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Not at the Table!

Religion and comics... Yeah, I brought it up. We’re not at the dinner table so Mom can’t reach over and smack me one. Heck she can’t even reach me with a biscuit outside of holidays anymore seein’ as how I vacated the nest half a lifetime ago. So I press on. To be more specific: Christianity and comics... do we like the mix? My reaction to them varies, and arguably tells more about me than it does any comic. What do they say about you? Awareness piqued, perspective at the ready, baggage recognized for what it is, is it possible to view these comics with the (relative) objectivity afforded secular comics? Come on. Let’s try. Have comics, will travel.

Holy Bibble- This one scared me initially, but you get used to the cute little Flash people with angry eyebrows. Shoot, at least they're brown for historical accuracy's sake. Taking into account the ad libbing and no-holds-barred approach, it’s an interesting idea, this unrated rewriting of the Bible as a graphic novel; what with humor and anger and... incest? Yeah, I know, some things in the Good Book would be better left undepicted. But forging through every book of the Bible is no easy task, and Cannan and Lucas are still at it after close to two hundred strips. Forging makes for some dry days (I’m sure we’re all guilty of that even without such a daunting task) but the cussing, violence, and chicken pot pies should keep those interested, thick-skinned folks (who can’t help but fall asleep in church) awake and reading for a good, long time.

Russell’s Teapot- Some great ideas and a lot of passion, but, to this reader, angry atheism is just fundamentalism in a new robe. He’s got points to make- many of which we can’t help but acknowledge- it’s just that he loses any chance at converts by swinging so far to the opposite extreme. Taking Bible verses out of context and using them in a literal sense for an agenda is just secular fundamentalism. Disrespect for humor’s sake can still get a laugh. Humor for disrespect’s sake? It’s well... just plain ol’ disrespectful. Plus it makes for more instances of forced writing than are usually found in an archive. I stopped reading when I started thinking, “Regardless of whether or not Jesus was the Son of God, dying publicly on a giant piece of wood with nails through your hands and feet SUCKS.”

Leave it to Jesus- Darn it if good writing doesn’t trump all. I can ignore my conscience flinging brimstone and fire at me long enough to enjoy several strips of any comic with really good writing. And that’s exactly what this comic offers. It is HI-larious. A VERY guilty pleasure. And yes- be warned- it’s disrespectful, but disrespect for humor’s sake can still be funny remember? And believe it or not (you may have to read for a while to get a "vibe") you may actually find that God and His Son are good guys in Mr. Hetrick’s world regardless of chemical dependencies and other shortcomings.

(OW! Who the... Where’d that biscuit come from?!?)

I’ve never received any

Jamie Robertson's picture

 

I’ve never received any angry comments either, in fact quite to the contrary. I’ve received several complimentary e-mails from both Christians and Pagans alike. Myself, I have a Christian background, but all religions fascinate me, and that’s the main reason I wanted to incorporate it into COTC. The other reason is that I got tired of the issue being side stepped. No offence to those who do shy away from it. Even though I’ve never personally received any complaints, I do know I have turned some people off by mixing real religions w/ fantasy. Still, people do talk about their faith, or lack there of, in the real world, and I wanted to make my characters real.

As for being disrespectful, well I grew up on MAD magazine back when it was good, in the late 60s, early 70s. It wasn’t as “shocking” back then, but they knew how to drive a point home. Besides, after watching Jesus Camp, I came to the conclusion that a lot of Christians are disrespectful to their own faith.

Clan of the Cats

even mice have god

marvelouspatric's picture

religion and faith are interesting and great concepts to work into comics. or any story, for that matter.

especially if you can be funny doing it.
my own attempt, in Freaks N Squeeks, involved the Jesus equivalent, JC, getting upset with Prez Tex for always dropping his name like they were friends. JC then came back to Earth for a 1 1/2 coming.
Oh, and JC is a schrew, because instead of Jews, we have schrews.
suffice to say, it didn't go well for JC.
the whole thing starts around here-ish....
http://www.webcomicsnation.com/themarvelouspatric/fns/series.php?view=single&ID=8639
patric

It's tricky

scarfman's picture

It's tricky writing characters who are more devout than you are, and my characters are cultural icons of Christianity. I'm just sort of playing it by ear. I haven't had any complaints yet. Maybe I just haven't made any blatant errors in dogma.

Paul Gadzikowski, paul@arthurkingoftimeandspace.com
Arthur, King of Time and Space New cartoons daily

EEK!

mooncity's picture

I try to avoid the topic of religion in my own comic. People get upset about it very easily because it's such a personal thing. If I did do some religious content, it would be purposely vague, or, as I read on another board, "vaguely Christian". I guess Christianity is my background, so I could probably get away with something vague because it would fit several different offshoots of Christianity. Not so if I tried to write, say, a Jewish character, for which I would have no frame of reference. I can't knock on someone believin', unless they're really looney about it. Or televangelists, because those guys are scum, and prey on the elderly.

Mooncity

Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow since 1976!

Mooncity

Autumn Lake

Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow since 1976!

Thanks for your review of

RussellsTeapot's picture

Thanks for your review of the Russell's Teapot comic.

I wanted to make a couple of quick points in my defense. :)

First, anyone who quotes the Bible is doing so "out of context". It's impossible not to. It doesn't matter if the quotes are pretty or ugly. This is the reason that I include the cross-referencing information with each quote; so the reader can easily put whatever is being said into context.

Christians routinely “cherry-pick” specific verses of the bible to justify practices and policies, win arguments, or at worst fall back on an ultimate authority justifying their personal belief structure.

I simply looked at this through a different lens. If the book is infallible, and the literal word of god, then the sections that the site highlights are just as valid, poignant, and require the same call to action in everyday life.

It either is, or is not, the truth. Religion is not served buffet-style.

As for the "disrespectful" example. I certainly don't see addiction as trivial. I, the artist (and I use that term loosely) and writer of the strip, am a recovering alcoholic who has 19 years of continuous sobriety and two parents who have suffered miserably from alcoholism. So you can say the comic's not funny, but please don't say it's not funny due to my lack of knowledge of addiction or my misunderstanding of "recovery" as defined by A.A.

Thanks again for the review and for everyone's comments.

Sorry for my harsh words. I

grantcthomas's picture

Sorry for my harsh words. I have some experience with AA, too. The way they presented the higher power was not like a Santa Claus type character keeping naughty and nice list as it seemed to be presented in the strip. I guess since it hadn't lined up with my experiences with AA the punchline must have been lost on me.

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http://www.grantthomasonline.com

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Who cares?

Erg's picture

Why shouldn't you be allowed to be disrespectful? What's wrong with that? I have seen studies that seriously question the efficacy of AA anyway.

On the other hand religion is always served buffet style. Christianity is a Golden Corral to Buddhism's China Garden to be sure, but no one buys the whole system part and parcel, saint or reprobate.

The "disrespectful" example

Bryant Paul Johnson's picture

The "disrespectful" example you cited from Russell's Teapot didn't really strike me as disrespectful at all: I think it's a valid criticism to a culture that name-checks God for the most trivial of reasons (sports, entertainment, business success).

 

- teaching baby paranoia

differing perspectives

robert's picture

I don't see addiction as trivial. Anyone who has loved- or actually is- an addict wouldn't either. And they would definitely see that specific comic as very disrespectful. Also, what you label name-checking, many others know in their hearts of hearts as belief. Not saying I do or do not share either of those perspectives; merely pointing them out. As I mentioned above, how we interpret the mixture says more about us than it does the about the work.

Thanks for the read!

Good point; I probably

Bryant Paul Johnson's picture

Good point; I probably should have phrased that better.

I didn't mean to imply that addiction was a trivial matter, but that we in the West (particularly in the United States) view the divine as a valet eager to serve on the microscopic level (while ignoring the macro).

 

- teaching baby paranoia

I thought that comic showed

grantcthomas's picture

I thought that comic showed less knowledge of the twelve step program than of Christianity.

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http://www.grantthomasonline.com

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Another Example

almamater's picture

Although it isn't about religion per se, Nothing Better is set at a Christian school and grapples with the topic of religion.

Of the comics you've mentioned, I'm only reading Holy Bibble right now. It's interesting to see them depict some of the stranger, generally overlooked incidents in the Bible. It sort of reminds me of Slate's Blogging the Bible feature in that it forces readers to take a second look at "familiar" material.

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Rampant hostility

David Simon's picture

As a Christian,I do find it somewhat irritating that depictions of Christianity in webcomics are almost exclusively hostile. It seems everywhere I look, someone else is taking a dig at my faith. Sometimes it's justified and quite amusing (I'm becoming a big Sinfest fan), but often it's just a self-righteous cartoonist being disrespectful purely because they *can*. They love to create straw-men Christians to argue with, so they can claim victory at the end of every strip. It's kind of sad really.

Having said that, there aren't really any overtly Christian comics that I enjoy. They all seem so contrived (though I do admire Dean Rankine's work).

Crimson Dark

[url=http://www.davidcsimon.com/crimsondark/]Crimson Dark[/url]

The trouble is....

Erg's picture

tearing things down is much funnier than building them up. I win the out of nowhere lottery? Not funny. I get squished by a piano out of nowhere? Funny.

 

Not only that but cartoonist tend to be closer on the Chairman Mao end of the political spectrum than the Pat Robertson one, so....

Aye, that's a fair point,

David Simon's picture

Aye, that's a fair point, but then I have to wonder why there is so little overt criticism of atheism in webcomics - there are a number of militant atheists out there too, who can give the most zealous of evangelists a good run for their money. Take Richard Dawkins for example, surely he's worthy of a joke or two?

As for the political spectrum, it shouldn't be a factor because there are Christians in all spheres of political thought. Don't let anyone fool you into believing that the right-wing has a monopoly on God. I go to church and Bible Study every week, I pray and read the Bible every day, I'm actively involved in my church as a leader as well as a participant, but my political beliefs lie far to the left.

Crimson Dark

[url=http://www.davidcsimon.com/crimsondark/]Crimson Dark[/url]

thoughts

Erg's picture

the least: Many comics creators are atheists for the simple reason that more liberals are athiests, and furthermore most liberal Christians are not the type to find amusement in mocking athiests, even Richard Dawkins. At least in the US they have it out for their right wing Christian bretheren first.

Joey: I don't think that holds. In public spheres with different demographics people gleefully mock athiests and liberals. Listen to talk radio for five minutes. People mock people they disagree with, plain and simple. Some are just better at it than others.

True enough. Pauline Kael

Joey Manley's picture

True enough.

Pauline Kael famously said she didn't know anybody who voted for Nixon, so she was amazed that he got elected.

I guess I'm a victim of demographically-induced blindness sometimes, as well.

Joey
www.webcomicsnation.com

On that topic...

Erg's picture

I wonder if super hero comic writers are simliarly left wing. Some are, clearly, but I wonder if it is as skewed as the independant comic crowd. You'd think the themes of unambiguous justice and respect for authority of some of the guys in tights would attract right wingers.

Dirk Deppey (a gay

Joey Manley's picture

Dirk Deppey (a gay conservative) recently interviewed Bill Willingham, a writer for DC, for the Comics Journal. They made much of Willingham's conservatism, and how rare it is in the comics industry. Could be persecution complex, or could reflect reality, I dunno.

I like Willingham's work a lot, but every now and then he throws in a conservative groaner. For example, there's a character in Fables who's several thousand years old (he's the Big Bad Wolf in human form, actually), who, in one issue published close to the start of the Iraq War and the whole silly "freedom fries" thing, takes a shot at "the French" for being "ungrateful" for WWII. But in that character's lifespan, the then-current American snideness toward the French over a transitory political tangle would probably have looked pretty "ungrateful" given the context of the War for Independence and the crucial role the French played in that victory. Especially since we've already been told that that character played a role in the War for Independence, as he did in WWII.

But at this point, I'm going on and on about almost nothing. Must be my manic days kicking in ...

Joey
www.webcomicsnation.com

I am willing to forgive.

Erg's picture

If you are a gay conservative or a conservative Vertigo writer I think you are allowed a bit of a persecution complex.

Christians have a far, far

Joey Manley's picture

Christians have a far, far greater influence over the political scene -- from the President of the US on down. That means there will be more jokes about them. To my knowledge, no acknowledged atheist holds, or has ever held, nationwide elected office -- few hold statewide offices (any?) Besides that, the electoral might of one group of Christians, the "evangelicals," is well-known and obviously a factor in every US citizen's life. Power attracts satire.

Joey
www.webcomicsnation.com

I try to take a page from

grantcthomas's picture

I try to take a page from one of my favorite writers, Flannery O'Connor, who described herself as a writer "with Christian concerns". I can't help but make my beliefs a part of my work, but there's a fine line to walk. On one hand there can be a tendancy towards preachiness or sentimentality, but on the other hand, not including spiritual elements into my work would leave it bland and lifeless because I would not be writing about what I have experienced and known.

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http://www.grantthomasonline.com

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I don't know....

Erg's picture

I don't necessarilly agree with his religion, but I like Dean Rankine's comics. For whatever reason he tickles my funny bone. And the art is perfect.