Whether or not you celebrate Passover this time of year is not the question. Regardless of whether you’re Jewish or of another faith, it’s almost impossible to walk through a grocery store without seeing boxes of Matzo and frogs leaping everywhere – from straws to slingshots – in preparation for the celebration of the Exodus from Egypt. What you probably don’t know, though, is that the Haggadah, or the book that tells the story of the Exodus, (replete with the requisite blessings), comes in a myriad of forms, all text-heavy, with very few pictures to engage those around the Seder table – unless you are using a children’s version.
After being hit by fake hail and his 10,000th flying frog, Jordan B. Gorfinkel decided to do something about this. Ironically, his friends call him Gorf (which is especially appropriate at this time of year because it is actually frog spelled backwards, not that dissimilar to Oprah’s Harpo name). Most of us probably already know of Gorf’s work, not from his Haggadah, but because he worked at DC Comics for over a decade, where he ran the Batman franchise. He has been the inspiration behind multiple shows and movies, from The Dark Knight Rises to Birds of Prey and he has produced a myriad of storytelling content for companies like TOMS and Microsoft — to name a few. He runs super storytelling seminars for organizations globally and decided, over a year ago, at his own Seder table, with his children as his “focus group”, that the Haggadah could be more engaging, even though the content itself would not change.
At this point, a short primer is appropriate for those that don’t think the way Jordan does. The Haggadah is full of what some would deem “original superheroes.” With superheroes more popular than ever in the mainstream, Gorf decided the time had come to create a comic book version (no, this isn’t a joke) of the traditional Passover Seder table “guide book” we’ve come to know as the Haggadah. In it, the Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel, as it is called, brings to life the themes of subjugation and liberation by combining: right hand pages featuring the unabridged (and yes, fully Kosher) Hebrew text and English transliteration along with left-handed pages depicting “Marvel-style” comics which integrate the brand new, modern English transliteration into art. The Passover Graphic Haggadah Novel also provides readers with “how to” instructional graphics depicting traditional rituals and customs of the holiday.
This Haggadah’s purpose is crystal clear to Gorf and his current investors. As the world is changing, it is even more important to engage generations of all ages and backgrounds – and even faiths – in the traditional stories, themes, and rituals of the holiday. By depicting one’s Jewish identity as contemporary, cool, and fun, it engages the Jewish identity, while sharing the universal theme of journeying from slavery to freedom with a broad audience. And the engaging part – well, it comes from Gorf’s own background, when he could quote chapter and verse of Batman but not of Torah, even though, in his own words, “the close connection was always there.” Think of the Passover story this way: “desperate parents floating their son to safety, where he is adopted and raised to adulthood, finally discovering his true destiny, as the hero of his own people. We could be talking about Superman, although, in reality, we are also talking about Moses,” says Gorfinkel.
Making that connection is not as easy for everyone. With Passover almost here – and his Haggadah almost finished, there is little left to do but raise the remaining funds for the project. The drawings are almost done, the publisher is on board, and like his mentor, Denny O’Neil, the prolific Batman writer and real Dark Knight himself, Jordan Gorfman is in a position of greater understanding. You see, publishing, according to Gorf is both easier and harder than ever before. “Whether you’re going through a publisher or self-publishing, the key is getting the word out. Do your own marketing, start early, and create a plan far in advance, so when you’re ready to pull the proverbial trigger, you are full speed ahead.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Jordan, The Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel, or donating to the cause, you can visit the website at http://www.JewishCartoon.com/passover