MELUS: Multi-Ethnic Literature of the U.S.
How should we interpret the transnational economy of comic books produced and published by American Israelis in Israel that are distributed by American Jewish publishers in the United States? When such comic books earn haskamot—letters of approbation by religious authorities attesting to their religious merit and educational worthiness—and become religiously sanctioned Jewish books, what are the consequences for our understanding of American Jewish writing? Are Orthodox comic books a novel, albeit conservative form of Jewish oppositional culture? I asked these questions at the conclusion of an earlier essay on contemporary American Jewish comic books, hoping that others would see them as indicative of the issues describing and catalyzing a new area of American Jewish literary studies. In what follows I probe for answers: first, by establishing a critical and sociohistorical context for reading Mahrwood Press's Orthodox comic books as innovative but understudied cultural productions; and second, by analyzing a number of examples to show how they convey a masculinist, Jewish ethos opposed to an individualist, secular modernity while admiring ingenuity that conserves tradition. Mahrwood Press provides an exemplary case study, because its founder's biography and publishing vision, the artists and writers he commissioned, and the stories he wrote and published spotlight how issues of cultural renewal and heterogeneity complicate our understanding of networks and the flow of information across spaces, places, and times. Mahrwood also reveals a provocative strand of the contemporary religious imaginary in US and American Jewish comic books.
Roth, Laurence, "Innovation and Orthodox Comic Books: The Case of Mahrwood Press" (2012). English and Creative Writing Faculty Publications. 1.