Creator of Captain Israel, the Anti-BDS Superhero Visits Comic Con (INTERVIEW)
These days it might seem like Israel needs a superhero. At Comic Con, taking place at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center from Oct. 8-11, there is actually an artist who created one.
Arlen Schumer, a comic book historian and illustrator, created Captain Israel about five years ago for the group StandWithUs.
“If two American Jews can create Captain America, one American Jew can create Captain Israel,” Schumer said a few weeks ago, in an interview at a Brooklyn diner. “I am an unaffiliated Jew. I don’t belong to a synagogue. But I know the history. The BDS movement is a new form of antisemitism.”
In his comic strip, Captain Israel fights against BDS.
Schumer said Israel often faces a double standard when being judged by the world.
“Just leave us alone… live and let live- that has always been the Jewish philosophy,” he said.
Schumer has illustrated for major corporate clients and media outlets. He is a sought-after lecturer for his expertise on comic books, pop culture and television history. He has written several coffee-table art books, including The Silver Age of Comic Book Art and Visions From The Twilight Zone.
Schumer recently presented his lecture “Jews in Comics” at the 92nd Street Y, where he talks about the many Jewish artists who changed their names to sound gentile, and Jewish themes, such as the Moses story found in the story of Superman. It could also relate to seeing the rise in Nazi Germany and the need to flee.
“Young Jews in Nazi Germany were aware of growing antisemitism and there was a desire for a hero,” Schumer said. “Then there’s the golem myth about the rabbi in Prague who creates it to save the Jews, but he doesn’t have a brain and he kills Jews too and 100 years later Mary Shelley resurrects the myth and creates Frankenstein.”
The 57-year-old, who lives in Connecticut and grew up in Fairlawn, N.J., said he always had a love for comic books and the characters helped him.
“I started to read comics before I even knew how to read,” Schumer said. “I didn’t have a father around so maybe I was looking for a male, father figure. Superman, Batman, they taught me all the things I would assume a traditional father would have taught me: right from wrong… everything I know I learned from comic books.”
But, he says, the Batman TV series with Adam West was all wrong and a huge disappointment for those that read the comic book.
“We wanted Batman to be as serious as Bond,” he said. “We thought they were making fun of it. He has mascara around his eyes. Can you picture them needing Batman to fight crime and he’s by his vanity mirror putting on Bat-scara?”
He said the recently released superhero movies are raking in the money because they are taking the visuals seriously, whereas they disrespected them years ago.
Schumer said that one of his goals is to keep the power of Rod Serling, the creator of The Twilight Zone, alive. Serling, who was Jewish, brought science fiction to the forefront, but his shows contained political and sociological warnings and critiques.
“You can trace every science fiction movie or story to a Twilight Zone episode,’” Schumer said. “Serling died before he had the chance to see what impact he made with Spielberg, Stephen King and a lot of others.”
With all that is happening now in the world, Schumer said he could see that people would hope for superheroes. As to whether he believes that there is pure evil in the world, he wasn’t sure.
“It’s the nature versus nurture argument,” he said. “I tend to think that there is. But I’m not totally sure.”