A burly caped crusader named 'Foreskin Man,' produced out of San Francisco's contentious debate over whether to ban circumcisions, has provoked allegations of anti-Semitism bubbling beneath the sensitive topic.
In Matthew Hess' comic, the protagonist does battle with an evil Orthodox Jew named Monster Mohel. Judaism requires male babies to be circumcised, and Hess has drawn condemndations for injecting a discriminatory element into the debate over a ballot measure that would impose fines or jailtime on anyone who performs a circumcision.
They've gotten a tremendously negative backlash, said Nancy Appel, associate director of the Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco. I think this has polarized and isolated, and that people who may have been willing to hear their side are just disgusted.
Proponents of the ban, or intactivists, argue that it would be similar to laws already on the book to protect young girls from genital mutilation. But that argument threatens to be discredited by a comic that, in the words of Rabbi Eliyahu Fink of the Pacific Jewish Center in Venice, California, casts the entire Intactivist operation under the shadow of anti-Semitism.
Hess has argued that his comic book series deals with several scenarios of circumcision -- a previous issue featured a doctor as a villain, and an upcoming installment will featuring a character named Vulva Girl will attack tribal circumcision.
This is a process that has to play out, Hess said. As human rights issues advance, there are lawsuits, there are bills, there are people fighting against it. I think this process had to happen eventually and the comic book just sparked it.