A Brief Introduction
Comics counted when I was a kid. If you are my age (old), you recall Stan Lee (Rest in Peace!) saying “excelsior” (had to look it up even though I lived in New York State) in a book with ads for sea monkeys, buckets of army men, and x-ray glasses. Basic economic ideas have never been taught better than in Scrooge McDuck’s episode in Tralla La.
If the movies are now (often) better than the comics, the opposite was true for 1970’s kids. Comics were cool and Saturday morning cartoons were The Super Friends.
Do not get me wrong, 1970’s comics were not what they would become: the graphic novel, the elite “comix” . . . much more serious and diverse in story telling. By the early twenty-first century, I taught a pop-culture elective to gifted students that needed to include a dose of comics. After all, Stan Lee is plausibly more the maker of the modern average American mind than any post-modern professor ranting in his classroom (and certainly than any Christian!).
And no, one should not give any comic the attention one gives Abolition of Man, let alone Republic.
Don’t go there.
There are stories we tell that are basic, one might say archetypical, and when they come with powerful illustrations, masterfully done in the limits of the genre, they can become very powerful and interesting. One of the most thoughtful, intellectually eccentric (and oddly humble) writer in pop culture has been and is Doug TenNapel. Whether in comics (the only ones to make it to our living room bookcases), animation, or gaming, TenNapel will give more than mere entertainment, but never fail to entertain.
I consume his stuff and if I wish to think, I can and the product holds up . . . And teaches me. In short, if Doug does it, I buy it (and I have purchased all his stuff with my own cash). In the end, Doug has become a friend. I hired him once upon a University to teach and I follow all he does with interest.
Who else could help me teach the Platonic soul with illustrations in an entertaining story?
He is a Christian (and conservative!) in comics, Hollywood, and gaming. He is not narrow, a fundie, or anything other than a man. And now his most famous character, Earthworm Jim, is getting an origin story.
This is a must buy in our neighborhood. You should do the same if you value pop art that matters, pop art that thinks, pop art that is fun.
My guess is that a good many reviewers will write some portrait-of-an-artist-as-an-outspoken-man thing about what Doug has said and not about his work. My other surety is that most of those reviewers still will be entertained by his work, but feel oddly uncomfortable with all the ideas floating about in it: not the content of the ideas, but that there are ideas they cannot quite grasp. The reaction will be resentment . . .
The rest of us, less judgmental, more open to ideas and fun, will read, find our fun, and maybe dialog on the artist.
Enough of my excitement about the book . . . And on to why Doug is appearing as a guest writer on Eidos.
I asked him about being a Christian in comics and he wrote the following.
I agree with his puckish find-a-way, Saint Constantine Strategy approach to making art. Warning: Doug talks like he talks. If you don’t care about all of this metaphysical stuff, buy the book and be entertained while knowing you can always think about it if you wish and that will never be anyone’s safe stuff (including his own team).It will be good stuff that has gone around the cartels and the Know Nothings who would block art and fun they don’t like. Of course, I am now going to ask the artist to talk about being an outspoken man and not so much about his work. That’s too bad, we all would rather look at the art, but that’s the discussion we have been given!
And Now the Brilliant Doug TenNapel Reflects on Being a Christian in Comics (I did not write this, Doug did.)
Life is not fair. The sooner the Christian artist learns that the faster he is on the road to joy. Nothing robs one of their joy quite like keeping score of who is more successful and who puts out worse work than you. Often your being in God’s kingdom has nothing to do with you being a success or not. We live in a place of waiting and longing in this world and there will only be a removal of tears in the next life.
My key to happiness is to not give a rat’s ass about what the world is doing, or what is the latest Christian trend is in the church. The spirit of every age has tried to carve the church into its own image, and some ages succeeded better than others. But look around today, the church is still standing.
Those two principles can be found in Job, the poster child for unfairness. He was a good guy and we learn a great lesson from his book in the Bible that virtue has little to do with avoidance of suffering. In his case, it was why he was chosen to suffer. Job went through the ultimate test, and I assume, it was probably simply because his story would make for a great book in the Bible that the rest of us would learn from.
That second principle of not caring about what any given pagan culture says a Christian artist must do can be seen in both the story of Joseph and Daniel. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, served Potiphar then falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, thrown in prison and ends up being the right hand man to the Pharaoh. Everyone wants to be the right hand man to the Pharaoh, but nobody wants to go through what Joseph endured. When he got into a position of power, he didn’t serve the Pharaoh’s death-worshipping paganism, but he interpreted dreams that helped Egypt avoid a massive famine.
Daniel best exemplifies what a culture threatens your life, for he served the mad Nebucadnezzer, an evil king. Daniel would not compromise and eat the foul meat sacrificed to idols. He was thrown to the lions, thrown in a furnace and God kept him alive. But that was just Daniel and God makes no such promise to every Christian being ground up in persecution today. Many more prophets were obedient to God and were put between planks and sawed in half. That could just as easily be our lot and to God be the glory if He finds me worthy of that task. So far I’ve gotten off pretty easy, I just have internet progressives calling me names. Not exactly being crucified if you know what I mean.
I guess what I’m getting at is that the Christian should embrace a little suffering. Yes, the world is still being dickish when they come after us, but when Paul was falsely imprisoned he didn’t call for a lawyer and demand his rights, he rejoiced that he got to identify with the suffering of Christ. We need to get better at that. Life isn’t fair and the Christian who understands grace should be the last person in the world to want things to be fair.
Finally, the greater concern of mine is that I will be seduced by the pagan values of my culture. The Christian’s greatest problem isn’t the world, it’s his own person. I’m not afraid of the world, I’m afraid of ME. The Christian life described in the Bible isn’t one of breezy self-righteousness, but of men tormented with grasping their own sin, their unworthiness of Christ’s sacrifice, and a longing for holiness that seems to never be quenched until the next life. When this Christian artist considers these things I feel like the most blessed man in the world. Things are pretty easy in America now, and I pray that we remember these good times should things take a dark, dark turn for the worst.
I’m an independent, voraciously Christian artist that is always looking for allies and audiences. My latest project is the Earthworm Jim Comic on Indiegogo.
In Which I Hawk the Book
I bought the book. Do it.