New book about Funnyman, a Jewish superhero from the Golden Age of Comic Books

Funnyman Cover Adam

Feral House has a great new book coming out about Funnyman, an unusual and short-lived comic book series created by Superman's Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Funnyman was a clown-like superhero who used gags, pranks and Yiddishisms to defeat his humor-deficient enemies. He was a dead ringer for Danny Kaye, one of my favorite comedians. The comic book was a total flop. It ran for six issues and went out of business. Siegel and Shuster tried to keep it going as a newspaper strip, but gave up after a year. The team never worked together again. (Joe Shuster went on to illustrate seedy little bondage booklets, barely scratching out a living. You can read all about it in Craig Yoe's book, Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-creator Joe Shuster.)

The video above consists of interviews with Mel Gordon and Thomas Andrae, the co-authors of Siegel and Shuster's Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero from the Creators of Superman. It also describes how the invention of Superman might have been inspired by a Jewish vaudeville strongman from the 1920s named Siegmund Breitbart, who was billed as a "Superman of Strength."

Pre-order Siegel and Shuster's Funnyman: The First Jewish Superhero, from the Creators of Superman


  1. I’m curious why one would want to ‘label’ a comic character with a specific religion. Is it so Jewish readers would find it easier to project themselves onto the character? Time to go back and re-scan Understanding Comic to see how it fits…

    1. I don’t think Siegel or Shuster labeled him as Jewish. Also, although “Yiddishisms’ are mentioned I wish they’d show a panel or two where they were used! I didn’t see anything that sounded more Jewish than any other superhero dialogue (which was being written by mostly Jewish writers at the time anyway!) I still want to read this book, though!

      1. Well, the thing is even Car 54: Where Are You? is an extremely Yiddish show, but it doesn’t wear it on it’s sleeve. I mean, watch some of the episodes like when the kid gets Bar Mitzvahed or an old Jewlish lady gets evicted from her home.

        From my perspective, most folks who were only born—let’s say—in the last 25 years really don’t know or appreciate how much a Yiddish POV has contributed to the world of comedy, comics and pop culture. Not too many people actually even connect the Jewish aspects of many superheros either. But once you get it, it makes all the sense in the world.

        So marketing this book as an entry point to saying “Look, check out this aspect of secular Jewish culture that is part of the zeitgeist…” is a decent idea.

        An aside, I really wish more modern media creators would embrace the idea of mixing humor and seriousness the way old Jewish creators did. Look at the original Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 versus the remake: The remake has 100% no humor and sucks. The original is filled with New Yorkisms and slightly Yiddish humor and darkness. It’s an awesome film.

      1. “You mean Paul McCartney was in a band before *Wings*?!?”

        – some 80s teenager

  2. FTA from wiki about Siegmund Breitbart: “He lifted a baby elephant. While holding on to the elephant, he climbed a ladder and held a locomotive wheel by rope in his teeth while 3 men were suspended from the wheel.”

    I am going to have to call bullshit on this one.

  3. My J-dar flashes with most superheroes, c’mon Superman, Spiderman, Batman… Sounds like should go have a le’chaim after mincha with their buddies Goldman and Greenman.

  4. This is really to insulting my heritagee, but I am a big fan of comic books so might have to live with this. I am really close with my dad though, because we spent some special time together when we were young, and I remember he told me that he was a superhero and I couldn’t tell my mom or else. All my friends at Cornell think I am weird but its oks.

    Joshua Max Kaufman

  5. Moin, Moin from Texas!
    If you like Jewish entertainment of the 1920s, you might like Brendan McNally’s dark comic novel “Germania” (Simon & Schuster, 2009), about the Flying Magical Loerber Brothers, four somewhat magical, Jewish vaudeville entertainers and onetime child stars who were the toast of Berlin before WWII and who reunite during the surreal, three-week “Flensburg Reich” of Admiral Doenitz, Hitler’s very unlucky successor.

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