By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
This week is a time for many cultures to make be merry. Whether it’s with Solstice, Hanukah or Christmas or another tradition, it really does not matter. Some may even prefer to cozy up with a good book to read instead. That’s what I normally do when the rest of the world is ready to hunker down for the holidays (and play video games). I marvelled at how well put together SCI The Jewish Comics Anthology Volume 2 is.
The writing and artwork by all the various contributors (David Mack, Ty Templeton and Michael Norwitz are just a sampling of the 26 talents recruited), make this collection a worthwhile add to any science fiction enthusiasts collection. I also had the opportunity to speak with Andy Stanleigh, the President of Alternate History Comics Inc who published this series.
I see on Amazon, the first volume encompasses various genres–from adventure to horror. Why make volume two all about science fiction?
Volume one was unique in that it was, at the time, one of the largest collections of Jewish-themed comic book works. It included original stories and republished works by some of the largest creators in the industry–Will Eisner, Art Spiegelman, Robert Crumb, and even a story originally edited by Stan Lee.
In the years since, with the resurgence of Star Trek, Star Wars and other sci-fi properties in mainstream media (and of course, in all the decades prior), “sci-fi” has become a category by itself, which contains sub-genres of romance, horror, comedy, drama, etc. Within the genre of sci-fi, many stories can be told. This was the connecting thread that we were looking for when planning Volume 2.
How are the writers and artists selected and/or paired? Did they have a choice in which Jewish story to retell?
For SCI I gave The Jewish Comics Anthology Volume 2 a list of cultural stories, tales and fables from Hebrew culture to create a full comic book story from. There were just two (out of 18) authors who had a story already prepared outside our list that they brought to the table.
When it came time to choose artists, we looked at each artists’ portfolio and style and matched stories to them depending on their visual style. For example, “The Clock” was written as a psychological piece, a mix between 2001 and In The Mouth of Madness. We chose Richard Pace, whose style has the right visual tone, atmosphere and texture.
How much creative freedom did they have when assigned a work to reinterpret?
The way AH Comics likes to work in is a collaborative spirit. Even though a script may be written with a specific number of pages, panels and description of each scene, an experienced artist can visualize the entire story and suggest alternate options for scenes, action, etc. Authors are wonderful for telling the tales, while artists are the ones responsible for bringing them to life. We trust an artist’s instinct on what works and what doesn’t when pencil goes to paper.
Had the publication been set for December instead of August, would Christmas tales have been considered?
That was set because it is right in front of the Fall, and allowed enough time for wholesalers and distributors to get the book set up for the December shopping season (We plan retail sales at least 6-8 months in advance). November or December typically is when Hanukah occurs for the Jewish community.
As a connection to Christmas, in the Bible, John 10:22 tells of Jesus visiting a “Feast of Dedication.” Hannukah follows the lunar cycle and on the Hebrew Calendar the date is the 25th of Kislev, which some scholars believe is how it was decided that Christmas would be celebrated on the 25th day of December.
How would you summarize this week long celebration to readers unfamiliar with it?
The story of Hannukah goes back thousands of years to 200BC when the Hebrew city of Judea was taken over. The dictator ordered the Jewish religion outlawed and destroyed the holy temple in Jerusalem. Jewish resistance soldiers, known as the Maccabees, fought back and drove them out of the city.
With the temple destroyed, the few remaining Jewish congregants searched for oil to light the Menorah (a type of branched lamp). Only enough was found to last just the night, except by a miracle the lamp burned for eight nights. As the Second Holy Temple was rebuilt, each year a dedication was held; Known as The Festival of Lights, the word “Hannukah” also means “dedication.”
Were you worried about publishing when considering this started as a crowdfunding (Kickstarter) project?
There is always some anxiety around whether or not it will reach its goal. AH Comics has had five successful Kickstarter campaigns, but we’ve also had three unsuccessful ones. An entire interview/article could be written by itself on our Kickstarter experiences and history. LOL
SCI reached the funding goal just in time and we are extremely thankful to the 500+ supporters!
Which Jewish legends would you say are a lot more universal? For example, across all cultures, there’s always been a variant of The Flood myth. I enjoyed the SCI version, which suggests there’s been more than one when humanity gets testy.
Oh yes, the Flood narrative is the most shared story across various cultures. The first ever put into full prose in the Epic of Gilgamesh from c.2700BC, though the Gilgamesh tablets have references to this flood myth, which were carved almost 5,000 years earlier in c.7500BC. Hebrew culture and Christianity share a common narrative, including stories like Moses and the Ten Commandments, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, and David and Goliath.
Are there plans for a volume three?
Right now, there is no specific plan. We would love to put one together. If editor Steven Bergson has a concept for a theme and how the third volume could be shaped, we’ll look at moving ahead in the near future!