“Friends Like These”
Writer: Ben Raab
Pencils: Andrew Pepoy
Inks: Trevor Scott
Colours: Kevin Tinsley
Letters: Richard Starkings & Kiff Scholl
Editors: Frank Pittaresee & Jason White
Original publication date: June 1998
This week, our silly podcast about a seventh-tier X-Men comic from 30 years ago is more deeply embroiled in contemporary geopolitical events than it has any right to be, as the team jets to Israel to hang (and quarrel) with its national superhero Sabra in Excalibur #121, “Friends Like These.” Scholar of comics and Jewish diasporas Gabrielle Lyle is here to help us navigate this tricky terrain, talking Jewish histories of superheroes and what superheroes gain or lose when they become explicit representatives of a nation.
“Sabra is clearly someone who cares deeply about Israel and her people, but she’s also being discriminated against by the Israeli government.” -Gabrielle
“This has the feel of one of those fill-in issues that someone had been saving in a drawer for years.” -Mav
On Jewish superhero histories:
“A lot of people still don’t know the Jewish origins of superheroes. I’ll tell my students hey you know Captain America? Well Jack Kirby is Jewish. And their minds will be blown by that.” -Gabrielle
“The Sabra massacre happened a year after the creation of the character of Sabra. So while they didn’t intend to evoke that event, it changes the meaning of the character… This can be a name that invokes celebration for some people, and pain for others.” -Gabrielle
On the importance of Sabra:
“Sabra is written to be important here. Nightcrawler even invites her to co-lead Excalibur at the end of the comic.” -Anna
Want more Gabrielle Lyle?
Gabrielle Lyle is a PhD candidate in History at Texas A&M University. Her dissertation, “B’nai Borderlands: The Development of Jewish Communities in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands in the Twentieth Century” examines connections between Judaism in the borderlands and the wider Jewish world. Her work has been supported by the Arizona Historical Society, the Texas Jewish Historical Society, and the Southern Jewish Historical Society. She is the recipient of Joseph & Eva R. Dave Fellowship at the American Jewish Archives and has her work featured in the Journal of South Texas. While Gabrielle’s main research is currently on borderland Jewry, she is becoming increasingly involved with Comic Studies.
You can follow Gabrielle on Instagram, @grlcat