Jordan B. Gorfinkel, who goes by the nickname “Gorf,” is a comic book creator who has made his name over the past couple of decades editing Batman graphic novels for DC Comics and drawing the syndicated Jewish comic strip “Everything’s Relative.” His latest project, which he described as a labor of love, is a collaboration with Israeli comic book artist Erez Zadok called “The Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel.” This unique Haggadah, published in January, began with a humble request from a Jewish colleague of Gorfinkel’s at DC Comics. Why wasn’t there a Haggadah with a graphic narrative, commentary about the structure of the seder and a consistent transliterated text that might appeal to him?

Gorfinkel heard his friend, and the result was an action-packed Haggadah with which one can fulfill the commandment, or mitzvah, of retelling the story of the Exodus as if it personally happened to them. Although Gorfinkel avoids religious labels, he described himself as a Sabbath-observant, kosher-eating Jew. He told JewishBoston: “I’m really a Jew of the people, and I apply my professional storytelling skills to Judaism through media, graphic novels and comics. My work in television, movies and publishing all relate back to one foundation—inspiring people through storytelling to be passionate about their Jewish identity and responsibility.”

“The Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel” (Courtesy image)

Both Gorfinkel and Zadok observed that the primary challenge of working with the Haggadah is that it does not have a linear storytelling format. There is no beginning, middle or end. There is none of the customary plot points and structures to which most people are accustomed. Zadok told JewishBoston there are several Haggadot in Israel that are in the comic book format. “Our book, however, features the actual text of the Haggadah through comics,” he said. “You are telling the seder story through the illustrations and using authentic text throughout the book.”

Gorfinkel added that turning the Haggadah into an innovative narrative while using the traditional text transformed it into “a compelling as well as utilitarian resource. As you’re flipping pages, you’re constantly going from one era to another, one tone to another. There are lots of characters being thrown at you. By putting the Haggadah into a sequential and artistic narrative, you bring out a meaning that no other kind of Haggadah out there has. All the while, you see yourself as coming out of Egypt.”

The two comic book authors further noted that their Haggadah incorporates suspense and humor without altering the text. The men also anthropomorphized a set of animal characters that act as guides to the seder. “We wanted to show the diversity of the Jewish people in this book,” said Gorfinkel. “We chose characters who represent the whole of the Jewish people.”

Zadok said that when Gorfinkel contacted him three years ago to work on the Haggadah, he was “already hooked on the concept of creating Jewish diversity through comics. I like the accessibility comics offer in our graphic Haggadah. There is the text on the right side and the translation on the other side. There is also the ongoing transliteration. Our Haggadah can be enjoyed by people of different cultures.”

“The Passover Haggadah Graphic Novel” (Courtesy image)

Zadok added that he was brought up Orthodox but is now secular. “What makes this Haggadah so special is that Gorf is religious and I’m not,” he said. “With our different backgrounds, it’s a combination that made the Haggadah more approachable for people. I contributed my vision and he contributed his. We fused those visions to appeal to a broader audience, making our graphic Haggadah as modern as possible.”

Zadok hopes the Haggadah will also appeal to a traditionally observant audience. Bearing that demographic in mind, he said he was careful “to be modest with our characters yet have them look modern so the Haggadah appeals to everyone. Passover is the most popular of the Jewish holidays, so it’s very exciting that we have created a way for people to come closer to Jewish tradition.”

For his part, Gorfinkel said he hopes the graphic Haggadah will touch “the four children in all of us—stubborn ones, scholarly ones, simple ones and ones who have no background. Whether we’re talking about adults or children, all of us embody parts of these four personality types.”