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The Golem's Mighty Swing Paperback – May 1, 2003

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Paperback, May 1, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The barnstorming baseball teams of the 1920s are the grist for this graphic novel that follows a Jewish team, the Stars of David, through the Midwest in a broken-down bus, using the gimmick of exotic ethnicity to draw small-towners to their games. At this level, baseball is as much showbiz as sport, so to boost attendance, the team's sole black player, billed as a "member of the lost tribe," poses as a golem, a creature made of clay and brought to life by a rabbinical incantation. The scheme goes terribly awry, however, when the massive crowd it draws, inflamed by anti-Semitism, storms the field. Like its legendary model, this golem damages its creators. Sturm is a master of nuance, whose economical drawings effectively evoke the era, while his thoughtful compositions impressively capture action and atmosphere. He uses the national pastime to examine such equally American traits as racism and media hype. But mostly, this a particularly insightful take on the theme of immigrants caught between their traditions and the ways of a new land. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“2001 Best Graphic Novel” ―Time

“This book is a home run in any language.” ―Observer on Sunday

“Employing thick lines, minimal detail and simple prose storytelling, sturm gracefully summons the seedy, often dangerous baseball world of the 1920s...this would make a fine gift for any fan of the game.” ―Washington Post Book World


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 100 pages
  • Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly; 4 Gph Upd edition (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1896597718
  • ISBN-13: 978-1896597713
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.4 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,584,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Comics about history are rarities in this country. Comics about baseball are even more rare. Here, James Sturm has combined both to create an elegant graphic novel about a barnstorming squad in the 1920s. The gimmick behind this squad, The Stars of David, is that the players are all bearded Jews. Kind of.
The manager, fierce-looking Noah Strauss, a former bench player for the Red Sox, fields a team that also features his younger brother, Mo, a kid with huge potential if he can keep his head on straight. Mo's a little young to grow a beard, so he improvises. Noah also fudges the lineup by adding a former Negro-Leagues slugger, Henry Bell, billing him as Hershl Bloom, "a member of the lost tribe." Barnstorming is a tough business, and, strapped for cash when the team bus dies, Noah accepts a promoter's offer of a big pay day if Henry will wear the recently acquired monster costume from the contemporary German horror movie smash, THE GOLEM.
The proposed match-up with an enhanced upstate New York factory team carries electrifying potential when the hype-machine rouses an anti-Semitic furor. Despite the tension he creates, artist Sturm delivers a narrative that captures the rhythms, suspense, and gamesmanship of a great baseball match. In this tale, he looks at what baseball means to its fans, what America looked like to its immigrants, and how both of these themes lend themselves to great storytelling. All this comes with clean, well-designed artwork that represents an object lesson on the principles of great comic art. Fans of non-superhero comics will enjoy this book for its craftsmanship, while fans of baseball history will love the story.
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Format: Paperback
The Golem's Mighty Swing works both as a tale of Prohibition-era barnstorming baseball and as a tale of ethnic relations. James Sturm sharply observes the baseball details, including a number of interesting and authentic-sounding anecdotes about the game. And by telling the story through the eyes of a man who is accustomed to the prejudiced attitudes of the day, Sturm gives us not a rabble-rousing screed with the obvious moral that anti-Semitism is bad, but a highly evocative portrait of life as an ethnic outsider that gives us some feeling for what it's actually like.

Sturm's art is clean and says a lot with a little, as other reviewers have said. But Sturm's talent for saying a lot with a little is true of his prose as well. For a hundred-page comic, this book has a remarkable number of memorable and realistic characters. Also, the book design itself, from the color of the pages to the art inside the front covers, gives a retro feel that enhances the mood of the story.

Sturm obviously sweated the details to create something as simple in outline yet as emotionally and thematically complex as The Golem's Mighty Swing. His effort pays off. The Golem's Mighty Swing effortlessly sweeps the reader up in the story, the characters, and the setting, making for a quick read at first, and then a thoughtful mood after the reading is done.
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Format: Paperback
Even though I'm not a believer in the whole theory/vision of baseball as part of the American myth, Sturm does a pretty nice job with the metaphor in this understated but striking graphic novel. Set in the 1920s, the story concerns "The Stars of David", an ostensibly all-Jewish (one ex Negro League star qualifies as a "member of the lost tribe") barnstorming baseball team. With a decent amount of talent, they tour small towns as perpetual visitors, perpetual bad guys, and perpetual outsiders, earning just enough to scrape by. Until the team captain is approached by Victor Paige, of the Big Inning Promotional Agency. Paige convinces the team to create a Golem, "a creature that man creates to be a companion, a protector or a servant" as a gimmick to increase attendance. The gimmick works, but rather too well, as when they arrive in the next town, they are met with hostility and anti-Semitism beyond what they've ever faced before. The outcome is, well, predictable, and a metaphor for the times. The art is a lesson in the effectiveness of elegant simplicity, and captures the movement of baseball amazingly well. As per usual for Drawn & Quarterly, the book is very nicely printed and produced.
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Format: Paperback
This was a great little graphic novel about a ragtag Jewish baseball team The Stars of David early in the 20th century. It is part sports drama, part vaudevillian showcase, and part historical footnote commenting on the antisemitic tendencies of some backward small towns.

With beautiful art and a simple narrative, the book turns the spectacle of America’s greatest pastime into a mythical battle of epic proportions on the field of America’s history of racial and religious intolerance.

My only complaint about this book - and it is truly a taste one - is that I was not a fan of the pages of play-by-play. The rest of the book - all the dramatic action and gorgeous artwork and simple dialogue-less frames were beautiful and touching.
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Format: Paperback
Author: James Sturm
Genre: Graphic Novel

Plot Summary:
Noah Strauss, known as "The Zion Lion" during his brief stint with the Boston Red Sox, is now the hobbled manager and number three hitter for The Stars of David, an independent "Jewish" traveling baseball team. Baseball was truly America's pastime in the days of Prohibition, and a good team with an intriguing gimmick, skilled players, and some marketing savvy, could make a good living by busing through small towns and taking on the local teams. The Stars have plenty of talented players, but they are missing that extra element of spectacle that can draw the really big crowds. They are barely scraping by and suffering from low morale. Their bus is in a sad state, they are forced to sleep in cheap flophouses, and they must endure the racial bigotry that follows them everywhere they go. Just when things seem to be at their worst, Noah is paid a visit by the fast-talking baseball promoter, Victor Paige. After taking in one of their games, Paige has decided that The Stars could pack the stands if only they had a Golem in their lineup. Paige goes on to explain that a film featuring a Golem (an enormous mythical being of Jewish legend) is captivating audiences in New York City, and his agency has obtained the original costume used in the film. If the Stars' hulking African American clean-up hitter, Henry Bell, would don the costume he would be sight to see. Noah reluctantly agrees to go along with the scheme after initially rejecting the offer. Paige immediately begins to hype up the arrival of the Golem in the town of Putnam, where The Stars will battle the local "All Americans." In his fervor to create interest in the game, Paige fans the flames of anti-Semitism within the community by playing on their fears and misconceptions.
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