We all know Captain America, the superhero who has valiantly protected the United States on the pages of comic books — and currently on the big screen — since the fictional character was created back in 1941. Now, in an epic battle of whit and strength over anti-Semitism and bizarre expeditions against male circumcision, there’s a new character in town: Captain Israel.
Before we can discuss this exciting addition to the wacky world of comic book heroes, we must revisit the recent creation of an antithetical “superhero” named Foreskin Man. Remember him? Scott Baker reported on this offensive character back in early June.
As you may recall, Matthew Hess, who created Foreskin Man, was the author of the now-defeated San Francisco circumcision ban. In describing Hess and his comic-book creation, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote the following:
[Hess’]…website, mgmbill.org — which pushes “a bill to end male genital mutilation in the United States” –also pushes his literature and merchandise starring “Foreskin Man”…
The star cover image of his comic book shows a dark, bearded rabbi looming over a naked baby laying on a pool table, as a superhero appears ready to save the child.
Saunders asked Hess if his comic is anti-Semitic. His answer: “A lot of people have said that, but we’re not trying to be anti-Semitic. We’re trying to be pro-human rights.”
I won’t bore you with details regarding why Hess’ work appears less than favorable to the Jewish faith, as this case has already been made. Instead, let’s examine Foreskin Man’s newest foe — the aforementioned protagonist, Captain Israel. Author and blogger John Shore explains:
While the comic’s official web site proclaims that the first edition is “coming soon,” an online edition can be read here. Schumer has already been vocal about the project, his involvement and his opinions about his character’s arch-nemesis. In an interview with the Jewish Ledger’s Cindy Mindell, he took particular issue with the Foreskin Man comics:
“By using classic antisemitic caricatures, by turning the mohel into a monster, the anti-circumcision group makes the ritual seem devilish,” says Arlen Schumer, a Westport-based comic-book historian, commercial illustrator, and creator of Jewish superhero Captain Israel, currently being published in a comic-book series by L.A.-based Israel advocacy group, StandWithUs.
Schumer is also troubled by the issue’s closing image, of the “intactivists” burning a towering structure made of appropriated “circumstraints,” topped with the group’s symbol. “It resembles a burning cross, the trademark of the KKK, who sees the Jews as Enemy One,” he says.
Now that the dust has settled on the circumcision ban (for the time being, at least), it will be interesting to see how both the Foreskin Man and Captain Israel comics play out. With dueling messages, it’s likely that readers will be in for some intriguing twists and turns along the way.