The Eli Valley Experience

Posted by on June 10th, 2010 at 8:42 AM

In recent years there has been a flood of books and articles published on various aspects of Jews and comics. In addition to documenting the contribution of individual Jews to the development of the comics medium, these works of interpretation and scholarship often take up the question of whether and to what extent a specifically Jewish sensibility has imprinted itself on superhero storytelling, humor comics and the medium as a whole. For my money, the most sophisticated of these recent studies is Paul Buhle’s Jews and Comics: An Illustrated History of an American Art Form (2008) – an admittedly selective and occasionally eccentric text that nevertheless raises thoughtful questions about group identity, culture wars and humor as consolation.

The cartoonist Eli Valley is similarly interested in these knotty issues, which he explores each month in a one-panel strip that appears in the pages of the Jewish Forward under the title Comics Rescued From a Burning Synagogue in Bialystok and Hidden in a Salt Mine Until After the War. The paper helpfully maintains an online portfolio of his work, and the artist also posts his comics on his own website. Anyone interested in ongoing debates in the Jewish community, and the political uses of humor, should check out his work, which is smart, talkative and heavily inked. The only interview I could find on the web is here.

Here are three sample images to get things started. First, Valley’s hilarious words-and-pictures review of Buhle’s book (click on any image for a larger version):

Next, his metaphor-laden “Dawn of the Chimpanzee!”

And, finally, his most recent strip, “Bucky Shvitz: Sociologist for Hire”:

Eli Valley receives plenty of emails and letters from readers – not all of them complimentary, to be sure – but his work is not particularly well known among comics fans. That should change.

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