Close your eyes. Picture a 16-year-old superhero with curly hair, a big attitude, a love for Rueben sandwiches, and a dog named after Fran Lebowitz. Sounds incredible, right? Well, she’s real, and her name is Willow Zimmerman, aka Whistle, and she’s making her debut this fall in “Whistle: A New Gotham Hero,” a young adult comic/graphic novel from DC Comics.
Willow is DC Comics’ first Jewish superhero in over 40 years, and she’s a Jewish teenage activist who talks too much. (Deeply relatable!) Her sidekick is Leibowitz, a Great Dane, and she uses the power of the other dogs in Gotham. Other Jewish DC comic book characters include Batwoman (Kate Kane) and Harley Quinn; Willow feels like a fresh — and necessary — addition to the canon.
Here’s Willow and Lebowitz. Fun fact: when Willow gets powers, so does Lebowitz, and they become a duo.
“Whistle is a hero like me. Like you, maybe. She’s an ordinary person who sees what’s wrong in her city and feels powerless to right it — until she isn’t,” said author E. Lockhart. “Whistle is a social activist, a secular Jewish person, and a teenage girl working to support her mother through sickness — all elements I haven’t seen so much in superhero comics. The story explores the dark, ethically compromised side of a superhero’s life as well as the empowerment. There’s the thrill of corruption and the lure of riches on the one hand, versus an activist’s belief in the rights of her community members on the other.”
Here’s a panel of Willow in a synagogue, struggling with her job working for a wealthy ex-friend of her mother’s, E. Nigma. She thinks about Proverbs 24:16, “A righteous person falls seven times and still gets back up”:
“Whistle” is full of moving references to Jewishness as Willow goes up against iconic Batman villains like Poison Ivy and the Riddler. (You can see a sneak peek of more artwork here.)
“In order to make Gotham my own, I invented a neighborhood called Down River. It’s a formerly all-Jewish neighborhood like New York City’s Lower East Side, now home to a wide range of people, but still holding onto a lot of its Jewish history and culture. Shelsky’s Bagels of Gotham. Rosen Brothers’ Delicatessen. Stuff like that,” Lockhart explains.
We can’t wait.