Tagged: Martha Kent

Mindy Newell: The Sound Of Breaking Glass?


                                                                                                                            

“Be careful of mankind, Diana.  They do not deserve you.” —Queen Hippolyta

 

Will the Amazonian be the woman who finally breaks the Hollywood glass ceiling?

Wonder Woman, starring Israeli actress Gal Gadot as Princess Diana of Themiscrya, premieres on June 2, just 12 days away, and the fate of all the superwomen and their eponymous movies who would follow her lies in the ability of her sword-wielding, shield-bearing, gold lassoing hands and her armor-plated breast to vanquish the biggest and baddest super-villain of them all: Box Office.

I’ve watched every trailer and clip that Warner Bros. has released, and though they were all great, the very best of all of them, im-not-so-ho, was Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Every time Ms. Gadot showed up, whether it was in her guise as Diana Prince or as Wonder Woman, the movie morphed from an overbearing, weighted down slog through mud into a wonderama gliding with the agility and talent of an Olympian figure skater.  Her Diana Prince was a woman of intriguing mystery and integrity, and her Amazon alter-ego was a wonder of heroic strength and bravery.  She is possessed with incredible beauty and stature, the natural grace of a gazelle, and quiet yet undeniable assurance.  The camera loved her; so did I, and I walked out of the theater knowing that Ms. Gadot is a worthy inheritor to the role that made Lynda Carter a star and icon for girls and young women coming of age during the 1970’s.

I know that I have previously said that I thought placing the movie during WW I might be a mistake.  But after watching (again) all the Wonder Woman clips and previews and that bit from BvS—in which Bruce Wayne discovers the picture of a “meta-human” captioned “Belgium, November, 1918” and starts putting “1 + 1”—I have what I think is a pretty good idea as to why the movie is set when it’s set.  (Of course, I will have to wait to see if I’m right…and I’ll let you know if I was, okay?)

Meantime, the Twitter universe has lit up with early reviews, released on Thursday, May 18; here are some examples:

Indiewire’s Kate Eerbland:

Courtney Howard @Lulamaybelle:

Mike Ryan, Senior Entertainment Writer at Uproxx:

Umberto Gonzalez@elmayimbe:

Every tweet I read reflected what I felt and saw on the screen in BvS.  Gal Gadot is to Wonder Woman what Christopher Reeve was to Superman.  And it may just be that the answer to the question posed up above will be a resounding yes.

Only the gods and goddesses know.


We all have mothers.  I had a mother of a cold last week, and since Sunday was Mom’s day, I thought I would take a moment to honor all those women who have taken on the absolutely hardest job in the multi-verse, even though it’s 24 hours late.

I think the best known mother in the four-color universe is the farmer’s wife from Smallville who, with her husband, found and raised the “strange visitor from another planet” who would grow up to become the one and only Superman.  Although I’ve always known that farmer’s wife as Martha Clark Kent, her name varied for quite a while; she was known as Mary Kent in Superman #1 (1939), but in George F. Lowther’s 1942 novel, The Adventures of Superman, and on the radio program for which Mr. Lowther was a writer, Mrs. Kent’s first name was Sarah, which also followed her to the George Reeves television series of the same name.  (The Adventures of Superman, Episode 1, “Superman on Earth,” written by Richard Fielding)   Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster finally settled on “Martha” sometime in the 1950’s, and since then, every variation of Superman’s mom on the page and on television and in the movies has been known by that name.

Several actresses have played Ma Kent on the big and small screens.  Virginia Carroll was the first to play her in the 1948 movie serial that starred Kirk Alyn as the Man of Steel, in which her name was Martha.  Francis Morris played Sarah Kent in the aforementioned The Adventures of Superman.  Phyllis Thaxter was the perfect Martha to Chris Reeve’s Superman in the one and only Richard Donner film—and if you haven’t seen Donner’s version of Superman II, get on it, guys!!!!!   The venerable actress Eva Marie Saint played her in Superman Returns, and Diane Lane is the most recent Martha, doing an admirable job in Man of Steel, Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and is about to return as Martha Kent in Justice League.

Television Marthas have been portrayed as younger and hipper.  K Callan’s version, in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures, was a sixties-something woman whom you could easily imagine having burned her bra and marched with Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, and other women during the social upheaval of the ‘60’s.   And I have a special fondness for Annette O’Toole, who played Martha on Smallville for the show’s entire run.  (This was Ms. O’Toole’s second time around in the DC universe; she played Lana Lang in Superman III,)  I think her Martha was innately every bit a feminist as K Callan’s, but, im-not-so-ho, I don’t think she ever needed her consciousness “raised”—she just instinctively understood that she was as equal and capable as her husband and any other man, and her choice to be a “stay-at-home” mom was just that—her choice.  In later seasons, Senator Martha Kent went to Washington, representing the state of Kansas, although her political party was never stated; my own political leanings make her a Democrat, although in reality I think she would most likely be what in today’s political climate is called a RINO, which is pronounced like the animal and stands for Republican In Name Only—a pejorative for someone who is not considered conservative enough in their beliefs.

I also want to take some space here to give a shout-out to two very important moms in my life:  Loretta Yontef Newell, my mom, and her granddaughter (and my daughter), Alixandra.

I haven’t all that often talked about my mom here—I’m really not sure why.  She and my late dad were married for 69 years—they almost made it to 70 years, as their anniversary is coming up this June—and I know she was the linchpin for their relationship, for my dad adored her.  I remember when we celebrated their 60th year of marriage; I said, “y’know, I gotta tell ya, there were times I was sure you two were headed towards divorce.”  My father scoffed and said, “You’re nuts!,”; my mother wouldn’t even deign to answer.

She was a woman who was “feminist” in the same way that Annette O’Toole’s Martha was—raised to be able to stand on her own two feet in a time when most women were raised to become wives only, she first worked as a telephone operator before entering the U.S. Army Nurse Cadet Corps during WW II, and was stationed in Washington, D.C. as the war drew to a close.  After the war she worked as a Labor and Delivery nurse at the Brooklyn Jewish Hospital—she commuted every day from Bayonne, taking bus, ferry, and subways!—where, she told me, she and her friends, after a long night delivering babies, went to the Paramount Theatre in Brooklyn to see a certain young singer from Hoboken whose first name was Frank and whose last name was Sinatra.  (I could never get her to admit to being one of the “bobby-soxers” who screamed his name earlier in the decade.)  She was also a school nurse, a medical-surgical nurse, one of the very first nurses to work with dialysis patients back in the day when the dialysis machines looked like giant rotors with a netting strung across their innards, and worked for the U.S. Public Health Service at a hospital on Staten Island, where one of her jobs was to ride a jetty out to the ships moored in Lower New York Harbor and give physicals to the merchant marine crewmen, clearing them for entrance into the States.  She was a school nurse, a sleep-away camp nurse, and an ER nurse.  And she did all this while being an involved wife and mother.  My dad was always proud of his wife being a professional woman; and she was, for the longest time, the only one of their circle of friends who worked “outside the home.”

She made time for the kids (me and my brother), too.  She encouraged us to read—leading her own two plus their reprobate friends to the public library—and took us into New York City to Broadway shows and museums.  I think our elementary school teachers were afraid of her, because if she thought one of us had been treated unfairly, she didn’t sit on her hands.

When I was in second grade I went to my school’s library and wanted to take out “The Black Stallion,” by Walter Farley.  The librarian would not allow it, saying that it was a book for the older grades.  When my mother heard about this, she went up to the school and demanded that I be allowed to read whatever I wanted to read.  Of course, I wasn’t present for this showdown, but I can only imagine what my mom said, because from then on I never had a problem.

Another time, I think I was in third grade, the class was assigned to read a biography and then write a book report about the subject.  My mom took me to the public library, and I chose the story of Y.A. Tittle, the N.Y. Giants quarterback.  When I handed in my report, the teacher gave it back to me, saying, “Little girls do not read biographies about football players.”  Up went my mother, back to P.S. 29.  Again, I don’t know what she said to the teacher, but I got an A+ on that book report—I’ve always wondered whether it was because it was an early example of my writing ability or because, simply put, the teacher was scared shit of my mother.

My mother never told me what she said, and now it is too late—right before my dad died, maybe two weeks prior, my mom had a stroke, and though she is not physically disabled, her cognitive abilities are, to put it sadly and simply, pretty much shot to hell.  She now lives in the same nursing home, and on the same floor, where my father spent the last years of his life.  Sometimes she is more “cognitive” than at other times—sometimes when I speak to her on the phone, she is almost my mother; and other times, most times, she simply cries and says she wants to go “home.”

The other mom I want to talk about is my daughter, Alixandra.  She and her wonderful husband Jeffrey, my son-in-law the Doctor—he is a PhD. and a professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey—have a son, named after both grandfathers:  Meyer Manuel.  He is loving and beautiful and the light of my life.  He is also autistic.

When Meyer was definitively diagnosed at 18 months—the earliest age at which autism can be, well, definitively diagnosed—Alix was working full-time and applying for a second Master’s program in Public Health and Policy at New York University.  She didn’t quit her job; she didn’t quit her educational plans, only delayed her entry into the program for a semester; she started researching autism and the education of autistic children, and found Meyer the best school in her area, Caldwell University, enrolling her son in the Applied Behavior Analysis program there.  It was incredibly expensive, and when the insurance company lagged in its responsibilities, she fought them.  She has never, ever ceased fighting for her child, has never ceased to put him first; they sold their beloved first home and moved to a town with better, and more progressive, educational policies towards special needs kids, choosing to rent and investing the monies from the sale of their home in Meyer’s future.  And meanwhile, she did go back to school for that second Masters and continues to work full-time, commuting to New York City and always bringing work home with her.

She is one hell of a mother.

In the abso-fucking-lutely very best way.

Mindy Newell: Feed ‘Em, Burp ‘Em, Diaper ‘Em

Newell Art 130923Ah, the joys of new parenthood.

Interrupted sleep. Desperately trying to figure out why the baby is crying. Shock and palpitations at the cost of Pampers (or Luvs or Huggies). Interfering grandparents.

Yeah, it’s tough being the parent of a baby. (Just wait until they are teenagers!)

At least you don’t have super-powers. At least you don’t have arch-nemeses and equally powered villains eager to use your darling as a weapon against you

Once upon a time I worked with Keith Giffen, Ernie Colon, and Karl Kesel on a mini-series for DC that we called Legionnaires Three. The story twists on the kidnapping of the infant Graym Ranzz by the infamous Time Trapper. Baby Graym is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ranzz, a.k.a. Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl, a.k.a. Garth Ranzz and Imra Ardeen. Upon discovering their child is gone, both are stunned into superhero impotency as Imra breaks down in heart wrenching sobs, held by a seemingly stoic Garth.

I remember getting a lot of flak in the fan mail. (Remember fan mail?)

“Saturn Girl is the Iron Butterfly! She would never cry!”

“Garth is the weak one. Imra would kick ass!”

“You don’t know anything about the Legion! Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl would rally the troops, get on the case!”

Well, I do know about the Legion. But more important, I know about being a parent. And as I answered in the letters column (remember letters columns?), and I’m paraphrasing here, Garth and Imra may be superheroes, but they are also parents, and any parent, super-powered or not, would be sucked down into a mass of shocked, weeping, screaming, emotional protoplasm on discovering their child kidnapped. (Do I really have to reiterate that?)

Anyway, I got to thinking about babies and super-powers, superheroes and being a parent.

I talked about being the parent of a super-powered kid once before here on ComicMix, in May 2012. I called the column “My Kid’s a Superhero,” and it was in honor of Mother’s Day. It was about Martha Kent and it went like this:

A few months later Martha was vacuuming – Jonathan did the laundry, so it was a fair exchange – and went to move the couch, where all the dust bunnies lived. Baby Clark wanted to help him mommy, so he picked the couch up. Martha went to the liquor cabinet and poured herself a stiff one. When Jonathan came back from the lower 40 for lunch, he found an empty bottle of Johnny Walker Red and his wife in a drunken stupor. When she came to she had a hell of a headache and a hell of a story. Jonathan called Doc Newman who told him new mothers are under a lot of stress and to just take it easy with her. The doctor then hung up and called his wife and told her that Martha Kent was nuts.

Martha thought she had it rough?

Susan Storm Richards, a.k.a. the Invisible Woman, was pregnant with her first child when it was discovered that the irradiation from the cosmic rays that gave the Fantastic Four their powers would also prevent Sue from carrying the baby to term. Desperate to prevent this, her husband Reed (Mr. Fantastic), her brother Johnny Storm (the Human Torch) and their best friend ever Ben Grimm (the ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing) travelled to the Negative Zone and wrested the Cosmic Control Rod from the villain Annihilus. The Rod allowed Sue to carry her baby to term. The baby boy was named Franklin, after Sue’s father.

But it turned out that Franklin was a mutant, an immensely powerful mutant with psionic abilities. Reed, afraid that Franklin’s power could wipe out life on Earth, “shut down” Franklin’s mind, effectively reverting him to a normal kid.

Sue was furious with Reed because she had not been consulted before Reed took this drastic step, and she left him, taking the baby with her.

Yeah.

Parenthood.

It’s enough to make a superhero hang up his or her cape.

ComicMix Columnist Mindy Newell became a grandmother on September 20, 2013. She is ecstatic.

Call her Grandma. Call her Gran’maw. Call her Abuela. Call her Gamma.

Just don’t call her Bubbe.

TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis

 

Martha Thomases: Iron Man & Iron Mothers

Guy-Pearce-Aldrich-Killian-Iron-Man-3-PosterLike everyone else in the United States, I saw Iron Man 3  last weekend with my illustrious colleague, Mike Gold. I went for the explosions. I went to see my future husband, Robert Downey Jr. I went because I love Kiss Kiss Bang Bang by Shane Black beyond all reason.

And I had a good time. But, as time goes on and I have time to consider what I saw, there is one thing that bugs me. If spoilers are going to bother you, depending on your standards for what constitutes a spoiler, you may want to stop reading now.

And that brings us to this week’s word:

Mothers.

There is a kid in the movie who helps Tony Stark. The kid lives in Tennessee with his mom, his dad having abandoned them long ago. The kid is, of course, a boy, because, for the most part, boys are more interesting to Hollywood than girls are.

If I were still a kid, this would have been my absolute favorite part of the movie, because I would identify with the boy (identifying with boys is something girls are expected to do all the time, although the converse is rarely true) and feel what it’s like to hang out with a super-hero. As an adult, I thought this part went on a bit too long.

So long, in fact, that I started to worry about the kid. His mother had to work, so she wasn’t at home. At night. Leaving her kid by himself, to run around town with Iron Man, even when there were explosions. We don’t know if she ever finds out what he was doing.

Mothers are hardly ever the leading characters in action-adventure stories. In comics, there is Sue Storm in Fantastic Four, Mark Andreyko’s Manhunter, and I can’t think of any others (please correct me in the comments). There are a lot of mom’s (and mom surrogates) who are supporting characters – Martha Kent, Martha Wayne, Aunt May, Maggie Sawyer, Hippolyte – but very few headliners have to find child care.

I think this has to do in large part because of who makes comics, and who they think the audience is. Men, for the most part, don’t identify with mothers. Boys (of all ages) prefer to think of their moms as people devoted to being parents, not lean, mean, world-saving machines.

As for sex, that other inspiration for plots, none of these guys want to think about their moms – or anyone’s mom – having sex. Ever. Unless that woman is maybe the mother of Blue Ivy Carter.

In real life, of course, mothers are heroes every hour of every day. No matter how one defines the term, mothers are brave and self-sacrificing and just plain bad-ass.

And that’s after they have pushed a live human being out of their bodies.

You could take your mom to see Iron Man 3 this weekend, and she’ll probably like it, because, in addition to its other attributes, it has Guy Pearce. Just be sure to tell her that you know she’s tough enough as she is, and doesn’t need any armor to prove it.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

SUNDAY: John Ostrander

 

Martha Thomases: Nada

I got nothing.

This may surprise you. Here I am, a well-educated woman in the media capitol of the universe, someone who reads a few dozen comics every week, who goes to the movies when she can and stays in watching movies when she can’t.

And yet, I spend an inordinate amount of time playing fetch with my cat, and, when she lets me, knitting. So, on weeks such as this, when no news story catches my attention, I’m stuck treading water.

Which I will do now, with the following random observations:

• The ongoing debate about “fake” geek girls continues, with this, which is hilarious mostly because of the comments. Some boys get really really scared when girls do their own thing, and I find it even more amusing when they try to sound reasonable about their castration fears.

• As nearly as I can tell, the most famous knitter in comics is Martha Kent, who unravelled the blankets she found in Kal-El’s rocketship to make his costume. Since The New 52, I haven’t seen this story, so perhaps it is no longer canon. In any case, it’s a lot of work to knit a costume like that, presumably on rather small needles, and in the round, since we never see any seams. Is that why we don’t see her knitting again very often?

• When my cat permits, I’ve been watching the revamped Doctor Who on Netflix. I’m late to this party, and I’m only halfway through Season 4, so I have nothing particularly new to say. It’s a fun show, but I don’t entirely feel the fanaticism that so many of my friends enjoy. To me, the best part (aside from the cheesy special effects, which are one of my favorite things about British television) is the sheer glee the characters have about being alive.

• I hate the hype around the holidays, and therefore don’t pay much attention to Black Friday and the attendant promotions. Still, I’m rather encouraged that comic book publishers and retailers are getting on the bandwagon. It suggests that comics are mainstream enough to make the “fake geek girls” meme even more irrelevant.

• The season finale of NBC’s Revolution had the homoerotic undertones of a bowdlerized 1950s Tennessee Williams movie. The hero and the villain were friends since childhood, but now they are separated. The villain wants the hero back, and there are many long, smoldering looks between them. These looks last so long, in fact, that I started to notice that, in a society that has no power, and everyday living is a struggle for survival, these men have time to color their hair. The women not only color their hair, but also pluck their eyebrows. Even the fat guy, the shameful nerd, has highlights. If the revolution ends up being televised, at least they’ll be ready for their close-ups.

Ye Editor apologizes for the late posting of today’s column. He was probably drunk or something.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman

 

Mindy Newell: The Superman That Should Have Been

You know what they say. Moms. Can’t live without em…

Um. Right.

In honor of all the wonderful women without whom we wouldn’t be here, today’s column is about moms. Specifically, a mom with a kid who happen to have X-ray vision, the power of flight, is invulnerable – you know.

This über-mom, is, of course, Martha Kent, nee Clark.

Martha was a country woman, wife to a farmer. She loved her husband Jonathan, but sometimes she wondered why she married him. The guy never wanted to go anywhere. He had been in the Army and already “seen the world.” Martha read the travel section of the newspaper and dreamed of Paris. They didn’t have any kids, so “the world’s our oyster,” she would tell him. Metropolis was about as far as he would go. Then one day, literally out of the sky blue, a baby boy crashed (also literally) into their lives. Martha’s husband wanted to take the kid to the police, but Martha took just one look into those baby blues and she was hooked. “Uh-uh, Jonathan,” she said to her husband. “We’re just going to mosey on down to the local orphanage, give the kid to them, and come back a few days later to take him home. That way nobody will question how we got a baby when everybody knows in this one-horse town I can’t have one. Sheesh, you can’t pass gas after Sunday dinner without old man Corsino telling everybody in church the next week.”

So that’s what they did. They were lucky nobody else wanted the kid.  (Now that would have been a whole ‘nother story – probably the “imaginary” kind.) In between they went over to the next town where there was a Babies ‘R’ Us and bought a crib and a changing table and boxes of Pampers, the start of going into parenthood hock. They decided to name the kid Clark, ‘cause that was Martha’s maiden name, and also they wanted the boy to be made fun of by all the other kids in school ‘cause Clark is such a dorky name.

A few months later Martha was vacuuming – Jonathan did the laundry, so it was a fair exchange – and went to move the couch, where all the dust bunnies lived. Baby Clark wanted to help mommy, so he picked the couch up. Martha went to the liquor cabinet and poured herself a stiff one.  When Jonathan came back from the lower 40 for lunch, he found an empty bottle of Johnny Walker Red and his wife in a drunken stupor. When she came to she had a hell of a headache and a hell of a story. Jonathan called Doc Newman who told him new mothers are under a lot of stress and to just take it easy with her. The doctor then hung up and called his wife and told her that Martha Kent was nuts.

Mrs. Newman called the Women’s Bible Study Group. At the next meeting Martha wondered if her Arrid Extra Dry had given out, ‘cause everybody was treating her like she had the bubonic plague or something. Except for Mrs. Lang. “I know just what you’re going through, Martha,” she said. “Sometimes I just want to take Lana and throw her out the window.” She gave Martha the number of her psychiatrist and some of her Xanax.  “Just to tide you over until you get an appointment with him, Martha. You’ll love him. The man is simply amazing.”

Martha went home and told her husband that he had a big mouth. Then she said, “I’m going to prove it to you.” Over Jonathan’s objections she woke up Clark, who started crying. She put him down next to the couch. Then she got out the vacuum cleaner and started cleaning.

“C’mon, Clark,” she said to the screaming infant. “Show Daddy how you helped Mommy yesterday.” Clark kept crying, dirtied his diaper and did not cooperate.

By the time Clark was in kindergarten Jonathan had apologized to Martha a million times for not believing her and had even taken her on a trip to Paris to make up for it – bringing Clark along of course, because where the hell could they find a babysitter for a kid who flew? Jonathan wanted to home-school Clark, but Martha said the kid needed “socialization.” Anyway, she got a job as a teacher’s assistant to keep an eye on him.

When Clark was in high school Jonathan didn’t want him to play any sports because he said it would be “unfair,” but Martha told him to shut up and told Clark to go ahead and try out for the football team. “Just don’t score too many touchdowns,” she said. “And let yourself get tackled once in a while.” When the other mothers wanted her to sign a petition banning football because it was “too dangerous,” she told them that football was as American as apple pie. Martha was very proud of Clark, but he had a crush on Lana Lang, who was the daughter of Mrs. Lang. Martha had never forgotten how Mrs. Lang had run around telling everybody that Martha refused to go to her shrink.

So Clark and grew up and became Superman, the Man of Steel, the hero of the world, the embodiment of the American dream of justice for all.

And he owes it all to Mom.

TUESDAY MORNING: Michael Davis Goes Black!

TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Emily S. Whitten Loves Deadpool!

 

MINDY NEWELL: “Superman? He Must Be Jewish!”

“I am a stranger in a strange land.”

As Superman zooms down into the torrent of Niagara Falls to save that dumb kid who is falling into the torrential waters of Niagara Falls, we hear an off-screen female voice – whom I’ve always imagined as Rob Reiner’s mother – saying:

“He must be Jewish.”

It’s a throw-away line, a bit of Yiddishkeit humor, in a movie (Superman II) about a comic book hero whose underlying themes are – you can say – chock full of Jewish mysticism and Jewish angst and Jewish hope and Jewish dissimilation and Jewish fatalism.

Think about it.

Facing annihilation as their world is torn apart by cataclysmic forces, loving parents rocket their child away in hope of their child finding refuge on an alien planet.

Facing annihilation as their world was torn apart by cataclysmic forces, loving Jewish parents in Hitler’s Europe spirited their children away into the hoped refuge of alien, Christian homes.

The child is raised in the Christian faith of his “foster” parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent of Smallville, Kansas, who do their best to keep the child’s true background a secret for fear that he would be taken away from them by the government and “studied” – or worse.

The Jewish children who survive the Holocaust learn the prayers and rites of the religion of their “foster” parents – Catholic, Protestant, or Muslim. All do whatever they can to keep the children’s true background a secret in fear of brutal, usually fatal, Nazi reprisals.

As an adult, the child uses his Earth name – Clark Kent – and religion as his “secret identity,” though he has learned that his true name is Kal-el, and that he is last survivor of the planet Krypton.

The Kryptonian “Kal-El” is close to the Hebrew קלאל, which can be interpreted as the “voice of God. The last name “Kent” is an Americanization of the name “Cohen,” and “Cohen” is a transcription of the Hebrew כֹּהֵן, or “kohen,” which means “priest.” Kohens were the priests in the Temple of Solomon in biblical Jerusalem – the last remaining remnant of which is still standing today, known as the Wailing Wall.

He is publicly known as Superman, a hero capable of God-like powers who uses those powers for the good of humanity.

“El” means “of God,” or just plain “God” in Hebrew, and is part of the names of the angels Michael, Gabriel and Ariel, who look human, but are agents of God who are capable of flying and performing great deeds of good through the use of their superhuman powers.

The schlemiel Clark Kent – schlemiel being Yiddish for an inept, clumsy, hopeless bungler – falls for the self-assured, brilliant, famous, respected and beautiful Lois Lane, but she only has eyes for Superman.

Jewish men are traditionally said to yearn for the forbidden shiksa – a non-Jewish woman – who represent the self-assured, respected women who belong to a world that is alien to Jews. These women traditionally ignore them in favor of the Don Drapers of the world.

So did Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster purposely create a Jewish superhero? The traditional answer is, of course, no. Siegel himself said he based the visual aspects of Superman on Douglas Fairbanks and Clark Kent on Harold Lloyd. But did he know that Fairbanks was actually born Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman, and was Jewish? Did he know that Harold Lloyd was the son of a Welshman and not Jewish? I doubt it, on both counts. But the subconscious does its own thing. To coin a phrase:

“Who knows what dreams lurk in the hearts of men?”

Or you can call it Jewish mysticism.

TUESDAY: Michael Davis

Happy Birthday: Clark Kent

Happy Birthday: Clark Kent

On June 18 (pre-Crisis version), a tiny spaceship crashed in a field outside Smallville, Kansas. Jonathan and Martha Kent happened by and discovered the spaceship—and its black-haired, blue-eyed infant occupant.

They took the baby in and decided to raise him as their own. One week later, on June 25, the adoption was made official and “Clark Kent” was born.

The last son of Krypton would keep that name, and his humble mortal identity, even after he grew up and came into his full powers as the Man of Steel, the mighty Superman.

 

Grace Paley, gone

Grace Paley, gone

Via Maud Newton comes word that Grace Paley has died at the age of 84.  I met Grace a few times through the War Resisters League, working the table at rummage sales.  She was like the greatest possible combination of my idol and my grandmother,  Her short stories were an important part of my personal literary odyssey, and her poetry was so personal to me that I read some at the memorial service for Kim Yale.  You can get a collection of all her short stories.  Her non-fiction prose, often about her time spent on the picket line to end war, combat racism or sexism, or her trips to Viet Nam, can be embarrassing in their enthusiasm and honesty.  Once, years ago, she agreed to write a Superman story, which never came to be.  I thought it would be cool for Martha Kent to talk to other moms in Washington Square Park. 

For me, this passage from one of my favorite stories, says it all:

The kids!  The kids! Though terrible troubles  hang over them, such as the absolute end of the known world quickly by detonation or slowly through the easygoing destruction of natural resources, they are stilll, even now, optimistic, humourous, and brave.  In fact, they intend enormous changes at the last minute.