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50 Batman creators sign petition urging Qatar, Egypt to facilitate Bibas release

by Tunae
The Bibas family -- father Yarden, four-year-old Ariel, mother Shiri and baby Kfir -- who were abducted by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 from Kibbutz Nir Oz. (Courtesy)

The Bibas family — father Yarden, four-year-old Ariel, mother Shiri and baby Kfir — who were abducted by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 from Kibbutz Nir Oz. (Courtesy)

NEW YORK — Fifty creators of the iconic Batman superhero character signed a petition urging the governments of Egypt and Qatar to press for the release of Yarden and Shiri Bibas along with their two red-haired sons, Ariel and Kfir. All four family members have been held hostage in Gaza since October 7.

The family was kidnapped from Nir Oz by Hamas terrorists on October 7, a day that saw 3,000 terrorists infiltrate southern Israel to massacre 1,200 Israelis — most of them civilians — and kidnap 253 people into the Strip. Mother Shiri and her sons were captured separately from her husband Yarden.

One of the iconic images of the family that has been circulated since their capture shows the four wearing Batman apparel. Ariel, 4, is a dedicated fan of the Gotham City protector.

The petition was sent to Egyptian and Qatari ambassadors in Washington, DC, on April 12. The effort was organized by Dr. Rafael Medoff, historian and director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.

“These comics creators have spent decades developing a hero who fights for the innocent and stands as a beacon of hope for his community, and we’re trying to channel that spirit through this effort,” Medoff told The Times of Israel.

Batman was introduced as a character in the 27th edition of Detective Comics (DC), printed in 1939. DC has produced numerous Batman franchises since then, and the character is familiar around the world from Hollywood films, video games, merchandising and television.

Some of the Bibas petition’s high-profile signees include Mike Carlin, DC’s head of animation; longtime DC publisher Paul Levitz; and former president of Warner Animation Sander Schwartz.

A Purim rally demanding the release of Hamas hostages in New York City, March 24, 2024. (Luke Tress/JTA)

The petition was also signed by some of Batman’s veteran writers, including Chip Zdansky and Mark Waid. Leading artists from the franchise who signed include Mark Bagley, Dan Jurgens, Denys Cowan and Amanda Conner, the celebrated artist behind the Joker’s girlfriend, Harley Quinn.

“As members of the community of Batman writers and artists, we are contacting you concerning the young Batman fan who was taken hostage by terrorists and held in Gaza since last October 7,” said the creators.

“Moved by the many anecdotes of Ariel’s affection for the iconic character who has become a symbol of hope and justice for so many, we implore your governments to exercise all possible leverage on Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to immediately release the Bibas family, and all the Israeli hostages, from captivity,” said the petition.

‘The moral obligation to speak’

An early issue of the comic book Batman (public domain)

Some of the most harrowing footage filmed by Hamas terrorists on October 7 was of Shiri Bibas and her sons being dragged off by Hamas men. Since then, the IDF released surveillance footage showing Bibas and the children being transferred by terrorists in Khan Yunis later that day.

“Ariel Bibas, age 4, and his brother Kfir, now age 1, were taken hostage by Hamas, along with their parents, Yarden and Shiri Bibas. Ariel’s maternal grandparents were murdered in the same attack,” wrote petition co-authors Medoff and former Batman artist Dean Motter.

Medoff and Motter recently created a nonfiction graphic novel called “Whistleblowers: Four Who Fought to Expose the Holocaust to America.” Published in February, the book is the duo’s attempt to appeal to graphic novel-consuming youth with the real-life accounts of upstanders.

No stranger to Batman lore, Medoff penned an essay for a book called “Theology and Batman.” One of the book’s central themes is the theodicy — or sense of redemption — Batman brings to the world by vindicating goodness over evil.

Many of the creators of Batman, Superman and other superheroes were of Jewish descent. Quite a few books and essays have been written about how these creators were influenced by Jewish history while at their drawing boards.

Earlier in 2024, an issue of DC’s “The Penguin” remembered that Bruce Wayne — Batman’s alter-ego — is Jewish. The moment came when Bruce Wayne referenced his handkerchief as being a Hanukkah gift from his father to his mother.

In a “Batwoman” reboot released in 2006, the character Kate Kane — Batwoman’s alter-ego — was reintroduced as a Jewish, lesbian cousin of Batman, demonstrating how comic artists both shape and reflect their times.

Dr. Rafael Medoff speaks to New York City students on how editorial cartoonists tried to sound the alarm about Nazi Germany, May 2016. (Reprinted with permission from ‘Cartoonists Against the Holocaust’)

Medoff’s professional wheelhouse is Holocaust studies, particularly the United States’ response while the genocide took place. However, the plight of the Bibas family and other hostages in Gaza is transcendent, he said.

“The moral obligation to speak out against injustice never changes, whether during the Holocaust or in our own time,” Medoff said.

By all accounts, Ariel Bibas is a big Batman fan. Almost six months after a photo of the family wearing Batman pajamas was shared around the world, hundreds of New Yorkers in Batman gear rallied for the family’s release in New York City at the end of March.

“This is a very sad Purim for the Jewish people around the world,” Central Park rally organizer Omer Lubaton Granot said.

“Ariel won’t dress up in his Batman costume as he dreamed. Instead, Jews around the world will do so to remind the world that there is a 4-year-old boy who is stuck in a dark pit,” said Granot.


Kfir Bibas and his mother Shiri Bibas, who were abducted to Gaza by Hamas terrorists, along with Kfir’s brother Ariel and father Yarden, from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7, 2023. (Courtesy)

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