A Chicago Jewish foundation has recruited top talent in comics to tell the history of the State of Israel in the increasingly popular graphic book format.

Homeland is tentatively set for release in mid-August 2005, according to William J. Rubin, executive director of the Community Foundation for Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago, which is producing the book.

The CFJE has hired comics veteran Marv Wolfman to write the history and the highly regarded Mario Ruiz of Valor Comics to illustrate it. The graphic history will begin with Abraham and continue to the present.

“In combination with the CFJE’s extensive effort to identify the key historical highlights to include in the body of work,” said Rubin, who is overseeing the project, “we are confident that Mr. Ruiz and Mr. Wolfman will be able to create a dynamic story that covers the Biblical period through 2005.”

“The novel will travel through time and explore the history of the land, why the modern state came into being and its importance for the Jewish people and the world,” Rubin added.

Wolfman told EthicsDaily.com he will center the story on a character who will serve as the readers’ point of view to “give the story a voice” and “make things easier for the readers to follow.”

“It will be a visual feast with enough information to make it easy to read and yet, I hope, fulfilling,” said Wolfman, former editor-in-chief at Marvel Comics and senior editor at DC Comics.

Rubin credits illustrator Ruiz with Wolfman’s involvement. Rubin first contacted Ruiz with the idea for the graphic history in March. Rubin had seen Testament, a retelling of much of the Old Testament that Ruiz had overseen while editor-in-chief of Metron Press.

Rubin said Testament showed evidence of Ruiz’s ability “to offer thoughtful rendition of the Hebrew Scriptures.”

Rubin decided to contact Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, vice president for the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership in New York City. Hirschfield had written the introduction to Testament.

“I asked him about Mr. Ruiz as Mr. Ruiz produced the story and narrative framework for Testament,” said Rubin. “Rabbi Hirschfield demonstrated his enormous respect for Mr. Ruiz.”

Rubin approached Ruiz, who delayed projects at his startup Valor Comics in order to take the assignment.

“I felt very privileged and honored,” Ruiz told EthicsDaily.com. “They have a heart for this stuff.”

Ruiz said he didn’t want the project to be “political,” infused either with propaganda or a hidden agenda.

“We’re trying to be fair with the book,” he said, adding that it will interest Jews and non-Jews alike.

“Nothing like this exists currently,” Rubin said. “The CFJE believes very strongly that the novel will have wide appeal to the American public, children and adults of all ages—Christians, Jews and Muslims. To that end, the CFJE has every expectation that the novel will be marketed for a broad audience—both urban and rural—throughout the country.”

Rubin has already come to share Hirschfield’s assessment of Ruiz.

Rubin described the 37-year-old artist as “a straight-shooting, thoughtful, talented professional with tremendous illustrating skills.”

Once on board, Ruiz approached Wolfman to do the writing. The two had never met, but Wolfman’s work certainly stood out. In fact, Wolfman had teamed with artist George Perez to produce History of the DC Universe back in the 1980s. That “visual history,” as Wolfman called it, especially got the attention of Ruiz and the CFJE.

They pitched the project to Wolfman, which turned out to be an easy sell.

“I loved the idea and said yes,” Wolfman said.

To help prepare for the project, Ruiz traveled to Israel (with Rubin and Hirschfield). Ruiz described the journey as a 10-day trip crammed into three days.

“It was just an amazing thing,” Ruiz said of his first trip there. “As Christians, that’s what birthed our belief.”

With all parties now working hard on Homeland, their enthusiasm is evident.

“It’s going to be beautifully illustrated,” Ruiz said, “and I know the writing is going to be on point.”

And Rubin, whose agency touts innovative learning, is eager to experiment with the noticeable trends of graphic literature and, as he said, “a growing interest among the American public to understand the State of Israel and its roots in the larger context of history and the Middle East.”

“We’re blessed to live in a generation in which the State of Israel exists,” Rubin said. “Our work reflects our attempt to honor the opportunity to live under such fortunate circumstances.”

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.

Related Web sites:

Valor Comics
Marv Wolfman
Community Foundation for Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago
National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

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