By Jacob Henry
Daniel Kalban is a 33-year-old law firm assistant who lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn. But when he’s not working his day job, he moonlights as a comic book writer, in a sort of double-life scenario that’s reminiscent of the caped crusaders he’s invented.
In 2016, Kalban created “American Dreams,” a comic book series centered on Jake Gold, a Jewish New Yorker in 1900 who, thanks to “a Thomas Edison experiment gone awry,” gains the ability to fly, as well as super strength to fight monstrous antisemites and other bad guys.
“I was dozing off listening to the score of ‘Ragtime’ the musical,” Kalban told the New York Jewish Week about his inspiration. “I was in a daze, and I was wondering what if superheroes like Batman and Robin were in that same tumultuous time period.”
Jewishness permeates the entire “American Dreams” storyline — the protagonist, who comes to be known as Liberty, escaped the pogroms in Russia, for example, and now works at a sweatshop in the Lower East Side. As a superhero, he fights a “bruiser” named Amalek, a biblical enemy of the Israelites. As he makes his way through turn-of-the-20th-century New York, he works for legendary Jewish magician Harry Houdini and is encouraged by Jewish activist and anarchist Emma Goldman to use his powers for good.
As a response to the positive feedback the comic has received over the years, Kalban plans to release an “American Dreams” book, which combines an anthology of the first five issues of the comic with brand-new material. He is funding the project through a Kickstarter campaign.