Letters: Andrew Thomas
Editor: Steven M. Bergson
Publisher: Alternate History Comics Inc.
Five years ago, Alternative History Comics published its first collection of Jewish comics, The Jewish Comix Anthology, enlisting comic book giants like Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb, Will Eisner, and Stan Lee to lend their stories to the project. After the success of this first book, Steven M. Bergson returns to edit a second volume: SCI: The Jewish Comics Anthology Volume 2. This time around, the anthology has a science fiction theme, bringing Jewish stories and culture to the future and the far distant stars.
Taking something as ancient as Jewish stories and transposing them into a genre that focuses on futurism may seem incongruous, but the results are far from it. There is a long tradition of putting the old wine of traditional tales into new bottles of modern story conventions, making the stories and their lessons more relatable to contemporary audiences. This is done to excellent effect in these 18 illustrated prose and graphic stories. Bergson, a comics historian and expert on Jewish representation in comics, directed the contributors to look far back into the ancient tales for their inspiration.
Judaism has a long tradition of expanding on its own stories and parables, creating backstories for biblical characters, or taking small one or two line mentions in the Torah and building them into their own story–a kind of religious fan fiction if you will. Graphic novels are an excellent medium for this, and Bergson’s anthologies are creating the standard against which future such endeavors will be measured.
You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy and appreciate these stories; even Gentiles such as myself can find meaning and entertainment from this collection. After all, stories are stories, wherever they come from. Some of my favorites include “The Nursing Father” (written by Bergson and illustrated by Haiwei Hou) that extrapolates on the verse “Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing-father carrieth the suckling child” (Numbers 11:12), as well as “It Could Be Worse” (written by Daniel Gold and illustrated by Shane Kirshenblatt). The latter is about a man complaining about the inconvenience of having his family visiting for Passover. In return, he gets a house full of whimsically destructive space-zoo creatures to remind him that putting up with family is really not so bad. The collection also includes sci-fi takes on familiar stories like “Stone Soup” (written and illustrated by Keith Grachow with colors by Frank Reynoso) and “Something From Nothing” (written by Trina Robbins and illustrated by Rossi Gifford), which were two of my favorite stories as a child, and I love seeing them re-imagined in different ways.
SCI is a tour de force of Jewish science fiction with wide-ranging talent, styles, and interpretations. From the serious to the humorous, everyone can find at least one story that speaks to them, but more likely several. Jewish creators have been a huge part of the comics industry and culture from the start, and it’s wonderful to see creators using those talents to tell their own culture’s stories.