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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Changing identity can be dangerous

A golem is a creature created by a magician to be a companion or servant. However, since only God can give souls, the creature becomes a destroyer. Since he is a follower and not a leader, he lacks a dominant identity. In the same sense, a person's identity defines one's existence. 




James Sturm's new graphic novel \The Golem's Mighty Swing"" addresses the issue of identity and the effects of giving it up. 




Sturm began his cartooning career at The Daily Cardinal during the late 1980s where he wrote and illustrated the comic strip ""Dawg."" Since then Sturm has written over a dozen graphic novels. ""The Golem's Mighty Swing"" is set in the 1920s and tells the story of The Stars of David, a Jewish baseball team. 




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In an interview Sturm reported that he wanted to tell an interesting baseball story but ended up with much more. 




""In baseball the object is to return home, said Sturm. ""A theme of Judaism is to return to the homeland. They parallel each other nicely."" 




The first chapter of ""The Golem's Mighty Swing"" is Sturm's interesting baseball story. Noah Strauss, the Zion Lion, is manager, third baseman and narrator. During the game, the reader meets the team and learns about each member through Strauss. 




After the game, Strauss is offered a chance to make big bucks dressed up a player to resemble the Golem of Jewish legend. Strauss refuses, but after a run of bad luck he feels that he has no choice but to accept the offer. 




Throughout the book, questions of identity are raised. 




""[The book] is an exploration about identity and how context shapes identity,"" Sturm said. 




The ongoing theme begins during the game with Noah's younger brother, Moishe. Mo must choose to either grow up and play baseball, or to explore a new career. Hershl Bloom, aka Henry Bell, is a ringer from the Negro League who will do anything to his identity to make a buck. It is Bell who becomes the mysterious Golem that gives the struggling team its identity. 




The golem costume is more than a gimmick. Bell feels that identity is something that can be bought, but to Strauss and his team, identity is life. The team must endure prejudice from town members everywhere they go. Their faith and love of baseball is what keeps them going each day. Strauss is aware of the dangers involved in losing one's identity and the chaos a golem can bring. 




""The Golem's Mighty Swing"" is told in a simple but familiar panel arrangement. Whether a reader is familiar to comics or not, he will be able to understand and follow the narrative. Most of the book lacks word balloons. The panels are either narrated by Strauss or have no words at all. 




Identity is important to people of all races and religion. When one loses identity, he or she must be prepared to pay the consequences of the damage that might occur. Sometimes returning home is the best way to regain one's identity. 




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