On September 7, DC printed a brand new YA graphic novel, Whistle: A New Gotham Metropolis Hero, by E. Lockhart and Manuel Preitano. Willow Zimmerman is a 16-year-old Gotham scholar/activist with a mane stuffed with unruly, curly brown hair, a love of Reubens and the neighborhood deli, and a stray canine that she’s taken beneath her wing that she’s named Lebowitz…after none aside from the nice Fran Lebowitz. (I might like to know what she thinks of this, tbh).
Willow lives together with her mom, who resides with most cancers and swamped with medical debt. We quickly discover out that she is probably going stopping her therapy as a result of it’s not working and is barely placing them in additional debt. Willow takes an evening job on the shelter to earn some cash, however then finds a puzzle field with a riddle inside that reconnects together with her mother’s outdated good friend E. Nigma. He’d been desirous to reconcile together with her mother, however thought he’d reconnect with Willow first. He affords her a job working for him as a part of his staff, performing some…not fairly authorized issues, however permitting her to earn loads of cash — more cash than she may ever make on the shelter. This enables her to get her and her mother medical health insurance, pay down payments, make wholesome meals for her mother, and ease some household stress. However the double life begins to put on on Willow, her associates inform her she’s modified, and he or she usually has second ideas about what she’s doing. When an unlucky incident provides her some canine powers, like supersonic listening to and sense of odor, she decides to make use of her powers for good — and turns into the superhero often known as Whistle.
However there’s extra: Willow can be Jewish. Unabashedly, unapologetically, Jewish. We’ve seen different Jewish DC characters, like Kate Kane and Harley Quinn, after which there’s the Bombshells collection, which has Judaism constantly woven by way of it. (Though I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out some uncomfortable questions on stereotypes and tropes which have provide you with Harley). However whereas their Judaism wasn’t all the time apparent from the beginning, Willow’s is.
She proudly tells her new good friend (and hopefully more-than-a-friend) Garfield in regards to the historical past of Down River, her neighborhood, and the way it was once an all-Jewish ‘hood with greater than 500 synagogues. She explains that her mother is a professor of Jewish tradition and historical past, so she’s stuffed with random details. Hebrew and Yiddish phrases are sprinkled all through the story — her mother calls her “bubbeleh,” and talks about mitzvahs (good deeds) and in regards to the Judaism-specific lessons she’s instructing. These all really feel like a pure extension of the characters. They’re not token mentions or awkward additions; they’re constantly positioned and match seamlessly into the story.
However a thread that runs by way of the guide that isn’t named till greater than three-quarters of the best way by way of is the Jewish idea of tikkun olam. Tikkun olam is a phrase that’s normally translated as repairing the world, usually in a social justice sense. This encapsulates Willow. She has a deep love for her metropolis, and even within the midst of town crumbling and being run-down and all of its troubles, she by no means provides up on it and all the time works to make it a greater place, even earlier than she grew to become Whistle. She marches, volunteers, will get concerned in causes — and being Whistle permits her to take it to a different degree, combating those that need to destroy the landmarks of the neighborhood and the gritty glory of town.
The truth that the guide was launched throughout Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Yr and one of many Excessive Holidays, feels vital. We have a good time and want for a candy new 12 months, nevertheless it’s additionally the beginning of ten days of introspection and taking inventory of our lives earlier than Yom Kippur, when the Books of Life and Demise are stated to be sealed. On this graphic novel, Willow is constantly introspective; she grapples together with her guilt about working with E. Nigma and wonders if her trade-offs are price it — and likewise helps save components of town she loves and saves folks she cares about.
Why is Willow/Whistle so necessary?
What Lockhart’s phrases and Preitano’s illustrations accomplish that nicely is make Willow a completely fleshed-out individual. We see her household life, her crush, her insecurities, her delicate facet and robust facet, her doubts and skepticism, and the deep love she has for others. The reader wonders about her decision-making at instances and possibly even has blended emotions about her. She’s not only a kickass superhero; she’s a brilliant attention-grabbing teenager. And for as a lot as we get on this graphic novel, we need to know much more.
Illustration issues, and though comedian books have a protracted Jewish historical past, their Jewishness was largely hinted at for a lot of a long time. However like Kate Kane’s id as a proud lesbian Jew, Willow lives her Jewishness. She turns to Jewish values and traditions when she’s unsure or needing consolation. It reads prefer it’s woven into her very being. At a time when antisemitism is surging once more, this Jewish teen superhero is simply what we wanted.
Are you planning on studying Whistle? If you happen to’re on the lookout for extra reads about superheroes, try this submit about Jewish superheroes, and this submit about queer superheroes.