Last Sunday, the first-ever Jewish Comics Experience (JewCE) drew over 400 enthusiastic Jewish comic book creators and readers.
Hosted at the Center for Jewish History in New York City, this day-long event celebrated and uplifted the People of the Book — the comic book, that is.
JewCE highlighted Jewish contributions to the comic book industry with panels including “Jewish Female Narratives in the Graphic Arts” and “Queering Jewish Comics.”
The convention also recognized talent in the field, honoring creators with prestigious awards like “Best in Diverse Jewish Representation” and “Best Autobiographical Content.”
As someone passionate about uncovering Jewish connections in unexpected places, I was thrilled to attend this convention. In case you weren’t able to participate, here’s a look into three unique comic books I discovered at JewCE.
“The Last Jewish Daughter of Kaifeng”
This action-packed story has it all: kung fu, feminism, and a little bit of Chinese and Hebrew.
Created by Fabrice Sapolsky of FairSquare Comics, “The Last Jewish Daughter of Kaifeng” follows Leah Ai Tian, an Asian-Jewish hero with powers of the elements, specifically water.
Set in the 1970s, Leah lives a relatively peaceful life in New York City. But when she learns that her arch-nemesis, a crime lord ruling her hometown of Kaifeng, China, has abducted her father and is terrorizing the city, she must confront her past.
From Chinatown to China, Leah’s story is an homage to Kaifeng’s real Jewish past, once home to China’s oldest Jewish community.
José and the Pirate Captain Toledano
José Alfaro is a rambunctious teen with a secret…he’s Jewish. When he becomes a stowaway on a pirate ship, he discovers he’s not the only one.
Another comic set against the backdrop of real Jewish history, “José and the Pirate Captain Toledano” by Arnon Shorr and Joshua Edelglass follows a young refugee from Santo Domingo just after the Spanish Inquisition.
His adventure teaches readers about the real forgotten Jewish pirates of history — when Jews turned to piracy to escape persecution — and also imparts a valuable lesson about finding one’s purpose and forming bonds in unlikely places.
Israeli Defense Comics
Imagine the iconic, spandex-clad superheroes reminiscent of the early days of comic books, but now set in Israel. Enter your new favorite Jewish superhero: Magen, The Shield of Israel!
Created by Joshua Stulman, Israeli Defense Comics presents three thrilling issues that blend action and adventure with Israeli current events.
From the very first page, Magen (“Shield” in Hebrew) is seen fighting terrorists in Gaza who have kidnapped a soldier.
Mirroring the 1930s when readers turned to comic book heroes during wartime, these action-packed pages offer hope to readers today when the Jewish people are at war again.
The three-part series intricately weaves relevant current issues into its plot, like terrorists firing rockets into the southern Israeli town of Sderot. It also incorporates Jewish folklore like the Golem, the mythical clay creature from 16th-century Prague.
“The inaugural JewCE convention was a true celebration of Jewish narratives — joyful and grim — in an uneasy time,” said Miriam Mora, the co-founder of JewCE and the director of programming at the Center for Jewish History.
Recently, the comic book world has seen an increasing amount of Jewish writers and artists proudly sharing their Jewish identities through powerful storytelling, producing innovative comics like the ones above.
Never in their wildest imaginations could writers of the Golden Age of Comics have envisioned today’s dynamic Jewish protagonists. With new, genre-bending stories like these being written every day, comic book readers can only imagine what the future of Jewish comic books will bring.
Originally Published Nov 20, 2023 06:55PM EST