Recent scholarship has identified multiple levels of interplay between American Jews and sequential art stories (comics). Many comics are now widely understood to be artifacts of the evolving Jewish American experience; this interplay is understood to have grown out of the cultural history, sociology, and social-psychology of the Jews who created, produced, and consumed these comics. But relatively little research has been done on the appropriation and incorporation of Jewish Tradition (Heb. Mesorah) in comics and how this incorporation mirrors the changing relationship of Jewish culture to American (predominantly Protestant) culture.
Using textual and visual criticism, supplemented by the selective application of Jewish studies, mythological studies, sociology, and feminist theory, the authors offer insight into an aspect of that appropriation by tracking a single figure from Jewish folklore that comic writers and artists have drawn on, again and again: Lilith, first wife of Adam, hypersexual transgressor, demon mother, infanticide, and evil personified. Lilith’s trajectory and revision through pulp visual narratives over the past forty years sees her evolve from the traditional demon harridan into a feminist antihero, a mother seeking redemption from her daughter, and, eventually, an American superhero teammate. Her literary-visual transformations offer a pop culture perspective on Jewish Tradition’s evolution from a despised to an accepted element in American culture. Moreover, the continuous hybridization of Lilith’s story with Christian motifs, classical mythology, contemporary issues, and American history is a marker of a larger rapid and distinctively American assimilation of Jewish Tradition into the American intellectual and imaginative canon.