“Foreskin Man”

I thought nothing from California could ever shock me, but this did.

Propaganda, public art and angst over male genitalia is not considered odd in the Golden State, but pretty much the norm. Matthew Hess’ creation, the comic superhero “Foreskin Man” is a visual aid for the “Intactavists” movement, a euphemism for “people obsessed with their genitals and having nothing better to do, most of whom happen to live in California.” It has now grown into a global political campaign with far-reaching goals to end all male and female “genital mutilation.”

But here’s the rub: Hess and his peers tag routine, medically supervised, male circumcision as “mutilation.” They also imply equal devastation in male and female “circumcision,” which are miles apart. In reality, the supremely Aryan “Foreskin Man” appears to be the incarnation of Hess’s own obsession with his manhood and possibly racial superiority to boot.

Who is going to confuse the issue, turn a medical debate into a reactionary circus and save the day? For this, “Foreskin Man” was born.

Hess and his political action group, against Male Genital Multilation, or MGM, have been very busy boys and girls, circumnavigating the globe with their message and multiple appeals, proposed laws, campaigns and – of course – the comics.

I use the word “comic” loosely, as many readers would agree with Queen Victoria on this one, and “are not amused.”

Although the art Hess commissioned for this is high quality, striking and quite professional, his artists have wisely kept anonymous and therefore out of the mire. One wonders why they would get involved in this endeavor. How deep the mire? Let me count the ways both text and art offends or misinforms viewers.

Left: Nazi poster; right: “Monster Mohel”

Start with Jew-baiting, stereotypical, antagonists in “Monster Mohel,” accompanied with goons, guns and baby gore. Hess goes for the throat of Judasim, using actual Jewish liturgy. The protagonists also steal the child from his Jewish father.

After all the time and money Hess used creating attractive and flashly comics, you think he wouldn’t have bothered using the tired old blood libels still circulating around the Middle East, but you’d be wrong. The artists were a little lazy too, appearing to use the same old “evil Jew” character from Nazi movie posters – specifically “The Eternal Jew” and “Jud Suss.” These were cretinous 70 years ago – don’t anti-Semites have any have any imagination anymore?

Hess’ Mohel “loves cutting infantile flesh,” implying a perverse excitement over his job. He misrepresents other aspects of the Jewish ceremony, denigrating it almost to child molestation. Even liberal Jewish groups such as the Anti-Defamation League labeled it “overtly anti-Semitic,” and it takes a lot for them quit attacking conservatives for awhile.

A “mohel” is the title of a medically and spiritually trained circumciser of baby boys in Jewish communities. The rite of circumcism, Brit milah, is considered an essential religious custom for males. It reaches back 4,000 years to the time of Abraham and symbolizes their covenant with God.

This was way before Hess began to worry over the shape of his weenie, by the way. For Gentiles, circumcision would usually be done by a doctor.

“Doctor Mutilator”

The first volume of “Foreskin Man” deals with these doctors, and to be fair, Hess uses outrageous characterizations for anyone who does circumcisions. The evil, baby-hating “Doctor Mutilator” has no interest in children, hygiene or health, only money. Like the Mohel, he is portrayed as extremely violent if not getting his way. This appeal to reactionary emotion must be due to lack of a good argument on Hess’s part or once again just being lazy.

Although currently there are debates in the medical world over male circumcision, it has been considered a safe procedure for decades, and has proven to help lower STD incidence. The World Health Organization specifically cites that in some populations male circumcision decreases incidence of AIDS transmission up to 60 percent.

Looks like Captain Foreskin has to take on WHO and whip their evil statisticians next.

The latest targets for the global busybody are in Africa, where our blond hero whomps a bizarre couple with the help of “Vulva Girl.”

“Vulva Girl”

It just gets weirder. Fictional Kithinji and Khitān, looking like zombies with bling, attempt a female circumcision when “Vulva Girl” intervenes. Although vulgarly named, this episode at least bears a purpose. Female mutilation as forced on girls in Islamic countries is extremely dangerous and may remove virtually all external female sex organs. Hess and other “Intactivists” would have real reason to whine if totally castrated with a piece of pottery, as some of these girls have been. He wisely leaves out derogatory religious details when dealing with Muslims.

“Vulva Girl” is introduced third in the series, possibly to deflate criticism and add credibility to the movement, as if it weren’t all about men and their penchants. Hess gives readers clues to the identities of his characters by names and initials. “Khitan” is actually the Arabic term for male circumcision, which I believe is the only interest Hess and most of the MGM folks truly have, at least in San Francisco. And since the protagonist’s real name, Miles Hastwick and Matthew Hess bear the same initials (M.H.), voila, it really is all about Hess.

It could be argued that Hess and the Intactivists are equal opportunity haters, shooting bile at Jews, Muslims and M.D.s alike, but that is not really true. Almost everyone has personally interacted with doctors and knows the evil doctor persona is ludicrous. Also Hess weakly equates male and female circumcision just because they share the same noun, I guess. This makes Muslim female circumcisers (whose religion is not even mentioned) seem much more benign. But historically, it was only Jews who were identified and singled out for destruction solely by their circumcision. And the throngs of morons who actually believe that Jews harm children make the deliberate choice of art loaded and dangerous.

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