When the second issue of “Foreskin Man” became public, the anti-circumcision comic book’s portrayal of a villainous Jewish ritual circumciser, Monster Mohel, generated accusations of anti-Semitism against the comic book’s creator and against the entire anti-circumcision—or intactivist—movement.
A new online comic strip, “Smegma Man Gets Circumcised,” recently entered the fray, aiming, in the words of its creator, to parody “Foreskin Man” and argue the case for circumcision’s health benefits.
“We point out the hypocrisy of the people who use cartoons and other methods to defame the Jewish people,” Ed Margolis, one of the creators of “Smegma Man,” said.
Together with his nephew, Noah Crissey, Margolis, a Jewish lawyer based in Chicago, has been creating editorial cartoons on a freelance basis.
Most of Margolis and Crissey’s work has focused on the Middle East, but on July 25, Margolis, 67, posted the first two of six planned chapters of “Smegma Man Gets Circumcised.”
If “Foreskin Man” looked like an action comic—think Spider-Man, Superman or Daredevil—the style of “Smegma Man” is much more similar to cartoons that appear in newspapers.
Margolis and Crissey’s parody, which is named for the substance that collects on the tip of an uncircumcised penis, is at times confusing and convoluted. Its plot jumps quickly through place and time and its first two chapters do not include discussion of the implications of circumcision on a person’s health. Its narrative is filled with subtle and not-so-subtle references to Nazis and Nazism, in an effort to draw attention to what Margolis sees as the anti-Semitic goals of intactivists.
“The efforts to suppress circumcision go back to the Romans,” Margolis said. Speaking of the current effort to ban circumcision in San Francisco with an initiative set to be included on the November 2011 ballot, Margolis said, “It’s definitely directed at destroying the Jewish community. That’s what it is. There’s no health basis for being an opponent of circumcision.”
As has been covered in the Jewish Journal and elsewhere, intactivists say circumcision has no medical benefits, puts patients at risk of complications and can cause a reduction of sensitivity in the penis.
In its 1999 Circumcision Policy Statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics said that although there were potential benefits to infant circumcision, the data were not sufficient to recommend that the procedure be carried out on a routine basis.
“Foreskin Man” was written by Matthew Hess, who also wrote the San Francisco ballot measure that aims to prohibit circumcision of all male minors in the city for any reason other than medical emergency. The comic has been entered as evidence in a lawsuit being brought by Jewish community groups and interested parents in an effort to have the measure removed from the ballot. That lawsuit is scheduled to be heard in a San Francisco courtroom on July 28.
“Smegma Man,” by contrast, has been seen by very few people and is still a work in progress.
In the first two chapters of “Smegma Man,” the strip’s hero, a blond boy named Helmut, moves from Brazil, where his parents live in “a close-knit expatriate German Enclave,” to Detroit to live with his Uncle Max. When Helmut’s girlfriend, Delilah, discovers, to her horror, that he has not been circumcised, Helmut decides to consult with a sports medicine doctor, Hans Mengele, who uses growth hormones and steroids to buff Helmut up.
“Every word in that comic has a reference,” Margolis said, explaining that Brazil was a country where Nazi officers were known to have emigrated after World War II. Detroit, Margolis said, was the city where he thought John Demjanjuk, a notorious prisoner-guard who was convicted by a German court in May 2011 as an accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews in two Nazi death camps, lived in the United States. (Demjanjuk actually lived in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.)
Crissey works for the United States Postal Service and lives in Seattle, Wash. He is, Margolis said, working to complete the remaining four chapters of “Smegma Man.”
Margolis has already written the rest of the story, in which the newly muscular Helmut returns to the United States, reconnects with his childhood sweetheart and—at her urging—undergoes an adult circumcision.
In the comic’s subsequent chapters, Margolis said, Helmut meets “Foreskin Man” creator Hess at a party. But, Margolis explained, in his book, the anti-circumcision superhero is always referred to as “Smegma Man.”
“We didn’t want to have any trademark problems,” Margolis said.
In the comic’s dénouement, Margolis said, Helmut, after being mistaken for “Smegma Man,” denies that he is the intactivist superhero in a TV interview with Larry King. He then prevails in a fight against Warrior, a long-haired character with a Swastika tattooed across his chest that Margolis said he plucked directly from the pages of “Foreskin Man.”
“His is the enforcer for an organization called the Intactivist Underground,” Margolis explained.
On www.foreskinman.com, Warrior has no tattoo, and Hess has repeatedly denied that he or his comic is motivated by anti-Semitism, saying that his efforts are “pro-human rights.”
Margolis is not convinced. “I think that his work is anti-Semitic, and the images that he has created are anti-Semitic and have foundations in traditional anti-Semitic drawings, which he seems to be very familiar with,” he said.
The conclusion of “Smegma Man” can already be seen on the comic’s website. One panel shows Warrior sliding down a deli counter—groin first—directly toward a meat slicer.
Asked whether he thought his comic—which is replete with Nazi imagery and references, and concludes with a man being unwillingly circumcised by spinning metal blades—would advance the cause of those looking to preserve the rights of Jewish parents and others to circumcise their sons, Margolis said he wasn’t concerned.
“This guy is getting his balls cut off. It’s poetic justice. I never thought of it like that,” he said. “I still like the ending.”