The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Aviva Joby Weinberg
leader of Hayoth, ally of the Spectre
Ramban is an overtly Jewish superhero in DC Comics. Ramban is a rabbi, an observant Jew, and the leader of the Jewish/Israeli superhero team Hayoth.
Stories featuring Ramban frequently feature explicity references to his Judaism. For example, in Spectre #36, Ramban says how uncomfortable he is with fashioning a golem, as his religion forbids the making of idols.
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.
Several characters were created with the obvious intention of being Jewish heroes (as opposed to heroes who happen to be Jewish). On Marvel's side this includes Sabra, the heroine of Israel, who first appeared in Incredible Hulk #256 (1981). Not only is she an Israeli Sabra, her powers also resemble the fruit sabra (prickly pear) in that she shoots energy quills. Her costume is based on the Israeli flag.
DC has the Seraph, who first appeared in Super Friends #7 (1977). The Seraph derives his powers from heroes of the Bible including Moses, Elijah, King Solomon and Samson. DC also has an entire team of Israeli heroes, the Hayoth, including Golem, Dybbuk, Judith and Ramban (not the Ramban, another guy who shares his name).
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):
First Appearance: Suicide Squad Vol. 1 #45 (September 1990)
Supernatural support and field leader of the Hayoth (a group of Israeli government-supported meta-humans). First appeared when capturing Kobra and turning him over to the Suicide Squad. Later, fought the Suicide Squad with Superman, Batman and Aquaman working with them. Later, when Spectre was attacking Count Vertigo's homeland, he rallied the Hayoth to contend with the Spectre, but they were taken out. Ramban worked with Madame Xanadu and Father Kramer to provide an anchor for Spectre when Eclipso tried to manifest control over the Spectre-force. And later still, Ramban attended Jim Corrigan's funeral.
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?
They might meet Ramban, the Israeli magician. Ramban serves two masters. One is the vengeful essence of a murdered cop. The second is his own heritage, which he satisfies by studying the Kabbalah.
Ramban is a supporting character in DC Comics' series The Spectre. Along with his other attributes, the magician represents society's increasing tolerance of Jewishness.
Modern comic books -- lively keystones of American popular culture -- aren't afraid to feature numerous new heroes, such as Ramban, who have clearly Jewish backgrounds. Nor do comic books shy away from topics of particular Jewish interest, such as interdating.
The Spectre's title character is the spirit of Jim Corrigan, a policeman murdered by a crime boss. John Ostrander, the series' co-writer, says Corrigan's spirit is linked to an "entity" that "seems to be an aspect of the wrath of God." This entity, he explains, was the angel of death who "killed the firstborn of the king of Egypt" and "destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah...
Ostrander and Yale created Ramban five years ago for DC's Suicide Squad series. Ramban, along with a warrior named Judith, an artificial intelligence named Dybbuk and a hero named the Golem formed the Hayoth, an Israeli superteam the squad battled in Israel.
Ostrander said Yale asked people about the Kaballah, which is part of Ramban's Conservative Jewish background. The writers "pieced together types of [magic] spells" based on that research.
Neither Ostrander nor Yale is Jewish. But Ostrander grew up in Chicago's East Rogers Park section, which has a large Jewish population. So, he said, he "always had" an appreciation for Judaism.
Ostrander said Ramban is a "nice counterpart" to Father Craemer, another character in the series. He said the two men are "in many ways very much alike. They're strong representatives of their faith.
"He's one of the more pleasant characters," Ostrander said of Ramban. "He's got a great deal of honesty."
Ramban, Judith, Dybbuk and the Golem aren't the only Jews in comics published by DC, whose office is heavily populated by Jewish executives...
Are more Jewish heroes likely? No one is sure. But both Ostrander and Spectre editor Dan Raspler said comics fans have welcomed Ramban to their world.
"They like him," said Raspler, who is Jewish. "He's an interesting character. There's definitely an appreciation for him."
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:]
Ramban, leader of the Hayoth, an Israeli super-team, is a rabbi and a Jewish mystic.
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):
Ostrander, John. "Evil Intent" The Spectre #35 Nov. 1995 (NY: DC).
The supernatural being called The Spectre, having severed his connection to its human host, goes to Jerusalem "to avenge the blood shed two millenia ago". Israeli superhero Ramban tries to stop him.
Ostrander, John. "Forces of Hell" The Spectre. #36 Dec. 1995 (NY: DC).
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.
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):
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.
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: "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: Robert D. Kaiser
Date: Wed, Oct 23 1996 12:00 am
re: "Just out of curiosity, is there any major character in the DC Universe definitely shown as being Jewish?"
Rambam, a character that sometimes shows up in Spectre. His source of powers is the Kabbalah, the esoteric art of Jewish mysticism.
Webpage created 21 December 2005. Last modified 13 June 2006.
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