The Good, The Bad, & This Kid: “Jeremiah 19:3”
By Josh Stone
Great stories have been told since the dawn of time. Every group of humans have passed down tales of older years and tales of ancient Gods. Many ancient people told their stories using pictures, for one reason or another, but mainly to show the events that capture the reader. Our times are no different. We took the oldest known form of storytelling, and made it something different, something that will live on long after us. Instead of carving on caves or inside of tombs, we put our picture stories on paper and called them “Comic Books.”
All the old stories passed along dealt with whatever it was the people believed in, whatever deities they thought were watching over them. We, again, are no different. We’ve taken comics and fussed in our religious tales, passing on our modern fiction with our mythologies. Which is strange, being as how comics themselves can be seen as modern mythology. This is where I begin to conflict with myself. I’m usually a strong advocate for secular comic books. Our world’s religions can be too overbearing, and the thought of fussing in too many religious mythos into an art form that already stands as modern mythology, just seems a tad redundant. As I’ve grown over the years and opened myself to different ideas, I’ve slowly come around to the idea of nonsecular comic books, as long as it’s done in a way that doesn’t preach, but instead tells a story.
There have been several mainstream comics in the last twenty years that have merged religious beliefs into their stories, and made it work. So now, without any further hesitation or delay, I bring you my list of nonsecular comic books and characters worth reading:
Leading the way for established characters would have to be Daredevil. A B-class superhero until the Jesus of comic books Frank Miller saved him. Matt Murdock is a devote Catholic and many of Daredevil’s reactions reflect that. Frank Miller really introduced Catholicism into the Daredevil title, and paved the way for other incredible stories about DD that orbit around that central idea. Back in ’99 Kevin Smith wrote a wonderful arc that really showed Matt struggling with Catholicism and watching everything around him tumble to the ground because of his strong religious convictions. However, I’d have to say that my favorite DD story involving Catholicism is Daredevil/Spider-Man written by Paul Jenkins. I don’t remember it being a stellar DD story in general, but towards the end a lot of religious mythos came out and it was really well written and very emotional.
Another established character known for his religious beliefs, again Catholicism, is everyone’s favorite blue demon Nightcrawler. Nightcrawler’s beliefs are especially moving being who he is; a mutant who looks like a demon. Night (because we’re cool I can call him that) has an unflappable belief in God’s love and that all men have God’s love in them. He’s taken his religious convictions one step further than DD, and he became a Priest, but he’s not really a Priest cause Chuck Austen wrote a really bad story arc about religion. Night, when well written, is a very positive, yet tragic character, which is the reason he’s one of my favorite X-Men (Gambit could kick his ass though J-Ro).
Alright, so I got the established characters out of the way, lets move on to characters and comics created solely to deal with religion in a unique way. First up is the reason there are so many Goth kids, Sandman. Sandman, the Vertigo version, was created by a writer that is God’s handmade. Neil Gaiman is the greatest writer to ever grace Earth, and I should really stop soiling myself when I talk about him. Anyway, the Sandman series deals with religion from many different angles and under many different lights. Gaiman pretty much came up with a mythology for his characters and tied them into every other imaginable religion. The Sandman series has withstood the test of time and is an inspiration to many people, creators and fan alike.
Next up is another Vertigo title, and why wouldn’t it be? Preacher is a western at heart that dives head first into the church. Ennis never holds back on his relentless tearing down of religious mythos, and God bless him for that. The tale of a chain smoking, always drunk Preacher who is fussed with a God like spirit, and is looking for the runaway creator of life, is perhaps the most novel idea in a very long time. Preacher and Sandman are such wonderful titles that fanboy fave Kevin Smith ripped them off and made Dogma. But, don’t let that sway you from understanding that Preacher is a well-conceived story of a man struggle with faith, his past, and his future.
Last car to pass, here I go.
There have been many cult classic comic books in the last twenty years, but none could hold a torch to Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. For the record I don’t consider Sandman or Preacher cult classics, they are mainstream. JTHM started off as a slapstick series of comic strips about a guy named Nny who liked to kill people, I mean torture and then kill people. However, toward the end of the series, Jhonen Vasquez integrated a tale of moral choices and divine intervention. Johnny dealt with a lot of moral issues that tied hand in hand with many of the religious beliefs that are stamped on our society, but did it in a humorous way. Many people feel that the end of the series was a bit presumptuous because it strayed away from the pointless killing of imbeciles and tried to tie in the pain of the mortal coil and what effect religion has on it. Don’t be one of those people.
Religion is a dangerous thing, for all the good it tries to do, it’s ultimately a dangerous and deadly tool. Those books have shown both the good and bad sides of what religion can do, and have helped to establish comics as a viable part of the literary community. Always remember, that having a strong sense of spirituality is healthy, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
It’s recap time here at The Good. Time for me to talk about comics that I’ve mentioned before, but new developments force me to tell you about them again. A while back I did a review for SBC on a comic called Character, check out the review HERE. Anyway, Character is now available to purchase online Character Homepage. It’s really worth checking out.
Next up is Cliff Meth. I mentioned Cliff’s book Wearing the Horns a couple months back, and urged everyone to buy a copy. So, have you? If you haven’t you can go to Aardwolf Publishing and buy a copy at no risk. See, if you purchase Horns from Aardwolf, and you don’t like it, just return it for a full refund. Also, I urge everyone out there to pre-order Cliff’s new book god’s 15 minutes which collects all of his short stories as well as some new ones. If you pre-order now you can get a very limited edition signed copy. All the proceeds from “god’s” goes to Harlan Ellison’s KICK Internet Piracy Fund. So please, fight the good fight and read some good reads.
‘Til next time…
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