Jan 25, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 335: The Crusaders #2, 1974

What does one even say about such misguided and unpleasant vitriol?

If you're an old-time collector, you know who Jack Chick is. His tracts are infamous, especially amongst those of us who played Dungeons & Dragons in the 80s. I did in fact live through that era in which D&D was banned from schools because they were worried we were going to go crazy like young Tom Hanks (look it up).

I discovered Chick's Crusaders series a couple of years ago when researching Christian comics for a Sequart article. As you might well imagine, they're unpleasant and evangelical, and I really can't imagine them converting anyone to anything except maybe to being against really bad writing. They're optimistic in their expectations, though. There's even a little check box on the inside cover where you can check either "Yes" or "No" to the question "Did you accept Jesus Christ as your own personal saviour?"

I will say this for The Crusaders: the art is gorgeous. Fred Carter's work is beautiful, and, though he likely would be a little horrified at the assessment, quite erotic. His depictions of the two "Crusaders" in the comic are right out of a superhero comic, all muscles and bulges, and one shirtless depiction of "Jim" looks like it's straight (pun intended) out of a Howard Cruse comic.

While the message of the comic, and of Chick's publications in general, is hateful and venomous, comics like this offer a look at the some of the far reaches of the medium. We think of the quality of art as defining whether something is mainstream or independent a lot of the time, but quality of narrative, or subject matter of narrative, is also an indicator. It's unlikely you'll ever see a Chick comic (or an evangelically-inflected comic in general) at a comic store, even at one that carries undergrounds and indies. It's interesting that these comics, by dint of their subject matter, are excluded from the mainstream.

Before finishing, in brief: Tim and Jim, "The Crusaders," journey to a small town where Satanism is taking over. They convert a young lady who is subsequently kidnapped, and the two rescue her and cause the Satanists to vomit with their God-power. There's also a strange moment where the Satanists kidnap a little boy's dog, and Jim gives the boy money to buy another puppy. We see the original dog only briefly again, going under the knife.

Phew. Back to superheroes tomorrow, perhaps?

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