Hate has no place in our world. Anti-Semitism and racism is not only unacceptable, but is deserving of condemnation and derision. Unfortunately, the artist of Immortal Hulk crossed a line this week into hate.
To call Immortal Hulk one of Marvel’s best titles or one of the best takes on the character seems reductive. It’s a story that has changed one of Marvel’s most fundamental and beloved characters forever, and it will be impossible to follow. Al Ewing’s story was also one of the most thoughtful, inclusive comic stories ever told. He’s explored mental illness, gaslighting, trauma, abuse, transgender rights, and more. One story arc even included a character saving the world simply with the superpower of being trans.
This week in Immortal Hulk #43, however, longtime series artist Joe Bennett included background details in the story that were anti-Semitic at best, and outright hate speech at worst. As the Hulk alter Joe Fixit talked about being a conman and thief to ensure the Hulks had enough cash to get by, we see him pickpocket an obnoxious jerk on a cell phone, then go to a jewelry store called “Cronemberg Bros Jewery” (spelling not corrected), which prominently had the Magen David (aka Star of David) under the name.
The panel caused a massive outcry on social media and rightfully so. To have a conman and thief narrating while these symbols are in the background make a clear implication. The moment evokes several of the oldest and most negative stereotypes of Jewish people, one that has shown up many times in fiction and persists today. My friend and peer Zach Rabiroff talked about the stereotypes in great detail at ComicsXF better than I ever could. I highly recommend reading it.
Marvel and Bennett have already made statements. Marvel PR has stated that these details were missed on their side and the art will be digitally altered for future printings and collections. As for Bennett, he stated the misspelling was a mistake due to trying to spell “Cronenberg Bros Jewelry” backwards while trying to homage famed horror filmmaker David Cronenberg. However, that doesn’t explain why the Magen David was necessary or even included, outside of a call-out of Cronenberg himself being Jewish. Referring to the use of the Star of David, Bennett acknowledged it and stated he had no excuse. (See the statement in full below.)
This kind of stereotype has no place in our world, especially not in a story that has handled diversity and other difficult issues so well. I’m glad to see it will be corrected in later editions, and hope that Bennett’s apology is sincere. That doesn’t make it okay though.
Editors need to learn from this. An apology, an explanation, and a correction are great. They’re a start. However, this shouldn’t have happened in the first place, and now has readers, critics and the wider media asking why. It’s a great opportunity for Marvel to take a look at their editorial policies and procedures to make a change for the better.