When it comes to representation, children look for it in some of the most interesting of places. I remember growing up watching Saturday morning cartoons and being able to identify with Tonto in the Lone Ranger cartoon. It wasn’t because I felt I was the good best friend or the sidekick to anyone but just because he was Brown like me. I look back at how I first tried to identify with characters that look like me and see now just how marginalized society saw us even in fictional worlds. This affected my upbringing, as I realized then that I would never really be seen for all I could possibly be.
Fast forward to today. Those same children my age and the prevailing generations that came after felt this same pain until recently. The world has never monolith or monochromatic and entertainment has recently recognized that. Comics, books, tv shows and movies have “normalized” what the masses have been yearning for. In Jimmy Bemon ’s Superman Isn’t Jewish (But I Am… Kinda), one such creator explores his identity through the prism of superheroes.
We are taken to Nice, France 1984, where a young boy, Benjamin, gets his first lesson Jewish identity from his father, who regals him with the ranks of famous people who just so happen to be Jewish, including Superman. This was a badge of honor. From the time his father let him know that Superman was Jewish, his appreciation for his faith and culture became that much more emboldened. He also in due course found out how being Jewish also made him different. And, like every kid, he just wants to fit in. He soon finds a friend, in Momo, who like Benjamin, hates to be ostracized because of his culture, so he adapted an Arabic identity versus his true nationality of Portuguese. The graphic novel follows Benjamin through his life as he explores his identity.
Overall, Superman Isn’t Jewish (But I Am… Kinda) is an impressive graphic memoir that explores self, religion, and pop culture. The story by Bemon is heartfelt, humorous, and relatable. The art by Emilie Boudet transports the reader to a different world. Altogether, it’s a story which gives readers affirmation that being different is a superpower.
Story: Jimmy Bemon Art: Emilie Boudet
Translation: Nanette McGuinness
Story: 10 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.7 Recommendation: Buy