Jews and comic books — two deeply entwined entities — will be the subject of a new pop culture convention coming to New York this fall.
Billed as the “ultimate comics and pop culture event,” the first-ever Jewish Comics Experience, or “JewCE,” will take place at the Center for Jewish History on November 11-12. Created by Fabrice Sapolsky, a comic book creator and publisher, and Dr. Miriam Eve Mora, the director of academic and public programs at the Center for Jewish History, the event aims to be “an inclusive convention, celebrating an industry largely created by Members of the Tribe, and promoting diverse Jewish narratives in comics and graphic novels,” according to the JewCE website.
“It’s really looking at diverse Jewish representation in comics and graphic novels through Jewish characters, narratives, themes and ideas,” Mora told the New York Jewish Week, describing how the event will celebrate both Jewish comics content and creators.
Historical connections of Judaism and comics
The history of Judaism and comics is long and rich, with Jewish stories arising in both popular comics and more esoteric ones. For example, Marvel briefly had a Jewish Black Panther character, while a new comic features an Asian-Jewish superhero. Meanwhile, some traditional Jewish texts have gotten the graphic novel treatment.
The convention, which is still being planned, will include panel discussions, meet-and-greets, exhibits and vendors. There will also be what the organizers believe is the first-ever awards ceremony held in celebration of Jewish comics and graphic novels, dubbed “The Jewcie Awards.”
Sapolsky was the founder of another Jewish Comic Con that was held in Brooklyn in 2016, with a follow-up event in 2018. The November conference — with appearances expected from from underground cartoonist Trina Robbins, Jewish Mexican-American graphic novelist Yehudi Mercado and others — will also coincide with a new exhibit opening at CJH that will focus on the Jewish comics experience in October. “It will have both a museum element with several micro exhibits focusing on the many worlds of Jewish comics, and then also an immersive experiential learning laboratory of the Jewish comics experience,” Mora said.
JewCE will take place one month after New York Comic Con, one of the biggest pop culture events of the year, where fans come to celebrate their love of comic books, graphic novels and video games — and the movies and TV shows based on them. Last year’s Comic Con faced criticism for its perceived lack of Jewish representation.
Mora said JewCE is not a response to Comic Con’s lack of Jewish representation. Rather, she said the conference will explore how “the comic medium is becoming a place for Jews in a very different way than it has been in the past.”
“Right now there is all this content coming out that shows Jewish characters as primary characters, who are of varying degrees of Orthodoxy and practice, from different Jewish backgrounds and regions,” Mora said.
She added, “It’s really starting to represent the diversity of the Jewish world in a new way.”