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Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive...it's Funnyman?

Thomas Andrae

Sociology Instructor Thomas Andrae

  • December 3, 2010 5:18am

Cal State East Bay Sociology Instructor Thomas Andrae has published over seven books on comics, popular culture, and social theory, including the autobiography, Batman & Me, co-authored with Bob Kane.

His latest book, Siegel and Shuster's Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero, from the Creators of Superman (Feral House 2010), co-written with Mel Gordon, focuses on “Funnyman” a short-lived 1948 newspaper strip designed by the creators of Superman.  It was their failed attempt to create another popular superhero after they lost Superman in a lawsuit. 

"I trace out the history of the Jewish influence on Superman," said Andrae. "Including an inspiration from the Golem myth and a Jewish strongman named Breitbart. He was nicknamed Superman and appeared in Jerry Siegel's hometown of Cleveland, Ohio when Jerry was nine years old.  This appearance may have inspired the superhero's name."

A reviewer at Publishers Weekly wrote, "…Funnyman’s immediate historical relevance is as the character Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created as their follow-up to Superman, but underlying that is a point of larger cultural importance.  Andrae and Gordon approach the character as the most straightforward expression of Jewishness in comics at the time, and as a springboard to a wider discussion of the history of Jewish humor…Funnyman was the result of Siegel and Shuster turning a specific ethnic style into a more universal one. Funnyman might come from Jewish tradition, but in comics form he becomes any goofy guy who has to stand up against brute force of any sort. He’s far more reflective of the reading audience, as well as the creators, than Superman ever was, though Clark Kent was an attempt to rectify that. The Yiddishisms might have whispered to one audience, but the 'schlemiel' is something many people can identify with…"

Watch video of Andrae and Gordon discussing, “Funnyman."

KL

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