Sabra may get the role of Marvel, but she’s a superficial character, say comic book artists

Israeli comic book artist Uri Fink has little faith in Marvel’s planned portrayal of Sabra, a Mossad agent with superhuman speed, in the next installment of the Captain America movie franchise.

“Sabra is a very superficial character,” Fink said.

Fink must know. As one of Israel’s leading comic book artists, he is best known for creating “Zbeng!” An Israeli teen comedy series that has been published weekly for 30 years in the youth magazine Ma’ariv Lenour, may have created the character that inspired Marvel’s Sabra.

Fink was only 59 years old and was in high school in 1978 when he created Sabraman, a former Israeli police officer who can shoot radioactive rays from his eyes and surround himself with a magnetic force field.

Fink’s Saberman comic was very popular at the time in Israel and abroad, and even received press coverage in mainstream American publications such as People magazine.

“A lot of Americans have watched it. I keep getting comments from people who get it for a bar mitzvah,” Fink said.

Israeli comic book artist and writer Uri Fink holds a book at the annual Animix Festival of Animation, Comics and Caricatures at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, August 2, 2016 (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

About a year later, Marvel comic book artists Bill Mantlo and Sal Buscema came out as Sabra as part of the Incredible Hulk series.

Sabra made his film debut in Incredible Hulk #250 (August 1980), and later became a regular character.

It was Belinda Glass, singer and first wife of Marvel writer Mark Gruenewald, who coined the name “Sabra,” using a slang term for Israelites referring to the prickly pear cactus, tough on the outside but soft and gentle. Inside.

Fink says that if Mantlo and Bussima, both veteran comic book artists, had taken Sabra’s idea from Sabraman, it wouldn’t have been illegal — “it wasn’t very polite.”

Buscema spent 10 years drawing “The Incredible Hulk” and another eight years as an artist on “The Spectacular Spider-Man”. Now 86 years old, he still writes comics, but has not responded to requests for an interview.

In 1992, Mantlow, then a lawyer, was the victim of a hit-and-run accident and has been in institutional care ever since.

Marvel’s character Sabra made his comic strip debut in 1980. (Wikimedia Commons/Design by Mollie Suss via JTA)

When Marvel’s Sabra character was first introduced in 1980, Fink said he was shocked and surprised by the character’s portrayal.

“She’s a mourning mother and an agent of Israel, but her character unrealistically represents Israel,” Fink said. “This is all very problematic.”

The back story of Marvel’s Sabra, nicknamed the Ruth Bat-Seraph, a Jerusalemite who grew up on a private kibbutz run by the Israeli government after its powers became apparent. Wearing the blue and white colors of the Israeli flag, Sabra is the first super-agent to work with the Mossad and became a police officer in addition to her job as a government agent.

However, developing her character as an Israeli heroine is clumsy, Fink said.

In the first 1981 release of the Incredible Hulk that featured Sabra in full, the Hulk accidentally ends up in Tel Aviv, where he befriends an Arab boy who was killed in an attack by known Arab terrorists. Sabra witnesses the attack and assumes that the Hulk is collaborating with the terrorists. She fights the Hulk, showing little remorse over the death of a Palestinian boy, until The Incredible Hulk steps in to teach Sabra about human compassion.

Hulk says to Sabra, “The boy died because the sons of the boy and your people both want to own the land! The boy died because you won’t share it!”

Later, when Sabra’s young son was killed in a terrorist attack, she disobeyed orders to bring her son’s killers to justice.

Ori Fink’s original Sabraman, created in 1978 (Courtesy eBay)

Fink said that patriotism in a comic book character is always a challenge. “Patriots are problematic heroes.”

Marvel’s Sabra represents how Americans viewed Israel in the 1980s, said Hagai Geller, another well-known Israeli comic book artist, who also writes a blog and hosts a podcast about the comic book world.

At one point, Geller said, Israel was considered alien, and the Israeli army was making ideological superheroes.

The original Sabra has all of these elements, with its blue and white uniforms depicting the colors of the Israeli flag, and its powers that allow it to throw power blades and its unarmed combat training to Israeli military personnel.

Comic book superheroes are often patriotic, said Tal Lanier, curator of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, whose latest exhibition, “Illustrations: David Polonsky,” examines the work of the artist known for his work on animated films, as well as his drawings of the graphic novel version of Anne Frank’s diary.

“Look at Captain America – he hit Hitler, the absolute villain,” Lanier said. “People love to escape reality and are fascinated by superheroes.”

But for some comic book fans, the concept of an Israeli superhero is an oxymoron.

Palestinian rights activists have accused that by including Sabra in the upcoming “Captain America” ​​movie, Marvel will be “glorifying the Israeli army and police.”

They also noted that the name Sabra itself is problematic, given the horrors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre outside Beirut in September 1982, in which Israeli-backed Lebanese militias murdered Palestinian refugees.

Marvel Studios said it would take a “new approach” to Sabra, who will be played by Israeli actress Shira Hass, after it received criticism from Palestinian groups.

Lanier said she was also surprised by the decision to bring Sabra to the screen, given that Israel is a country in conflict, and it’s hard to get an Israeli character out and turn her into a superhero.

“It’s probably more of a feminist act, moving away from typically male heroes,” Lanier said.

Ultimately, Geller said, Sabra is a character that can be modernized, like most of the comic book world, which has become a much more commercial industry than it was in its beginnings, decades ago.

“They took all the clichés about Israel, but did the bare minimum,” he said of Sabra, referring to the broad outlines taken to describe the character, from her day job as a policewoman to her work in the Mossad, her kibbutz. Flag-inspired background and outfit. “They’re just trying to make it relevant to the younger generation and bring out more secondary characters.”

Fink never thought Sabra’s character would be relevant again.

“I didn’t think anyone would deal with it,” he said.

Comic book artist Uri Fink has drawn and posted his response from Sabraman to Twitter on Marvel’s character Sabra in a movie coming in 2024 (Courtesy Uri Fink/Twitter)

When Marvel announced its version of Sabra, Fink was bombarded on social media and on the street by fans who told him to “go and sue Marvel.”

“I would never do that,” Fink said. “Superman was also a kind of clone; so was Captain Marvel. They are all the same, they are all copies of each other.”

Now, though, he and co-author David Herman are discussing bringing Sabraman back, possibly with a new version of the original comic book.

“I’ll see what I can do with Sabraman to modernize it for the 21st century,” Fink said.

“You’re never going to be impatient on the list,” Gellar said. “She will never have her own movie like Iron Man. She can only be a guest at the table.”

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