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Stuff White People Like Stealing

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Considering that

  • two Jews from the Bronx, Bill Finger and Robert Kahn (Bob Kane) created Batman
  • two Jews in Cleveland, Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster, created Superman
  • a Jew from Washington Heights, Mortimer Weisinger, created Green Arrow and co-created Aquaman
  • another Jew from Washington Heights, Stanley Lieber (Stan Lee), teamed up with a Jew from Brooklyn, Jacob Kurtzberg (Jack Kirby), to create the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Hulk, the Silver Surfer, the Black Panther, Galactus, Doctor Doom, and Iron Man
  • a few decades earlier, a Jew from Rochester, Joseph Simon, had also partnered with Kurtzberg, and together they’d created Captain America
  • another Brooklyn Jew, William Eisner, is possibly the most important comic artist ever (dayenu); arguably invented the graphic novel (dayenu); wrote two of the most influential theoretical books about comics (dayenu); and has the award for creative achievement in the medium named after him

would it be fair to say that white people stole superheroes from the Jews the same way they’d stolen rock ‘n roll from black people?*

*Not really.  This is territory is trod plenty and well, but it’s worth rehearsing: Elvis Presley borrowed rock ‘n roll from black people, and always returned as much of it as he could promptly and with gratitude.  But he could never give it all back, because from the perspective of white America, it tainted him: anyone that the New York Times could call, as it did Elvis in 1956, a “blues shouter … imbued with the spirit and style of those Negro singers” clearly had dangerous and unsavory associations. That same year, the Chicago Defender pushed the issue of this affinity to the fore in articles like “Arrival of Elvis Presley No Puzzle to T-Bone Fans,” in which Presley’s speech was rendered in Negro dialect: “Yew-oo ain’t nuthin but a houn’ dawg,” the paper has him singing; later, he explains his style by saying “Ah’m jus’ singin’ the only way ah know how.”  Claiming, as Eric Lott did in Love and Theft, that Elvis was no better than a Nineteenth Century minstrel; or, as people generally do, that he stole rock ‘n roll from black people, misses the point: many black intellectuals, following the lead of black musicians, not only praised Elvis for respecting their tradition, they loved the fact that, via Elvis, that tradition had been embraced by the sons and daughters of die-hard Dixiecrats.  One editorial in the Defender (that I can’t relocate at the moment) was a series of winks, nods, and nudges about ceremony in Tupelo at which John Rankin, reputed to be the last white man to utter the word “nigger” in anger at a black man on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, was forced to bestow some sort of honor on Tupelo’s most famous son.**

**I’m not sure why the footnote is that much more substantial and academic than the post it qualifies, but I figure that if I can get away with it in a dissertation, I can get away with it on a blog.

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