The Odd Odyssey: From Comics to Comics
I first shared this article in NoahideAcademy.org
When I was young I discovered the joy of comic books. It tapped into the most imaginative parts of my mind and inspired me to envision a better world.
With the aid of powers, a good heart, and an ironclad dedication to justice, the superhero would indeed save the day!
That salvation came from the best aspects of human beings.
The ideals and values in these stories of selflessness and justice resonated within my young soul, such that I dreamt of becoming a comic book artist.
I dabbled in art through elementary and junior high and then around 14 years old decided to seriously pursue it through study and practice.
As I grew older, however, comics changed with the times. The idealism of yesterday became what is now the grim and gritty expectation of today. Heroes weren't heroes anymore. They were anti-heroes or even villains who somehow became accepted into the ranks.
Even worse, I began to recognize that when female heroes were presented, their costumes were little more than swimsuits with boots and capes. Women were demeaned as simply objects to be enjoyed visually.
A Growing Dissatisfaction
Around my senior year in high school, I was introduced to Torah and became fascinated. It was the same stories I'd grown up within the Christian world but the Jewish understanding was so deep that it transformed my 2D vision into 3D understanding. With my growing interest in Torah, I felt my chosen career path of becoming a comic book artist was at odds with the values I was developing.
In the summer of 1995, I attended my final comic book convention and came to the conclusion that I didn't belong to that world.
I gave up on my dream to become an illustrator and pursued the normal course of college and getting a job. My connection to Torah deepened and I eventually came to recognize my obligation to keep the seven laws of Noah.
Yet I could not completely shake off the hold of this venue of entertainment I'd invested so much time and dreams into. I went through periods where I collected a handful of comics here and there out of curiosity and interest in the art styles. Finally, in 2008 I had enough and couldn't even bother to look at comics anymore.
My creativity and imagination still craved stimulation, however, so I moved on to reading Manga and watching anime to replace the Western genre of superhero comics that I once enjoyed.
Eventually, I stopped reading and watching these as well the more I grew conscious of the wild objectification of women present in these, among other issues.
From there I moved into reading Chinese Fantasy and other Asian web novels. With those, I grew dissatisfied because of the many values or lack thereof I discovered. Not to mention they spend so much time promoting idolatry. It didn't fit, either.
The Winding Path
Through this journey, I remained a Ben Noah until 2014 when my wife and I determined that joining Am Israel was the soul mission of our family. We underwent an orthodox conversion to Judaism and a year later we made aliyah to Israel.
Throughout, I continued to observe American comics from afar hoping for a revival of the
idealism of yesterday's hero. What happened instead is they've degenerated further into a corrupting influence and have become a platform for base ideologies. This is especially seen with the wave of woke comics beginning around 2015.
Since then it has only increased in its frenzy; my humble observation is the world is going crazy. The subtle and not-so-secret indoctrination of yesterday is today an open and obsessive drive to force people to trade in their traditional values for new ones. Hollywood demands we go woke!
I'm writing this just a week before Chanukah when we commemorate the victory of the faithful few refusing to allow the light of the Torah to be snuffed out. Or to put it another way, refusing the wokeness of Greek ideology. Like the Maccabees, I can no longer stay on the sidelines while the modernists of our day threaten the core of truth, justice, and righteousness that is the Torah.
Fighting The Greeks of Today
We are each put on this earth with our own unique abilities and potential to improve our small part of the world. As much as I worked to step out of the comic world the need to create new light in this pervasive darkness has compelled me to pick up the pen once more; to fight art with art.
What many people don't realize is that one of the most effective forms of education in this world is not the school system, it's entertainment. Tons of research points to the power of a good story to connect with an audience and the ability to effect change by appealing to their emotions.
Our great sages such as the Ba'al Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachman, and others understood how to craft a holy story with a lofty purpose that inspired the everyday man and woman.
And while I am not on the level of the great Jewish leaders, I aspire to use the power of story and art to not only entertain but strengthen and empower the generation of our children to glorify the "values of old" - those of truth, justice, kindness, selflessness, peace, fear of Heaven, and love of our fellow man - of Torah.
Coming Full Circle
Today I am the Creator/Owner of New Hero Comics. It's been its own bumpy journey with twists and turns.
In 2015 when we made aliyah I had the pleasure to meet with Moshe Peretz to discuss a comic book for B'nei Noah.
He and I shared a vision of creating a form of entertainment that could teach values while being entertaining.
Unfortunately, as a new immigrant and for several other practical reasons, it didn't materialize at the time.
Now that we've been in the holiest land for a full shmitah cycle, and with the permission and active participation of my wife, I'm excited to share we are launching a series of new projects on our website beginning with coloring books, a newly released comic book, and webnovel.
The way I'm representing the Torah, for both Jews and B'nei Noah isn't by shoving it in your face, but rather, by making it part of the natural makeup of the characters.
For example, in one scene from the comic Inner World, Zaph Greene, the Jewish
protagonist, takes a break from his studies to use the restroom. We simply see him performing the prayer "asher yatzar" (a blessing said after using the bathroom).
The B'nei Noah heroes express Torah as part of their basis for decisions and behavior in any given situation - justice being the first and foremost aspect they focus on.
Like any individual, they grapple with how to be the best they can be as human beings, which makes them better heroes.
I hope to see other similar projects from more creators to reintroduce people to the Torah values that bind all of us to Hashem and each other. That's why I'm creating comics, anyways.