The Jewish elements of Ukraine's Zelensky's new biographical comic

The author tells the story of Ukraine's president and doesn't forget his Jewish background

 The cover of 'Political Power: Volodymyr Zelensky' (photo credit: Darren G. Davis)
The cover of 'Political Power: Volodymyr Zelensky'
(photo credit: Darren G. Davis)

The comic book world was ecstatic to find out that a new animated biography featuring the life of Ukraine’s popular President Volodymyr Zelensky has been published – but The Jerusalem Post has a sneak peak of all of the Jewish elements of this new comic book.

In a story ripped from the headlines, TidalWave Comics of Portland, Oregon, announced last week the addition of a biography of Zelensky to its popular comic book series featuring political movers and shakers. Political Power: Volodymyr Zelensky was released on May 18. A portion of the profits from the comic book will be donated to the International Red Cross in honor of the crisis in Ukraine.

“And heroes tend to come from the unlikeliest of places,” the author writes in one of the first pages. Then, the book shows Zelensky kneeling in front of a grave of one of his family members – in an army uniform. “This is a story about a family of four brothers,’’ Zelensky is quoted saying, “three of them, their parents and their families became victims of the Holocaust. All of them were shot by German occupiers who invaded Ukraine,” Zelensky’s comic book character is quoted saying.

“More than a million Jewish Ukrainians were killed during the Holocaust,” the author writes. Zelensky said that “The fourth brother survived after the war, his wife escaped an evacuation of Jews to Kazakhstan, returning to Kryvyi Rih (the largest city in central Ukraine and 7th most populous city in the country). Two years after the war, he had a son and in 31 years, he had a grandson,” fictional Zelensky tells the readers.

The scene in the book changes to a meeting between two heads of state, on January 24, 2020: Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the right and Zelensky as an adult on the left. Three Ukrainian flags and three Israeli flags stand firmly in the background.

 Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen meeting with then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in this panel from 'Political Power: Volodymyr Zelensky' (credit: Darren G. Davis) Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen meeting with then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in this panel from 'Political Power: Volodymyr Zelensky' (credit: Darren G. Davis)

Both of these men are historic Jewish leaders. “In 40 more years, that grandson became president, and he is standing before you today, Mr. Prime Minister,” Zelensky says. “Your nationality, your religion, your age, your sex, your place of birth have no meaning when there’s the kind of word and heart that moves you inside against the total evil you stand against.”

Netanyahu shakes Zelensky’s hand and says: “This is incomparable courage. The story of your own family. The struggle for life. The struggle for the future. This is what our common story represents.”

The author continues “This is the story of a man born of survivors.”

On the next page, the author tells the story of Ukraine’s president and doesn’t forget, again, his Jewish background. “Like many people who lived in the Dnipropetrovsk region, he was raised Jewish and acquired fluency in Russian, Ukrainian and English.” He is shown wearing a kippah and a tallit, at age 13, with both of his parents on his side in front of a Torah scroll – while reading the Torah as tradition states. His father is also wrapped with a prayer shawl and wearing a kippah.

It is also mentioned that Zelensky was supported as an actor and filmmaker by Jewish-Ukrainian-Israeli billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky, who is president of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine and also founded the European Jewish Union. His media power and funding supported Zelensky while running for president.

 

POLITICAL POWER: Volodymyr Zelensky is written by Michael Frizell and drawn by Pablo Martinena. This 22-page book is available digitally and in print and can be found on multiple platforms. A special hardcover collectible of the comic book will be available. TidalWave has profiled politicians for more than 11 years using the unique storytelling properties of comic books.

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen having a bar mitzvah in 'Political Power: Volodymyr Zelensky' (credit: Darren G. Davis) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen having a bar mitzvah in 'Political Power: Volodymyr Zelensky' (credit: Darren G. Davis)

A former actor and comedian, Zelensky serves as the sixth president of Ukraine. At the height of his popularity on national television, playing the president in The Servant of the People, he unseated the incumbent president by running on an anti-corruption platform – and Russia watched. For years, tensions between Ukraine and Russia brewed as the larger nation aggressively annexed the Crimean peninsula while Ukrainians made social changes that distanced themselves from Russian norms.

“This was a challenging script to write,” Frizell said. “The publisher and I wanted to focus on the man beyond the media’s current focus – Ukraine’s war with Russia and Zelensky’s battle of wills with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Who is he? What makes him tick? Why is he the right leader for Ukraine at this moment? Those are the things I was curious about when I started the research.”

Frizell told the Post in an e-mail that “with 22 pages, I had to pick and choose what to depict from his life and what to leave to the imagination. The Jewish sequence in the book is about his grandparents fleeing the country; he retells that story to Netanyahu in 2020.”

Publisher Darren G. Davis told the Post that “As the publisher and creator of the series, I am also Jewish and my grandparents emigrated from Ukraine when they were children. I have his papers from when he came to the United States in the early 1900’s. But I recently learned my father’s great-grandfather was from Ukraine as well. 

“So trusting Michael 1000% with telling the story, we wanted to tell what about Zelensky was super important," Davis said. "He is an amazing, unbiased writer. We decided to tell his story so people can understand him as a person.”

The latest biography comic book joins TidalWave’s ever-growing library of more than 200 comic book biographies. Previous titles have profiled Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Condoleezza Rice, George Bush, Justin Trudeau, Nelson Mandela and Elizabeth Warren, among others.