When you hear the word “comic books,” Spider-Man, Batman and the whole pantheon of superheroes immediately come to mind.
Jews and comic books go hand in hand. Marvel’s superheroes were co-created by Stan Lee (Stanley Martin Lieber), and the popular graphic novel Maus, written and drawn by Art Spiegelman, was about his father’s life during the Holocaust.
But a comic book centred on Judaism is very rare. When it does, it’s normally window dressing like X-Men’s Kitty Pryde lighting a yahrtzeit candle or Fantastic Four’s The Thing saying the Shema, brought up once and rarely mentioned again. And usually their relationship with their religion is as a casual observer, which is kind of becoming cliché.
And that’s one of the things that makes Hereville so compelling. Written and drawn by Barry Deutsch, Hereville is about Mirka, an Orthodox Jewish girl who dreams of fighting trolls and monsters instead of haggling with her annoying stepmother. One day, she comes across a pig – an animal forbidden inside the fictional Jewish land of Hereville – that follows her wherever she goes. When she finally confronts and traps the pig, she incurs the wrath of the pig’s owner, an evil witch.
But when Mirka rescues both of them, from a group of bullies, the witch rewards Mirka and tells her about a troll who guards a magical sword. But to defeat it, she will need help from her stepmother.
Mirka is a righteous character who shows that you can be religious and still manage to keep your uniqueness. She’s a regular, normal girl who reads, saves her brother from bullies, and is sometimes puzzled about the restrictions of Orthodox living (when they show her preparing for Shabbat, they even include a scene where she rips toilet paper into neat little piles.)
So far in the series (there are three books published), we never learn what happened to Mirka’s real parents although there is a touching moment where she remembers her mother. Hopefully, the later volumes will reveal what happened.