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Is Marvel's Daredevil antisemitic? Jewish rabbis, professors and interfaith scholars speak out over new comic

The depiction of the villain in Daredevil #1 plays on numerous anti-Semitic tropes, claim Jewish leaders and interfaith scholars

Daredevil #1 second printing cover
Image credit: Aaron Kuder (Marvel Comics)

On Friday, several Jewish rabbis, professors and interfaith scholars condemned the depiction of the new villain in Saladin Ahmed and Aaron Kuder’s Daredevil #1 as anti-Semitic.

As reported by Eric J. Greenberg in Religion News Service, Malka Z. Simkovich, director of Catholic-Jewish studies at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, points to the villain’s "hooked nose and beard, as well as the weathered and wrinkled forehead" and horns as suggestive of a "demonic rabbi." She also notes that the fact that Matt Murdock - who is now a Catholic priest — is fighting the demon off with a cross only deepens the problems. "This illustration draws from an ancient tradition of demonizing Jews in literature and art to portray a clash between good and evil," said Simkovich.

Philip A. Cunningham, director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, echoes Simkovich’s comments, saying "When I first saw the illustration of Daredevil’s opponent in this new iteration of the comic book hero, I was immediately struck by his resemblance to posters advertising a Nazi propaganda film called 'Der Ewige Jude' ('The Eternal Jew')."

Alongside his initial portrayal in Daredevil #1 as an older, bearded white man in a dark suit, the unnamed adversary is at times depicted as an enormous head on the body of the new Daredevil (Elektra). In the Antisemitism Policy Trust's 2020 report on anti-Semitic tropes, the image of an exaggeratedly-large Jewish’s man head — often but not always placed on the body of an animal — occurs repeatedly.

Rabbi A. James Rudin, recently awarded a knighthood by Pope Francis for his work in advancing Jewish-Catholic relations, calls the images "repulsive."

Daredevil artist Aaron Kuder insists his depiction of the villain is not meant to be anti-Semitic. The accusations, he says, are "Completely laughably insane. Also extremely and utterly insulting."

Earlier this year the Anti-Defamation League published results of a survey of Americans showing a "widespread belief in anti-Jewish tropes, at rates unseen for decades."

Anti-Semitic artwork has appeared in a number of other Marvel Comics in recent years, including X-Men Gold #1 in 2017 and Immortal Hulk #43 in 2021. Simkovich argues that even presented unintentionally or received without awareness, this kind of imagery extends the reach of anti-Semitism.

"Readers who scan these pages will become inculcated and inured to antisemitic tropes without even knowing that it’s happening," said Simkovich. "They will become desensitized to situations in which such demonization presents an immediate danger to the health and wellbeing of Jewish people."