Jewish Marvel Characters
(November 2016, Sasha Cherynak)
Vance Astrovik, created by Don Heck and Gary Conway, has had quite a few adventures. He is Jewish, despite one grandfather fighting for the Nazis during WWII. This little hiccup in continuity was never cleared up. He has been featured in the New Warriors, and has been a member of the Avengers and a teacher in Avengers Academy. Justice struggled a bit with his Judaism due to his observant, yet abusive father. He attended Hebrew school when he was younger. During a mission to protect the Prime Minister of Israel on his way to the UN he met Sabra, the Israeli Marvel superheroine.
Billy Kaplan is the son of reform Jews Jeff and Rebecca Kaplan and is known primary for Young Avengers; written by Allen Heinberg and drawn by Jim Cheung. Billy’s Judaism was not a large focal point, but is clearly noted throughout the various comics he’s appeared in. He’s snarky and sarcastic, and his original costume design imitated Thor. Recently writer Al Ewing took a stab at this comic, with Billy coining the term “lapsed Judaism” to indicate his more secular views and practices. Kaplan turns down an offer from the Scarlet Witch to convert to paganism in the pages of New Avengers #11. No specific reason is given, but he seemed appalled at the idea.
The Israeli superhero, Ruth Bat-Seraph created by Sal Buscema and Bill Mantlo. She is a mutant, and after her powers manifested she grew up on a secret kibbutz run by the Israeli government. She went on to work for the Mossad as its first super-powered agent. In the comics, she assisted the X-men, and escorted then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to a Peace conference in New York. She is portrayed as an extremely strong and resilient woman with multiple powers, including super-human flight.
Ben Grimm, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. His Jewish past was revealed in Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #56, in 2002, in a story titled “Remembering the Past, written by Karl Kesel.
Leonard Skivorski, created by Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe. The doctor is a psychiatrist and out of scientific curiosity exposed himself to offshoots of gamma radiation drained from the Hulk, which caused the tiny psychiatrist to transform into a green haired human specimen with super strength. Leonard attended yeshiva when he was younger.
Possibly the most Jewish-acknowledged character in comics (aside form Magneto), Katherine Pryde is a member of the X-men hailing from Chicago. Her abilites include being able to walk through walls, as well as telekinesis. She is headstrong, incredibly smart, and has fought on several incarnations of the X-men, as well as the British superhero team, Excalibur. She is part of the current comic iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Kitty’s faith, religion, and heritage have been central to her character since her introduction in 1980, created by Chris Claremont and John Byrne. She speaks often about being Jewish, drawing parallels to some of her experiences with being a mutant, and is shown constantly celebrating Jewish holidays. However, these aspects of her character have not yet translated to the big screen, but have been a feature or mention in the animated cartoons.
Budding socialist, and semi-atheist of the Runaways, Gert was created by Adrian Alphona and Brian K Vaughan in 2003. She is the daughter of Dale and Stacey Yorkes, time-traveling criminals from the 87th century and are part of a group called the Pryde. Gert is incredibly headstrong, opinionated and travels with a pet dinosaur.
Melissa Gold, created by John Byrne, Ralph Macchio, and Mark Gruenwald, started out as a villain by the name of Screaming Mimi because of her vocal based powers. While considered Jewish, aside from appearing on some Hanukkah related material her Judaism has only really been mentioned by various writers.
Bernadette “Bernie” Rosenthal
Created by Roger Stern and John Byrne, she is a wise-crack, brilliant lawyer and former girlfriend of Steve Rogers (Captain America). She defended Bucky Barnes for crimes committed as the Winter Soldier, and is a confidant and friend of Captain America. Her and Steve were engaged to be married at one point. Her Judaism has been stated multiple times in the comics, she has been referred to as Jewish in popular culture, and she appears on lists of Jewish characters put together by Marvel.
Magneto is the best known Jewish character in Marvel comics. Erik Lehnsherr, born Max Eisenhardt, is a Holocaust survivor created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. His experience in Auschwitz was used as an explanation for his views of mutant supremacy. Sometimes villain, sometimes hero, Erik views mutants as the dominant species. When the topic turns to Judaism there is often a tenderness and sincerity to his character. The miniseries X-men: Magneto Testaments details the events of Magneto’s childhood as a Jewish child in Germany and subsequently as a prisoner at Auschwitz.
Ken Mack, created by Christos Gage, and Mike McKone was just an average teen until he was hit in the face while surfing one day and his skin peeled off to reveal an iridium based skeleton. He is half Jewish, and has appeared in Avengers Academy and Avengers Arena comics.
A Holocaust survivor who was helped to mentally recover by Charles Xavier, Haller lived in Israel and served as Israel’s Ambassador to the UK following World War II. When Magneto was put on trial for his crimes, Haller represented him in court because Professor Xavier and Magneto saved her from Hydra agents in Uncanny X-men 161.