The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Wesley Dodds, the Golden Age superhero known as "The Sandman," was the son of a Catholic father and a Jewish mother. Dodds was raised as a Catholic, but no longer was a practicing churchgoer as an adult. As is commonplace with Jewish Catholics, Dodds never practiced Judaism religiously in any meaningful way. Details about Dodd's religious upbringing were reportedly revealed in the Vertigo series The Sandman. Although Dodds was not the focus of this series, there were some issues which included him.
Note that the classic Golden Age character named "The Sandman" (introduced in 1939) should not be confused with the critically acclaimed comic book series The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman. The protagonist of Gaiman's series is actually named "Dream," and is not the same character as Wesley Dodds.
From: "The Sandman (DC Comics Golden Age)" article on Wikipedia website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sandman_(DC_Comics_Golden_Age); viewed 22 December 2005):
The Sandman, alias Wesley Dodds, is a half-jewish comic book superhero in the DC Comics universe, best known for his stories set during the 1940s and his "costume" consisting of a green business suit, fedora, and gas mask. He is a member of the Justice Society of America. He was created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Bert Christman and first appeared in World's Fair Comics #1 (1939).
Following his debut, the Sandman appeared in Adventure Comics from issues #40 to #102. The Sandman was one of the earliest superheroes (then called "mystery men" for lack of a better term), though his status as such is debatable as he came rather from the detective tradition seen in the pulps of the 1930s. He had no superhuman powers, but was armed with an exotic "gas gun" that could compel villains to tell the truth, as well as put them to sleep.
From: "Jewish Comics Exhibit Notes" webpage, last updated 5 December 2004 (http://www.geocities.com/hadassahfink/comicexhnotes.htm; viewed 4 July 2007):
Sandman Mystery Theatre #40
Sandman stops the attempted assasination of Rabbi Glickman, who has been speaking out against both the Jewish mob and the Nazi menace. In this issue, we learn that Sandman's mother was Jewish, and therefore, he is Jewish too.
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):
Wagner, Matt and Steven T. Seagle. "The Mist Act Four" Sandman Mystery Theatre #40 Jul. 1996 (NY: DC).
The superhero called The Sandman comes to the rescue of Rabbi Isaac Glickman, whose sermons had condemned Nazi persecution, American intolerance and organize crime. The Sandman explains to his girlfriend that the case is personal for him because his mother was Jewish. The cover of this issue uses a photo of an unnamed syangogue.
---. "The Mist Act One" Sandman Mystery Theatre #37 Apr. 1996 (NY: DC).
Jewish gangster "Happy" Weiss hires Canadian inventor Smythe to sabotage a ship operated by a non-union German family. A businessman refers to Weiss' "shady Jewish connections".
---. "The Mist Act Three" Sandman Mystery Theatre #39 June 1996 (NY: DC).
---. "The Mist Act Two" Sandman Mystery Theatre #38 May 1996 (NY: DC).
Jewish gangster "Happy" Weiss hires Canadian inventor Smythe to sabotage Lucky Lips Lugamo's plane. Meanwhile, shipwrecked Frederic Bernstadt is questioned by the FBI over the mysterious destruction of his family's ship. Frederic suggest that they look to their own "Jewish dogs who would control the port [and] control port labor".
---. "The Python Act One" Sandman Mystery Theatre #33 Dec. 1995 NY: DC).
On page 9, Wesley Dodd (aka the Sandman) talks with Hubert Klein, trying to get information. Hubert apologizes for not being able to help and explains that he just got news from Berlin that several family members were taken away months ago by the Nazis. He also mentions Kristallnacht.
From: J. Stephen Bolhafner, "Neil Gaiman's Sandman" page on "Steve's Reads" website (http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Zone/9923/sandman.html; viewed 26 December 2005):
Sandman Midnight Theatre This really isn't a part of the SANDMAN storyline, but an extended episode of Sandman Mystery Theatre, a completely different comics series created by Matt Wagner about Wesley Dodd, the original Golden Age Sandman. Back in the 30s and early 40s, there was a comic book hero called the Sandman who wore a gas mask and put criminals to sleep with a gas gun. A later superhero with a more traditional costume of colorful tights appeared under the same name in the 70s. When Gaiman created the SANDMAN in 1989, he created a new character that had no real ties to the previous characters, but made references to both of these earlier incarnations in the SANDMAN comic. In the first issue, one of the humans affected by Dream's imprisonment is Wesley Dodds, whose dreams end up driving him to wear a mask and fight crime. Wagner took this idea and wrote new stories set in the 30s about Dodd. Although only peripherally connected to Gaiman's series, Gaiman was invited to script an episode where the two meet, as Wesley travels from New York to England and gets himself invited to Fawney Rigg, where Dream is imprisoned in the basement. It's interesting, but despite the brief appearance by Morpheus, it's not really part of the SANDMAN story.
From: "List of Superhero Religions" discussion board, started 14 March 2006 (http://s8.invisionfree.com/Superdickery_Forum/ar/t2607_0.htm; viewed 24 April 2006):
EspanolBot - March 14, 2006 04:19 PM (GMT)
I know Wesley Dodd's is listed as half-Jewish on Wikipedia. Meaning that either his father was Jewish and his mother wasn't or his mother was Jewish and he didn't practice the Jewish faith. But then tehnically he'd still count as Jewish because it's meant to be inherited through the mother's side isn't it?
Kristogar Velo - March 14, 2006 06:15 PM (GMT)
I remember that David Cross talked about this in a comedy bit of his, that even though he's a complete atheist, doesn't believe in God at all, he'll always be Jewish, and there's nothing he can do about it. So it's probably true.
This site has become one of my favorite comic-related sites within 30 seconds, by the way. Jameson's religion was the absolute clincher for me.
Josie - March 14, 2006 06:43 PM (GMT)
Basically unless you actively convert to something else, your Judaism sticks if your mother was Jewish.
It depends on the rejection, kinda. I know lots of atheist Jews. But Jews for Jesus are not real Jews, they're funded by the Lutherans or the Southern Baptists depending on which group of J4J they are.
Kamino Neko - March 14, 2006 07:47 PM (GMT)
His mother was Jewish. He mentioned this at one point in Sandman Mystery Theater.
EspanolBot - March 14, 2006 08:06 PM (GMT)
Ah. So technically he's Jewish. Not half Jewish as he has been described.
ROBRAM89 - March 14, 2006 08:11 PM (GMT)
This is a religious thing, though, not ethnic or cultural.
EspanolBot - March 14, 2006 08:18 PM (GMT)
Ok then. So he's not Jewish.
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):
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!
Posted: May 29, 2006 8:26 AM
Jewish people in the DCU? Hrrm, Wesley Dodds?
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):
Date: Thurs, Oct 24 1996 12:00 am
re: "Just out of curiosity, is there any major character in the DC Universe definitely shown as being Jewish?"
The Golden Age Sandman was just revealed to be half-Jewish. And I recall that Nuklon was strongly Jewish...
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.
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):
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?
Posted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:01 am
...Moon Knight, Sandman, and Nuklon are all Jewish by heritage though (IIRC) non-practicing...
From: "Who's Catholic in the Marvel Universe" forum discussion started 5 February 2005 on "HCRealms" website (http://www.hcrealms.com/forum/showthread.php?t=123637; viewed 10 May 2007):
I know a lot of characters are Jewish, so I was wondering who is officially Catholic?
I know Daredevil is. It's a major part of his personality and often occurs in storylines.
I also believe Firebird from the West Coast Avengers... After that, I'm pretty much stumped.
- Wes Dodds (GA [Golden Age] Sandman) admits that he was raised Catholic (father's side) but doesn't practice anymore (this was in his Vertigo series).
From: Daniel Treiman, "The Jewish Sandman", posted 22 May 2007 on "Bintel Blog" website (http://www.forward.com/blogs/bintel-blog/the-jewish-sandman/; viewed 4 June 2007):
The Forward has earned a reputation for uncovering the Jewish ancestry of figures both real and fictional. Comics, in particular, have been a rewarding realm of inquiry: My friend and former colleague Max Gross outed The Thing, while executive editor Ami Eden discovered an uncanny Jewish X-Men connection.
So it was only natural that we'd turn our attention to Spiderman, who has been slinging webs across the silver screen for the past few weeks. Spidey's creator, Stan Lee, is well known to be a member of tribe. But is his most famous superhero Jewish, too?
Rabbi Simcha Weinstein, author of Up, Up, And Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero, is ready to make the case. "Peter Parker's a nerd who grew up in Forest Hills, his middle name is Benjamin and he's motivated by guilt... I see a connection," the rabbi told the Park Slope Courier.
Forgive me, rabbi, if I'm not convinced.
A little Web research, however, did yield a discovery of Jewish ancestry for the Sandman. Alas, it's the wrong Sandman: not the wall-crawler's nemesis from "Spiderman 3," but rather an obscure 1940s DC Comics superhero - a "mystery man," in the parlance of the times.
This Sandman, whose mother it seems was Jewish and father Catholic, apparently had no superpowers, but rather wielded "an exotic 'gas gun' that could compel villains to tell the truth, as well as put them to sleep," according to Wikipedia.
Also, according to Wikipedia: "Unlike many superheroes, he frequently found himself the victim of gunshot wounds." In other words, a real shlimazl of a superhero! In one comic book, he is reported to have come to the rescue of Rabbi Isaac Glickman. So it seems that this Sandman also happens to be something of a mensch!
UPDATE: Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks Peter Parker seems a little Wasp-y. Reader Arieh Lebowitz helpfully forwarded a link to a Web page on Spiderman's religion from Adherents.com (the same site that provided the information on the religious affiliations of the Sandman and The Thing.)
Webpage created 22 December 2005. Last modified 4 July 2007.
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