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From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books Paperback – September 10, 2008


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From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books + Up, Up, and Oy Vey: How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped The Comic Book Superhero + Superman Is Jewish?: How Comic Book Superheroes Came to Serve Truth, Justice, and the Jewish-American Way
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In From Krakow to Krypton, Arie Kaplan threads together the disparate elements of comicdom--Jewish culture, geek culture, fandom, sci-fi, adolescent power fantasies, outsider art, and the New York City of reality and myth--and ties them all together. . . . A smart, fun book."—Danny Fingeroth, author of Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero
(Danny Fingeroth)

"A new and fascinating look at the history of comic books . . . you really don't have to be Jewish to thoroughly enjoy this trip down comic book memory lane.”—Al Jaffee, long-time MAD Magazine contributor and author of the forthcoming Talltales
(Al Jaffee)

From the Back Cover

From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books Arie Kaplan

Since their creation in the 1930's comic books have become a part of our nation's vocabulary, forever changing the way we think about stories, pictures, and what makes a hero. In From Krakow to Krypton, Arie Kaplan unmasks the Jewish subtexts of these stories and showcases the unique contributions Jews have made to this American art form. The book features original interviews with legendary figures such as Will Eisner, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Al Jaffee, Neil Gaiman, Jerry Robinson, and Art Spiegelman, giving fans an inside look at the people behind the stories.

"Arie Kaplan has written a miracle of a book, as comprehensive as it is entertaining; a virtual Jew's Who of the comic book universe." --Larry Gelbart, legendary TV writer/screenwriter (M*A*S*H, Tootsie)

"In From Krakow to Krypton, Arie Kaplan threads together the disparate elements of comicdom--Jewish culture, geek culture, fandom, sci-fi, adolescent power fantasies, outsider art, and the New York City of reality and myth--and ties them all together .... A smart, fun book." --Danny Fingeroth, author of Disguised as Clark Kent: Jews, Comics, and the Creation of the Superhero

"A new and fascinating look at the history of comic books ... extremely well documented and profusely illustrated. You really don't have to be Jewish to thoroughly enjoy this trip down comic book memory lane." --Al Jaffee, long-time MAD Magazine contributor and author of the forthcoming Talltales. Arie Kaplan is a comedian, MAD Magazine writer, and author of the new comic book miniseries Speed Racer: Chronicles of the Racer. His other comic book credits include the DC title Cartoon Network Action Pack and the Papercutz series Tales from the Crypt. Arie lectures all over the country about comic books, comedians, and popular culture. He is the author of Masters of the Comic Book Universe Revealed! and he's also written for MTV, Cartoon Network, and PBS Kids.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: The Jewish Publication Society; First Edition edition (September 10, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0827608438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0827608436
  • Product Dimensions: 10.9 x 8.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,093,801 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Nor does the book neglect non-adventure comics such as Mad Magazine.
L. King
I enjoyed the book and learned from it, and it has re-kindled my childhood interest in comic books, from superheroes to the funnies.
Daniela Weiss
What is remarkable about this book is the depth of the discussion and the obscure examples of Judaic references in specific issues.
Tim Lasiuta

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By L. King on November 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
If you enjoyed Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay then you'll love this delightful treatment of the influence of Jews and the Jewish experience on the evolution of the comic book experience. No, that's not really a Hebrew letter Shin instead of an S on Superman's chest, its an S for Siegel and his Canadian cousin Shuster, but Kal-El is Hebrew and Clark Kent is the quintessential immigrant trying to hide his past and blend in. And yes, the origin of the evil Magneto's animus against humans comes from his childhood experience as a holocaust survivor, though the book also points out that the conflict in ideology between Professor Xavier and Magneto owes more to the differences between Martin Luther King and Malcom X that was current at the time. Nor does the book neglect non-adventure comics such as Mad Magazine.

The book doesn't stop with the early comic eras but come up nearly to the present, for example it discusses the influence of Marvel's heroine "Kitty Pride" on Joss Whedon's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", now appearing in Dark Horse Comics. The illustrations are beautifully and lovingly reproduced in a glossy tone, either invoking fond memories if you've read the comics or a warm invitation to explore. Overall there is a nice balance between covering both the content of the comics and biographic material, quotes and stories about the writers and artists. I also enjoyed the historical timeline at the back.

You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this book, just a fan of the comic book genre as a literary domain, however those interested in the social history of popular culture or the current crop of superhero movies will like it as well. Recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tim Lasiuta on September 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
Once upon a time, I read comic books for enjoyment. I used to buy Howard the Duck, Spiderman, Batman, Nova, and the 1970's Marvel westerns. That was then, this is now.

At the tender age of 40 plus, I finally learn that the creators of my favorite books were Jewish! Not that it made a difference to my enjoyment that Bob Kane, Stanley Lieber, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and so many others had a Judaic background, but now that I know that, some pieces have fallen into place.

Arie Kaplan has written "From Krakow to Krypton", and explores the Jewish mythologies one more time. Danny Fingeroth, in "Disguised as Clark Kent", also took on the monumental task of studying the origins of the characters and their circumstances with relation to Jewish teaching. Both books are marvelous, and come across a little differently. "Krakow to Krypton" breaks the development of the comic book age into Golden, Silver, and Bronze with discussions centering on different topics and the logical progression from Eisner to Lee to Spiegleman.

While comic books were not overtly Jewish, the concept of `strange visitor from another planet' and the `last survivor' reflect the Jewish transition during passages to America to escape oppression. Images like Clark Kents' bespectacled, book worm, mild mannered was stereotypical of being Jewish. Even the name, Kal-el, while it sounded neat to readers of the time period contained Hebrew. Roughly translated, it means "All that God is". Jewish readers would have picked up on that, while others would miss that entirely. The myth of Golem could even be read into Superman (as Eisner did).

What is remarkable about this book is the depth of the discussion and the obscure examples of Judaic references in specific issues.
Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RAUL DASILVA on September 16, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written in Queens, NY, made in China but pure American is Arie Kaplan's From Krakow to Krypton, the story of how the Jews created comic books and brought to the United States a Mississippi-like watershed river of illustrated stories, humor and adventures that fired up every kid's imagination, lifting them from the doldrums of an otherwise tedious world.

From Krakow to Krypton starts at the very first comic book created by Charlie Gaines (Ginsberg) during the Great Depression and flows from there fed by continuous tributaries but also through the dams and rough waters created by folks fearful of this new industry. Crisp, color illustrations adorn the journey.

Imagine having a spanking new copy of the cover of ACTION Number One Published in June 1938- the magazine that not only heralded in Superman but all the Superheroes that today are making Hollywood history and stunning box office grosses. This is a must for everyone who loves the Comic Book and like Levy's Real Jewish Rye; you don't have to be Jewish to love it.

Raúl daSilva; author: first place national book festival prizewinner, The World of Animation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. Broome on September 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
A wonderful journey through comic history...Arie seems to have captured the feel from every generation (of course my favorite is the Silver Age). The day I got the book I took it to a party and the son of a friend (age 15) couldn't put it down...I lent it to him to read this week. With all the comic book hero movies coming out the last two years there is a resurgance of comic book interest and Arie has captured that history in a fun and fascinating way.

L. Broome
Winter Springs, FL
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From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books
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