Hebrew Pulp, #1: Uri On, The First Israeli Super-Hero!
In an effort to make this blog slightly more interesting, I thought I’d blog about one of my favourite things – obscure Hebrew pulp. Part of the reason of moving back here for a while is my fascination with that alternative history, almost, of Israeli literature – the pulp paperbacks, the long-lost magazines, the forgotten children’s books and all the rest of it.
To start it off, I’ll begin with my latest find – and what a find!
If anyone’s read my Israeli super-hero story in Interzone #225 a while back – Funny Pages – they would have seen a whole host of blue-and-white superheros. While the irony, in part, is that there are almost no Israeli superheros, and many of the ones in the story are imaginary. Two, however, owe their existence to genuine attempts at creating an Israeli comics.
One of them is the Sabra, which – as strange as it may seem – has a precedent in the short-lived, and seldom-seen, character of Sabraman! created by Uri Fink. However, despite the homage, I don’t recall ever seeing Sabraman, or being inspired by it – this was just an obscure reference.
It is a different story indeed with the character of Scorpion, based on the scorpio-man! or Akrab-ish, a character that makes its appearance in the pages of Uri On, a short-lived and forgotten series of a 4-volume, full-colour comic series that extended, for a short while, into the pages of a children’s magazine.
Created by a Lebanese Druze who converted to Judaism, Michael Netzer (born Mansur Nasr A-Din) worked for years in the American comics industry (for DC and others), and would have no idea that, as a kid, I loved the Uri On comics. It’s pretty much the only Israeli comics I can remember reading, and – like most of the obscure pulp I grew up on – served as inspiration for the future (the future of being a poverty-stricken obscure pulp writer? Say it isn’t so!).
The scorpion (an airforce pilot, if I recall correctly, who gets transformed into a giant scorpion after a nuclear explosion in the Negev desert) also appears – along with nearly every childhood character I could find – in another homage to the genre, my Hebrew story Leilot Akrab Va’seter (Nights of Scorpions and Mystery).
And yesterday, I actually found a copy of the very first issue of Uri On. Currently, someone is actually selling issue 4 on Ebay, for $80. The tragedy is that, having found the first volume, I will never be able to get the rest of them…
Here is my very own copy:
So there it is. A dark corner of Israeli alternative culture, briefly illuminated. Coming up on Hebrew Pulp: cowboys, Korean assassins, nude girls and much more! Not to mention the first and only romance novel featuring a character called… Lavie!