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From Batman to the Holy Land

2019-6-22

An American artist once had a celebrated history after creating Batman and Wonder Woman covers for comic books. Then he found a new life in the Holy Land. There, he draws the everyday good and bad guys he sees on all sides.

Michael Netzer’s own story has a lot of interesting history. He was named Mike Nasser by his American-Lebanese Druze parents. He had a serious illness called polio as a child and found comfort in art. In time, he worked for Marvel and D.C. Comics as a cover illustrator. Then he learned he had a Jewish background and moved to Israel. Now he lives on an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Netzer, who is 63, speaks Arabic as well as English and Hebrew. He sells portraits or pictures of superheroes. He says Palestinians as well as Israelis buy them. That is unusual for a religious settler.

Michael Netzer, an American comics artist formerly named Mike Nasser, gestures during his interview with Reuters at his attic studio in his home in the Jewish settlement of Ofra in the Israeli-occupied West Bank
Michael Netzer, an American comics artist formerly named Mike Nasser, gestures during his interview with Reuters at his attic studio in his home in the Jewish settlement of Ofra in the Israeli-occupied West Bank

Netzer also travels every few weeks to draw the people he sees around him. He gives those people his work for free.

“I have seen ... it seems to me, like, nine million heroes and villains in Israel. I see them all the time,” he told Reuters at his home in Ofra.

“It’s like people are the most interesting thing that there is. I look at the face and I see, you know, God looking back at me,” he said.

Netzer says he is no stranger to religious conflict. He lived in Lebanon, a country nearly destroyed by war. He knows there is the tension between Israelis and Palestinians. And he knows U.S. President Donald Trump has made that tension worse.

Trump himself can be like a person in the comics, Netzer suggests. Some see him as a hero, he said. Others believe he is the opposite.

Netzer does not seem to miss his work as a comic book illustrator. He says that in the past, others used his art to advance ideas he did not necessarily support.

“And this is probably one of the reasons that led me to slow down,” he said. “I try not to upset people.”

I’m Susan Shand.

The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kelly Jean Kelly was the editor.

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Words in This Story

comic book – adj. a magazine that is made up of a series of comic drawing

draw – v. to make (a picture, image, etc.) by making lines on a surface especially with a pencil, pen, marker, chalk,

illness - n. a sickness

polio – n. a serious disease that affects the nerves of the spine and often makes a person permanently unable to move particular muscles

comfort - n. a sense of feeling safer or ease

portrait – n. a painting, drawing, or photograph of a person that usually only includes the person's head and shoulders

villain – n. a character in a story, movie, etc., who does bad things

illustrator – n. one who decorate a story, book, etc., with pictures

advance - v. to move forward