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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Ben Grimm
The Thing
of the Fantastic Four

Ben Grimm, known as "The Thing," is a founding member of the Fantastic Four, the foundational comic book series of the Marvel Universe.

The character of Ben Grimm was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, and appeared in the first issue of The Fantastic Four in 1961. Lee and Kirby, both Jewish, imagined that The Thing was Jewish from the beginning. The character's name, Benjamin Jacob Grimm, is certainly a Jewish one. But during the 1960s (and for a long time afterward), there was a strong taboo in comics and many other popular entertainment mediums against referring to real-world religious affiliations of major characters. It was not until four decades later that The Thing's Jewish identity was revealed. The revelation occurred in Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #56, published in August 2002, in a story titled "Remembrance of Things Past"), written by Karl Kesel, pencilled by Stuart Immonen, and inked by Scott Koblish.

Ben Grimm has apparently never been a synagogue-goer as an adult, but he still remembers and sometimes says Jewish prayers, and he does think of himself as Jewish.

Cover of Fantastic Four Vol. 3 Number 56, in which the Thing reveals he is Jewish Powerderkeg tells the Thing he does not look Jewish

Another interesting recent aspect of The Thing's character is that he literally died and was subsequently resurrected by God himself. Many major comic book characters have died or apparently died only to be brought back to life later by various means (technological, magical, mystical, alien, etc., or simply by revealing that the character had not actually died after all). But as far as we know, this is the first time that God (the God, the Supreme Being - not some powerful demigod or mythological pantheon member) has personally brought a character back to life in a mainstream comic book. In the history of the Fantastic Four, which began as and has always remained a series rooted in science-fiction (with emphasis on science), this is apparently the first time that God has been explicitly depicted in any way.

The Thing says a Kaddish, a Jewish prayer
The Thing reveals he is Jewish, Fantastic Four Vol. 3 Num. 56, page 22
From: Alan Jenkins, "Minority Report" (review column), published in The Nation, 12 May 2003 ( http://www.thenation.com/doc/20030512/jenkins; viewed 23 December 2005):
Fantastic Four No. 56 (Vol. 3),
"Remembrance of Things Past."
Written by Karl Kesel. Penciled by Stuart Immonen. Inked by Scott Koblish.
Marvel Comics. Paper $2.25.

In case it has slipped your mind, The Thing began life as Benjamin Jacob Grimm, a poor kid in a New York neighborhood called Yancy Street, curiously reminiscent of the Lower East Side. Though a cosmic space accident transformed him into a giant stone monster circa 1961, Grimm has continued to visit his neighborhood in sporadic episodes over the years. In those books, local toughs taunted the hero for abandoning his urban, streetfighting roots. They heckled and jeered at him, accusing him of being a traitor to his class. But no mention was ever made of The Thing's religion. In Remembrance of Things Past, published last August, Ben Grimm makes another trek to the old neighborhood, this time to return a Star of David that he stole as a teenager from a pawnshop owner named Mr. Sheckerberg.

Through a series of flashbacks we learn that young Grimm's father was an alcoholic, his brother Danny a gang leader. Danny died young and violently, and Grimm soon lost both parents as well. He stole the Star of David to prove he had the "stones" to lead the Yancy Street Gang, but was saved from the streets when the City moved him into the home of his affluent uncle. That's when the class war with the Yancys began: "We voted you out when you decided to go live with your fancy uncle--the doctor!" the Gang tells him. "Everyone knows you always wanted off the street, Grimm--become some hotshot pilot!" (There are a lot of exclamation points in comics.)

Back in the present, The Thing shows up in time to defend Mr. Sheckerberg from a superpowered extortionist named "Powderkeg: The Man with the Explosive Aura." ("Okay, maybe not an aura--more like my skin exudes nitroglycerine," explains Powderkeg, "Hate to have you die with any misconceptions!") When The Thing seems to be on the ropes, the Yancy Street Gang comes to his rescue, spraying Powderkeg with mace and pushing him down a sewer hole, but not before the villain wounds the elderly Sheckerberg.

It is here that the authors reveal Ben Grimm's religion. Bending over the fallen Sheckerberg, The Thing prays the traditional "Sh'ma Yisrael," the Hebrew confession at death. Sheckerberg survives and asks Grimm the question on many readers' minds: "All these years in the news, they never mention you're Jewish. I thought maybe you were ashamed of it a little." Grimm explains that, to the contrary, he did not want to bring shame on the Jewish community. "Figure there's enough trouble in this world without people thinkin' Jews are all monsters like me." When Grimm tries to return the stolen Star of David, the pawnbroker refuses it, likening Grimm to the Golem--the legendary living statue said to have protected Prague's persecuted Jews. The final word from Powderkeg to The Thing: "It's just...you don't look Jewish."

Beneath the wisecracks and testosterone, Remembrance of Things Past is a surprisingly rich tale of religious and class guilt. Grimm feels remorse both over his past as a young hoodlum and over escaping the poverty and hopelessness of his old neighborhood--a stroke of luck that eluded his neighborhood chums. And he keeps his religion a secret because he fears that his frightening appearance will reflect poorly on the Jewish community. What drives him throughout the book is a sense of duty to others, which is what makes him a hero.

Ben Grimm's journey parallels, in some ways, the path of the first generation of comic-book writers, almost all of whom were Jews. In addition to Bob Kane, the creator of Batman, and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who gave us Superman, the list includes Stan Lee (born Leiber), a former editor-in-chief of Marvel, and Jack Kirby (born Kurtzberg), who co-created the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. For all their success, these comic-book pioneers Anglicized their names and hid their religion, at least from readers, for decades. And so, the story's themes of prejudice, guilt and religious identity hold special meaning.

Sheckerberg tries to put The Thing's guilt to rest. "What you learned on the street, what you learned at the synagogue--when you need those things, you can always...get them back," says the old man. "I'm a pawnbroker, Benjamin--this is something I know about." But the poverty of the streets and the bigotry of the public are evils that a superhero is powerless to defeat.

The Thing explains why he never talked publicly about his being Jewish
The Thing reveals he is Jewish, Fantastic Four Vol. 3 Num. 56, page 22
From: Max Gross, "It's a Jewish Thing: Comic Hero Comes Out of a Cultural Closet", published 26 July 2002 in Forward (http://www.forward.com/issues/2002/02.07.26/fast1.html; viewed 30 November 2005):
Trembling and defeated, the comic book villain waits in the arms of a superhero for the police. "Are you really Jewish?" the villain asks.

"There a problem with that?"

"No! No, it's just... you don't look Jewish."

The villain is Powderkeg, a muscular, green-and-orange costumed character whose skin exudes nitroglycerine. The superhero is the Thing, the 6-foot-tall, 500-pound crime-fighter known for his craggy, orange skin made out of stone.

Yes, Marvel Comics has made it official with a recent issue of the "Fantastic Four": It's a Jewish Thing.

Created by Stan Lee (father of Spider-man) and Jack Kirby, the Thing made his comic-book debut in 1961. But it was not until the recent June issue of "Fantastic Four" (number 56, "Remembrance of Things Past") that the rockman's Jewish bonafides were firmly established for the first time.

The recent issue explores the Thing's rough-and-tumble childhood on New York's Lower East Side. Born Benjamin Jacob Grimm, he navigated the tough corners of Yancy Street. The Thing's father was an alcoholic, and his brother and idol Daniel was a member of the local Yancy Street Gang. After his brother and his parents died when Grimm was still a teenager, he escaped the Lower East Side to the comforts of his Uncle Jake's house. He wound up heading off to college, and eventually became a pilot. On a mission to outer space, Grimm and his three fellow crewmen were drenched with cosmic radiation that mutated them, giving them each superpowers. The four became Mr. Fantastic, the Human Torch, Invisible Woman and the Thing -- a.k.a. the Fantastic Four.

"Kirby always thought of the Thing as being Jewish," said Marvel senior editor Tom Brevoort. According to Brevoort, Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzburg) kept in his house, but never published, an early drawing of the Thing in full rabbinical regalia.

But while Kirby might have intended from day one for the Thing to be Jewish, and fans familiar with Kirby's career might have suspected as much, the superhero's Judaism had never been revealed in the pages of Marvel.

"It had never shown up in a Fantastic Four [issue], so was not what we considered canon," Brevoort said. The decision to reveal the Thing's Jewish roots came almost whimsically, he added, when Carl Kesel, the co-author of the recent issue, said that he would like to write a story about the Thing's past.

Brevoort noted that a high percentage of the early comic book artists were Jewish (Stan Lee, for example was born Stan Lieber). "Quite a few of them disguised themselves -- that's what you did to get your foot in the door," Brevoort said, adding that the creations of these closeted Jews were, quite often, disguised personal stories.

In "Remembrance of Things Past," the Thing provides his own explanation for why it took so long for his Judaism to come out.

Mr. Sheckerberg, a pawnbroker from the old neighborhood, says to the Thing: "All these years in the news, they never mention you're Jewish. I thought maybe you were ashamed of it a little."

"Nah, that ain't it," replies the Thing. "Anyone on the internet can find out, if they want. It's just... I don't talk it up, is all. Figure there's enough trouble in this world without people thinkin' Jews are all monsters like me."

But, in fact, it seems fans are taking the news quite well, Brevoort said. "We had no idea that the response would be like this," Brevoort told the Forward.

He said that since the issue came out, Marvel has been inundated with hundreds of positive letters and e-mails, with responses ranging from "Wow! I never knew that -- cool, like me!" to "I always suspected."

"The closest thing we got to a negative response was [a reader who said], 'It was a good story -- but wasn't there a 1974 issue in which the Fantastic Four were all celebrating Christmas together?'"

But the new issue makes it clear that the Thing is no mere token Jew; he's not some Jew who's never seen the inside of a synagogue. Although the Thing no longer attends services, he still remembers his prayers. Kneeling over Mr. Sheckerberg, who appears to be dead, the Thing recites the Sh'ma.

Of course, let's face it, the Thing doesn't look Jewish. Nor does he exhibit qualities -- studiousness, passivity, intelligence -- that many readers probably associate with Jews.

"He certainly doesn't fit that stereotype," Brevoort said.

Michael Derosa, who has read the "Fantastic Four" since the 1960s, described the Thing as one of his favorite characters. "I was wondering about him," he said. "He's not good-looking, and more people fear him than love him."

But, Derosa added, deep inside the Thing is a good man. "What people look like on the outside [isn't important]," he said. "The inside's important. Isn't that a Jewish ethic?"

The Thing's religious affiliation was mentioned in Newsweek. (Steven Waldman and Michael Kress, "BeliefWatch: Good Fight", published in Newseek, cover-dated 19 June 2006, page 12):

Newseek article about religions of superheroes
From: "Ben Grimm and Religion", posted 7 December 2004 on "The Jack Kirby Comics Weblog" website (jackkirbycomics.blogspot.com/ 2004_12_01_jackkirbycomics_archive.html; viewed 12 May 2006):
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
PermaLink posted by bob : 6:54 PM

Mike Sterling [link to: http://progressiveruin.com/archives/2004_12_05_archive.html#110244436911587651] points to an old article [http://www.bluecorncomics.com/thingjew.htm] about the story that revealed Ben Grimm is Jewish (one of my favourite modern FF stories), and other matters of religion in comics, including an odd comment by the Watcher in FF#72. A couple of errors in the article, including the year of Kirby's death. And for those interested, the drawing of Ben with a yarmulke is printed in The Jack Kirby Checklist [http://twomorrows.com/books/checklist.html]). I just wanted to take the oppurtunity to post my favourite statement about Ben's religion.

Ben Grimm (The Thing) obdurate? My religion's got nothing to do with it

Mr. Sheckerberg reminds the Thing of what he learned in Jewish synagogue
The Thing with his Star of David
The Thing reveals he is Jewish, Fantastic Four Vol. 3 Num. 56, page 22
The Thing reveals he is Jewish, Fantastic Four Vol. 3 Num. 56, page 22
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 foreword to The Gospel According to Superheroes, a book examining superheroes and religion, legendary comic-book writer and editor Stan Lee says he always scrupulously avoided any mention of specific religions in his stories. "I thought of myself as an 'equal opportunity writer,'" he says.

But a few writers have brought religion into the mix when taking on some long-time characters...

More recently, Ben Grimm - the Thing from the Fantastic Four - was revealed to be Jewish.

It had long been established that Ben grew up in an eastside New York neighborhood that was, at the time the character was created, "a very Jewish area of New York City," Quesada says.

"It just seemed to make sense for Ben," he says. "If it makes sense, we'll absolutely go there. If it's just frivolous, what's the point?"

From: "The Shape of THINGS to Come" (interview with Marvel Comics editor Tom Brevoort) 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 30 November 2005):
Veteran superhero Benjamin J. Grimm, AKA the ever-loving blue-eyed Thing, was revealed in Fantastic Four #56 to be Jewish. The intrepid editor of Keeping Posted braved the hallowed halls of mighty Marvel to talk with Marvel Comics editor Tom Brevoort about the Jewish member of the Fantastic Four.

Keeping Posted: I guess really the first question is... why?

Tom Brevoort: (laughter) Could you be a little more specific than that?

KP: Well, why the Thing? Why now? What motivated this revelation?

TB: OK, that's actually two questions, but I can answer them both. "Why the Thing?" really comes down to a single element, which is Jack Kirby, the Thing's co-creator, was Jewish and apparently, at least in his eyes, from all available information, he believed that the character was Jewish as well. He had done a drawing of the Thing that apparently was over his hearth that had the Thing in a yarmulke, holding the Torah and so forth. This drawing had come to light, so speaking with Stan (Lee, the other creator of the Thing), Stan kind of says, "I never really gave it any thought one way or another," though Stan himself is Jewish, as well. It just seemed that from the creators on down, writing from their own point of view, particularly since the Thing takes so much from Kirby's background, his upbringing, where he lived and just sort of his attitude on the world and his sense of humor and his point of view, it seemed like a natural extension.

In terms of "why now?" it was really as simple as Karl Kesel speaking to me about what to do it and a story for an issue of Fantastic Four and Karl saying "I'd like to do something with the fact that the Thing is Jewish and just do a story that delves into that part of his heritage and puts it on the table." To us it wasn't really as big a deal as it seemed to become. To us it was really just no more or less significant than looking for a good story for the next issue of Fantastic Four. I hope that more or less answers what you had to say.

KP: Very much, thank you.

TB: Or you could follow up.

KP: I actually had read an interview, and I think you tied into this. I don't know if this was an interview with yourself or with someone else, where they said, "why did you make the Thing Jewish?" and they responded by saying, "we didn't make the thing Jewish, he was always Jewish, we just never talked about it." In your opinion, are there any other characters who might be (Jewish) and it hasn't been talked about?"

TB: There are none that immediately come to mind, although I'm sure that if you studied them all and I gave it more then two seconds of thought, I'd probably be able to come up with others. I think certainly going back to the sixties characters because- and even going further back- because so many of the early creators in comics were Jewish, they tended to bring elements of their own background to the characters that they portrayed. So I couldn't swear that Peter Parker (Spider-Man) is Jewish, and there really is not necessarily any evidence in the text to say that, but I couldn't argue that he is not, either. But in terms of actual characters that were very specifically Jewish and just haven't been talked about, the Thing is the only one that I can really think of, and that's as much as anything the fact that over the years different people have done stories about his background where, it was at least sort of subtly implied that this was the case, if not out and out stated as we ended up doing a couple of years ago- a couple of issues ago, rather.

KP: The Thing lives in a universe where you have characters like Thor and Hercules running around. What does this do to the state of monotheism, in your opinion?

TB: Well, I think that for the average person in the Marvel universe, sort of taking it from that point of view, they look at Thor and they say he is a superhero. He is no different then a Mr. Fantastic or Spider-Man or Cyclops; that his get-up, his shtick, his whatever, is based on the mythological god of thunder. But I do not believe that most people in the Marvel universe actually believe he is the bona fide article. In terms of the superhero community, they have a little more experience with, perhaps, having walked the streets of Asgard or walked the halls of Mount Olympus or whatnot, and given more of a tangible sense of the reality of the place, but in the same token they have seen colossal wonders. They've seen Galactus, they have been on other planets, they've seen the Celestials and whatnot. I think belief is a fairly personal thing. As a matter of fact, oddly enough, I was just editing this morning the script for a short eleven-page story for our upcoming issue of Marvel Double Shots that's all about Reed and Franklin talking about whether Reed believes in G-d. And his take is, essentially, that having seen, science and religion are two sides of the same coin and having seen the scope and the breadth and the depth of the universe, it seems like there is an ordered mind behind it, that it all follows rules and that it is all logical and that it all makes sense and that can't be an accident, and I believe because of these things that I've seen. So I don't think that having encounters with Thor, whether you are an ordinary person on the ground or a superhero in the air necessarily has that much of an impact. It may be a testing of your faith. It may make you question your beliefs a little bit more, but the basic tenet of the faith is belief in that which cannot be proven. And so it doesn't necessarily make such an impact depending on the individual.

KP: What kind of reaction did you receive when the story was published?

TB: We got a lot of reporters!

TB and KP: (Laughter)

TB: Overall, the reaction was quite good. I've said in other interviews and I'll say it again, the worst - the most negative thing that I saw said about it was, "The Thing can't be Jewish! There was one Marvel-Two-in-One story where we saw him celebrate Christmas!" But, by and large, the response to it has been pretty good across the board that people who read it, whether they were Jewish or not, found something in it that they could relate to. And certainly the Jewish community has completely embraced it because, I guess, it's not everyday that a superhero or character of such long-standing stature is shown to be one of their own. But people who, yeah, the reactions sort of range from "man, that's cool" to "you know, I always thought that was the case and I'm glad its out in the open."

KP: I guess nobody could complain that they weren't being true to the character if that was always in the subtext in the writers' minds.

TB: For sure! There's always, in any group of fans, and we have thousands of fans, you'll probably find one or two that will shuff there feet and go "aaahhhhhh... I don't believe that!" But they don't believe -- you know- you could find somebody like that for every story that we publish. By and large, the reaction was very positive. Nobody really found it not in keeping with the character as he had been established up till now. Like I say, the worst that anybody said was "well, geez, he had a Christmas tree in this (other) story!"

KP: A lot of people are Jewish and have a Christmas tree in real life! (sadly)

TB: Exactly! But comic book fans, we tend to take the integrity of our universe very seriously, and the fact that there was one story in 1974 or whenever that showed -- that indicated -- you know, "incontroversibly" (sic) that this is the case when, in fact, it doesn't really prove anything. You know, we have these same arguments about who's stronger, the Thing or the Hulk. And as much as anything, it's writer/editorial fiat more then anything else. So... But overall the reaction was very positive.

Tom Brevoort is an editor at Marvel Comics on Fantastic Four, Avengers, Thor, Iron Man, Captain Marvel and a "bevy of other titles."

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, re-posted on BeliefNet.com website under headline "Comic Faith: The Thing's Religion Revealed" (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/113/story_11303_1.html; viewed 30 November 2005):
The thing is, the Thing is Jewish.

That's a statement probably worth a double-take for the millions of people - mostly former teen-age boys - who grew up with the characters of the Fantastic Four comic book. And even for those who ignored or sneered at comics - moms, pay attention here - it's a small indication of a shift in the way our culture deals with faith.

That Benjamin Jacob Grimm - a huge, orange, lumpy, enormously strong caricature of a human being - blue-eyed idol of millions and his Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew, should be Jewish after all these years, who knew?

Well, lots of people say they knew, unofficially. But to have it actually appear in the plot of the comic book more than four decades after the character was "born," that's a different thing entirely. And that's what happened recently: Ben Grimm was explicitly identified as Jewish for the first time in an issue titled "Remembrance of Things Past."

How far past? The Fantastic Four was created for Marvel Comics in 1961 by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby. Fans immediately recognized the story as a seismic shift away from square-jawed, flawless heroes like Superman who lived in places called "Metropolis" and toward bollixed-up human characters who flail around New York City.

Even the origin of the FF (as the comics cognoscenti call them) was a snafu. Four friends, including test pilot Ben Grimm, were accidentally exposed to radiation during a rocket test and returned to Earth with various superhuman powers. Together they became sort of super family with recognizably ordinary squabbles to settle among themselves while they battled super villains. Ben's blue-collar battle cry became "It's clobberin' time!"

The success of the FF begat Spider-man, the Hulk, Daredevil, the Punisher, Blade, and the X-Men (just to choose characters who have come or will be coming soon to a movie theater near you) and dozens of others. The FF success woke up DC Comics - home of Superman, Batman and other costumed heroes - which started adding fascinating, fallible traits to its lineup.

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?

But American popular culture, at least in second half of the 20th century, was vague about the faith of fictional icons. What church did Lucy Ricardo attend? What kinds of prayers did Matt Dillon say? What kind of wedding did Ben Cartwright have? Nobody knew, or at least the creators didn't tell us.

So when the creators of the Fantastic Four came along, they followed suit. "I wanted these stories to be palatable for readers of every type," Lee said recently. "My one `religious' precept was, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat people the way you would want to be treated."

Partly, comics writers have stayed away from explicit religion to avoid offending. "Nobody is not going to buy a comic because they don't use religion as part of the story," said Maggie Thompson, editor of the Comics Buyer's Guide. But there's another reason, said Tony Isabella, a writer on more than a dozen comics, including Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Mickey Mouse and Superman. "So many writers have no background in anything but popular entertainment," he said. "They don't have faith of any kind. They don't have a historical or social context."

For whatever reason, only a tiny percentage of the hundreds of characters that have appeared in comics have been attached to any particular faith. But it turns out that Jack Kirby, an active, synagogue-attending Jew, had a faith in mind for at least one of his characters.

Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzburg) was an irascible, cigar-smoking, wryly funny product of New York City's tough Lower East Side. So was his co-creation, Ben Grimm. Kirby died in 1996, but members of his family and many of the folks who worked for Marvel Comics over the decades say they knew that Kirby always thought of the Thing as a sort of alter-ego - and Jewish. In fact, Kirby once drew the Thing wearing the traditional Jewish skullcap and prayer shawl and holding a prayer book.

Lee (born Stanley Leiber) and Kirby were not the only Jewish creators behind famous comic characters. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish teen-agers from Cleveland, dreamed up Superman almost 25 years before the birth of the FF.

The Man of Steel's origin was even a loose adaptation of the story of Moses. Moses' mother floats the baby in a basket on the Nile to save his life. He's rescued and becomes a mighty hero. Kal-El's parents put their baby in a rocket to save his life and he's rescued and becomes a mighty hero.

A few mentions of religion have crept into mainstream comics. And the dedicated legion of fans who are indescribably attentive to the smallest details of the comics know all about them. John Wells is one of the most dedicated. Mild-mannered department store manager by day, his not-exactly-secret identity is the compiler of one of the nation's best-known databases about comics characters.

Wells found an offhand religious reference in an editor's reply to a letter writer in a 1962 issue of Superboy. "An editorial response notes that Superboy 'has completely memorized both Testaments of the Holy Bible, the Constitution of the United States, Webster's Dictionary and - last but not least - the Smallville Telephone Directory!'" said Wells.

But is Superboy a Lutheran or Episcopalian or Baptist - or even Christian? We don't know. There have been a few characters over the years whose faith has been made explicit. Daredevil, the blind superhero who will be played by Ben Affleck, is Catholic. Nightcrawler, a member of the X-Men who may make it into the next movie, is considering becoming a Catholic priest.

But their religion will not be a part of the upcoming movies. Neither is Ben's faith a part of the plan for the FF movie, or the Punisher's for that character's movie, Marvel officials said. Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad declined to explain why faith wasn't woven into the scripts. But comics industry experts said it was for the same reason religion hasn't been a big part of the books: Not offending is safer.

Oddly, the dark side of faith has been well represented over the years by demons from Hell and even Old Scratch himself. For instance, Lee used a variant of Satan as a villain in his Silver Surfer comic. "I didn't think of it as religious. I figured, I'm going for the worst villain I could come up with and I got Satan." he said. "I called him Mephisto."

But the faith of the marquee players in mainstream comicdom has mostly stayed mysterious. The mystery ended for the Thing a few months ago, when writer Karl Kesel suggested to editor Tom Brevoort - neither is Jewish - that they should do a story about Ben's Jewish background. Enough had changed in the past four decades that neither felt it was a big deal, at least not in the way their predecessors feared that any mention of religion might offend readers.

In the story, Ben returns to his boyhood neighborhood and saves an old friend, Mr. Sheckerberg, from a bad guy called Powderkeg. In the battle, Sheck goes down and may be badly injured. Ben stands over him, unsure what to do. "Sheck could be dyin' and I can't do nothin'! No . . . No, there is one thing."

And suddenly, it's davening time. Ben starts davening, or praying in Hebrew. He recites the Shema, the most important Jewish prayer. Ultimately, Sheck is fine and the bad guy is caught. In the last two panels, Powderkeg looks down at the rocky, orange face of the Thing.

"And you're really Jewish?" he asks.

"There a problem with that?" the Thing growls.

"No! No, it's just . . . you don't look Jewish."

That punchline has echoes of anti-Semitic jokes, Brevoort acknowledged. But he has had no complaints. "It's a funny line. And he doesn't look Jewish. He doesn't look anything," he said.

Ben's Jewish roots came as news to Lee, who said he never thought of the Thing as any particular faith. "If I had thought of it, I probably would have pushed it aside," he said. "I never tried to get religion into any of my stories."

But the fans who track every word in every comic have tied Lee with at least one line that some readers think has an explicitly religious theme. In a Fantastic Four from 1968, a really powerful good guy called the Silver Surfer was acting like a bad guy because he wanted to give all of humanity a common foe that could unite us all in a common purpose. Two FF members, Mr. Fantastic (a.k.a. Reed Richards) and the Invisible Woman (Sue Richards), are now married and off someplace waiting for the birth of their son. The Watcher, another really powerful character who is usually a good guy, appears and sends Reed off to deal with the Surfer.

The visibly pregnant Sue asks, "But what can he do ... against the all-powerful Silver Surfer?"

"All-powerful?" the Watcher replies. "There is only one who deserves that name. And His only weapon . . . is love!"

So how about it, Stan? Is that religious or what? "I thought that was one of the best lines I ever wrote," he said. "I just thought it was such a beautifully dramatic line. And certainly nobody could find any problems with it. Is that religious? If that's religious," he said, "I guess I'm religious."

From: Alex Johnson, "At the comics shop, religion goes graphic: Judeo-Christian themes woven into comic books you might not expect", published on MSNBC.com, 25 April 2006 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12376831/; viewed 2 May 2006); re-posted by Worldwide Religious News (http://wwrn.org/article.php?idd=21302; viewed 2 May 2006):
Those ultimate questions are being asked in unexpected places. Four years ago, we learned that The Thing is Jewish when he was shown praying in Hebrew over the body of a friend he had sought to protect. ("It's just ... you don't look Jewish," a surprised character tells the enormous, destructive orange rock-man, who explains to another character that he never said anything about it because he didn't want to embarrass other Jews, seeing as he was, after all, an enormous, destructive orange rock-man.)
From: Heinen, Tom, "God comics: Illustrated fiction spreads word on religious ideas", published in Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 11 Marcy 2006 (http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=407297; viewed 8 May 2006):
Delve more deeply into comic book metaphysics, and you can explore the actual or surmised religious affiliations of dozens of superheroes by clicking on the "Comic Book Characters" link at www.adherents.com. Or visit its image-packed companion page, www.ComicBookReligion.com.

Superman is a Methodist and Jimmy Olsen is Lutheran? The Thing is Jewish? Elektra is Greek Orthodox? The X-Men's Nightcrawler is a devout Catholic who once wanted to be a priest? Batman is either a mostly lapsed Catholic or a mostly lapsed Episcopalian?

Yes . . . or more often, maybe.

There have been reverent comic books about Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa, but secular publishers - especially the two dominant ones, Marvel Entertainment and DC Comics - have often avoided or only hinted at their superheroes' faith lives.

From: Steven Waldman and Michael Kress, "Beliefwatch: Good Fight", published in Newsweek, 19 June 2006 issue (posted online on 12 June 2006: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/; simultaneously posted on BeliefNet.com under headline "Holy Superheroes": http://www.beliefnet.com/story/193/story_19306_1.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
...Adherents.com, has analyzed dozens of comic-book characters... The Thing from "The Fantastic Four" is Jewish, a rare instance of a character's faith being discussed openly in the story, but what about the "X-Men" villain Magneto? He spent time in a Nazi concentration camp. Jewish, or maybe Roma (Gypsy)...

From: Jeff Christiansen, et al., Marvel Encyclopedia Vol. 6: Fantastic Four, Marvel Entertainment Group: New York, NY (2004), pages 201-203:
Benjamin Jacob Grimm was born the second son of a poor family on Yancy Street in New York's lower east side. His older brother Dan led a street gang known as the Yancy Street Gang; when Dan was killed in a gang fight, Ben joined the gang and eventually led it himself. When Ben's parents were killed, Ben moved uptown to live with his uncle Jake and Aunt Alyce. Jake managed to turn Ben around and get him back in school. Ben became a high school football star, which got him a full-ride scholarship at State University...

After graduation, Ben joined the military to further his education and to follow his dream: flying. He became a test pilot, and also flew military missions... When he left the military, Ben was contacted by Reed Richards who wanted to take him up on his earlier offer [in college] to fly that rocket to the stars. Ben joined up, but when the flight program looked to be canceled, against his better judgment he reluctantly agreed to sneak on board and fly it anyway, together with Reed Richards and Susan and Johnny Storm. When cosmic rays forced the flight to crash, Ben found himself transformed into a monstrous "Thing."

...Though Ben has no other close relatives, over the years he's acquired many true friends... [including] the other members of the Fantastic Four, who've literally knocked on Heaven's doors to retrieve a dying Ben. Though he may be lacking in close family members, Ben's rich heart, though camouflaged by his outwardly rough and abrasive style, has earned him the love and admmiration of friends and family he rarely realizes he truly has.

From: Jeff Christiansen, et al., Marvel Encyclopedia Vol. 6: Fantastic Four, Marvel Entertainment Group: New York, NY (2004), page 144:
Recently, [Doctor] Doom raised the stakes against Reed, and turned to wielding magic against the Fantastic Four... Reed led the FF [Fantastic Four] in again defeating Doom by having him claim to be superior to the Haazareth, the demons that empowered him. They dragged Doom to hell, but... Doom left a "parting gift" to Reed by melting half of his face.

With Doom gone, Reed led the FF to Latveria to take over the country and make certain that when Doom returned, he would not find his arsenal of weapons waiting for him to pick up where he left off. Secretly, Reed intended to place Doom within an impregnable prison and remain there with him as his jailer. But Reed did not share his plans with the rest of the FF, and they accidentally let Doom free when he entered their bodies. Doom took possession of Ben, and threatened to crush Johnny to death in his arms. To prevent this, Reed slew Ben with one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s energy cannons.

Reed... quickly rebounded by rebuilding the machine Doom had made to access the afterlife so that he could bring Ben bck, having detected a faint signal from Ben's corpose. Sue and Johnny joined Reed in journeying to Heaven itself, and ultimately, Ben chose to return with them out of friendship. On the way back to Earth, God Himself restored Reed's face to normal.

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).

Then there are characters who happen to be Jewish. From Marvel, this includes Hulk supporting character Doc Samson, who we know attended yeshiva (Incredible Hulk #373). Kitty Pryde of the X-Men is Jewish and X-Men arch-villain Magneto might be, as well. Plenty of broad hints have been dropped, mostly revolving around the Holocaust, but they have kept open the possibility that he may be a gypsy.

At DC, Batman villainess Harley Quinn is Jewish, but she has a Christmas tree. (Batman Adventures Holiday Special -- this should be enough to quiet down anyone who says the Thing can't be Jewish just because he is also assimilated enough to have one.)

Colossal Boy of the 30th Century Legion of Super-Heroes was revealed to be Jewish in Christmas with the Super-Heroes #1 of all places. After that, he was shown to have been born in Israel and raised in Jerusalem with summers at the kibbutz. Oy.

From DC's largest hero, to the smallest: the Atom may be Jewish. Sure, he was married in a church, but in Justice League of America #188 he says that he is not familiar with the Chanukah story because he is "not very religious." Isn't that an odd thing to say if you're not Jewish? (As a side note, Nuklon, now known as Atom Smasher, protege of the Golden Age Atom is clearly Jewish. Could the whole Atom dynasty be Jewish?)

There are others. Marvel also has a Golem, plus Prime, Captain America's ex-girlfriend Bernice Rosenthal [sic], Volcana, Legion and more. DC has Ragman (yes, there is a character called Ragman), Joel and Aviva Weinberg of Relative Heroes and Dust Devil of the Blasters (yes, there is a character called Dust Devil). Since Moshe (Dust Devil) Levy is a young boy, his mother chaperones his adventures and feeds the team, making them the first kosher super-team in comics.

From: Leah Finkelshteyn, "Thwak! To Our Enemies", published in Hadassah Magazine, June/July 2003 Vol. 84 No. 10 (http://www.hadassah.org/news/content/per_hadassah/archive/2003/03_JUN/art.htm; viewed 19 June 2007):

..."It wasn't Krypton Superman came from, but the planet Minsk," said acclaimed cartoonist Jules Feiffer about the creation of Cleveland-born sons of immigrants Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster. And DC Comic's Superman is far from the only icon of American pop mythology sprung straight from the Jewish zeitgeist. The fertile, some say aberrant, imaginations of Jack Kirby (Jacob Kurtzberg), Stan Lee (Stanley Lieber), Bob Kane (Bob Kahn), Joe Simon, Gil Kane (Eli Katz) and more have brought to life Captain America and Spider-Man (both Marvel Comics), Green Lantern and Batman (both DC), as well as Daredevil, the Hulk and X-Men (all Marvel) - characters that in the past months have battled baddies on the big screen...

...The Thing, aka Benjamin Jacob Grimm, returned to the "old neighborhood" last year and said the Shema. The irascible, orange member of Marvel's Fantastic Four was, according to colleagues, always thought of as Jewish by cocreator Kirby. Pundits and fans wondered, Just how does one circumcise an orange brick? ...

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:]
The Thing, Benjamin Jacob Grimm, is a member of the Fantastic Four.

From: Soleine Leprince, "Discussing the origins of religious belief" in Daily Princetonian, 13 March 2007 (http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/archives/2007/03/13/opinion/17697.shtml; viewed 23 April 2007):
Even comic-book heroes are painted as religious: Suppositions have been made that Superman Methodist, Spiderman is Protestant, The Thing is Jewish...
From: Steve Beard, "Bamf! The gospel according to Nightcrawler", on Thunderstruck.org website (http://www.thunderstruck.org/nightcrawler.htm; viewed 8 December 2005):
Out of all the myriad of cartoon superheroes created in the last fifty years, very few have articulated or been indentified with a specific religious faith. There have, however, been exceptions to the rule. Last year, it was revealed in the comics that Ben Grimm (a.k.a The Thing) of The Fantastic Four was Jewish...

From: Barry Caine, "If a superhero lands in the forest, does anyone hear it?" (Movie Guy column), published 24 July 2006 in Oakland Tribune (http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20060624/ai_n16506776; viewed 12 July 2007):

..."Superman Returns," which opens at 10 p.m. Tuesday... Superman's pending resurrection is inspiring super conjecture. For instance, Newsweek's "With Beliefnet.com" column has dubbed the Man of Steel a Methodist.

...while we're on the subject, the article uses data gleaned from Adherents.com to imbue other superheroes with their likely religious orientations.

For instance, The Thing from "The Fantastic Four" is Jewish, a fact addressed in the saga...

From: Jim Beckerman, "Comic books enrich their character mix", published 23 June 2006 by North Jersey Media Group Inc.: The Record and Herald News (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe/browse_thread/thread/e8d686f0b20944a6/e46638dbdaa8a219; viewed 23 June 2006):
POW! Take that, racism. And -- WHACK! -- that, homophobia. And -- THOOM! KER-THWACK! KRUMMMMM! -- that, gender stereotyping, cultural bias and religious intolerance.

Identity -- and not just the secret kind -- has become the increasing focus of the masked heroes, mutants and super beings of the comic book world...

It's a far cry from the old days, when comic book heroes came in two varieties: blond hair and dark hair (which usually came out blue in the comic books). The only character with a specific national or ethnic origin was Superman. He was from Krypton.

Today's superheroes, in contrast, aren't shy about group identification: "X-Men" readers know that Wolverine is Canadian, Storm is African, Nightcrawler is German, and Colossus is Russian. And did you know that "Fantastic Four's" Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, is Jewish?...

"We're very multicultural and international," [Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Joe] Quesada says...

From: Lisa Keys, "Stereotype this! Introducing ethnic superheroes", published 26 April 2006 in Voices That Must Be Heard, Edition 218 (http://www.indypressny.org/article.php3?ArticleID=2635; viewed 27 June 2007):

...Jewish superheroes themselves have been few and far between. Sure, the Fantastic Four's The Thing has been known to daven on occasion; the X-Men's archenemy, Magneto, is a survivor of Auschwitz, and the Golem had a brief promotion from Jewish oral tradition to the funny pages. Courtesy of a new show on the Cartoon Network, however, we can now add another character to Jewish superhero pantheon: Jewcano, an elderly rabbi who flies and shoots fire from his fingertips...

...The animation [of Minoriteam], deliberately low-tech, will appeal to only the hardest of hardcore comic book buffs. Allegedly homage to the creators' idol, comics icon Jack Kirby, much of the action is implied, supplanting realism with graphic "ka-pows!" and the like.

Kirby, of course, was the man behind Captain America and The Fantastic Four. Born Jacob Kurtzberg, he reportedly had a rough-and-tumble childhood growing up on New York City's Lower East Side; the kiddie gangs he encountered allegedly served as inspiration for the numerous superheroes - and superbaddies - he created...

From: Lynn Arave, "Superhero/ Super savior? Religious imagery plentiful; local leaders worry about Superman's morals", published 8 July 2006 in Deseret Morning News (http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,640192870,00.html; viewed 15 May 2007):

The June 19, 2006, issue of Newsweek contained a list of the "suspected" religions of superheroes... Newsweek also listed Spider-Man as a Protestant, The Thing as Jewish, The Hulk as a lapsed Catholic, Daredevil as a Catholic, Batman as a lapsed Catholic or disaffected Episcopalian and Captain America as a Protestant...

The Newsweek article is online at www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/.

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):
Kesel, Karl. "Remembrance of Things Past" Fantastic Four (3rd series) #56 Aug. 2002 (NY: Marvel), reprinted in Fantastic Four: Imaginauts (NY: Marvel, 2003).

The Death and Resurrection of The Thing

Another interesting recent aspect of The Thing's character is that he literally died and was subsequently resurrected by God himself. Many major comic book characters have died or apparently died only to be brought back to life later by various means (technological, magical, mystical, alien, etc., or simply by revealing that the character had not actually died after all). But as far as we know, this is the first time that God (the God, the Supreme Being - not some powerful demigod or mythological pantheon member) has personally brought a character back to life in a mainstream comic book. In the history of the Fantastic Four, which began as and has always remained a series rooted in science-fiction (with emphasis on science), this is apparently the first time that God has been explicitly depicted in any way.

This story arc was told in the following issues:
- Fantastic Four #509 (March 2004): "Hereafter Part 1: Death of Ben Grimm"
- Fantastic Four #510 (April 2004): "Hereafter Part 1: Journey to Heaven"
- Fantastic Four #511 (May 2004): "Hereafter Part 1: A Glimpse of God"

Reed Richards kills the Thing
Above: Reed Richards ("Mr. Fantastic") is forced to kill his friend Ben Grimm ("The Thing") in order to vanquish Dr. Doom (who has inhabited Grimm's body) and save the life of their teammate, Johnny Storm ("The Human Torch"). From: Fantastic Four #508 (February 2004): "Authoritative Action: Part 6", written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Howard Porter, inked by Norm Rapmund.

The Thing mistakenly says that he and Kitty Pryde are the only Jewish superheroes

From: Drew, "Hebrew Heroes" posted 11 December 2004 on "Messages in Bottles" blog website (http://drewish.blogspot.com/2004/12/hebrew-heroes.html; viewed 10 January 2006):
As I lit my candles tonight I was reminded of a comic rant I had. Every year DC and Marvel come out with their X-mas specials. They are pappy little things to remind you to be kind to your fellow man and that most of the heroes are good CHRISTIAN people.

This year in the Marvel Special, Franklin Richards asks his family what the holidays mean to THEM... His mom replies family and community, human torch mentions PRESENTS and then he get to Thing. Now it should be mentioned that about a year or three ago Ben Grimm was outed as a Jew. It's not important to his character so nobody really went into it... but Franklin asks him about the holidays from a JEWISH POV. Now I thought that was cool. However I didn't think it was cool for Ben to point out that he and Kitty (Shadowcat) were the ONLY Jewish heroes... For one, as said he didn't mention it for 30 odd years of his characterization- but two what was really bothered me- His pride that he and Kitty were the ONLY two Jewish heroes in Marvel.

I felt angry at the writer for Ben's pride and stupidity. I mean if he was going to go arround calling himself an athority of Jewish heroes... You would think he would at the very least mention Isreal's hero Sabra... and the long-haired dude named Samson.

So gonna list some of the Big Comic Jews tonight...
Legion (ya know - Chuck's kid)
Doc Samson
Vance Astro/Justice of the Guardians of the Galaxy/Avengers
Moon Knight
Songbird / Screaming Mimi
Sasquatch (Dr. Walter Langkowski)
Izzy Cohen (of Sgt. Fury's Howling Commandos)
Dominic Fortune
Greenberg the vampire
Bermuda Schwartz of X-Force/Branch M
Achilles of the Pantheon (from Hulk)

On his blog, Drew complained that the Thing said that he and Kitty Pryde are the only two Jewish superheroes. Is the Thing's error in saying this really so egregious? Perhaps not.

In addition to the Marvel Jewish characters, Drew also listed 12 DC Comics Jewish super-characters, along with 7 characters from independent comics other than Marvel and DC.

Of course, the Thing could only possibly know about the Marvel Jewish superheroes. (Drew isn't claiming otherwise.) But many of Marvel's Jewish characters would not have been considered by the Thing when he counted Jewish superheroes.

Greenberg the vampire was featured in a few comic book stories published by Marvel, but was not part of the Marvel Universe. Besides, Greenberg, although indeed Jewish, is certainly not a superhero. He is a writer. Volcana was a super-villain, not a super-hero. Izzy Cohen (a soldier) and non-super-powered adventurer Dominic Fortune were active during World War II. Bermuda Schwartz (a.k.a. "Bedlam", a.k.a. "Havok") was a superheroine whose career was so short that she only appeared in a single two-part story, in Cloak & Dagger vol. 3 issue #s 9 and 10. The "X-Force" she was a member of was a short-lived group that used that name in 1990, prior to the name being co-opted by as the new name of the New Mutants team and comic book series. Legion (the son of Charles Xavier) was never a superhero, and he did not live long past when Xavier first learned of the young man's existence. Songbird acts as a super-heroine now, but for most of her career she was a super-villain. Either way, she has primarily been associated with the Avengers and the Thing may simply not know enough about her to know she is Jewish. Achilles is a super-powered member of the rather secretive group the Pantheon, who appeared almost exclusively in the pages of The Incredible Hulk for a few years. Doc Sampson is a major supporting character in The Incredible Hulk, and he certainly is super-powered, with his gamma-derived super strength. But it is understandable if the Thing doesn't think of Samson as a super-hero. Samson is a professional psychiatrist, and has never embarked on a full-fledged career (or even part-time career) as a super-hero. Even when Samson worked closely with the super-team X-Factor, it was in the capacity as their therapist. He did not join the team on super-hero missions.

Of the characters left on Drew's list, the only ones left who are genuine Marvel superheroes that the Thing should be familiar with are: Sabra, Vance Astro ("Justice"), Moon Knight and Sasquatch.

The Thing (like most people) does not know Moon Knight's secret identity and, like most people, does not know that Moon Knight was raised Jewish. The Thing is no doubt familiar with Vance Astro and Sasquatch, who have been members of active super-hero teams (New Warriors, Avengers, Alpha Flight) which have worked with the Thing and his fellow members of the Fantastic Four. But neither Vance Astro nor Sasquatch have ever been very open about their Jewishness. And Ben Grimm doesn't know Vance Astro or Dr. Walter Langkowski ("Sasquatch") very well on a personal basis. He has really only met them professionally. So it is not only reasonable, it is likely, that Ben Grimm, who has not been active in the Jewish community during most of his adult life, would not know that Vance Astro and Sasquatch are Jewish.

Perhaps the most egregious ommission from the Thing's count of Jewish super-heroes is Sabra, the Israeli super-heroine who prominently wears the Star of David. It would be difficult to not guess that Sabra is Jewish. Is it realistic that the Thing forgot about her when he counted up Jewish super-heroes? Yes, it probably is. Sabra, who is based in Israel, has never been active in the United States, and she has rarely crossed paths with major U.S. superheroes. The Thing and Sabra were both involved in the events portrayed in the three-issue Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions limited series way back in 1982. One can assume that Grimm forgot Sabra since that time. Sabra is commonly-mentioned on many Jewish blog websites and Jewish-oriented comic book websites, but these are exactly the kind of Jewish websites which Ben Grimm never reads.

Drew himself seems to realize that Ben Grimm can not have been expected to know mention all these Marvel Jewish characters in his conversation with Franklin. Drew singled out only Sabra and Doc Samson as characters that Grimm should have mentioned "at the very least."


From: "The religion of comic book characters" forum discussion, started 3 December 2006 on RPG.net website (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=299781&page=3; viewed 25 April 2007):

12-04-2006, 05:35 AM

Re: The religion of comic book characters

I've just finished reading the huge dose of concentrated Bronze Age Marvel Goodness that is Essential Marvel Two In One, and it tangentially hits on some of these issues:

...The Thing: Interestingly, there are several "between the lines" hints at Ben Grimm's background in Judaism (though it's certainly not the only possible reading):

- When Reed Richards' telescope detects strange lights over Arizona on Christmas Eve, he starts getting ready to check it out, but Ben offers to go out there himself, so Reed can spend Christmas Eve with his family. Ben isn't especially put out about missing the holiday himself as he goes out to meet Ghost Rider and an apparent Second Coming.

- Ben understands what Marvel's Golem means when the Hebrew word "Emeth" appears on its head ("Truth.") (Though it also seems the Golem has some sort of telepathy going on here, and it'd probably come through equally well to someone who hadn't been to Hebrew school.)

- When time travelling and smashing Nazis with the Liberty Legion, one of Master Man's taunts is something like "I doubt you're even an Aryan." Which seems like clumsy euphemism for what Master Man really would've said.

12-04-2006, 07:02 AM

I believe it was during Mark Waid's semi-recent run on the FF that they came out and admitted that Ben was raised Jewish. And I believe it was during Dan Slott's short lived Thing series that he had his Bar Mitzvah, having never had one as a child.


12-04-2006, 07:05 AM

He did indeed. Great series. The first overt mention was when Karl Kesel was writing the book, in a story ending with the great line "Funny, you don't look Jewish!"

From: "Catholic Clix - Comic info needed!" forum discussion started 3 May 2003 on HCRealms website (http://www.hcrealms.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-40338.html; viewed 24 May 2007):

05/03/2003, 21:04

Ok, so in recent films it's been apparent that Daredevil and Nightcrawler are Catholic...

So, who else out there could be fielded in a "Catholic" Heroclix team?

08/16/2003, 20:10

Now this is something you don't see every day here! The faiths of various superheroes. I'll probably think of more after I post this.

Oh, and I should add: it was revealed not too long ago in Fantastic Four that Ben Grimm is Jewish. He was never very devout, what with his father being a raging alcoholic and he and his brother being gang members, but in an issue last year, he came back to Yancy Street and defended an old Jewish shopkeeper from the Yancy Street Gang, and the truth came out. And it was revealed that Jack Kirby had intended him to be Jewish all along, which isn't surprising since Kirby sort of patterned the Thing after himself.

08/17/2003, 12:33

There was an article in the San Diego Union Tribune a while back that was titled "Superheroes reveal secret IDs-faiths". It was mostly about Thing revealing that he was Jewish. At the end of the article it lists religious comic book characters. According to the list, Wolfsbane is a Scottish Presbyterian, Nightcrawler is Catholic (he was trying to become a priest), Daredevil is Catholic, and The Punisher is a former Catholic seminary student.

08/21/2003, 11:16

...I was surprised to learn that the Thing was Jewish, but then again I shouldn't be surprised if there weren't a lot more Jewish characters (and that's a good thing). After all, Lee and Kirby (and many other prominent comic creators) are or were Jewish.

Excerpts from: "Are Superheroes Religious?" forum page, started 13 May 2004, in "The John Byrne Forum" section of the Byrne Robotics website (http://jb.24-7intouch.com/forum/get_topic.asp?FID=3&TID=558&DIR=P; viewed 9 January 2006):

Dana Smith
13 May 2004
Yes... Kitty's always been Jewish. More Jewish folks... Doc Samson, Moon Knight, Volcana, Sasquatch, The Thing, Songbird... Sabra

From: "Power Pack is Mormon?! The religions of the Supers" discussion forum started on 28 January 2006, on Forumopolis.com website (http://www.forumopolis.com/archive/index.php/t-14845.html; viewed 1 May 2006):

Doc. Fennopolis
01-29-2006, 07:23 AM

I'll put hard cash on the idea that a lot of these are just made up, probably half of the Jewish ones are people who have Jewish sounding second names...

01-29-2006, 05:05 PM

Not The Thing, though. He's like the fiction suit version of Jack Kirby, and thus his religion is based off Kirby's.

From: Joel Phillips, "Reeding Into Things #22: Comics Q & A", 26 February 2004 (http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/forums/archive/index.php/t-26014.html; viewed 12 May 2006):

Q & A: Answering the Unanswered Comic Book Fan Questions

There are a ton of questions that are given endless discussion and debate in comic reading circles. Some of these questions are thought provoking or otherwise relevant, but most of them are just weird. I don't pretend to understand why people even want some of these questions answered. But I am forever a man of the people, and if the people want an answer, an answer they shall have. For this edition we'll be focusing on general comic book questions...

Q: What religion is _____?

A: It's my opinion, and the opinion of many others I've encountered, that everyone in Marvel or DC comics (unless otherwise specified) is Jewish. Just about all the comic book creators from the Golden and early Silver Age were Jewish, and their characters include thick layers of Semitic behaviors, attitudes, and even speech patterns. I know a rabbi that talks just like Ben Grimm, and the real names of Kryptonians immediately recall Hebrew and Yiddish pronunciation.

All comic book characters from the "big two" [Marvel and DC] are Jewish... except the Elf with a gun, who I believe is a Buddhist (it's a Zen thing).

[Comment posted by:] Scots Fan
Feb 27, 2004, 04:01 am

Your comment that every character's religion being Jewish I don't think is entirely true.

While the majority of creators my have been Jewish I don't think that makes their characters Jewish. Sure, many may be written with Judism undertones but that's because of the writers. It would be the same as a Catholic, Muslin or Hindu writing. They're going to (maybe without knowing it) write their characters with hints of their religion because it's what they are. It doesn't mean their character is that religion. Maybe you could call this bad writing but I wouldn't, because you are always going to put a little of yourself into any character you write.

As a person of the Catholic faith I would say that a number of characters show parts that are Catholic for example Matt Murdock, Peter Parker, Scott Summers, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson all to me would seem to be Catholic or at least have some of the underlining principles of Catholism.

Not being Jewish, and therefore only having a limit knowledge on the subject, I can't say with accuracy what character would have underlining Jewish qualities but I would say that Superman, Magneto, the X-Men as a group entity (not the individuals in it) and Aunt May all show aspects of this.

This is just my opinion on that matter which my be trival and I hope I don't offend any body with it but I just feel that to say because the writers that created them were Jewish then the characters themselves are Jewish isn't really a good reason to base it on. That's all.

[Response by:] Joel Phillips
Feb 27, 2004, 11:55 am

Re: post by Scots Fan: "Your comment that every character's religion being Jewish I don't think is entirely true."

It wasn't meant to be true, just to raise the idea that you went on to talk about (creators infusing aspects of themselves into many of their characters). I didn't mean that the characters are all actually Jewish because obviously they aren't.

Aunt May? Can't say I get that one, but OK. Anyway I am Jewish, and there are many others I'd add, chief amongst them being Ben Grimm. I swear he's the single most Jewish character I've ever read that wasn't wearing a yarmulke. Plus if my memory serves me correctly I believe his visual design as Thing was based off the tale of the golem, from Jewish folklore.

From: "The Corner" (letter column), published in National Review Online, 29 July 2002 (http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/2002_07_28_corner-archive.asp#85294266; viewed 12 May 2006):

[Jonah Goldberg]
Posted 9:42 AM

The Thing is Jewish! The heart and soul of the Fantastic Four is a Hebrew according to a report in the New York Post. [Link to: http://www.nypost.com/gossip/pagesix.htm] Scroll all the way down.

BTW ["By The Way"]
[Jonah Goldberg]
Posted 12:03 PM

Comic book geeks have been writing me in regard to the news that the Thing is Jewish. Yes, I did know that Kitty Pryde was Jewish too. But her powers were awful. Being intangible is much less impressive than being the second-strongest Marvel superhero -- I'm working on the assumption that the Hulk remains number 1. While religion is rare in Marvel comics, it's not unheard of. After all, Daredevil, I believe, is a lapsed Catholic. Nightcrawler is definitely Christian. And, I have to assume, that the Scarlet Witch is some kind of Wiccan (though, since she's the daughter of Magneto, she might be Jewish). I know K-Lo doesn't like comic stuff in the Corner and I am aware that this is chum in the water for Robert George. But A) it's damn hot. And, B) I'd rather read about comic book stuff than see another post about Marmite (Spreads like butter, tastes like death).

[Kathryn Jean Lopez]
Posted 12:05 PM

Both comic books and Star Trek are better than Marmite.

[James S. Robbins]
Posted 12:30 PM

The Thing does bear some similarity to the legend of the Golem.

[Jonah Goldberg]
Posted 2:08 PM

Email box ...filling with...comic geeknesssss...losing...consciousness. A few quick points... Speaking of Thor and Hercules, a number of people note that they are stronger than the Thing. They're probably right, but cut the Thing some slack as he can only score with blind chicks...

[Jonathan Adler]
Posted 2:53 PM

A reader asks whether there are any observant Jewish superheroes. Unless Sabra counts, I doubt it.

[Jonathan Adler]
Posted 3:31 PM

I'm hardly an expert on Jewish law, so it seemed obvious to me that The Thing couldn't have observed the Sabbath as a member of the Fantastic Four. A more informed reader, however, notes that it is permissible to violate the Sabbath in order to save someone's life. While this might not excuse Senator Lieberman's decision to campaign for veep seven days a week, it would seem to allow The Thing to devote the occasional Saturday to fighting the evil machinations of Dr. Doom, Mole Man, Super-Skrull, and other assorted bad guys.

[Kathryn Jean Lopez]
Posted 3:48 PM

"Doesn't Jonah have a column to finish? Who cares if the Thing is Jewish?"

From: "'X-men' comic books and movie tackle Christianity" forum discussion started 11 April 2003 on IIDB Secular Community Forums website (http://www.iidb.org/vbb/archive/index.php/t-50750.html; viewed 12 July 2007):

Bobzammel [a self-described atheist/agnostic]
April 12, 2003, 10:56 AM

...A few Marvel characters have religious backgrounds. The Thing is Jewish, although he is not practicing. Magneto is also either Jewish or a Gypsy. The Avenger Firebird is a Catholic missionary. Storm is a Pagan. Thor thinks he is a God. Daredevil is also a Catholic.

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: "Jewish Comic Book Characters" message board page, started 15 May 2006 on IGN.com website (http://boards.ign.com/Comics_General_Board/b5033/117625205/?16; viewed 19 May 2006):

Date Posted: 5/15 8:13pm

Anyone remember the Christmas Marvel special where The Thing states to Franklin that him and Kitty Pryde as they only two openly Jewish Superheroes? I always found that amusing for it says that there are others that hide that fact.

Date Posted: 5/21 9:06am

re: "You think Magneto had a Bar Mitzvah?... What other Jewish comic characters you can think of?"

The Thing -- Ben Grimm -- didn't he recently mention his Bar Mitzvah in a comic book?

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):

Posted: May 10, 2006 3:24 PM

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

Posted: May 16, 2006 12:23 AM

Seems like a lot of Marvel's heroes are either Jewish or seem to be Jewish. I loved when the Thing compared himself to the golem. That was a great bit of writing.

From: "an Asian as a major hero. FINALLY. but..." message board started 21 April 2006 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072443&start=15; viewed 31 May 2006):

Posted: May 2, 2006 3:22 PM

You guys are overlooking a really big one. You know what other Jewish superhero has gone toe-to-toe with the Hulk? Several times?


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):

Posted: Apr 13, 2006 10:54 AM

...Marvel wise, Kitty Pryde, the Thing, Doc Samson, Moon Knight and Vance Astro/Justice are all Jewish...

Posted: Apr 13, 2006 9:15 PM

So far my League of [Jewish Superheroes] is as follows:

...Ben Grimm the Thing ... Any handsome Jews out there? A big pile of rocks is Jewish? Thanks...

[7 other Jewish superheroes listed, with comments about each.]

From: "Religious Inclinations of heroes" message board, started 1 March 2005 on StarDestroyer.net website (http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=63632; 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: Tue Mar 01, 2005 8:39 pm

The Thing is Jewish, IIRC. Don't know how devoutly so, though.

The Dark
Posted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:01 am

...Of course, the Thing is now well-known to be Jewish...

From: "Religious Beliefs of Marvel Characters" discussion board started 20 October 2004 on Comic-Forum.com website (http://www.comic-forum.com/marvel/Religious_beliefs_of_Marvel_characters_397905.html; viewed 8 June 2006):

Date: 21 Oct 2004 21:06:41
From: Matt Deres

At the risk to my sanity, I've dug out that series [Infinity Crusade] to investigate...

Some other notes (please don't make me peruse this again!):

- Ben Grimm relates the story of how his favourite aunt died and in the flashback, he's seen praying in front of a window (with panes forming a cross) and the tombstone of his aunt also has a cross on it. Doesn't jibe well with the supposed Jewish thing that came up a few years later.

Date: 22 Oct 2004 05:49:43
From: Mikel Midnight

It was obviously a mixed marriage. There's no contradiction there at all (the way there would had that been his mother's tombstone, for example).

Date: 22 Oct 2004 21:43:45
From: Matt Deres

I'm not Jewish, but my experience is that few Jews feel the need to kneel down in front of a cross and pray. You'd have to see the panel in question - he's not looking up at the stars, he's using a handy cruciform window.

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):

posted by hifiparasol
February 5, 2005 7:28 PM

"After unknowingly eating an atomic matzah that was accidentally baked in a microwave oven with radioactive water, she was surprised to learn that she could fly..." [link to webpage about the Jewish Hero Corps: http://www.nusion.com/jewishsuperhero/jhc.htm] Take your radioactive spiders and your gamma bombs and shove them up your tuchus. I'm casting my lot with the Jewish Hero Corps! [link to: http://www.nusion.com/jewishsuperhero/] But seriously: Most [link to: http://www.marveldirectory.com/teams/fantasticfour.htm] (but not all [link to: http://www.spawn.com/comics/series.aspx?series_id=1]) of the most widely-known superheroes around are a bit on the WASPy side. Is it possible to address issues of ethnicity and identity via superheroes, given the fact that most folks think it's just a lot of punching and zapping? Or do we have to resort to doing via metaphor [link to Amazon.com order page for the X-Men graphic novel: God Loves, Man Kills: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0785100393/metafilter-20/ref=nosim/]?

This is great, thanks!

posted by 6:1 at 7:33 PM on February 5

Incredibly cheesy, but fun! (and i thought the Thing was Jewish?)

posted by amberglow at 7:38 PM on February 5

Nice post, thanks.

And amberglow, the Thing is clearly Irish. That's why he's orange and doesn't get along with the (clearly also Irish) Yancy Street Gang.

posted by interrobang at 7:46 PM on February 5

Irish??? [link to: http://www.forward.com/issues/2002/02.07.26/fast1.html/]

The thing with comic books and superheroes is that we read diversity into them anyway and don't need it spelled out for us usually--except when it comes to Thor: clearly not Jewish. : )

posted by amberglow at 8:03 PM on February 5

No, no, amberglow's right: The Thing, a.k.a. Benjamin Jacob Grimm, was recently outed as Jewish [link to: http://www.forward.com/issues/2002/02.07.26/fast1.html/].

And I would submit that it's impossible not to see superheroes as representing issues of identity (or dual identity, or secret identity). You could translate that as sexual identity, ethnicity, race, etc. to an astonishing degree: just look how malleable the X-Men metaphor has been over the years. It's no coincidence that that series was introduced in 1963, the year of "I Have a Dream".

See also this article from Hadassah magazine [link to: http://www.hadassah.org/news/content/per_hadassah/archive/2003/03_JUN/art.htm] about Jewish or crypto-Jewish superheroes and their creators, or this discussion from the Union for Reform Judaism [link to: http://urj.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=1403&pge_prg_id=14946&pge_id=1148] about The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

posted by Asparagirl at 8:04 PM on February 5

Oh, and us Jewish kids knew that most of the people drawing them were Jewish anyway (as per Kavalier and Clay) : )

posted by amberglow at 8:05 PM on February 5

The Thing is Jewish? Wow. I'm especially impressed that he was originally conceived as Jewish but that fact stayed hidden for so long. We get to learn something new about his character without having to bear any ridiculous retconning.

posted by painquale at 8:57 PM on February 5

The Thing isn't Marvel's only well-known Jewish character. In fact, I'd say the other one is better-known, and his ethnicity has always been known: the man who goes by the pseudonym Erik Magnus Lensherr, Magneto.

posted by Sangermaine at 11:02 PM on February 5

Thanks for the clarification, amberglow. I'm pleasantly surprised, and also a little upset that I'm so behind on my Fantastic Four knowledge.

posted by interrobang at 11:05 PM on February 5

From: "Religion of the X-Men" message board started 15 May 2005 on Comic Book Resources website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-58362.html; viewed 13 June 2006):

Dr. Killbydeath
05-16-2005, 07:17 PM

...to most people [Magneto] is a villain, and the most recognizeable Jew in comics. (Shadowcat is less known, and The Thing is barely ever mentioned as a Jew.)

03-31-2006, 08:50 PM

The Thing is mentioned as being Jewish on a fairly regular basis. It's not like writers are going to go out of their way to mention a character faith. In real life, if you're just talking to your friends, does your religion consistintly come up? Probably not. It probably comes up less when you're saving the world...

From: Bill Craig (founding and senior pastor of Summit Trace Church in Frederick, Maryland), "Comic Faith", posted 14 June 2006 on "Bill Craig" blog website (http://billcraig.blogspot.com/2006/06/comic-faith.html; viewed 14 June 2006):

In a recent article of the latest Newsweek Magazine, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/ under "Belief Watch" I discovered that many of my childhood comic book superheroes are "religious". Now I don't know what church they may attend and even if I did I would have to be discrete to protect their identity. What fascinates me is that as super as they are they still place a faith in something greater than they are. Newsweek tells me that Peter Parker is a Protestant, Superman is Methodist -- that Midwest clean look gave him away. The Thing is apparently Jewish... http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html You can see a complete list here.

From: Steve Kurian (an Eastern Orthodox Christian), "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters", posted 12 June 2006 on "Steve Kurian: engineer... wandering skeptic... street theologian" blog website (http://stevenkurian.blogspot.com/2006/06/religious-affiliation-of-comic-book.html; viewed 14 June 2006):

(Because you really needed to know)

I'm not really this into comic books, but as this is the Summer movie season, comic book characters have been coming up over and over again. So apparently Adherents.com has categorized the religious affiliation of a good number of comic book heroes, obscure and otherwise... Superman is a Methodist, Batman is a lapsed Episcopalian or Catholic, and The Thing is Jewish, just to name a few.

From: Chris Well, "Comic Book Faith", posted 13 June 2006 on "Learning Curve" blog website (http://chriswellnovelist.blogspot.com/2006/06/comic-book-faith.html; viewed 14 June 2006):

Beliefnet has an interesting piece [link to: http://www.beliefnet.com/features/comicbookfaith.html] on the religious affiliation of various comic book characters, with links to essays that use actual story instances to make each case. The roundup includes Superman (Methodist), Wolverine (Buddhist) and The Thing (Jewish), among others.

From: reader comments accompanying "Holy Superheroes" article, written by Steven Waldman and Michael Kress, posted 12 June 2006 on BeliefNet.com website; reprint of "Beliefwatch: Good Fight" article published in Newsweek, 19 June 2006 issue (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/193/story_19306_1.html; viewed 14 June 2006):

6/13/2006 3:14:15 PM

What a great topic! As with other types of diversity -- race, gender..., etc. -- readers like to see themselves represented in comics.

It's also good for comic books to represent minority groups in mainstream media, simply because it helps humanize a group that the majority might not be familiar with. For example, the Thing from the Fantastic Four was an early Jewish superhero (whether it was well-known or not).

Just like anything, religion is an aspect of a person's identity and adds a layer of interest and complexity to their story.

From: Jan Edmiston (a self-identified Presbyterian), "Where Would Mutator Worship?", postd 14 June 2006 on "A Church for Starving Artists" blog website, part of the "Presbyterian Bloggers" webring (http://churchforstarvingartists.blogspot.com/2006/06/where-would-mutator-worship.html; viewed 14 June 2006):

Let's turn our attention to superheroes -- both male and female. Little did we know that they had religious affiliations.

Newsweek reported this week that Superman is Methodist and The Thing is Jewish. You, too, can find the affiliation of your favorite Super Hero at [link to Adherents.com website]...

From: Joshua, "Superhero Religions", posted 14 June 2006 on "Carpathian Kitten Loss" blog website (http://kittenloss.blogspot.com/2006/06/superhero-religions.html; viewed 14 June 2006):

In this week's Newsweek periscope [link to Newsweek article: "Belief Watch: Good Fight", http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/], there is an odd piece on the religions and presumed religions of superheroes...

According to the list, which is taken from a website called Beliefnet.com [link to http://www.beliefnet.com/features/comicbookfaith.html]...

In the Jewish corner is the Thing, Kitty Pryde and villian Magneto...

From: "Religion in comic books", posted 14 June 2006 on "Get Religion" blog website (http://www.getreligion.org/?p=1679; viewed 14 June 2006):

Posted by Katie Q at 10:18 pm on June 14, 2006:

...And super hero comics by and large aren't about religion... It's just very few heroes have a functional religious life during their off-time, and that's rather unrealistic and alienating... So, who else? The Thing and Kitty Pryde, who only remember they're Jewish when the story calls for it?

From: Mirtika, "Is Superman a Methodist?", posted 15 June 2006 on "Mirathon" blog website (http://mirathon.blogspot.com/2006/06/is-superman-methodist.html; viewed 15 June 2006):
Is Superman Jewish, Methodist, or a Christ figure? Newsweek is examining the matter...

So, I offer this nifty assemblage of charts and lists and links on comic book religion found at Adherents.com.

...Ben "The Thing" Grimm is Jewish. You already know about Nightcrawler and Catholicism. But... Rogue is Southern Baptist?

From: Michael, "No Sunday School In Smallville", posted 12 June 2006 on "Tales to Mildly Astonish" blog website (http://talestomildlyastonish.blogspot.com/2006/06/no-sunday-school-in-smallville.html; viewed 15 June 2006):
...There are precious few heroes of faith in comics, mainstream or alternative, and the more I think about that, the less I like it. Most heroes' religion is used as a type of shorthand characterization, something to fill space in the Handbook. Kitty Pryde and Ben Grimm are Jewish, but you never see them paging through the Torah or asking forgiveness at Yom Kippur...
From: PJM in Sydney, "By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth", posted 15 June 2006 on "Pajamas Media" blog website (http://pajamasmedia.com/2006/06/by_the_hoary_hosts_of_hoggoth.php; viewed 16 June 2006):
What's Batman's religion? Episcopalian/Catholic according to this website [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html], which lists the faiths of many different superheroes including Superman (Methodist), The Thing (Jewish) and Dust (Sunni Muslim). The religions assigned are based on internal evidence from the comicbooks themselves.
From: Wretchard, "My Heart Shall Never Rest...", posted 15 June 2006 on "The Belmont Club" blog website (http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/2006/06/my-heart-shall-never-rest.html; viewed 16 June 2006):
And if that wasn't enough, Pajamas Media [link to: http://pajamasmedia.com/2006/06/by_the_hoary_hosts_of_hoggoth.php] points to a website [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html] that reveals the religious affiliation of many of the most famous superheroes based on the illustrations in the comics themselves. Batman is Episcopalian/Catholic; Superman is Methodist; The Thing is Jewish; and Dust is of course Sunni Muslim. Don't believe it, huh? Well, neither did I, but it's true.

From: "Superheroes and religion", posted 14 June 2006 on "On Christopher Street" blog website (http://somacandra.livejournal.com/410090.html; viewed 16 June 2006):

[reader comments:]

From: mysanal
Date: June 16th, 2006 11:44 pm (UTC)

The reason The Thing is Jewish is as a tribute to his co-creator, Jack Kirby (nee Jacob Kurtzman). In 1970, Jack created his "Fourth World" stories for DC Comics, which introduced the New Gods - whose origin is very Jewish (the leader of the New Gods is Highfather, whose real name is Isiah).

I find this an interesting topic because most of the original creators in comics were Jewish, followed by Protestant and Catholic (and lapsed) creators in the 60s and 70s. It's been fascinating to watch writers striving for diversity over the years - as writers with more experience with other religions/races/sexualities enter the field, it's been gradually better...

From: Steve, "Religion and super heroes", posted 16 June 2006 on "Making a Long Story Longer" blog website (http://www.moodyloner.net/2006/06/religion-and-super-heroes.html; viewed 16 June 2006):

Here is an interesting list of Super Heroes by religious affiliation [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html].

Least surprising: Captain America - a Protestant, no shocker there.

Most surprising: The Thing - Jewish!

From: "Any Christian Superheroes?" thread began 22 April 2004 on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4e5839f075fecf76/8821b5db671e7ce1; viewed 20 June 2006):

From: Gustavo Wombat
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 12:03 pm

I can't think of any major superheroes that strongly believe in any real faith, and that surprises me. Certainly not in the DC Universe. I think there are more minority superheroes than religious ones...

From: Mark J. Reed
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 1:07 pm

Ever-lovin' blue-eyed Benjamin J. Grimm is also Jewish - by heritage and childhood, if not by present practice.

From: Abby Scott, "Complete with Utility Belt Carrying a Calculator and Ennui," posted 22 June 2006 on "Abby Scott does tend to go on" blog website (http://abbyscott.blogspot.com/2006/06/complete-with-utility-belt-carrying.html; viewed 22 June 2006):

I grew up in a strong atheistic tradition...

The above is a link to a list of the religions of many of our comic book heroes. Quite cool, actually...

The Thing? Jewish. Who knew?

From: "Super Religion", posted 15 June 2006 on "Paulie's Posts" blog website (http://pauliesposts.blogspot.com/2006/06/super-religion.html; viewed 23 June 2006):
Here's a neat theory: Your favorite superhero is religious. www.beliefnet.com has created a chart that lists the faith of each superhero... Meanwhile, the Thing is a Jew and Batman is either a lapsed Roman Catholic or Episcopalian. Check out the chart to see what your favorite superhero is.

[Link to: http://www.beliefnet.com/features/comicbookfaith.html]

From: Doug Tonks, "A Higher Power", posted 22 October 2006 on "All New! All Different! Howling Curmudgeons: Two-Fisted Comics Commentary and Criticism!" blog website (http://www.whiterose.org/howlingcurmudgeons/archives/009995.html; viewed 25 April 2007):

The never-identified but usually heeded "they" claim that there are two topics you should never talk about: religion and politics. But since Mike already brought up religion... I'll follow it up with a link to this page [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html], which lists the religious affiliations of various comic book characters. Many of the religious identifications are backed up with lengthy supporting arguments, but some of the more minor characters get little or nothing in the way of explanation.

Some of them are not too surprising... Others are obvious: Nightcrawler and Daredevil are each Catholic, and Kitty Pryde and the Thing are each Jewish...

Posted by Doug at October 22, 2006 7:12 PM

[Comments posted by readers of this page:]

...While appreciate what these guys are trying to do from a pure geek-fun perspective, but it's largely wasted effort. For instance, who cares if Maggin and Millar wrote Superman thinking he was Methodist? Unless it's boldly and directly stated in text... someone else could come along and establish that the Kents are Swiss Reformationists or whatever. I'm quite certain that most of the writers who wrote Ben Grimm for forty years didn't "write him to be" Jewish (most likely because they didn't think he was).

Posted by: Chris M. at October 24, 2006 11:48 AM

From: "Where are the Christian Superheroes?" forum discussion page started 22 August 2006 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-81451.html; viewed 5 May 2007):

Mr Wesley
08-22-2006, 10:03 AM

...I pose the question to you, my fellow Talk@Ramanians: If Christianity is the most popular faith in the United States, why aren't there more openly Christian superheroes?

08-22-2006, 10:07 AM

I don't think there are so many openly Jewish or Muslim Superheroes either (at least not American ones). In the end, non-denominational heroes will appeal to a broader spectrum of readers, or at least I'm sure that's the theory.

08-22-2006, 10:08 AM

I don't think there are so many openly Jewish or Muslim Superheroes either.

08-22-2006, 10:16 AM

...btw [by the way] - Kitty Pride is Jewish.

08-22-2006, 10:24 AM

isnt the Thing also [Jewish]?

08-22-2006, 11:59 AM

I think the idea is someone who lived their life as an active Christian, not just calling him one and leaving it at that.

Few heroes I can think of actively live their life by any faith. Several Daredevil/Catholic stories come to mind.

A couple of very recent Ben Grimm/Jewish stories where his being a Jew mattered or informed the story.

But rarely someone who is actively Christian - I'll take it they mean Protestant because Catholic can be awfully different - or Jewish and the attempts to balance that with their life as a superhero or conflicts that might arise because of it.

08-22-2006, 02:01 PM

Read Thing no. 8. Ben gets his Bar-Mitzvah!

From: Daniel J. Phillips, "Superman... a Methodist? Batman an Episcopalian? Holy WCC!", posted 18 April 2006 on "Biblical Christianity" blog website (http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2006/04/superman-methodist-batman-episcopalian.html; viewed 9 May 2007):

Wow... "holy" and "WCC" so don't go together...

A dear friend (Terry Rose) just sent me a link to a page called The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters. It's a quite-serious look at the world of superheroes, super-villains, and the other ink-and-pen creations kids have been devouring for decades.

I was quite the aficionado in the 1960's, but have long-since stopped following comic books, except when they're turned into movies. This page takes a pretty serious approach to identifying and documenting the implicit and explicit religious leanings of the characters in the Marvel, DC and other comic universes.

You'll find out that Superman is a Methodist, Batman is Episcopalian/Roman Catholic, the Fantastic Four's The Thing is Jewish, and that God's religion is described as... God.

You who've kept up on comics will have more intelligent observations on this than I have. I'll say this, though: the page depicts a much better-balanced and "real" world than TV or the movies. From those media, you'd assume that virtually no good person seriously practices any identifiable religion. For instance, I've made this observation about one of the most otherwise creative minds in Hollywood, Joss Whedon:

...Whedon has evidently never known, liked and understood a real-live, practicing, Bible-believing Christian. He shares that with most Hollywood writers, sadly. Whedon can create believable murderers, maniacs, flawed heroes, monsters, in-betweeners, and a hundred other types. But he seems unable or unwilling to create a credible, likable, genuine, openly Christian character -- let alone create one and go anywhere with that character.

Contrast that with history, and the real world inhabited by most of us outside of Hollywood.

Funny, isn't it? Comic books being more real than live-action media?

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):

02/05/2005, 15:35

I know a lot of characters are Jewish, so I was wondering who is officially Catholic?

I know Daredevil is... I also believe Firebird from the West Coast Avengers... After that, I'm pretty much stumped...


02/07/2005, 18:58

Which characters are Jewish? Shadowcat's the only one I remember.

02/11/2005, 20:16

Sasquatch is Jewish.

Sabra... is Jewish.

Apparently Ben Grimm, the ever-lovin' blue eyed Thing is apparently Jewish now. I don't know if he was retconned into being it or if it never came up before.

02/12/2005, 01:33

re: I don't know if he was retconned into being it or if it never came up before.

Naw, Benjy's been Jewish forever. I think his "Jewishness" might even predate that of Kitty.

David Thompson, "Secret Knowledge, Revealed", posted 1 March 2007 on "David Thompson: Culture, Ideas and Comic Books" blog website (http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/comic_books/index.html; viewed 15 May 2007):

Zounds! The religious affiliations of your favourite comic book heroes have finally been documented in a disturbingly thorough database. This improbable cataloguing project may well define a whole new stratum of nerdish preoccupation. But, given the effort involved, it's hard not to be impressed and, dare I say it, just a little curious. I was vaguely aware that Spider-Man is sort-of Protestant, that Ben Grimm is Jewish and that Bruce Wayne seems to have that whole lapsed Catholic thing lurking in the background...

...Naturally, the database also includes extraterrestrial belief systems... along with characters who, via circumstances far too involved to relate here, came to meet God Himself...

From: Visconde Carlo Vergara, "The Faith of Heroes (Superhero Religious Trivia)", posted 14 May 2006 on "Carver's House" blog website (http://carverhouse.blogspot.com/2006/05/sony-buys-us-rights-to-iranian-comic.html; viewed 15 May 2007):

...Rogue is Southern Baptist, Multiple Man is Buddhist, and the Thing is Jewish (as opposed to Human Torch and Invisible Woman, who are Episcopalian). The site also cites the comics issues where the religious affiliations were suggested or revealed.

More heroes are presented in a table on this page [link to: http://adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html]. If you want pictures, look through this other page [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_collage.html].

From: "Tonight I'm gonna party like it's 5767", posted 22 September 2006 on "SwanShadow Thinks Out Loud" blog website (http://www.swanshadow.com/2006/09/tonight-im-gonna-party-like-its-5767.html; viewed 21 May 2007):

Happy New Year and L'Chaim to all of SSTOL's Jewish readers! (You know who you are. At least, I hope you do.)

In celebration of Rosh Hashanah - which, for the benefit of my fellow goyim, begins tonight at sunset - today's Comic Art Friday celebrates heroes and heroines of the Hebrew persuasion. If you're an SSTOL regular, you've seen both of today's artworks on previous occasions, but feel welcome to enjoy them again on this New Year's Eve/Day (depending upon what time of day you read this)...

Probably the most identifiably Jewish heroes in comics are the two pictured in the following drawing by longtime industry stalwart Rich Buckler. Another of my Common Elements pieces, this one portrays a clash of titans: The Thing (real name: Benjamin Jacob Grimm), the rock-skinned powerhouse of the Fantastic Four, and Sabra (real name: Ruth Bat-Seraph), the national superheroine of Israel.

Although Ben Grimm, the blue-eyed, ever-lovin' Thing, has been a major star in the superhero firmament since 1961, fans weren't universally aware that he was Jewish (though his name certainly offered a clue) until 2002, when writer Karl Kesel and artists Stuart Immonen and Scott Koblish created a Fantastic Four story designed to reveal Ben's religion to the world at large. In this tale (Fantastic Four, Volume 3, Issue 56), The Thing prays the Sh'ma, a Hebrew prayer customarily offered at death, over a wounded friend from his childhood, a shop owner named Sheckerberg. Later, after Sheckerberg recovers from his injuries Ben and the man share a poignant exchange...

Which raises a point worth considering. Anyone who knows anything about the history of comic books in general, and the superhero genre specifically, knows that the founders of the industry were young Jewish men. The costumed hero by whom all others are measured, Superman, was the brainchild of a couple of Jewish kids from Cleveland, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Likewise, most of the linchpins in the Marvel Comics canon, from the Fantastic Four to the X-Men, were created by writer-editor Stan Lee (born Stanley Lieber) and artist Jack Kirby (born Jacob Kurtzberg) - the latter of whom also cocreated (with another Jewish writer-artist, Joe Simon) Captain America in the early 1940s.

Yet, even though comics began as an industry overwhelmingly perpetuated by Jewish talent, it wasn't until relatively recently that there were any openly Jewish superheroes in mainstream comics. As we've seen, it took 40 years for Marvel Comics to officially acknowledge that one of their best-known and most beloved heroes was a Jew.

It's frightening to realize that the roots of bigotry burrow so deep into the American psyche that for decades, the authors of a popular entertainment medium couldn't promote to a general audience characters who openly shared their creators' heritage.

And that's your Comic Art Friday for this Rosh Hashanah 5767. L'Shana Tova!

From: "Atheist representation on the Avengers" forum discussion started 20 June 2001 on "Comic Boards" website (http://www.comicboards.com/avengers/view.php?trd=010620110715; viewed 24 May 2007):


Posted by D-Man on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 20:10:53 GMT

...Probably the best comic you could find to figure out who believes in a god or a god, or have deep faith in God or a god would be:

Infinity Crusade
The Goddess uses the heroes' faith and belief in gods and such to recruit heroes.

Here are a list of Avengers who are "believers" so are recruited by the Goddess:
Living Lightning
Black Knight
Invisible Woman
Wonder Man
Captain America
Scarlet Witch
Moon Knight

The so-called "non-believers" that the Goddess didn't choose:
Mr. Fantastic
Iron Man
Spider-Woman II
Beast (although Beast claims to believe in a god, but Vision counters with "Obviously because your belief in a supreme being is not as deeply felt nor well known as the others.")
Quasar (which was stated in his own book)

From: "Religion in Comics", posted 22 December 2006 on "Noble Nonsense" blog website (http://www.mania.com/noblenonsense/blog/136.html; viewed 25 May 2007):

If you go to wikipedia (or www.marveldatabase.com) and type in say... Hawkeye. You won't get his religious affiliation. I don't know and or care what he is. In fact the only two people I know for certain their religious beliefs are is The Thing and Kitty Pryde. Both Jewish. Which come to think of it The Thing being Jewish makes sense in a comparison to the legend of the Golum. I doubt that was the intention though.

But I guess the main reason for this post is this question: Should writers address religion in comics?

I guess I'm mixed on this. I mean to some degree I want to know that my favored characters have some sort of spiritual side. Except I think it would be hard to have a religious belief in said universe. I know it can easily be argued that it could change my opinion of the character if I knew their religious affiliation. But in reality it really hasn't. I still like Thing. Doesn't bug me at all that his religion is different than mine. He saves the world who cares if he's not my denomination of Christianity?! Kitty Pryde is still my third favorite X-Man...

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. Now I know what you are thinking, "Not this again". But hear me out. I'm not looking for how religion itself is portrayed in comic books or superheroes. None of that Superman is = to Christ stuff.

What I'm interested in is the way religious characters are portrayed in comic books. First one that pops into my head is Magneto. He is either Jewish or Gypsy.

I think the first step is listing what characters are what religion. I think this will porbably be a pretty short list, as most comic book characters are never mentioned to be one religion or the other.

Ultimately, I think I might want to use this information and see how their characters are portrayed, and see if there are any significant parallels, or if it effects how the character acts.

I'm a religious studies major, and recently got back into the comic book world after a 10 year hiatus. So, although I know most general things, I'm probably not as versed as some of you in this area. I'll see if I can start off the list. Off the top of my head this is what I got:

Magneto: Jewish, or Gypsy
Nightcrawler: Christian - Catholic
The Thing (Ben Grimm): Jewish
Daredevil: Catholic (I think)

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.

Thing is Marvel's #1 Jew obviously (he had his bar mitzvah not too long ago)...

Carlton Donaghe
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, 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.

09-17-2006, 07:36 PM

re: ...he was shown celebrating Christmas, even.

As for Ben Grimm. Yeah, he may have joined in on Christmas celebrations but then again there's no rule that says someone of a different religion can't take part in another's celebration. I'm Catholic but I've taken part in a Passover meal. Not to mention I have a cousin whose Jewish yet he comes to Christmas dinner.

From: "There Are No Lions Here", posted 15 October 2006 on "Pretty, Fizzy Paradise" blog website (http://kalinara.blogspot.com/2006/10/there-are-no-lions-here.html; viewed 30 May 2007):

[Reader comments:]

At 7:48 PM, david brothers said:

...I've seen the Adherents site, and I think it's a great thing. A lot of it, though, is conjecture, and a lot of that conjecture is telling. Most of the usenet posts tend to start "What religion is X" or "I never really thought that X character had religion..." Most people don't realize that these characters have fleshed out backstories that include religion because it's never mentioned. If you were to suggest that Superman were Methodist or Batman anything but atheist/agnostic (I lean toward the latter more than the former) to the average comics fan, they'd laugh at you. But, for every Wolfsbane or Ben Grimm we have that does show their religion, we've got a Stryker, a crazy Austen nun, or whatever...

At 11:32 PM, Tom Foss said:

...Superman has never explicitly been given a religious affiliation. Yes, Siegel and Shuster were Jewish, and Superman was based on the stories of Moses and Samson as well as Flash Gordon and Hercules. But the religion of the creator certainly does not necessarily translate to the religion of the creation. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were both Jewish, yet the only explicitly Jewish character to come out of their many collaborations was Ben Grimm.

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):

Dave Wallace
10-24-2005, 09:45 AM

Interesting column, although I would have to point out that Marvel has actually addressed the issue a bit more openly than implied: particularly in the recent Fantastic Four #485 (vol.3 #56) which made quite a an issue of not making an issue of comicbook characters' religious roots (The Thing being revealed to be Jewish, but in quite an understated way).

Also, Brian Bendis' Spider-Man is being written with more than his fair share of Jewish mannerisms lately in New Avengers. I don't know if Spidey's religious heritage has every been explicitly stated, but I'm sure someone will correct me on that...

And yeah, I guess I'd always assumed that Magneto was Jewish, but maybe that was as much to do with his movie portrayal as any comic I've read (Interestingly enough, that issue of Wolverine you mention actually lent weight to this interpretation of Magneto, as I'm fairly sure it makes reference to a kid who can rip an armoured car apart in one of the other camps).

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, 06:07 AM

The Thing, Kitty Pride, and Sabra come to mind, and I'm pretty sure there are more. I think I have a list somewhere.

12-12-2005, 06:09 AM

Off the top of my head, Magneto would mostly fall into the villain category. On the heroic side, Sabra, Shadowcat, Thing, White Tiger (Kasper Cole, not the others of that name).

12-13-2005, 03:44 PM

And what I'm saying is that more likely than not is not a good way to judge these things. Ben Grimm was more likely than not not Jewish, till Kessel wrote that story. Hell, Sasquatch wasn't, till Starlin needed an extra Jew for Infinity Crusade...

12-14-2005, 10:27 PM

Hey, all I'm saying is that the same amount of evidence existed for Grimm being Jewish as Pete...

12-15-2005, 08:06 AM

Grimm was the exception though and there had been hints all along that he was Jewish (his background etc.). Peter Parker has an Aunt (mother-figure) who is clearly not Jewish. His first and last names are not particularly Jewish either. It's more of a leap to say he is Jewish than to say he isn't.

And Sandy, some people (even Jewish people) put nationality above their religion. My rule of thumb is that I give people the benefit of the doubt and let them tell me what they think they are.

12-15-2005, 09:53 AM

Which hints exactly? The clearly revered Aunt Petunia, which as you've been so fond of pointing out, isn't exactly a Jewish name? The football hero/test pilot career route, not exactly the stereotypical Jewish occupations of lawyer (Two-Gun Kid), psychiatrist (Doc Samson) accountant (Iceman) or God (Jack Kirby). The only real hints were from the Yancy Street address, taken from Delancy street, which would have been a Jewish neighborhood in the 30s when Grimm originally would have been a kid, and a drawing of the Thing Kirby did that hangs in a Simi Valley syanagogue of Ben in a yalmulke and tallis reading from the Torah. Otherwise, there have been as much looking into his religion as, well, Spider-Man. Whose Forest Hills address also contains a large Jewish population.

Which again, isn't saying that he's Jewish. Just saying that the things you keep providing as proof that he isn't, arent.

Typo Lad
12-15-2005, 10:06 AM

re: Cohen to Cole makes some sense (if my understanding of your post is correct) whereas I'm not sure what Jewish name would be changed to Parker.

Ask the clerks at Ellis Island. You'd be AMAZED at the "non-Jewish" Jewish family names.

Hell, Grimm ain't a Jewish name either.

Typo Lad
12-15-2005, 10:11 AM

To be fair, Aunt Petunia could have changed her name to the English equivilent, which would make her... Hadassah? Daphna? Shoshana?

Depends who you ask.

12-15-2005, 10:17 AM

Doubtful though. Since she's Jacob Grimm's much younger second wife.


Aunt Petunia's a hottie.

12-15-2005, 11:54 AM

Having a maternal Aunt though who is a Christian suggests that Parker, along with his name etc., isn't Jewish.

I thought there had been more overt instances with the Thing?

12-15-2005, 01:22 PM

re: Grimm ain't a Jewish name either...

It is German in fact. It is a rather uncommon name in North America, much more common in Germany. I have a great uncle named Ben Grimm though.

12-19-2005, 09:52 PM

The Thing is Jewish? I hope he wasn't a convert. Otherwise they'd need a jackhammer to do the circumcision.

Sandy Hausler
01-30-2006, 10:09 AM

It just occurred to me that two Jewish characters have their own books -- the Thing and Doc Samson. Now granted, Doc Samson is only a limited series and the Thing is about to be cancelled, that's still never happened before. Now if they get out the Moon Knight book quick enough, that would make three.

02-01-2006, 05:28 AM

Ben Grimm, The Thing has had many comics dedicated to the fact that he is Jewish. He is after all, "The Golem".

02-01-2006, 07:07 AM

No he hasn't. It is actually a very recent revelation that he is Jewish. In fact during the Infinity Crusades when the "non-taken" heroes are considering why they were not taken Ben was shown getting angry at God in a Christian church.

Typo Lad
02-01-2006, 07:14 AM

Or the Marvel Holiday Special where a little girl is explaining to him "No mister Stupid Gentile, we don't have Christmas. We're Jews. Are you mentally deficient or trying to be a racist bastard?"

Okay, not her exact words, but that's the gist.

02-01-2006, 07:17 AM

Granted all the comics dealing with Ben Grimm being Jewish are 08/02 and up. But Stan Lee and Jack Kirby always setup Ben to be Jewish. But due to the racial climate at the time, they never made an issue of it, until recent times.

Typo Lad
02-01-2006, 07:20 AM

No, they didn't "set him up" that way. They set him up to be Kirby. And since Kirby was Jewish, therefore the Thing was, in the eyes of Kirby's fans.

02-01-2006, 07:21 AM

Fantastic Four Issue 56/485 August 2002 was the first time Ben Grimm was revealed to be Jewish.

Not that long ago, but still a good move for the character (my favorite character btw) I think.

Typo Lad
02-01-2006, 07:29 AM

Not "revealed"... "retconed".

Not an awful retcon, but a a retcon nontheless.

Same with Sasquatch's Jewishness.

02-01-2006, 07:35 AM

My understanding from an Interview with Stan Lee, was that The Thing was always seen as Jewish.

02-01-2006, 07:37 AM

It is a very Jewish name.

Typo Lad
02-01-2006, 07:42 AM

It is? I've never met a Jew named Grimm.

Then again, if he IS supposed to be Jack Kirby, that'd make sense, wouldn't it? Maybe it used to be something that sounded to "ethnicy" so Ben dropped it when he joined the army. Pretty typical for a kid growing up in the depression on the Lower East Side.

02-01-2006, 07:46 AM

I was more thinking the Benjamin Jacob bit of his name.

Typo Lad
02-01-2006, 07:50 AM

Benjamin and Jacob (Or Ben and Jack) are common names period.

02-01-2006, 08:10 AM

Yeah but Benjamin and Jacob are particularly Jewish names, I am not so sure about in Jewish tradition but in the Christian Bible Jacob was the name of Israel (the literal father of the nation/race/religion, i have always been a little hazy on the details and differences as far as Jews are concerned) before God renamed him and Benjamin was the name of his youngest son.

Typo Lad
02-01-2006, 08:16 AM

Well, technically it's Yakov, not Jacob, Yisrael, not Israel, and Binyamin, not Benjamin, but otherwise you're pretty spot-on.

It's just that they're also fairly common Christian names.

02-01-2006, 09:18 AM

re: Not "revealed"... "retconed". Not an aweful retcon, but a a retcon nontheless.

What religion/ethnicity was he before the 'retcon' then?

It is a very Jewish name.

And he's very 'golem-ish,' as in the Jewish man of clay.

Typo Lad
02-01-2006, 09:31 AM

re: What religion/ethnicity was he before the 'retcon' then?

White, possibly of Germanic descent with that last name, and the rest was up in the air.

re: And he's very 'golem-ish,' as in the Jewish man of clay.

Except that Golems have no free will, can't talk, and were fueled by dead souls.

Other than that, he's exactly like a Golem.

02-01-2006, 09:36 AM

Given that by definition a Golem must be less than human, I don't think that is something anyone in the MU [Marvel Universe] would want to say to him.

02-01-2006, 09:46 AM

He has been referenced as the Golem due to his appearance and the fact that he's a protector.

02-01-2006, 09:49 AM

No doubt, but if i called somebody an Ass meaning that they work tirelessly that does not mean that they may take it as an insult. (Bad example but you know what I mean).

02-01-2006, 09:55 AM


I've got doubt. I've got lots and lots of doubt.

'Fact, I'm fairly sure this isn't true, having read most every issue of Fantastic Four since the Kessel Thing-is-Jewish story from a few years back. It's possible I mighta missed it, but I generally focus on and concentrate on the mythological references... So I doubt it.

So, Ednemo:
In which issue of what comic was the Thing "Referenced as the Golem?"

02-01-2006, 10:01 AM

re: In which issue of what comic was the Thing "Referenced as the Golem?"

It was in the MK4 issue "The Golem of Yancy Street."

02-01-2006, 10:02 AM

Oh. Ok. Haven't read that series. (And forgot it existed.)

I take it all back.

02-01-2006, 10:03 AM

Fantastic Four #56, page 21. The Pawn Shop owner Sheckerberg is saved by Thing. And when Ben states that he is a monster, he brings up the Golem and states that he was made of clay, but not a monster... he was a protector.

Typo Lad
02-01-2006, 10:05 AM

That's an aweful big insult, actually. The Golem of Prague was a protector, but 99% of the time, Golems are not painted in the best light.

They're automotons.

02-01-2006, 10:08 AM

re: Issue number please. I'd like to read this.

It was MK4 issue 22.

(And I made a mistake, it was "The Yancy Street Golem", not "The Golem of Yancy Street.")

02-01-2006, 07:48 PM

Magneto is Gypsy. I've been reading comics since I was a kid and he's always been a Gypsy. Only in recent years they tried to retcon it, particularly with the movie.

Doc. Samson, Peter Parker, Ben Grimm and Moon Knight are not Jewish either. Stop pushing what you wish would be...

02-01-2006, 08:52 PM

Well, you are totally incorrect. Magneto has been back and forth since long before the movie, Ben Grimm is absolutely, in the comics, without question Jewish. Moon Knight I could agree with you, it is a matter of semantics. Jewish can mean of a Jewish family, or of the Jewish faith, and Moon Knight, while not a practicing Jew, is the son of a Rabbi. Peter David penned a story in a Marvel Holiday Special where Leonard Samson came to a Hebrew School to tell the story of Hanukkah to a class. In what way are posters pushing anything? These are established and in continuity examples, and there is no disputing it that Samson, Grimm and in one sense, Moon Knight are all Jewish, and I have no agenda to create any Jewish characters more than any other type of religious affiliation. If anything, I'm a pantheist, I would want more pantheist characters.

02-01-2006, 09:30 PM

Yeah, as seen by the poster above, Grimm, Samson and Moon Knight are all Jewish in continuity, no question about it, Magneto has been boucing back and forth long before the movie too, maybe you should do some research before you jump on people for just stating the truth.

Sandy Hausler
02-02-2006, 04:46 AM

Magneto is Gypsy... Doc. Samson, Peter Parker, Ben Grimm and Moon Knight are not Jewish either. Stop pushing what you wish would be...

I guess you don't read many comics, do you.

Doc Samson was explicitly stated to be Jewish. He once spoke at his alma mater, a yeshiva (Jewish day school).

Ben Grimm was explicitly stated to be Jewish. It was written up in all of the Jewish newspapers.

Moon Knight was explicitly stated to be Jewish. His father is a rabbi.

Peter Parker is not Jewish, to the best of my knowledge. I've seen nothing to suggest that he is.

Nobody's pushing what they wish would be.

Typo Lad
02-02-2006, 05:43 AM

To be fair, I can see someone not "getting" Ben Grimm being Jewish. It is a subtle retcon of sorts.

The others though? Samson's been Jewish since before his 8th appearance, as I recall.

02-03-2006, 12:02 AM

I think Samson being jewish would be pretty neat actually. It would make sense.

But Magneto I'm 100% sure he's not. Ben Grimm is a matter of "view him how you like" considering that Stan and Jack thought of him as such but never particularly adressed it. I like the Thing-Golem comparison (like in the Doc Samson case it's a nice continuity if you will)...

02-06-2006, 03:35 PM

Y'know, I've wanted to know for a long time: when was it revealed that Ben Grimm was Jewish? One day he just started spouting Yiddish phrases ("Oy, stretch") and praying in Hebrew ("Baruch Adonai...").

02-06-2006, 06:19 PM

re: Stop pushing what you wish would be...

...As for Doc Samson, for gosh sakes, of course he's Jewish. And Moonknight.

And Ben Grimm -- that is simply an amazing, cool development, from my point of view! Jack Kirby drew a portrait of the THING years ago, that hung in his home, which showed Grimm draped in his tallit (the Jewish prayer shawl). I was told by people in the business who have seen this picture, that Kirby was very proud of it. How wonderful and respectful it is, what an awesome homage to the creator, that Tom Brevoort and Mark Waid (who I think wrote the story) and Joe Quesada identified Ben Grimm as Jewish a couple of years ago.

Typo Lad
07-10-2006, 02:15 PM

Unless either had established a religion before hand, the correct word is "revealed".

While I can't speak for Sasquatch, previous portrayals of the Thing were of someone, at the very least, unaware of religion. Specifically I'm thinking of a Marvel Holiday Special where a little girl has to explain to him what Chanukah is. Sorry, but if he knows enough to say Kadish, he knows what a Menorah is.

It's a retcon.

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.

...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.)

From: "New Joe Fridays: Week 49" forum discussion, started 1 June 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=114952&page=5; viewed 8 June 2007):

06-03-2007, 04:58 AM

You brought up the issue of comic-book stereotypes and religions. Since I study religion (all kinds, really) this is something I've thought about a lot...

So, on to religion. What religions do we find represented in Marvel? ...Mainstream religions were generally unmentioned before the 1990's (though we do find Cap consulting the New Testament for inspiration during the 1970's... Then suddenly a number of characters were revealed as being of Roman Catholic background (Daredevil, Invisible Woman, Nightcrawler, Punisher), or occasionally Jewish (Thing, though he is predated by minor characters Doc Samson, Sabra, Kitty Pryde, and Justice)... What was the motivation for all this? ...Jack Kirby once drew the Thing with a prayer-shawl, and Jewish ethnicity seemed to reinforce the character's constant suffering and kvetching (and maybe his sense of humor too)...

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: "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters (Doug Ramsey Fans, please help)" forum discussion, started 17 October 2006 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-87949.html; viewed 20 June 2007):

10-17-2006, 02:42 PM

I found this site white tries to identify the religious affiliation of comic book characters.
http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html ...

Jack Burton
10-17-2006, 08:51 PM

My boy Ben Grimm was outed as a Jew a few years back in honor of Stan and Jack. Recently he had his batmizah too. I loved that little added bit to his history.

From: "Does Batman Go to Church?" forum discussion, started 21 March 2006 on AppleGeeks.com website (http://www.applegeeks.com/sm/index.php?action=printpage;topic=6662.0):

Title: Does Batman Go to Church?
Post by: gabrielzero on March 21, 2006, 01:11:16 PM

Well find out here:

and other inqueries on which superhero worships which religion. Its a pretty extensive sight with theories and findings...

Post by: Sylver on March 21, 2006, 03:07:46 PM

And I just see that the Thing is Jewish . . .

The mind takes a turn to the left and I think its going to scar me . . .

From: "Doug TenNapel on Black Cherry" forum discussion, started 16 May 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=112821; viewed 28 June 2007):

05-16-2007, 12:19 PM

With almost no exception, when a particular viewpoint, lifestyle or issue is brought up in comics, it is because it is going to be Addressed. As in belabored, beaten to death, and rammed down the reader's throat. And it is very rarely entertaining.

Ben Grimm is Jewish. They've never belabored the fact, they've never done a "Pro-Jew" story, he's just Jewish, occasionally it gets mentioned, and that's it. It's part of what he is. Daredevil is Catholic. His being Catholic is a vital part of his story (or at least it was made one) but it's not like he goes around leaving tracts with the guys he captures. I don't recall Spidey's faith every being addressed, so I wouldn't be surprised if he were Christian, just due to the law of averages. But if it doesn't affect the story in any way, is there a need to mention it? I say no, you seem to say yes.

From: "Doug TenNapel on Black Cherry" forum discussion, started 16 May 2007 on "The Engine" website (http://the-engine.net/forum/lmessages.php?webtag=ENGINE&msg=8767.1; viewed 28 June 2007):

From: Stu West (S_G_WEST)
16 May 16:31

I find myself agreeing with some of that [Doug TenNapel's Newsarama interview with Michael C. Lorah, in which TenNapel criticized comics for shying away from portrayals of religious faith, posted here: http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=112821]: I wouldn't like the Miller/Mazzucchelli DAREDEVIL run nearly so much if it didn't have those heavy Catholic overtones. But I'm stumped about what the hell HOLY TERROR, BATMAN has got to do with God.

Anyway, where was the outcry when they did that FANTASTIC FOUR comic which revealed the Thing was Jewish? Apart from the odd positive write-up, I doubt anyone even noticed.

From: Skipper Pickle (SPICKLE)
16 May 16:58

quote, TenNapel: "Less of draining worldviews and philosophies out of comics! Especially worldviews that are considered "anti-comic" like certain conservative ones."

I'm hearing TenNapel say two things here, not just one.

First, that more diversity in worldview would be a welcome change.

Second, that a Christian worldview in comics is more unwelcome than other worldviews. Your comment about the Thing as Jew supports that, i suppose. His comment about the hypothetical response to Spider-Man's conversion rings true to me.

(Pondering: Do other groups use the word worldview as much as Christians do?)

From: "Stuart Moore's A Thousand Flowers: O Deadly Night" forum discussion, started 2 December 2003 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-6949.html; viewed 28 June 2007):

12-02-2003, 09:00 AM

...Which brings us to Christmas comics.

On the face of it, Christmas comics are an odd phenomenon. The whole point of the holidays is communal experience -- reunion with loved ones, families gathering together. But comics-reading -- any reading -- is an inherently solitary activity. How does this fit together?... But now we're getting awfully heavy for a column about holiday comics. Pour yourself an eggnog (ecch -- does anybody really drink that stuff?) and let's look back at some of the best, and strangest, examples of the genre from years past.

A couple of notes before we begin. First off, holiday comics stories are almost always Christmas stories, despite the number of influential Jewish creators and editors in the field. This is partly because, in earlier decades, publishers tried to cater to the Christian majority of readers (and distributors). But it's also because of the nature of Christmas itself.

First... there's no holiday like Christmas for silly smiles, treacly sentimentality, and the ability to fool yourself into thinking all's right with the world for just one night. Which, if you think about it, plays right into those teenage tendencies we were talking about up above.

Second: When it comes to sentimental Christmas stories, DC rules. There have been very few Marvel Christmas stories, and they haven't been very good. This is partly because of the serial nature of Marvel's stories, which made holiday-themed tales harder to squeeze in -- they'd tend to call attention to the fact that, for instance, the entire previous year of Avengers took place the week before Christmas...

The duck stories are charming, and in 1940 Superman could get away with helping an old bearded gentleman deliver presents to the world. But by the '70s, comics had "grown up" a little. On-panel appearances by Santa Claus were out, and most comics had embraced gritty realism. The results?

Batman stories like "Silent Night, Deadly Night," by Denny O'Neil and Irv Novick (Batman #239, 1971) and "Wanted: Santa Claus -- Dead or Alive," also by Denny with an early art job by Frank Miller (DC Super-Star Holiday Special, 1979, reprinted frequently). Marvel, as noted above, only dipped their toe in occasionally; "As Those Who Will Not See" by Gerry Conway and Gil Kane (Marvel Team-Up #6, 1972, reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up #1) was about as close as they got. This Spider-Man/Thing team-up wasn't strictly a Christmas story, but it was timed for the holidays and similarly sentimental in tone.

12-02-2003, 10:13 AM

Well, two Christmas-themed stories which stand out for me are:

"The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus" in Justice League of America #110... My first comic at the wee age of 8, I somehow picked this over Amazing Spider-Man #129 and more amazingly got my aunt to buy it for me.


"Silent Night... Deadly Night!" in Marvel Two-In-One #8, wherein Thing and Ghost Rider helpfully distracted a 9-year-old version of me at a time when my parents were going through a rough patch.

From: "Superman Was Jewish?" forum discussion, started 6 July 2006 on "Superhero Hype!" website (http://forums.superherohype.com/archive/index.php/t-241110.html):

07-10-2006, 08:42 AM

Nah, I don't think the Man of Steel either is or was intended to be Jewish per se... there aren't that many Jewish superheroes running around. (The Thing, Shadowcat, Moon Knight and Doc Samson all spring to mind), far fewer than say, African-American, Hispanic or Oriental!

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:



[reader comments posted in response to this, at:

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... 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: "New Joe Fridays Week 28", published December 2006 on Newsarama.com (http://www.newsarama.com/NewJoeFridays/NewJoeFridays28.html; viewed 8 June 2007):

RQ: ted_dahlman [question]: I can only think of three Marvel characters who are practicing Jews (Thing, Shadowcat, and presumably Sabra), two who are practicing Christians (Nightcrawler and Firebird, both Catholic), along with a few Muslim heroes who have figured into minor roles in several stories, and the thousands of "mutant-hating bigots" who have shown up dressed in clerical garb.

JQ [Joe Quesada, editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics]: Hey there, ted_dahlman. Marc Spector, Doc Samson, and Magneto are also... Jews... I know there's more, but I just thought I'd mention these four as they seem like important ones to include.

From: "Please Help List Minority Groups" forum discussion, started 11-05-2006 on "Super-Hero Hype" website (http://forums.superherohype.com/showthread.php?t=255464; viewed 12 July 2007):

11-05-2006, 02:40 PM
Popo 85

Hey guys,
I'm doing a project for Ohio State University about subordinate group representation in Marvel Comic's superhero population (pretty awesome, huh?)

A subordinate group basically means a population that's not a dominant group. And I've got 7 categories to fill; ethnic, gender, religious, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, and physical or mental ability. ..though I think I'll cut socioeconomic status do to it's fine line-ish qualities in comics.

So, how about I'll give what I've got so far, and then feel free to add to my lists. I think I have a pretty good handle on the MU, but it's still huge and I don't want to forget anybody. Should be fun anyway.

Shadowcat - Jewish
Thing - Jewish
Magneto - Jewish
Daredevil - Catholic
Nightcrawler - Catholic

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):

Sep 17th, '03, 09:38 PM

Another thread got me to thinking a bit about religious super heroes. They do occur in comic books. Some it barely gets mentioned, some few are quite devout in their faith. Examples that come to mind are Nightcrawler, Firebird, and Daredevil. Both Kitty Pryde and Ben Grimm are Jewish...

From: "Who Wants to Be Mr. Mitzvah?", posted by arye on 13 July 2007 on Heeb Magazine website (http://www.heebmagazine.com/blog/view/225; viewed 13 July 2007):

...Who Wants To Be A Superhero? The ultra-campy Sci-Fi Channel original series which begins airing Season 2 on July 26... Last week, the Sci-Fi Channel debuted the cast of characters for Season 2 online and one of the personalities listed is Mr. Mitzvah. Mitzvah, whose real name - excuse me, whose secret identity is Ivan Wilzig, a 51-year old (?!?) recording artists and philanthropist carries a Star of David ping pong paddle that his father gave him on the day of his Bar Mitzvah... Alas, Mitzvah's profile is a tad too stereotypical for my taste. Here was the hero's opportunity to break free from the Seinfeldian perception of Jews worldwide. Nevertheless, Mitzvah lists "oy vey" and "mazel tov" as his catch phrases and non-kosher foods, such as pork, lobster and shrimp, as his vulnerabilities...

By all this, I'm simply suggesting that super heroes have always either been in the closet about being Jewish (the Thing) or way too obvious about their affiliation (Sabra)? Isn't there a medium here somewhere? Or am I asking for too much? Maybe I just need to start small by asking that our hero representatives carry something a tad more threatening than a glittering ping pong paddle.

From: "Superheroes by Religion" forum discussion, started 11 January 2007 on "Political Crossfire" website (http://www.politicalcrossfire.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=73989; viewed 16 July 2007):

Posted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 7:20 pm

I wasn't sure whether to put this here or the Lounge, but this place rarely has anything light-hearted, so I suppose it needs it. So, here it is. I thought this was fascinating and should be expanded:

Yes, the Thing is a Jew. [link to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thing_%28comics%29#Fictional_character_biography]

I never expected that, lol.

Quote: Born on Yancy Street in New York City's Lower East Side, to a Jewish family, Benjamin Jacob Grimm...

Perhaps modelled after the Golem, no doubt?

Superman and Batman are, of course... Christian. ["Rolling Eyes" emoticon] (Superman is a Methodist, Batman is an Anglican.)

Let's see... Green Lantern is a bad Jew ("Jewish Catholic").

And ooh, Wolverine is a Buddhist! ["Very Happy" emoticon]

Claudia Schiffer
Posted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 3:05 am

re: "Yes, the Thing is a Jew."

ROTFLMAO ...Oh! That made me laugh Laughing ...That's too much...

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):

May 14th, 2005, 08:17 PM

Wow, I'd really love to keep religion out of my comics. Don't ask and don't tell as far as that stuff goes.

May 14th, 2005, 08:29 PM

The comics companies used to follow that rule. But fans WOULD keep asking! :D

I think the barrier was first breached by Marvel, with "Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandoes", a multi-ethnic group (before the term "multi-ethnic" was coined) where the ethnicity of at least three of the seven members (Irish-American "Dum-Dum" Dugan, Italian-American Dino Manelli, and, well, Izzy Cohen) clearly implied a religion. Once Izzy started spouting Yiddicisms, it wasn't long before Dum-Dum started dropping Catholic expressions. (Dino, who was also saddled with too great a similarity to a certain Hollywood star, played it cool for a lot longer.)

Ben "Thing" Grimm started with the Yiddicisms very soon after Izzy did.

May 15th, 2005, 08:58 AM

...Also, as a quick note about the Jewish thing, just because someone is an ethnic Jew, doesn't necessarily mean that they are a religious Jew...

Apparently an issue of Comic Book Marketplace inadvertently indicated that the Hulk had been revealed as Jewish when in fact the writer was trying to note that Ben Grimm ("The Thing") had been revealed as Jewish. This misprint prompted the following discussion. From: "What issue was the Hulk revealed as Jewish?" forum discussion, started 12 November 2004 on IMWAN website (http://www.imwan.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=999; viewed 31 July 2007):

Posted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 9:50 pm
Ray Joseph

What issue was the Hulk revealed as Jewish?

In the latest Comic Book Marketplace (116) it is stated that "the custodians of Marvel Comics revealed that the Hulk is Jewish."

What issue was this in?

Does the Thing know?

When next they meet, instead of fighting they could talk about the great time they had at their respective Bar Mitzvahs.

Seriously, did I miss an issue or did the author mean to say the Thing?

Page supplied for your inspection.

Posted: Fri Nov 12, 2004 9:59 pm

I think that's a mistake. The summer of 2002 was when The Thing was revealed to be Jewish, in The Fantastic Four #56 (Vol 3).

In the Hulk books, Doc Samson is Jewish. Peter David stated that the character had attended yeshiva in his youth, in The Incredible Hulk #373.


Posted: Sat Jul 21, 2007 8:24 pm
Darin Wagner

Has it ever been stated that either Banner or Grimm's families Americanized their names?

Posted: Sat Jul 21, 2007 8:41 pm
The Professor

No. And until Dan Slott, nobody had ever addressed Ben's religion either. And nobody had ever accused Blackhawk of anglicizing his polish name before... until Howard Chaykin, as writer, decided that Blackhawk was Polish.

As with all things literary. It don't get addressed till some writer wants to address it. Again, no reason, since it's not been stated otherwise, that some writer next month couldn't decide to write...

Posted: Sun Jul 22, 2007 4:57 am
Edward J. Cunningham

Slott didn't write the FF story which "outed" Ben as a Jew. I don't know who that was, but it was somebody else.

Posted: Sun Jul 22, 2007 12:24 pm
Frank L. Sisko

re: "Slott didn't write the FF story which "outed" Ben as a Jew..."

Karl Kesel, I think.


Posted: Sun Jul 22, 2007 12:22 pm
The Professor

re: "Is anyone really "assuming" him to be Jewish?"

re: "Based on the title of the thread, it seems someone is."

Based on the title of the thread and the initial post in the thread, it seems that someone queried whether COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE knew something the poster didn't know or had just gotten the Hulk and the Thing mixed up.

I think it's pretty clear that CBM got the two names mixed up.

Now, as to the question somewhere up there about why someone like you or me might prefer to leave the religious leanings of comic characters unrevealed. Very simply, I would do this because it can instantaneously either marginalize the potential readership who might have a strong emotional and/or religious objection to said religion. To maintain as wide of an appeal for most mainstream super-heroes, it really is best to avoid such a polarizing topic as their personal religious belief. Another reason is that it way too often becomes just a plot device for a writer to either proselytize or criticize the religion in question. And I really just don't like reading or seeing that in my super-hero comics. Another thing that it does is that most people do not have a moderate position on religion and whatever their position on it, the presence -- all of a sudden -- of a specific religious faith in a super-hero, once again, piles a bunch of presumptive baggage onto the character that he or she can smother under and basically kill the effective potential of the character. One of the worst things that Marvel ever did was take the swashbuckling, happy-go-lucky, Nightcrawler and turn him into a self-loathing, guilt-ridden extreme Catholic.

There are exceptions, and I would put that Muslim hero introduced recently in SUPERMAN and THE THING as the exceptions that prove the rule.

From: message posted 14 July 2004 on "The Bleat" blog website (http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0704/071404.html; viewed 2 August 2007):

Finally, I give you a comic that didn't last very long:

[Scanned cover of Strange Tales #174, featuring "The Golem."]

A "Note from the Bullpen" said this was the first Jewish superhero in comics, but now we know that's not true. Ben Grimm (the Thing) is Jewish [link to: http://www.forward.com/issues/2002/02.07.26/fast1.html/]. Reed Richards? Episcopalian, I'd bet. Silver Surfer? Unitarian.

From: "Religion in Comics" forum discussion, started 3 August 2007 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000125054&tstart=0; viewed 6 August 2007):

Posted: Aug 2, 2007 3:52 PM

in real life, most people don't fight over religion unless you live in a place where you'd get killed for your religion. Personally, I'm an atheist although I was brought up Catholic. I'm still intrested in other people's religions and different beliefs or cultures, so I enjoy seeing superheroes' religions.

Apparently, Superman is either Methodist or some Krytonian religion. Batman was raised Catholic, but he doesn't practise. Spider-Man is Protestant, Wonder Woman believes in that ancient Greek Stuff. Deadman is obviously Hindu and the Thing is also obviously Jewish. I noticed in comics it seems as if all religions are correct.

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):

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.

From: Tom R., "It's Kabbalah-in' Time!", posted 24 July 2006 on "Father McKenzie" website (http://fathermckenzie.blogspot.com/2006/07/its-kabbalah-in-time.html; viewed 10 August 2007):

IT'S KABBALAH-IN' TIME! [updated]... It's official: Ben Grimm, a.k.a "The Thing" in Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four, is Jewish. And devoutly so [link to: http://www.forward.com/issues/2002/02.07.26/fast1.html/]. Link via James Lileks [link to: http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0704/071404.html], who comments: "Reed Richards? Episcopalian, I'd bet. Silver Surfer? Unitarian"...

UPDATE 2: My impeccable source informs me that the Thing is not in fact the first Jewish superhero, nor even the first for Marvel. Katherine "Kitty" Pryde, a.k.a Shadowcat/ Sprite of The Uncanny X-Men, was identified as Jewish years ago. (Don't ask me how: not being a Democrat Congressperson or a Guardian columnist, I don't possess finely-tuned Jewdar capable of detecting hidden Hebrews in unexpected places). Perhaps Kitty was ethnically Jewish but non-practising, whereas Ben Grimm is the first to actually practice the rituals of Judaism (eg, reciting the Shema) on Marvel's pages.

(And when The Thing takes on The Hulk, the resulting orange vs green blur is a metaphor for Nothern Ireland...)

From: Kelly Fryer, "Share Your Faith Like A...Superhero?", posted 31 July 2007 on "Reclaiming The F Word [Faith]" blog website (http://reclaimingthefword.typepad.com/reclaiming_the_f_word/2007/07/so-how-come-rel.html; viewed 12 August 2007):

So, how come religion is such a big deal in politics today?? Because it's a big deal everywhere. Even in comics...no longer the secret passion of nerds (I was a BIG comic fan as a kid)...not with Hollywood kicking out one superhero blockbuster after another. It used to be religion was taboo in the comics, regulated by a "Comics Code" that was still in effect as recently as 1989. But lately the characters many of us have known and secretly wanted to be are, if you will, coming out of the closet about their faith commitments. Stan Lee, the godfather of comics [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html], says its because back in the 1930's everybody was trying to assimilate into the American melting pot. Today people are interested in their roots. They're not afraid of being alienated because of their religious identity. Ever wonder what religion Superman is? Methodist. Batman? Lapsed Episcopalian. The Thing? Jewish. Want to find out about your favorite character? Click here [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html].

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