by Noam Steinerman
“A comics and pop culture convention with a Jewish flavor.”
Thanks to Comics Beat, I was able to get the first hand scoop of JewCE: Jewish Comics Experience on Sunday, November 11th at the Center for Jewish History (CJH) in Manhattan.
This exhibit, which is still on display, is for anyone who loves Jewish American history, comic book history, and pop-culture history. Comics and the Jewish American experience are inextricably linked, as the first comic books were mostly the product of creators like Will Eisner, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman, and entire books have been written about how the alien from Krypton reflects the Jewish immigrant experience.
Some notable highlights of JewCE were the morning panel “From Strength to Strength,” where the artists talked about the origins of Jewish comics followed by a lively Q&A.
I spoke with the moderator for “Strength to Strength,” Roy Schwartz, a pop culture historian and journalist, and asked him to share how this comic event differs from other conventions and what epitomizes the JewCe experience.
“For one, it’s the Jewish Comics Experience. The emphasis is on Jewish. This is not exclusively by Jews about Jews for Jews by any means, any more than a Jazz exhibit would be only by and only for Black Americans,” he told me. “JewCE is a celebration of origins and adding layers of meaning. Nothing like this has ever been done, not at this scale, depth and breadth…with a number of original rare historical artifacts, original artworks, and historical exploration.”
Panels exploring the influence of Jewish culture in comics featured creators such as Brian Michael Bendis, Frank Miller, Danny Fingeroth, Arie Kaplan and Simcha Wienstein to name a few. Jesse Simon, the grandson of Captain America’s creator Joe Simon, also participated. ShieldMaster is a character created by Jesse’s dad, Jim Simon. Jesse teamed up with his father and grandfather to bring the ShieldMaster to print through a successful Kickstarter campaign.
This gathering brought together a group of remarkable comic book creators, historians and readers from all over to kick off the JewCE exhibit currently on display. It shows the influence of Jewish culture on the comic book medium and will be at the CJH until December 31st. Entrance is free, so check it out while you still can!