Comic strip from 1950.
Comic strip from 1950. (William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History)

Regarding Jewish cartoon heroes, have you heard of Captain Tov? The JN published “The Adventures of Captain Tov” from November 1950 to March 1951.

It was recently announced that Americans will have a new hero. To be precise, a new Jewish superhero. DC Comics, creators of Superman, Batman, the Flash and other comic book and movie superheroes, debuted Jewish Superhero, “Whistle,” in September.

“Whistle” is the heroine in a graphic novel written for young adults: Whistle: A New Gotham City Superhero. She hails from the same fictional city as Batman and is the first explicitly Jewish superhero in DC Comics in 44 years. Whistle’s secret power (superheroes almost always have a secret power) is the ability to communicate with dogs. May Whistle have a long run thrashing the bad guys.

From 1950
William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History

The one Jewish superhero in DC Comics before Whistle was “Seraph.” She was an Israeli who gave Superman a hand in “Super Friends #7” in 1977.

It is also worth noting that two Jewish guys, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, began the comic book superhero genre in 1938 with debut of Superman in “Action Comics #1.” By the way, a nice copy of this pathbreaking comic book is worth several million dollars. If you have one, don’t lose it! 

From 1951
William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History

Regarding Jewish cartoon heroes, have you heard of Captain Tov? The JN published “The Adventures of Captain Tov” from November 1950 to March 1951. You will find this serial in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History. Just search for “Captain Tov.”

Captain Tov may be a bit dated, but his adventures still offer a peek into a historical era, both in Israel and the U.S. His adventures occurred less than two years after the founding of Israel. 

In the first episode of the “Adventures of Captain Tov,” one learns that Joseph Steinmerz (aka Captain Tov) came of age during the Nazi’s rise to power in Germany. He escaped to France but lost his parents in the Holocaust. Steinmerz then joined the famous Jewish Brigade and fought the Nazis during WWII. Afterward, when “the roar of the guns rumbled in Palestine,” he joined the Haganah. While Steinmerz had no superpower, his extreme heroics earned him the rank of captain. Men under his command gave him his nickname, “Captain Tov” (or Captain “Good” in English).

From 1950
William Davidson Digital Archive of Detroit Jewish History

After the Israeli War of Independence, Captain Tov returned to a village in the Negev. But he had no respite. There was a bad guy lurking about, and the captain must fight once again to protect a group of pioneers. Riding his majestic steed, “Mazel” (a horse that is a lot like the Long Ranger’s “Silver”), the saga of Captain Tov begins. I’ll say no more about the storyline … except that, like all superheroes, Captain Tov does prevail.

The creation of Captain Tov was a religiously diverse effort of three WWII veteran soldiers. A Jew and a Protestant, Joe Harrison Freid and Henry W. Larson, wrote the text, and a Catholic lad, John Belcastro, drew the cartoon.

There is a brief introduction to the Adventures of Captain Tov in the Nov. 10, 1950, issue of the JN. Danny Raskin also writes about Captain Tov in the same issue. 

Captain Tov last appears on March 30, 1951, as he leaves for a new unknown assignment behind the Iron Curtain. His parting words are to thank his readers, and “God Save Israel.” 

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.

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