In this week’s Immortal Hulk #43, there is a panel that depicts Joe Fixit in a jewelry store, buying diamonds with stolen money. As innocuous as this may seem upon first glance, the window of the store reveals its name to be “Cronemberg Jewery” — no, not “Jewelry,” “Jewery”. Beneath the name of the shop, there is the Star of David/Magen David.
The combined visuals of a diamond store, with representations of Jewish imagery and the shop’s name, is highly troubling and unacceptable. This imagery is deeply rooted in antisemitism, referencing stereotypes of Jewish people owning gold and diamond businesses, and trading in immoral currency. As the Antisemitism Policy Trust puts it:
Antisemitic imagery repeatedly represents the Jews as ‘the Jew’, namely as one homogenous group working against society. Today, pictures echoing age-old antisemitic tropes can be found on social media, portraying the Jew as ‘the other’; as a nefarious controller of banks, Hollywood and politics, and as the hidden hand behind society’s contemporary problems.
This is not the first time antisemitic imagery has been published in the pages of Marvel. In 2017, artist Ardian Syaf was able to insert numbers referring to antisemitic and anti-Christian texts and messages into the pages of X-Men Gold #1.
The artist behind the panel, in this case, is Joe Bennett. Bennett has worked on the Immortal Hulk series from issue #1, along with writer Al Ewing. In response to the backlash against his work, Bennet posted the following statement:
The sincerity of Bennett’s message is debatable, to say the least. The misuse of one piece of imagery could be passed off as a careless mistake, but the incorporation of so many significant symbols in a single panel seems less like an unconscious blunder. To add to this, Bennett’s history on social issues has been disgraceful. Back in 2019, he commented, “that slap was mine too”, after a journalist was physically assaulted by a member of Brazil’s far-right. Moreover, Bennett, who has worked on a GLAAD award-winning series, has previously posted transphobic comments on social media.
Going forward, a lot of questions must be accounted for. Firstly, how did this get past editorial? The fact these panels were approved before publishing is astonishing in and as of itself. Secondly, what is to be done of Bennett? Syaf was fired from Marvel after his actions were brought to attention — will the same happen in this case? Marvel has thus far been tight-lipped on Bennet’s art — why is this instance any different from Syaf’s?
The matters in Immortal Hulk #43 are ultimately reflective of a wider issue in the comic book industry. Despite many publishers’ efforts to publicly show that they want to celebrate diversity, blatant hate speech such as Bennet’s remains unchecked. This case is one of many examples of widespread inequality in the realm of comic books. Comic publishers must start actively caring about the content they put out — not in terms of data and financial analysis, but in how it represents various peoples and identities.
The superhero genre was pioneered by Jewish writers and artists. Comics should be transformative, not actively oppressive. There are many creatives out there that are challenging issues such as antisemitism, white supremacy, homophobia, and so on, through their work. There should be no room in this industry for hate and discrimination.
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