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Up in the Sky? More Down to Earth: 'Super Granny'!

April 5, 2012 By:
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Comic book artist Arona Reiner and some of her wondrous inspirations at the Carol Schwartz Gallery

WHAM! BAM! POW? Put a SOCK in it, Arona Reiner gently states about the state of action comic books.

She took action to do it her own way: At 71, the native Bostonian who long ago made Israel her home has changed the art of the deal. An accomplished and exhibited artist/sculptor, she has come out with her first comic book, with a superannuated super hero at its core.

Reiner made a round of regional appearances recently in conjunction with the comic book and an exhibit at the Carol Schwartz Gallery in Chestnut Hill, proving, she points out, that over-the-hill is so over as a description of older men and women.

No country for old men? Old women? A disgrace, she says of the very idea and those who would perpetuate such a calumny.

And her comic book -- at 135 pages, it's more a graphic novel -- is a novel idea to appeal to the older generation.

Super Granny -- based on her late mother, Rachel, who worked on a kibbutz just before her recent death at age 98 -- is a comic for those who may wonder what Wonder Woman would be like once she applied for Social Security.

Is it any wonder the iconic character shows up in one way or the other in Reiner's regular art work? "I loved comics," she recalls of her Boston childhood, where she lived before moving to Israel with her family in 1949.

"And Wonder Woman was always my favorite."

As it was her mom's: One of her mother's buddies in the States, before moving to Israel, was a wonder woman from Milwaukee who would become known as Golda Meir in Israel.

But back in Boston, comics were queen. "There was no TV around" to compete, she recalls.

But Reiner wonders why her childhood fave had to change over the years. Wonder Woman today, she says, "is too aggressive, tough in the wrong way."

Super Granny is tough, too, albeit spinning a different kind of yarn: "With the help of her special [magical] knitting basket, inner strength, Yiddish, humor and wisdom, she sets off to make a change in the hearts and minds of the people" of her retirement village, reads the comic book's legend and liner notes.

Super Granny, claims her creator, "is for elderly people," even if Reiner started writing it for her children and then grandchildren.

But she really composed the comic as a paean to her mother, the very embodiment of self-empowerment that the book stresses. "I believe in comics as a special art," she says.

But they are framed in a more erudite aura in Israel, she says, "where they are used as a teaching tool," unlike in the United States, where they're more a marvel for the action they create.

While touring the Philadelphia area last month, Reiner got a commission to paint two classic chairs for the Woodmere Gallery, an ironic assignment for a woman who has little time to sit down.

Upon her return home, the artist who was raised on Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan will continue her role as co-curator of a local museum.

"I have too much to do," she says with a sigh that suggests it is no lament.

While here, she also found time to rekindle old friendships. Gallery namesake Carol Schwartz considers Reiner a master piece of friendship. "It is because of her that I'm in the art business," she says.

"I met her on my first visit to Israel 33 years ago, saw her art and immediately said, 'Let me give you a show.' "

That first show was at the Ashbourne Country Club in Cheltenham, where Reiner sold a host of pieces. "I've been to Israel 18 times since," says Schwartz, meeting with her friend, "bringing back her art," showcasing it first at her home and eventually at the gallery she and her husband, Elliot, opened in Chestnut Hill. (Reiner's work is coming back to the gallery for the month of May; it is currently at the Katz JCC in Margate, N.J., through April 28. Super Granny is on sale at both sites.)

At one reception for the artist during her time here, fans and fellow artists treated her like, well, a wonder woman.

But if a movie should ever be made out of the artist's impressionistic life and work -- and there already has been some talk -- Reiner knows the one actress who could make any golden girl a platinum player.

Who would be her choice to play her? "Betty White," says the real super granny caped in comics and creativity.

 

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