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Am I a Jewish Creator?

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In 1984 I wrote my first novel. In early 1995 my first ever fan fiction work was published in an Australian Star Wars fanzine called Alliance. More than ten years ago I began work on an as yet incomplete fantasy novel. A decade has passed since I came up with my first superhero team. Six and a half years ago I wrote my first comics script. Three and a half years ago I started writing columns for US-based comic book websites. Five weeks ago my first comic book work debuted in the United Kingdom.

Through all of this I have cited Star Wars, The Dark Crystal, Dragonlance, Tad Williams, Robert Jordan, Angus Wells, George Lucas, Rob Liefeld, Brian Bendis as inspirations. Never once have I sat down to discover whether my being Jewish and my cultural upbringing have influenced my creative drive.

They say that you can take the Jew out of Judaism, but you can never take the Judaism out of the Jew. From such a literal viewpoint there is only one answer; my Jewishness has colored all of my creative work since 1984. However, as always in life, things are not always black and white. Out of the dozens of comic book characters that I have created, only two are Jewish; one of them only ‘became’ Jewish after my third revamp of the character.

So, am I a Jewish creator or a creator who is Jewish?

As I grow older and come closer to starting my own family, my faith is becoming more important to me. Only a few months ago I started going to synagogue each week and just last Tuesday I began attending an Old Testament class. My wife is freaking out, first it was comics, now it is religion – so just how much will this impact on my dream to be a published writer?
At the moment I have one main comic book project on my plate. The story is action, action, action and it has a distinct espionage bent. This is not They and Them that some of you may remember from my Industrial Evolution column. This is a new project that I am writing for a new indy publisher. The story has nothing to do with Judaism; none of the characters are Jewish and none of the story’s elements have any grounding in spirituality. After all, this is the tale of a love scorned and a lust for revenge.

I do have some properties of my own that are influenced by religion. The previously mentioned project with the Jewish character is one of them. I am also writing a story with angels and demons that is heavily influenced by Underworld. Plus there is one more story about soldiers from heaven that I have been planning to work on for about six years (where does the time go?).

My favourite creator owned property, which I have written two scripts for, is an eight issue exploration of guilt and redemption and how one generation pays the price for the sins of their fathers; its heavy stuff I guess, yet there are some comedic moments thanks to the characters from Tiki’s Phayrie. While this is not a strictly religious piece, there are characters with strong faith in the book and many characters have their belief tested to breaking point by heartbreak and loss.

You might just call these dramas and maybe when I conceived them they were, but we write and create through our vision of the world. We all see things from a certain point of view, however everything in life is in a constant state of flux; even our views can change. Concepts of faith, rebirth, love, redemption, evil and heroism pervade my work. These are timeless themes of story and are reflected in both the Bible and in popular fiction.

In the western world we live in a predominantly Judeo-Christian culture. This may be being challenged, but at this point in time this paradigm remains the central tenet of our societies. As such, can we say that all stories born from this culture are influenced by Judeo-Christian thought? Yes, you could.

If the prevalence of Judeo-Christian values so strongly exert their will over story, why do we read in comics tales of superheroes, werewolves, alien races, magic, vampires and mutants? Surely this content differs greatly from any type of story that would receive the implicit blessing of a church, mosque or synagogue? Perhaps that is the case. But as Rabbi Weinstein argues, the first superheroes can be found in the Old Testament and in the ancient texts that predate it.

Surely Moses, Muhammad, Jesus and Buddah were the spiritual forerunners to superheroes? The miracle is the biblical equivalent of a superpower, isn’t it? What do you think? Are these the mad ravings of a Jew hoping to find meaning in comic book panels or am I on the right track?

At the end of the day I want to be known as Jason Berek-Lewis, comic book creator. That is the only label that I am after. I don’t need to be known as a Jewish creator because my faith is something personal that defines me for me, not for anyone else (so why have I spent a whole column writing about it?).

Some creators wear their faith as a badge of pride. Some use it to sell their comics. Others hide it behind a basement of long boxes. To each their own. I am proud of my faith and my heritage and the positive impact this has on my stories.

In the end, that’s all that matters.

Next: Ignition! #1

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