Author Archives: Jew of the Week

Jew of the Week: Gene Colan

The Man Behind Captain Marvel

Gene “the Dean” Colan

Eugene Jules Colan (1926-2011) was born in The Bronx to a Jewish family that had changed their last name from “Cohen”. He started drawing when he was just three years old, and spent most of his time afterwards either drawing or reading comics. At 18, he got his first summer job drawing comics. Colan enlisted in the US Army shortly after, and was posted to the Philippines. During his service there, he sent his artwork to the Manila Times, and won an award for it. In 1946, he returned to New York and showed a sample of his work to Timely Comics, later renamed Marvel Comics. Stan Lee hired him on the spot, giving him a job as a “staff penciler” for $60 a week. Colan’s first feature cover was an issue of Captain America. Unfortunately, the comics industry went downhill, and Colan was let go. He did freelance work wherever he could, including at DC Comics, but eventually left the industry. He worked a menial job as an educational illustrator, struggled financially, and went through a difficult divorce. Thankfully things turned around a couple of years later when his second wife inspired him to go back into comics. Colan returned to Marvel during its “Silver Age”, taking over the story line of Iron Man, and introducing his first superhero, Sub-Mariner. He then took on Captain America, Doctor Strange, and Daredevil. In 1967, he and Stan Lee created a popular new character, Captain Marvel, and two years later, they introduced Falcon, the first African-American comic book hero. That same year, Colan and Arnold Drake co-created Guardians of the Galaxy. Throughout the 70s, Colan worked on perhaps his greatest project, the hugely popular 70-issue The Tomb of Dracula. In this run, he created (together with Marv Wolfman) the vampire-slayer Blade. Blade went on to become the first successful Marvel character adapted to film with 1998’s Blade, starring Wesley Snipes. The movie is credited with launching the comic book film craze, leading directly to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, now the highest-grossing film franchise of all time. In 1981, Colan signed with DC and took on Batman, becoming his primary illustrator until 1986, and playing a key role in reviving DC Comics. He also worked on Wonder Woman, and designed her new logo. Colan returned to Marvel once more and worked on Black Panther, then Blade, and Daredevil, among others. By this point he was nearly blind, yet somehow, amazingly, still found ways to continue his artwork. His last comic was Captain America #601 in 2009 – done when he was 83 years old! It earned him a prestigious Eisner Award, the “Oscars of comics”. Colan was renowned for his absolutely unique style, once described as “painting with a pencil”. Along with many other awards, Colan was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. The latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain Marvel, based on the original work of Colan (together with Roy Thomas), opens in theatres this Friday.

14 Facts About the Code of Jewish Law

Words of the Week

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.
– Ayn Rand

The film that would lead to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Blade, and the latest film in the MCU, Captain Marvel, are based on characters co-created and first visualized by Gene Colan.

Gene Colan’s cover art for Captain America #136 (1971) and Daredevil #41 (1968). (Credit: TCJ.com)

Jew of the Week: Grace Aguilar

Defender of Judaism

Grace Aguilar (1816-1847) was born in London to descendants of Sephardic Jewish refugees who fled the Portuguese Inquisition. Her parents were active leaders of London’s Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue. Grace was a sickly child, and seldom left her home for the first eight years of her life. During this time, she learned dance, piano and harp, and was tutored in Jewish studies and classical literature. She started writing at this time, too. As a teenager, her father taught her Hebrew and more advanced Jewish studies while she took care of him during a long bout with tuberculosis. She then took care of her ill mother, before being plagued with a serious case of measles starting at age 19. With her brothers away at boarding school, she bore the burden of caring for her parents and taking care of the family home. To raise more money, Aguilar strove to become a professional writer. Her first book, a collection of riddle-poems called The Magic Wreath of Hidden Flowers, was a huge success and launched her writing career. She then published a translation and explanation of an earlier Spanish work called Israel Defended, written to prevent Jews from converting to Christianity. Aguilar became good friends with future British prime minister (and former Jew of the WeekBenjamin Disraeli who helped her spread her writings. She soon convinced Isaac Leeser, editor of the popular Jewish magazine, The Occident, to publish her new book, The Spirit of Judaism, in 1842. The book was very popular both in America and England. Aguilar continued to write poetry, fiction, and treatises on Judaism. While she had become a bestseller, she still did not earn enough to care for her family, and had to work as a director of a Hebrew school. In 1845, Aguilar published Women of Israel, describing the lives of great Jewish women in history, and serving as an inspiration for countless Jewish women at the time. Some consider this to be her masterpiece. She followed that up with The Jewish Faith: Its Spiritual Consolation, Moral Guidance, and Immortal Hope, explaining the value and beauty of Judaism. Two years later, Aguilar was struck with spinal paralysis. She had already planned to set out on a trip to Europe, and refused to cancel it. She died in Frankfurt, and was buried in its Jewish cemetery. Her tombstone fittingly has verses from Eshet Chayil (“Woman of Valour”, from King Solomon’ Proverbs, chapter 31). Many more of Aguilar’s incredible works were published after her death, including collections of Jewish stories, novels for women, proto-Zionist writings, and works on Sephardic Jewish and English Jewish history. Her novel Home Influence, which had its first print just as Aguilar was dying, went on to sell out thirty editions. Her works were used as textbooks in some of the first American Hebrew schools. Although she was only 31 years old when she died, Aguilar is credited with being one of the most important Jewish educators and writers of her time, and playing a tremendous role in preventing Jews from assimilating and converting. Today, there is a public library named after her in New York City. Aguilar Point in British Columbia is named after her brother, who was an officer in the British Royal Navy. At her death, she was called “the moral governess of the Hebrew family”.

Words of the Week

There are rabbis who are so great that they can revive the dead. But reviving the dead is God’s business. A rabbi needs to be able to revive the living.
– Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzkthe Kotzker Rebbe