As the holiday season approaches, many of us begin searching for the best gifts related to Spider-Man from Marvel or great items involving DC’s Batman for the comic book fan in their lives in time for Christmas. However, what if I told you that one of those superheroes is actually more likely to celebrate Hanukkah?
To anybody familiar with the character of Moon Knight before his Disney+ Marvel TV show premiered, it probably came as no surprise that the godly vigilante was Jewish. But there are many more famous characters from both the Marvel Comics multiverse and the DC Comics multiverse whom you know may not have realized also come from the same heritage. Let’s shine a spotlight on some of our favorite Jewish superheroes — starting with, perhaps, the most surprising name on our list.
While his heritage and religious beliefs have never been explicitly mentioned in Marvel Comics, Spider-Man is, perhaps, the publisher’s most famous Jewish superhero, if not the most famous Jewish superhero of all time. Hints to this fact — as brought to light by ScreenRant — include Peter Parker’s residence in Queens’ Forest Hills (a neighborhood with a prominent Jewish population) and heated confrontation with an anti-Semitic Baron Zemo in Non-Stop Spider-Man #4. Plus, in one of the best Spider-Man movies, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson) reflects Jewish tradition by stepping on glass during his wedding, and half-Jewish former Spidey actor Andrew Garfield cited Peter’s Judaism as a definitive characteristic during a 2014 Time Out interview.
Two of Kate Kane's most definitive character traits from the comics are that she is openly gay and openly identifies as Jewish. Both of these aspects of the Gotham City vigilante were honored on Batwoman when the Arrowverse-canon DC series was led by Ruby Rose in the role before she was replaced with Javicia Leslie as Kane’s successor to the cowl, Ryan Wilder. Taking this fact about her lineage into account, that would mean that Kane’s cousin, Bruce Wayne — who also moonlights the streets Gotham to fight crime as Batman — is half-Jewish himself, which would also reflect the heritage of both of his creators, Bill Finger and Bob Kane.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe probably just know Wanda Maximoff (portrayed by Elizabeth Olsen in the franchise) as a native of the fictional country of Sokovia. Those who follow the anti-heroic (and sometimes just plain villainous, such as in the House of M crossover event) magic-wielder’s story from the comics should know that she and her lightning-fast brother, Pietro “Quicksilver” Maximoff, are of Romani and Jewish heritage, as ScreenRant recalls. This makes sense when you remember who is the twin mutants’ biological father… whom we will talk about later.
More than four decades after he was first introduced in Marvel Comics, Ben Grimm’s Judaism was explicitly made canon in a 2002 issue of Fantastic Four called “Remembrance of Things Past,” in which the former pilot visits his old neighborhood, prompting childhood memories of his heritage. In a 2006 edition of The Thing’s solo title called “Last Hand” — which takes place 13 years after Ben’s transformation into a rock-skinned hero — he decides to hold a second Bar Mitzvah ceremony for himself to signify his “second life” as a superhero. Maybe this aspect of the character will play some sort of role in the MCU’s upcoming Fantastic Four movie, depending on who plays him, of course.
Another one of the most highly-anticipated upcoming Marvel movies is the MCU’s X-Men reboot, which hopefully includes Katherine “Kitty” Pryde, who is otherwise known as Shadowcat for her ability to phase through solid matter. One major aspect about the fan-favorite character that has gone unmentioned in previous X-Men movies (in which she was played by Elliot Page) is her Ashkenazi Jewish-American identity. She has proudly expressed this part of herself in the comics by wearing a Star of David around her neck.
Albert Rothstein — better known as Atom Smasher — is among the few openly Jewish characters in the DC Universe. In fact, the incredible shrinking (and growing) superhero — and godson of Al Pratt, the Golden Age Atom — is noted for his devout practicing which, at one point, led him to refuse a relationship with a non-Jewish fellow Justice Leaguer named Fire. However, his heritage was not mentioned when the character made his cinematic debut in Black Adam, as played by Noah Centineo.
Another X-Men character noted for being Jewish in Marvel Comics is Polaris, who has only been adapted for live-action media on Fox’s short-lived TV show, The Gifted, so far. Much like her mutant ability to control magnetism, Lorna Dane’s Jewish heritage comes from her father…
Erik Lehnsherr — better known as Magneto for his mutant ability to manipulate metallic substances — was previously known as Max Eisenhart when he and his family suffered persecution for their Jewish identities during the Holocaust, as CBR recalls. The off-and-on Marvel villain is only X-Men character whose cultural upbringing and origins in Nazi-occupied Poland have been explored in the movies — namely at the beginning of both the original from 2000 and 2011’s X-Men: First Class.
Much like the late Arleen Sorkin, who voiced her when she debuted on Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn is Jewish — a fact that may come as a surprise to even some of the biggest fans of the criminal psychologist-turned-criminal. According to an article on DC.com, the Gothamite’s heritage was hinted at in one of her first comic book appearances and later made official when she is visiting her interfaith family in Brooklyn during the holidays in 2010’s Gotham City Sirens #7. While this was never addressed in any of Academy Award nominee Margot Robbie’s portrayals, there is a chance that Lady Gaga’s iteration in Joker: Folie A Deux and another version from James Gunn and Peter Safran’s upcoming DC movies slate could.
Considering how some of the most iconic creators in comic book history were raised Jewish — including Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, and the aformentioned Bill Finger — it only makes sense that some of the most iconic characters from both DC and Marvel would reflect that culture as well.