tallis while reading the Torah. So it was less any kind of spiritual agenda, more the final phase of turning the Thing into Jack Kirby.
Other than that, a lot of it is just fleshing out character backgrounds. When Frank Miller made Daredevil Catholic, it wasn't making any kind of a message, but gave the character a deeper background. Iceman's ethnic diversity (because it has nothing to do with religion, he's half-Jewish by heritage, not by practice) is an attempt to give him a little more dimension, although it is kind of half-hearted.
When you get down to it, for 99% of superheroes, their religion is nothing more than background info. Name me a character who actually practices their religion, other than a couple of characters with fake religions whose powers are intertwined with them. What, Nightcrawler, Daredevil, and the only times we ever see him in church is usually when he just got his ass kicked and he wants to see his mom. Josiah X for his three whole appearances, and that's only because he's a Muslim clergyman. Beyond that, I'm pretty much stumped.
12-13-2005, 05:07 AM
...That's a pretty impressive list... Just out of curiosity, what's the basis for Achilles, Volcanna, and Sin-Eater? (I suspect it's real names, but I don't know who they are). I'd read somewhere that Two Gun Kid is Jewish, as you say, but where was it revealed? I mean Matt Hawk? And Iceman? Songbird?
Enquiring minds want to know. And so does mine.
12-13-2005, 09:26 AM
Just to add on the stuff that someone else didn't touch on, Sin-Eater, I don't remember if it was specifically spelled out in the comic, been too long since I read it, but I do remember PAD definitly said he was in the foreward for the Death of Jean DeWolff trade. And Achilles' whole gimmick was that he was Jewish, his family was killed in the Holocaust, which is why he had the huge chip on his shoulder. Iceman... honestly, I don't know, I got him off a list. But it's specificness that he's non-practicing half-Jewish makes me thing it's true.
Webpage created 22 December 2005. Last modified 19 June 2007.
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