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Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World's Greatest Hero

SUPERMAN is the most famous character in the world. He’s the first superhero, an American icon—and he’s Jewish!

Introduced in June 1938, the Man of Steel was created by two Jewish teens, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the sons of immigrants from Eastern Europe. They based their hero’s origin story on Moses, his strength on Samson, his mission on the golem and his nebbish secret identity on themselves. They made him a refugee fleeing catastrophe on the eve of World War II and sent him to tear Nazi tanks apart nearly two years before the US joined the war.

In following decades Superman’s mostly Jewish writers, artists and editors continued to borrow Jewish motifs for their stories, basing Krypton’s past on Genesis and Exodus, its civilization on Jewish culture, the trial of Lex Luthor on Adolf Eichmann’s and a holiday celebrating Superman on Passover.

Exploring these underlying themes of a beloved modern mythology, Is Superman Circumcised? The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero is a fascinating and entertaining journey through comic book lore, American history and Jewish tradition, sure to give readers a newfound appreciation for the Mensch of Steel!

Reviews
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Winner, 2021 international Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year

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“I am floored by this deep and beautiful examination of history, liturgy, and culture. If you believe in comics as the holders of miracle, myth, and mystery, this is the book for you.”

Mayim Bialikactress, author, neuroscientist

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“A fascinating book.”

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“A must-have for any fan of superheroes, comic books and Jewish history and literature.”

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“Fascinating, illuminating and highly accomplished...you will never look at Superman in quite the same way.”

“A lively and often funny book.”

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“Over the years, there have been quite a few different books written about the history of Superman and Schwartz’s book certainly ranks at the top of the list.”

“Schwartz has crafted together a profound read… [a] beautifully written and comprehensive portrait of Superman’s ties to the history of the Jewish faith and culture.”

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“This work contains some of the best analysis, history, and sociology pertaining to comics I have ever read.”

“Especially impressive is Schwartz’s incredible textual depth…[it] not only offers a wide view of Superman and his impact within our culture but provides a blueprint for scholars to examine such longstanding characters.”

“As a work of academic research and popular engagement, this book succeeds on multiple levels. With nearly forty pages of notes and a wealth of sources, this book achieves monumental status as a scholarly endeavor. Yet this work is not stuffy, pedantic, or banal. Its prose is exciting and engaging, which makes it hard to put down….this monograph animates Superman as a character that jumps off its pages and comes to life in every discussion about him.”

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“Schwartz approaches the subject with an academic lens and a fan’s passion, with text-parsing that would have impressed the rabbis of the Talmud.”

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“This book is amazing.”

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“I’ve read quite a few books on the history of Superman…Schwartz’s book is right up there with some of the better ones…all Superman fans should add [it] to their collection.”

“Really digs deep into those early days of the comic book industry and brings [them] to life.”

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“A deep dive into the history, mythology and cultural folklore of America’s super-heroes…scholarly yet broadly entertaining.”

Michael Uslan, executive producer of the Batman movie franchise, comic book historian 

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“An impressive work that is meant for hard-core, real-deal fans as well as the general public.”

“The whole book is well-written and engaging. What a delight.”

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“Schwartz demonstrates extraordinary insight in his overview of the intersection of comics, the history of heroes and heroines, theological knowledge, and pop culture...[and] imparts the information with humor, focus...and an uncanny ability to join the concepts in an accessible, entertaining, and enlightening way.”

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“Utilize[s] Superman as a jumping off point for numerous interesting discussions...the kind of book that will be adored by fans of Comic-Con.”

“Plunge[s] deeply into Torah and Talmudic learning while never leaving popular culture too far behind.”

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“A magnificent book.”

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“One of the best volumes that devote serious thought to [comics].”

“While this is entirely readable and entertaining, this is…a substantial work of literary criticism.”

“A remarkable book…thorough and meaningful.”

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“Roy Schwartz’s new book…shines.”

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“Many have argued whether Superman embodies a Moses or Jesus figure. In Is Superman Circumcised? Roy Schwartz deftly gives a comprehensive tour through the Man of Steel’s life and times…and allows us to come to our own conclusions. No rock is left unsmitten as Schwartz skillfully presents the arguments for all sides of the great debate.”

Danny Fingeroth, former group editor of Spider-Man publications at Marvel Comics, author of A Marvelous Life: The Amazing Story of Stan Lee

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“A pleasure to read.”

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“I loved the book. It’s so much broader and deeper than I was expecting.”

Rabbi Jeremy Gordon, New London Synagogue

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“Schwartz’s book is the latest in a myriad of books dissecting the ethnic nature of superheroes and comic books, and yet, throughout, Schwartz manages to find new insights into the Jewish nature of comic books.”

“Schwartz also offers a rich discussion of the nature of whiteness in the Superman story…tying this to Jewish experiences with whiteness and the tendency of Jews to white-pass in American society. This may be Schwartz’s most unique contribution to scholarship on Superman as comic books, as it has been glossed over by previous authors on the subject.”

“Despite the impressive academic rigor of Is Superman Circumcised?, the book’s greatest value is in its accessibility. The book’s target audience is not the academic but the lay reader. The discussions of literary theory and methodology…have been replaced with vibrant illustrations and full-page inclusions of comic book panels that offer the reader the ability to see the evidence of his central thesis first-hand. It is this accessibility that has, rightfully, garnered Schwartz acclaim from Jewish celebrities and torchbearers of nerd culture.”

“Overall, this book offers a great deal to modern scholarship on popular culture, as a whole, and comics and graphic novels, in particular. His analysis broadens scholarly conceptions of the importance of comic books to American culture and offers other scholars a blueprint on how to successfully apply scholarly analysis to a medium too often misconceived as antithetical to such review. Beyond this, Schwartz’s book is a great contribution to the fields of ethnic and Jewish studies. Through the lens of Superman, Schwartz offers a glimpse into the immigrant and ethnic experience of American Jews that many readers will not have found elsewhere, making it an unmissable contribution to the field.

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Is Superman Circumcised? is quite readable…and offers just enough well-chosen illustrations to make its points.”

“Schwartz shows a good grasp not only of the religious and cultural aspects but also of the history of comics in general and superhero comics in particular.”