The Awesome Superpowers of the Jewish Hero Corps
Blending religion and comic books isn't exactly a new idea. Back in the '70s, the Archie characters appeared Spire's line of Christian comics illustrated by Al Hartley, Willie Aames (of "Charles in Charge" fame) played a super-hero named Bibleman who got his powers from scripture, even the current "Brightest Day" storyline has an awful lot of Biblical connotation to it.
These guys, however, take things to the next level:
Yes, The Jewish Hero Corps: A team of super-powered Orthodox Jews who perform mitzvahs in the name of Justice. Originally created by Alan Olrich -- who debuted the team on a CD-ROM way back in 1996 -- the team was inspired by his desire to both see more Jewish super-heroes and pay tribute to the lighthearted adventures of DC's Silver Age. And as you can tell from the clasic sixties Go-Go Checks across the top of the comic, he went all out in that second goal, creating a team that's best described as amazingly over-the-top.
'I originally came across the Jewish Hero Corps on, of all places, an online costume retailer, where members of the team have been immortalized in colorful action suits meant to be worn on Purim. I do, after all, consider myself to be pretty well-versed in super-heroes, and when I see something I'm not familiar with, I make an effort to seek it out.
I've never read the actual comics (though now that I know they exist, I want them so bad), but there's a wealth of information out there about them, and each fact is more senses-shatteringly awesome than the last. Each member of the team has powers that, in true Silver Age fashion, represents an extremely specific aspect of Judaism in a way with so much literalism that it puts guys like the Calendar Man to shame.
First up, the team leader:
Menorah Man, who is secretly astronaut Earl Chandler (a fittingly Silver Agey pun on "oil" and a name that has its roots in candle-making) was stranded on the planet Mercury, where he ate olives that had been imbued by cosmic rays. As a result, he now has the ability to grow six extra arms for a grand total of eight, each of which is capable of projecting flame-like energy blasts. And if that wasn't enough to make him a human menorah, he's also listed as having a body with the strength and endurance of metal.
I haven't read the comics so I don't know if it comes up, but I've got to assume that during Hanukkah, he can only use one hand to shoot energy on the first night, and then grows progressively more powerful as the next eight nights pass.
If Menorah Man is the team's Superman, then the role of Batman is filled by Kipa Kid, alias the Yarmulke Youth and -- wait for it -- The Capped Crusader. The Kid has no super-powers save for his array of trick yarmulkes, including a yamarang that he uses to incapacitate crooks and a motorcycle manufactured by -- and this is actually in the "JHC" comics -- Yarmaha.
The best origin story on the entire team belongs to Matzah Woman, who gained her powers of Microwave Vision and invulnerability by eating unleavened, yet somehow radioactive matzah. Seriously. That is fantastic, as is the fact that the only thing that can hurt her and take away her powers is being submerged underwater for 18 minutes, which (according to Wikipedia) is the amount of time after dough gets wet that the leavening process begins.
Adding a little Marvel-style flavor to the Corps is Magen David, who's named for -- as you might expect -- the Hebrew term for the Star (or Shield) of David. Again, I have no idea if this is how it actually plays out, but despite the obvious Captain America imagery, I get the idea that he's totally the Wolverine of the team. You know, the tough as nails loose cannon who's always getting up in Menorah Man's grill and saying stuff like "Back off, bub! I only follow one man's laws, and you don't look like Moses to me!"
Minyan Man -- alias the Decimal Daredevil, real identity: UNKNOWN! -- is the muscle of the team, with his ability to split into ten men, a Minyan being a quorum of ten men required for religious services. And even though he's a super-hero, his mother still calls him every week, wondering why he couldn't have become ten doctors instead.
I don't think I need to explain anything about Dreidel Maidel, other than to say that she has what is unquestionably the best name of all time.
My favorite member of the team, though...
...is Shabbas Queen, whose magic wand gives her the ability to stop any electronic devices for 24 hours, but it only works six days out of the week. That's stone cold brilliant on its own, but if I'm honest with you guys, I have to confess that my enjoyment of the character springs largely from imagining her shouting at the rest of the team in John Goodman's voice about how she does not roll on Shabbas! Mark it zero, Minyan Man, or you are entering a world of pain.
Unfortunately, the JHC have only starred in two comic books so far -- including one where they take on the Forget-Me Bots, robots designed to eliminate the memories and culture of the Jewish people -- so it's doubtful that they'll ever reach the fame enjoyed by their more mainstream counterparts like Kitty Pryde, Magneto, Ragman, Sabra, Moon Knight, Batwoman and (of course) the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing, but they're pretty great nonetheless. You can find out more about them at, appropriately enough, JewishSupers.com, and they're even up on Facebook!