I Am Vengeance. I Am The Night. I Am... Jewish?
06/02/2014 - 13:48
Batwoman #25 (art by Trevor McCarthy, Jim Fern, Tom Nguyen, Jay Leisten, Patrick Olliffe, Andrea Mutti). Via AfterEllen.com
Batwoman #25 (art by Trevor McCarthy, Jim Fern, Tom Nguyen, Jay Leisten, Patrick Olliffe, Andrea Mutti). Via AfterEllen.com

Through an accident of fate (and plot holes), could Batman have just been made a member of the tribe?

Comic books are complicated in terms of internal continuity. In the hands of new writers, facts about beloved characters can easily change. So two different facts have worked together to make the Caped Crusader halachically, matrilineally Jewish.

First, Batwoman, Kate Kane, is an officially Jewish character, even celebrating Chanukah with sometime girlfriend Renee Montoya (who has also been vigilante the Question, but let’s not delve too deeply into comic book lore here).

Still following? The final piece in this puzzle is “Batwoman” #25, written by Marc Andreyko and released a few months ago. In it, Kane talks to Bruce Wayne, and mentions that they’re first cousins. That would make his mother her paternal aunt, so if Kane’s father is Jewish, so was Martha. And if Martha is Jewish, that makes Batman Jewish by strict halachic standards.

Last week, comics journalist Alex Jaffe noticed this concurrence, and outlined it on his Tumblr, but it hasn’t picked up much traction. It’s likely because the odds that the folks at DC realized what they were doing was very, very small.

As Tumblr user Arielle posted on her blog (sic), “i dont want to have to dig through implications implied by other implications and layers of reading comprehension for a mere shred of maybe representation and give dc a pat on the back for it. if he’s jewish they better say he’s jewish outright im not here to grasp at straws im a jew who wants explicit representation.”

Excellent point, Arielle. And there’s also the unavoidable fact that the grave Kate Kane overlooks in the comic in question is unmistakably cross-shaped. “Batwoman” is a series in DC Comics’ total overhaul of its publications known as the “New 52,” and perhaps even Batwoman's Jewishness has fallen by the wayside.

But even if we can’t give Bruce Wayne a “drive-by bar Mitzvah,” it’s still an active time for Jewish comic book characters.

Only one short month ago, Spider-Man actor (and candidate for bedroom posters everywhere) Andrew Garfield said that he saw the famed webslinger as Jewish. The latest X-Men movie, “Days of Future Past,” features comics’ most famous Holocaust survivor, Magneto. And the new “Fantastic Four” movie has begun filming, though it’s unlikely to mention that one-quarter of the team, the Thing, is also Jewish.

So, yes, looking for visible Jewish characters is sometimes grasping at straws. But hey, at least we have lots of straws to grasp.

*But if you insist on getting really nerdy, Martha Wayne, who died tragically in the mugging that led her son Bruce to become the masked vigilante we all know and love, had the maiden name Kane. This coincidence of names was not examined too closely, as these characters were named for Batman co-creator (and Jewish American) Bob Kane (who was born Kahn, but what can you do?).

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Marc Andreyko has worked over the years very closely with Michael Bendis who is Jewish and is very active in the community.

The assumption that the writer would NOT know is probably the wrong assumption.

Rather than an accident, it was probably an effort to test the waters.

Magneto is Jewish.

The Thing is Jewish.

On a related topic, surely it hasn't been forgotten that the history of comic books is the history of Jewish writers and artists banding together to create a new type of entertainment starting in the 30s and culminating with the Lee(Lieberman)/Kirby years of Marvel.

It may be hard to track down the quote, but Stan Lee himself said all the heroes he and Kirby created drew upon the struggle of Jewish people as they were growing up.

He said that the Jewish struggle was the unstated theme behind all their heroes.

That includes teams like the X-men though for the movie it was decided to make them a parallel to the gay rights struggle. Really though beyond being different that makes no sense.

Finally the creator of Superman said he was originally Jewish.

He was written fighting Nazis to inspire Jews during the years prior to WWII.

When it became a huge hit, he was faced with a choice I think given to him by his publishers who felt a Superman with no religious association was the only way they could make money long term.

For him the choice was get published or not get published, and so the Jewish elements of Superman were dropped.

So the fact that the creator of Batman was Jewish is probably a good indicator that the current writer rather than making a mistake is more likely testing the waters to see if he can rectify a similar compromise made about Batman back then.

I mean really how many incidental coincidences do you need.