In Summer 2015 and 2017 I spent time in Jordan, Israel, and Palestine doing a number of things related to my work as Middle East Studies Librarian at the Michigan State University Libraries. One of my goals was collecting comics, to add to our international comic art collection, a vast and beautifully cataloged and cared-for archive under the direction of Randy Scott. We already owned a core collection of Israeli comics from the turn of the 21st century, donated to and acquired by Randy, including work by the influential Rutu Modan.
In 2015 my visit coincided with Animix, a comics and animation festival held annually at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. There was an open-air exhibition outside the cinematheque, where I became acquainted with the work of some of Israel’s top contemporary political cartoonists, including Michel Kichka, who also has written a graphic memoir, Second Generation.
Like other comics and zine festivals, inside there were tables with authors/creators drawing, selling, and signing their work. Noa Katz was signing copies of her zine-like work Life’s A Bitch. Ofer Zanzuri signed and drew in his then-new work Smoke, which seemed a departure from his Israeli superheroes series, more introspective and grey, and if I recall correctly reflects the author’s brush with cancer.
I bought most everything from the artists who were there.
In 2015 I had heard about a comics store in Tel Aviv, Comics N Vegetables, but didn’t have time to visit. So this past summer I made a pilgrimage. Inside the store there were many shelves of American and other international comics, but only two of Israeli/Hebrew comics. I bought most of what I did not buy at Animix two years prior. I was excited to see that Noa Katz had published a book, and to “meet” many artists I hadn’t encountered before, such as Teddy Goldenberg and Nimrod Reshef.
I also bought a Hebrew copy of The Realist, autobiographical work by the accomplished Asaf Hanuka.
These recently acquired comics are now in Randy Scott’s hands and waiting for researchers, students, and well, anyone, to use. Some years ago I created a travelling exhibit about well-known very short story writer Etgar Keret, which includes some comics by Rutu Modan, Asaf Hanuka, and others. In the exhibit you can read the entirety of Keret’s story “Breaking the Pig” in English and Hebrew, and see adaptations of the story in comics form. This exhibit is available for loan, so if you’re interested in bringing some Israeli literature including original comic books to your library or other cultural institution, contact me!
By Deborah J. Margolis