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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Rory Regan
Ragman
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Ragman is an overtly Jewish superhero character in DC Comics. His powers are derived from Jewish mysticism.

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...

Ragman is another DC character, a junk dealer who gains superpowers when he dons a special suit of rags. Each rag is the living soul of someone evil. According to the story, a Council of Rabbis created the suit years ago, hoping its wearer would protect society.

Although Ragman debuted in the 1970s, his Jewish background was never explored until DC published a 1992 miniseries. The late development is somewhat surprising, Levitz said, because Ragman's creators, Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, were Jewish. Levitz said many early comics creators were Jews, but that they "operated under pseudonyms."

In a letter published in one issue of the miniseries, Los Angeles-based Ragman fan Mark Lucas advocated further explorations of the superhero's Jewishness. "By placing this character so heavily in Jewish history," Lucas wrote, "it might be prudent to follow up and illustrate this culture right here and now. With anti-Semitism on the rise, even an entertainment package like Ragman can be an educational tool."

...In Ragman, title character Rory Regan wears a living costume made of rags. The costume gives its wearer superstrength, agility, speed and the power to float on air currents. Regan's father, Gerry, was the Ragman during World War II.


Ragman #6

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

Ragman #6
In order for the Golem to live, it must destroy Ragman. Ragman and the Golem seem to be at a draw, but Betty Berg intervenes, erasing the word EMET from the Golem's head, reducing it to lifeless clay.

From: Radford, Bill, "Holy Superhero! Comic books increasingly making reference to faith", published in Colorado Springs Gazette, 6 May 2006 (http://www.gazette.com/display.php?secid=20; viewed 8 May 2006):

In the fifth issue of "Infinite Crisis," a recent comic-book miniseries from DC Comics, DC's heroes meet in a church to gather their forces - and seek help from a higher power.

"We ask you, Lord, to take care of those who have already fallen," says Zauriel, a fallen angel and a former member of the Justice League of America. "We ask you to watch over those that have been injured and those that are missing."

...Outside, Ragman and Mr. Terrific discuss faith. Ragman is Jewish; Mr. Terrific reveals he's an atheist.

"Atheist?" Ragman asks. "I thought Mr. Terrific was supposed to be the smartest man in the world."

From: "Ragman" article on Wikipedia website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ragman; viewed 21 December 2005):
Ragman is a fictional mystic vigilante and superhero who first appeared in the short-lived series named after him.

He is sometimes compared to the other night-time defender of Gotham City, Batman.

Rory Regan is a rag man, doing good in his community by buying used items from people who need money. The suit of rags that he wears was originally just a costume made from materials found around the rag shop he shared with his father, Rags'n'Tatters. This was retconned in the 1991 mini-series, and currently each of the patches in the suit were made from the soul of an evil-doer that the Ragman had punished and absorbed.

The absorption of these souls caused a problem for Rory at one point, when the evil souls hungered for murder and finally freed themselves of Ragman. It was only with the support of Batman and Rory's old friend, Rabbi Luria, that he regained control, though at the cost of Luria's life. Ragman's powers have increased since then.

Ragman is one of a limited number of Jewish superheroes, and his continuity is tied to that of DC's Golem, from Jewish folklore.

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... There are others... DC has Ragman (yes, there is a character called Ragman)...
From: R page on "The Unofficial DC Who's Who Project" website (http://www.dcuguide.com/MiniWho/R.php; viewed 25 November 2004 version via google cache on 21 December 2005):
RAGMAN I
First Appearance: Ragman Vol. 2 #3 (December 1991)
Czech Jewish hero of the 16th century. Using the same spell that created the legendary Golem and substituting rags for clay, a council of Rabbis created a mystical Jewish guardian, one which required a human host to bring it to life. The first Ragman has had many followers, and the current user of the costume is Rory Regan (see Ragman III).
RAGMAN II [Jerzy Reganeiwicz / Gerry Regan]
First Appearance: Ragman Vol. 2 #3 (December 1991)
Jerzy Reganiewicz was to have recieved some training from his rabbi on the history of the Ragman and its powers, but they were separated as the Ragman protected his people in the Warsaw Ghetto on May 15, 1943. Jerzy eventually came to America and americanized his name to Gerry Regan. He lived in Gotham City as the owner of Rags and Tatters (a junk shop) until he was killed by some thugs. He was survived by his son, Rory Regan.
RAGMAN III [Rory Regan]
First Appearance (post-Crisis version): Ragman Vol. 2 #1 (October 1991)
Rory Regan is the son of Gerry Regan (see Ragman II) and the latest among numerous men to take on the Jewish Ragman legacy. A veteran of the Vietnam war, he had not returned to his home in Gotham City for many years, until brought back by the death of his father. He then inherited the living rag costume which in fact consists of living souls of evil beings. It can track evil and absorb stained souls, which will remain part of the costume, until they have redeemed themselves. His role brought him into conflict with the Golem (see Golem of Primal Force), since both came from the same tradition and seemingly could not exist simultaneously. This problem was solved when Rory left Gotham for a time, but he has since returned and is once again active in Gotham City. He has worked together with the Batman on a number of occasions, and is a sometimes-member of the Sentinels of Magic.
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:]
Rory Regan, the Ragman, has powers derived from Jewish mysticism.

From: Regie Rigby, "The question of religion" article, "Fool Britannia" column, posted on "Silver Bullet Comics" website (http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/fool/111010997522360.htm; viewed 22 December 2005):
...I remember a discussion at the Comics Festival a couple of years ago about the lack of Jewish Superheroes. At the time the only ones we could think of were Ragman and "That Israeli kid out've that Blasters team that came out of DC's Invasion crossover". Sitting in the bar we came to the conclusion that this was odd, when you take into account the fact that comics creators from a Jewish background aren't exactly thin on the ground.
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):
Fleming, Robert Loren. "Above the Fray" Ragman (miniseries) #4 Jan. 1992 (NY: DC). The rabbi sends the superhero Ragman out to confront evildoers without fighting them. At the end, the reader learns that Ragman passed a test his father had not passed. Meanwhile, the golem comes to Gotham.

--. "Bones of the Defenseless". Ragman (miniseries) #1 Oct. 1991 (NY: DC).
Rory Regan has recurring nightmares of carrying a body "through the bones of past lives" and a voice telling him to defend his neighborhood from the invisible enemy. In a clearer dream, he realizes that he's in the Warsaw Ghetto and encounters a creature with the word "EMET" written across his face. When Rory's helmet falls, he sees that the word "EMET" has been burned into his helmet and yells that it is not him, not his name ("emet" is Hebrew for "truth"). Before he leaves his father's grave, he follows the Jewish tradition of leaving a rock on the tombstone (though he claims in the 3rd issue not to know that he's Jewish). In an article at the back of the story, Kevin Dooley tells how Leo Keil had written that "Despite his non-Jewish name, Rory, seems, to me at least, to be the comics' first Jewish super-hero".

--. "Feet of Clay" Ragman (miniseries) #5 Feb. 1992 (NY: DC).
The rabbi boasts to the Ragman's costume that Rory (the civilian identity of Ragman) is succeeding at taming it. Meanwhile, the golem realizes that he must kill Ragman to save his own "life".

--. "A Folk Tale." Ragman (miniseries) #3 Dec. 1991 (NY: DC).
A rabbi explains the origin of the Ragman to Rory. He starts by briefly retelling the golem folktale. Then he explains how a real golem had been created using rags to be worn by a human agent, the last of whom had been Rory's father, whose true name was Jerzy Reganiewicz. Jerzy had tried to fight the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto: "it was like nothing I had ever seen...men, women and children fighting for their very lives!" However, fire was the Ragman's weakness. Defeated, he took flight to where he could better fight the menace: "It is a Ragman's duty to protect his people and to inspire hope...but there was no hope left in that place." In retaliation for the uprising, the Nazis blew up the synagogue: "Did they imagine they could kill G-d? He wasn't in the synagogue! He came with us on the trains! He was there in Treblinka! He was everywhere that we suffered!"

--. "A Ragged Revenge" Ragman (miniseries) #2 Nov. 1991 (NY: DC).
The day after his night of vengeance, superhero Ragman looks at his costume and sees the word "emet" (Hebrew for truth) on it. Then, a rabbi appears telling Rory (Ragman's civilian guise) that he is to be the rabbi's apprentice.

--. "Shreds" Ragman (miniseries) #6 Mar. 1992 (NY: DC).
Ragman battles a clay Golem that was created by a rabbi when it was thought that the original Ragman was killed. The clay Golem is destroyed when the word "emet" is erased from his forehead. This differs from the Batman battle with a golem (Batman tried to only erase the letter "e" to form the word "met" - Hebrew for death).

--. "Snitch" Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #51 Sep. 1993 (NY: DC).

--. "The Summit" Ragman (miniseries) #7 Apr. 1992 (NY: DC).

--. "The Winds of Change" Ragman (miniseries) #8 May 1992 (NY: DC).
The neighborhood comes to the defense of their superhero, Ragman, during his battle with Batman (the superhero who is that city's primary crimefighter). Ragman decides to leave Gotham and moves to New Orleans. Meanwhile, the rabbi takes a plane to Tel Aviv and dies peacefully en route.

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.

Lee, Elaine. "Blood Sacrifice" Ragman: Cry of the Dead (miniseries) #4 Nov. 1993 (NY: DC).

Lee, Elaine. "Cheval Blanc!!" Ragman: Cry of the Dead (miniseries) #6 Jan. 1994 (NY: DC).

Lee, Elaine. "Kanzo!: Baptism of Fire!" Ragman: Cry of the Dead (miniseries) #5 Dec. 1993 (NY: DC).

Moench, Doug. "Suit of Evil Souls" Batman #551 Feb. 1998 (NY: DC)
Superhero Ragman returns to Gotham City to attend the funeral of Benjamin Mizrahi. He learns from Rabbi Isaac Ben Luria that violent racists have formed a gang in Gotham and have been terrorizing "non-whites", including Jews. Dr. Levy, a hate crimes expert discusses antisemitism on Vesper Fairchild's radio show.

Moench, Doug. "The Greatest Evil" Batman #552 Mar. 1998 (NY: DC)
The mystical rags of the suit worn by superhero Ragman take on a mind of their own, defying Rory Regan and wanting to kill evil people on its own. Superhero Batman frees Rory from the rags and then tracks them down to Rabbi Isaac Ben Luria's synagogue, where they fnd the rabbi being attacked by a skinhead. After Batman and Rory save the rabbi, the rags try to smother the skinhead. Rabbi Luria gets the idea to chase the rags away with the sound of breaking glass (an ancient tradition at Jewish weddings is for the groom to break a drinking glass). Later, Rabbi Luria tries to help Rory regain control of the rags and regain his soul. He tells Rory to love G-d more than he hates evil. The rabbi is killed by a skinhead after he seeks out Ragman, in order to help him. Ragman obeys the rabbi's last wish and captures the skinheads without killing any of them.

In Batman #552, a rabbi's knowledge of the Jewish belief that the sound of breaking glass can repel spirits helps him and Batman deal with Ragman's renegade rag-spirits.

Discussion

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):

Steve Chung
May 15th, 2005, 03:35 PM

In Brave and Bold #196: "The Two Faces Of Midnight" by Robert Kanigher, Jim Aparo, and Adrienne Roy, Batman and Ragman are at the hospital bedside of a shooting victim.

At one point, Ragman asks the Caped Crusader if he's too proud to pray for the girl's health.

We see Batman facing away from them, looking out the window, and a single tear running down one eye.

The girl's heart stops, then Ragman starts CPR, with the Masked Manhunter offering the breath of life.

She recovers and smiles at her saviors.

Outside, the two part ways, but not before Ragman thanks Batman for showing him that there is more than one way to pray.

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


lexluthor13
Posted: Apr 22, 2006 2:09 PM

Registered Republican here, and I'm perfectly willing to check that at the door. If some of you can't then don't even open the door.

Now. As for religion and superheroes, I have this tendency to see the DCU through Luthor-colored glasses. And if Michael Holt is an atheist, then I tend to think Lex is an atheist of Randian proportions.

Despite, as its been mentioned, the existence of folks like Ragman and Blue Devil.

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&start=60&tstart=0; viewed 15 May 2006):
trademark2
Posted: May 6, 2005 11:49 PM

Wouldn't Ragman and the Spectre also be "Christian" superheroes? Both draw power from the one God.


lupus27
Posted: May 7, 2005 6:52 AM

Actually, Ragman is Jewish. Spectre answers directly to God, but his specific religion, which I highly doubt he has, has never been mentioned.

Excerpts from: "Atheist superheroes" discussion page, started 2 March 2006, on "Atheist Network" website (http://atheistnetwork.com/viewtopic.php?p=209834&sid=5ca5d2a99f2714e2f90fcee608eb4ac4; viewed 26 May 2006):
Aghast
Posted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 3:42 am

It's good to see that Mr. Terrific is still an atheist...

Of course if I were in the DC Universe I would be a believer in the supernatural if not an outright theist [i.e., believer in God]. After all, the heroes of that universe have been to Hell. They've stood before the hosts of heaven. Not only does Spectre exist but so does Deadman, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, Ragman, Raven and Dawn Manitou, Shazam, and on into near infinity. ...even the original Green Lantern got his power from magic. And Hal Jordan/Green Lantern was the freakin' Spectre for awhile. Add to that the number of characters that come back from the dead and really in that reality there would be no real reason to doubt.

...not surprisingly more villains are revealed to be atheists than heroes...

From: "Wasn't Superman Supposed to be Jewish?" discussion board started 24 April 2006 on the official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread. jspa?threadID=2000073412&start=30&tstart=0; viewed 27 May 2006):
redzone
Posted: May 10, 2006 3:16 PM

Well, I do know is that Shadowcat (X-Men) is Jewish and that is the only Jewish character I can think of. Oh, and Sasquatch from Alpha Flight. And Ragman is the only one I can think of in the DC Universe.


otaku-sempai
Posted: May 10, 2006 3:24 PM

Over at Marvel, Ben Grimm turns out to be Jewish, as does Marc Spector (Moonknight)...

At DC, I know that Ragman and at least one Legion of Super-Heroes members are Jewish (I can't remember which one, but this may have been retconned anyway).

From: "An argument for why religion should stay out of comics" message board started 17 May 2006 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000076170; viewed 30 May 2006):
thespandexkid
Posted: May 17, 2006 9:11 AM

I'm an atheist... We have so many phrases, superstitions, and references that we all use in everyday life which come from religion, that to keep religion out of comics would severly limit comics. Just imagine comics without hell or heaven, for starters...

Also, no religion would mean no Spectre, no Zauriel, no Ragman, and worst of all, no Wally (oldish Supergirl again!). I'll keep comics just as they are.

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):
hateradereloaded
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 10:10 AM

Any other Jewish Superheroes besides RAGMAN? Typical of DC to make SHMATA-MAN a Jew! What next, "Shysterman and the Accountant?" "Mr. Moyle?" "Agent Murray, Agent of Oy!"

Seriously though... any other Jewish Superheroes besides smelly old Rags?


mrblisterfists
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 10:29 AM

It's spelled Schuyster...

and Superman's a Jew, as are the Weinbergs...


marcelocury
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 2:58 PM

Regardless of any givern character's religion, I would definitely love to see a RAGMAN figure, with plastic cape.

Would buy it in a heartbeat!


hateradereloaded
Posted: Apr 13, 2006 5:00 PM

Actually Blister -- I agree. The Moses parallels, creators, etc.

Superman's a Jew. Raised by Smallville Goyim.

Another HUGE Jew? Jesus! His powers kicked a$$!


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.

[Seven other superheroes listed, with comments for each, including: Atom Smasher, Kitty Pryde, Ben Grimm/The Thing, Doc Samson, Moon Knight, Vance Astro/Justice.]

From: "Does everyone have a place in comics?" message board started 27 May 2006 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?forumID=29209055&threadID=2000077383; viewed 1 June 2006):

kyletheobald
Posted: May 27, 2006 11:48 AM

I've seen many threads on here about what groups/topics should be included in comics or not. There has been a serious effort by DC to diversify the universe. More ethnicities and other groups have been included. I started to wonder if there is any group that most everyone agrees should not be in comics. Here are a few examples of people I don't currently see many of in comics.


mrrara
Posted: May 28, 2006 3:15 PM

More Jewish heroes! Give us in Israeli! I mean other than Ragman... Heh.

From: "Gail's idea for Cass -- What could have been" discussion forum started on 29 May 2006, on DC Comics official message board website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000077543; viewed 2 June 2006):

mrrara
Posted: May 29, 2006 7:59 AM

...Ever feel like Jews don't exist in the DC universe? I mean, except for Ragman... We don't even get to be villains!

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: "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

...Jewish characters include... the Hayoth, Ragman, Sabra, and Rose (from Punisher)...


The Yosemite Bear
Posted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 1:44 am

Gotham's "Ragman" is definitely Jewish, mind you since he's only seen by the very poor and sticks to one Ghetto, even Bat's thinks that one's just an "Urban Legend", however Jason Blood knows the truth...


The Dark
Posted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 2:31 am

Well, given that Ragman is one of a number of characters based on the legend of the Golem, it's normal that he stick to one neighborhood.

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: Tues, Apr 6 1999 12:00 am

...the only really religious person that's sane that I recall in DCU is Huntress, and I guess Wonder Woman... Anyone else...? ...I'm just wondering if DCU has many more religious heroes than I can recall.

...Ragman was Jewish, yes? A rag golem?


From: Kal-El
Date: Tues, Apr 6 1999 12:00 am

Yeah. Cool tie in. Golems are a Hebrew legend, after all.

From "TS: Liberality For All vs. DMZ" discussion page started 30 November 2005 (http://ilx.wh3rd.net/thread.php?msgid=6419391; viewed 13 June 2006):

Huk-L (handsomishbo...), November 30th, 2005

The simple fact is, for the vast majority of people on this planet, God is an accepted reality.

To me, to have every hero in the Marvel/DC universe, even those with religious origins (such as Ragman) to not be affected, motivated, or even visibly belive in those beliefs, lessens the characters.

I agree that the character's religion should not be arbitrarily decided, but given his background, upbringing, and history, I think it's a safe bet that Superman is some sort of Protestant, even if non-practising.

Similarly Ragman, who based, on his origins is definitively Jewish, has never to my knowledge gone to a synagogue. (He very well could have I am not terribly familiar with his character.)

In addition I think that the inclusion of a character's religion and the issues it brings up, can definitely enrich a character. As an example Nightcrawler's Catholic (I think its Catholic) has IMO [in my opinion] at least given him more of a personality.

In addition there are many characters who in fact are religious, its just none of them are mainstream religious. We get Wiccans, Druids, Pagans, etc. But very few Christians, Jews or Muslims. Even the Buddhists are better represented in comics than the big three.


kingfish hobo juckie (jdsalmo...), November 30th, 2005

What, no commenting on the Jewish aspects of The Heckler?

Also, his take on Ragman is pretty revealing. The only way that a religious character can be TRULY religious is to be shown at temple every coupla issues (i.e. "attends regularly"). The aspects of the comic about all the Jewish folks and rabbis that Ragman hung out with, talking about matters spiritual or not, don't matter...

From: "Guess who's the Jew?" forum discussion started 24 October 2005 on "Silver Bullet Comics" website (http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/forum/archive/index.php?t-732.html; viewed 30 May 2007):

elvin Green
10-24-2005, 02:12 PM

...Oh, and Joe Kubert's Ragman is a Jewish superhero isn't he?


Thom Young
10-24-2005, 08:08 PM

re: Oh, and Joe Kubert's Ragman is a Jewish superhero isn't he?

No, Joe Kubert's Ragman was Irish--presumably Catholic.

I wrote a Ragman story back in the 1980s that Andy Helfer told me was "too much like an Alan Moore or Frank Miller story to be commercially viable"--because only Moore and Miller could get away with stories like that in the 1980s (Even after all these years, I still remember that evaluation). During a three-hour phone conversation with Mr. Helfer (with him promising that it would be on his dime the next time we spoke on the phone), he told me that he was already editing a new Ragman mini-series (I forget who the writer was) in which they were going to make Rory Regan Jewish and make the Ragman character the latest incarnation of a type of Golem that has protected Jews throughout the ages.

I rather prefer my story in which I had Rory falling in love with the singer Opal (first introduced in the original series, and who in my story was an avant garde singer in the vein of Kate Bush). The story would have centered on the love relationship between Rory and Opal (patterned after the relationship between Leo Percipied and Mardou Fox in Jack Kerouac's The Subterraneans--and Ragman would have been a release valve for Rory whose Catholic upbringing led to conflict with his subconscious mixed emotions in being involved in an interracial relationship.

But, no, Kubert's Ragman was not Jewish--nor was he "magical." :icon_roll


Kelvin Green
10-25-2005, 12:46 AM

Here's what it says in Superheroes: Joe Kubert's Wonderful World of Comics:

In the early 1970s, Robert Kanigher and I created Ragman, aka Rory Regan, who has been cited by comics historians as the first Jewish superhero.

That's where I got the idea that Ragman was Jewish, but in looking at the whole page now, I notice that Kubert doesn't actually say that this is the case, and he only discusses the character's Jewish roots in a later section when he talks about the later series ("a Ragman miniseries (not written or drawn by Kanigher and me)...").

That said, the fact that he mentions the "first Jewish superhero" bit suggests that even if it wasn't in his original conception of the character, Kubert isn't against the idea.


Thom Young
10-25-2005, 12:37 PM

Yeah, and the fact that he didn't correct the notion bugs me almost as much as the fact that Ragman ret-con into a Jewish character. It's not that I'm against a Jewish super-hero (I think a character who is actually supposed to be connected to the Kabbalah and the concept of a Golem is really pretty cool), but I'm against a ret-con of a character in this manner. I mean, come on, "Rory Regan" as a Jewish character. I guess he must have been Jewish on his mother's side. :icon_roll

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: "Wonder Woman and Religion", posted 21 February 2006 by Ragnell on "Written World: Hyper-Feminist Comic Book Culture Commentary" blog website (http://ragnell.blogspot.com/2006/02/wonder-woman-and-religion.html; viewed 20 June 2007):

[User Comments]

RAB said...

In a way, I feel this discussion gives the writers at DC more credit for nuance and intent than they actually deserve. Speaking as a lifelong non-Christian, it's always seemed pretty obvious that the DC (and Marvel) position on religion and philosophy is exactly that of mainstream America. Some sort of nondefined Protestantism is the default "normal" state and characters who are anything else -- including Catholic or Jewish or atheist -- are only those things because it's immediately vital to their histories or a significant plot point. There might be one or two exceptions (Kitty Pryde got to be a Jewish character without her backstory involving the Holocaust or Israel or the Golem of Prague or anything like that) but overall, a generalized nonspecific Christianity is the rule...


kalinara said...

re: But as a rule, comics writers are so immersed in the default assumption of the Protestant God being the one real God -- even if they themselves aren't believers -- that they can't get outside that headspace.

Sorry to hijack Ragnell's blogspace but I disagree with this completely. A great many comic book creators *aren't* actually of a Protestant background...

Over at adherents.com, there is a fantastic list [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html] that compiles character beliefs based on creator and writer commentary and visual clues.

Let's look at some of the Jewish characters listed:

Kitty Pryde as you mentioned, Ben Grimm, Ragman, Colossal Boy/Gim Allon, Atom Smasher/Al Rothstein, Firestorm/Martin Stein, The Atom/Ray Palmer...

Now many of these characters are lapsed/non-practicing, it's true, but quite a few are pretty devout in their own quiet ways. And none of them have really had their Judaism used as a Holocaust/Israel related plot point...

From: "Superheroes/villains and their religions" forum discussion, started 16 March 2006 on "Animation Insider" website (http://www.animationinsider.net/forums/archive/index.php?t-17835.html; viewed 28 June 2008):

Daikun
03-16-2006, 05:16 AM

Someone pointed this out at another forum. I found it to be quite amusing that someone would actually have enough time on their hands to ponder about this.

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


Vendetta
03-19-2006, 02:08 PM

Religion seems to be a little pointless in the DCU. There's no point going around believing in things that actually exist. I mean Lucifer has a bar in LA for ****'s sake!


Dr. Killbydeath
03-19-2006, 08:10 PM

Well, they never give definite answers. I mean, Ragman's powers are based on magic, but he believes in Judaism. Mr Terrific has met the avenging hand of God [i.e., Spectre], but is still agnostic... Just because there are beings who claim to be heavenly or such, it doesn't mean they will be believed by everyone.

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). Marvel at least The Thing is pretty definably the biggest [Jewish character] in their universe, followed by Shadowcat...

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

From: "Religious Super Heroes PC or otherwise" forum discussion, started 17 September 2003 on "HERO Games" website (http://www.herogames.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-8036.html; viewed 12 July 2007):

zornwil
Sep 24th, '03, 06:28 AM

Hey, by the way, Treb, what did you think of Ragman?


Trebuchet
Sep 24th, '03, 02:01 PM

Who? :confused:


zornwil
Sep 24th, '03, 02:59 PM

Jewish super-hero who's been around a bit now and again, I don't think he's been taken up by a writer in like 10 years though. Very religiously oriented story and his powers are based on some Jewish religious traits. I just wondered if you'd read him and what you'd thought, given your comments...

From: "Superhero Religious Views?" forum discussion, started 9 June 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-116001.html; viewed 13 July 2007):

achilles140
06-10-2007, 08:42 PM

Let's see this from the hero's point of view... Ragman is Jewish. The Spectre is a Judeo/Christian sort. Etrigan is a demon, so he obviously a religious sort...

From: "Increasing comic circulation through different perspectives" forum discussion, started 30 November 2005 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-15542.html; viewed 20 July 2007):

Mark Matthewman
November 30th, 2005, 03:34 AM

In the last few days, since the thread on "Liberality for all" I have been pondering a number of seperate, yet to me, related issues affecting the comic industry in the USA. Among these are the long term trend of declining sales among mainstream comics, the ideologicall monopoly that liberals hold on the comics industry on the creative side, and the severe lack of credible, and more to the point admirable comics characters with a more conservative outlook. While I don't subscribe to the idea of a "vast leftwing conspiracy" in comics it is impossible to deny that most of those involved in the business of comics on the creative side are firmly and proudly liberal, and that while for the most part, politics comes up only tangentially in comics most Superheroes do seem to be of a liberal mindset.

I think that in the interest of honesty, we must at least examine the idea that perhaps the overwhelming presence of more liberal creators, when contrasted with the fact that the majority of Americans fall slightly more to the right of the political spectrum than left may be in some way related to the long term trend of declining sales... So could the creation or emphasis of charcters as conservatives, open the industry to new readers?


Heatwave the Rogue
November 30th, 2005, 08:50 AM

I consider myself an independant with strong liberal leanings. I love the state of the comic industry and the characters and writer's leanings to this direction.

That all being said, I would gladly read characters with a more accurate conservative viewpoint. Ultimate Captain America is a character that so far I have considered a very traditional conservative. Old school 1940's conservatism might be a more accurate description of the character and he's one of my favorite characters to read about. I'd love to see this character get into a political debate with Ollie (Green Arrow) and watch the sparks fly on in both the dialogue and on panel drawings...

Religion, on the other hand, I feel should be kept as vague as possible. Where a Christian might be repulsed to find out that Superman is really an athiest, an athiest might be repulsed to find out that he's really a devout Christian, Jew, or other religion. Keeping the characters religious leanings more vague is more appealing to me personally. I'm not saying that religion should never play the part in a story, I just don't think that I want it ever declared that Captain America is Muslim because his current writer happens to be of that belief or that Spiderman is athiest because his current writer decides to force that down our throats...


Mark Matthewman
November 30th, 2005, 09:00 AM

I understand where you are comming from, Heatwave, but I have to disagree. The simple fact is, for the vast majority of people on this planet, God is an accepted reality.

To me, to have every hero in the Marvel/DC universe, even those with religious origins (such as Ragman) to not be affected, motivated, or even visibly belive in those beliefs, lessens the characters.

I agree that the characters religion should not be arbitraily decided, but given his background, upbringing, and history, I think its a safe bet that Superman is some sort of Protestant, even if non-practicing.

Similarly, Ragman who based on his origins is definitvely Jewish has never to my knowledge gone to a synagogue. (He very well could have. I am not terribly familiar with his character.)

In addition, I think that the inclusion of a character's religon and the issues it brings up can definitely enrich a character. As an example, Nightcrawler's Catholic (I think it's Catholic) has IMO [in my opinion] at least given him more of a personality.

In addition, there are many characters who in fact are religious, it's just none of them are mainstream religious. We get Wiccans, Druids, pagans, etc. But very few Christians, Jews or Muslims. Even the Buddhists are better represented in comics than the Big Three.

From: "Religion in the DCU?" forum discussion, started 25 October 2006 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-37480.html; viewed 20 July 2007):

Mark MacMillan
October 25th, 2006, 12:34 PM

Oh, I'm sure all religions exist in the DCU, and I know of the different heroes that are connected to God, and various other beliefs (like Ragman, Monolith, Zauriel, The Spectre, etc)

It's just that I've always wondered about where Moses, Jesus, and the Prophet Mohammed stood in the grand scheme of things.

Like a hero who was/is bestowed great powers by wielding the sword of Mohammed or the existence of the Holy Grail, or the staff of Moses, etc. That sort of thing.

From: "Possible writers' cliche/prejudice: No well-adjusted athiests/agnostics in the DCU?" forum discussion, started 26 May 2005 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-5064.html; viewed 20 July 2007):

Ravenwing263
May 31st, 2005, 05:02 PM

I remember an issue of... something. I forget what it was in, but I remember a page where Batman told Nightwing that he didn't beleive in ghosts. Dick replyed with a "word association game": "Deadman. The Spectre. Ragman."

The fact is, every major DC character has encountered divine forces. Zauriel, an angel, was seen on national news at least once, and every person on Earth flew into space to battle Maggeddon alognside an army of angels in JLA #41. If that kind of evidence existed in the real world, which, despite holding strong religious convictions of my own, I am of course aware that there is not, only the insane would be atheist around here, too.

As for the concept that multiple pantheons invalidate the existence of a higher power, Jeffery Neary is correct: it's been shown, though somewhat indirectly, that the supreme power of the DCU is, in fact, "The Presence," who is similar to the Judeo-Christian conception God in singularity, supremacy, and in a general "hands off approach."

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?


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: "Question for other atheists" forum discussion, started 6 March 2006 on "Comic Boards" website (http://www.comicboards.com/dcb/view.php?trd=060306051129; viewed 23 July 2007):

[http://www.comicboards.com/dcb/view.php?rpl=060306142026]

Posted by Hellstone on Monday, March 06 2006 at 14:20:26 GMT

re: "As noted in other discussions over the years they seem to bend over backwards to NOT assign denominations or faith statements to characters..."

Well, I think that goes for the "big 3" [Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman], for example. But many denizens of the DCU have expressed their religion explicitly, and I'm not just talking Wonder Woman and Kobra and Zauriel here. Huntress (Catholic Christian), Nightwing (Christian, don't know what kind), Flash (Christian), Doctor Mid-Nite (Catholic), Ragman (Jewish), Janissary (Muslim), Seraph (Jewish), Maya (Hindu), Judomaster (Buddhist), Father Craemer (Catholic) and many more, have all stated their explicit beliefs...

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, 10:57 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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