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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
of the X-Men, Avengers, etc.
Henry Philip McCoy ("Hank McCoy") is known as "The Beast," and was one of the founding members of the X-Men.
Hank McCoy is an Episcopalian who has a strong, clearly stated belief in God.
Although Hank McCoy has long been characterized as the "resident scientist" at the X-Mansion, the character also has a strong spiritual side, which he has expressed on a number of occasions. Hank McCoy has never been portrayed as being as being as religiously devout as some other members of the X-Men, such as Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler) and Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat). The Beast's love of science and learning has always been a more prominent aspect of his characterization.
Although there was always a strong sense that Hank McCoy had a typical American WASP background, and he certainly seemed like an Episcopalian, we are not aware of any explicit references within mainstream Marvel continuity to Hank McCoy's denominational affiliation. In Marvel's newer "Ultimate" line of comics, the Beast died in Ultimate X-Men #44. His funeral held in Ultimate X-Men #45 was clearly officiated by an Episcopalian priest.
A number of prominent real-life Episcopalians have been named "Henry McCoy," including Dr. Henry L. McCoy of Pennsylvania, after whom McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island was named.
Above: The funeral of Hank McCoy ("the Beast," of the X-Men), officiated by an Episcopalian priest. [From: Ultimate X-Men #45 (July 2004), page 18; written by Brian Michael Bendis; pencilled by David Finch; inked by Art Thibert et al; reprinted in Ultimate X-Men Vol. 8: New Mutants, Marvel Entertainment Group: New York City (2004).]
In the crossover series Infinity Crusade, a number of Marvel superheroes were specifically identified as believing in God and being particularly religious. These characters were susceptible to succumbing to the complex scheme of the series, and included: Jamie Madrox, Jean Grey, Puck, Archangel, Shaman, Talisman, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Wolfsbane, Sasquatch, Storm and others. Hank McCoy (the Beast) was among the assembled heroes who had not been taken and were trying to figure out what was going on. The Beast, noting the common characteristic among these heroes, said essentially: "I believe there's a God, why wasn't I taken?" The reason, they realized, as basically that although the Beast believes in God, his belief was not strong enough or central enough to have put him among the group of "religious heroes" who were taken.
From: Steven M. Bergson, "Jewish Comics: A Select Bibliography" last updated 28 June 2005 (http://www.geocities.com/safran-can/JWISHC.HTM; viewed 23 December 2005):
DeMatteis, J.M. "The Resurrection Stone" Avengers #209 July 1981 (NY: Marvel).
From: "At DC Comics, Diversity Is No Laughing Matter", published on AOLTimeWarner.com website, 1 November 2001 (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/atdccom.htm; viewed 20 December 2005):
Following the trail of the resurrection stone through time, the Avengers superhero team arrive in Dachau during liberation. There, they find that Holocaust survivor Sol Rosenblatt using power of the half-stone to try to bring his murdered aughter and wife back to life. Paradoxically, he only raised the body "without its soul" and "revived the spirirt in a lifeless husk". The Beast convinces Sol to let their souls be free and to relinquish the stone.
"The original creators of comics, 60 or 70 years ago, were almost all Jewish and Italian kids from various parts of New York," notes DC Comics Executive Vice President and Publisher Paul Levitz. "And the characters they created were pseudo-whitebread Episcopalian. It was almost de rigueur back then to paint people in this idealized American image."
Dr. Henry L. McCoy was a prominent physician, scientist and devout Episcopalian who lived in Smethport, Pennsylvania. We have no reason to believe that the fictional character Henry P. McCoy of the X-Men was actually based on Dr. McCoy of Smethport, but the biographical information below serves to illustrate that the name "Henry McCoy" may well have been chosen by the Beast's original creators based on a general Episcopalian character template, or that later writers interpreted the name as indication of the character's Episcopalian background. What is interesting about this biographical information about Dr. Henry L. McCoy is how close the man it describes resembles "the Beast" of the X-Men. The interests and talents of the two men (one real, one fictional, as portrayed in the comics and by Kelsey Grammer in the 2006 feature film X-Men 3) seem largely identical. Even the language used in the description below mirrors the verbosity of the speech patterns typically written for the Beast's dialogue. From: Dr. Henry L. McCoy biography page on "Planet Smethport [Pennsylvania]" website (http://www.smethporthistory.org/mainwest/1000.block/mccoy/hlmccoy.htm#1895; viewed 21 January 2006):
Dr. H. L. McCoy Residence
McCoy Stadium Named after this Man!
Henry L. McCoy, M.D., Smethport, son of Dr. William Y. and Charlotte A. (Darling) McCoy, was born in Smethport, McKean County, Penn., in 1846. His maternal grandfather, Dr. George Darling, was the first medical practitioner of McKean County. Henry L. was educated in Smethport, and read medicine with is father, who was a noted physician of his day, also with Prof. Sanford Eastman, of Buffalo; he then attended two courses of medical lectures, and graduated from the University of Buffalo in 1868, commencing the practice of medicine in Smethport. In the winter of 1870-71 he attended a course of lectures at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City; thence returned and resumed practice at Smethport. In September, 1869, he married Clara, the only child of P. Ford, and to them four children have been born: Alice, Grace, Agnes, and Charles. Dr. McCoy is a member of the I.O.O.F., lodge Commendery, No. 388, F.& A.M.; Bradford Chapter, No. 258, R.A.M., and Trinity Commandery, No. 58, K.T. He is also a member of the I.O.O.F., lodge and encampment. He is Senior Warden of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, of which his family are members. In politics the doctor is a Democrat...
HENRY LANE Mc COY , son of Dr. William Young and Charlotte Augusta (Darling) McCoy, was born October 20, 1846, at Smethport , McKean Country, Pennsylvania, and has made his native town his home and the scene of his busy and active life up to the present time. He received the preliminary portion of his education in the local public school, and then for a time engaged in civil engineering in connection with the construction of the Pennsylvania Railroad through that part of the State lying between Warren and Oil City. During this time, however, his attention was turned somewhat forcibly to the tioner, and he decided to make it his career in life. With this end in view, he took up Prof. Sanford Eastman of Buffalo, New York, and eventually entered the Buffalo Medical College and the Medical School of Buffalo University. From this institution he was graduated with the degree of M.D. in the year 1867. Returning to his native Smethport, he began there the general practice of his profession, but in 1870 went to New York City, and during that year and the next attended lectures at the College of Physicians and Surgeons for Post-Graduates. His practice in Smethport has been extraordinarily successful and has grown uninterruptedly up to the present time. He is now the oldest practicing physician in the Borough of Smethport , and occupies a unique position in the affections of his fellow townsmen. In addition to his medical practice, Dr. McCoy is associated with many important business concerns in this region, and is a director of the Smethport Water Company, the Smethport Gas Company, and a stockholder in the Great Southern Lumber Company of Bogalusa, Louisiana.
Dr. McCoy has always been keenly interested in the affairs of the community of which he is a member. In spite of the fact that his father was a lifelong Democrat, he is himself equally devoted to the Republican party, and has served as county physician for several terms, and has been school director for many years. In his religious belief Dr. McCoy is an Episcopalian, and has attended St. Luke's Episcopal Church for more than thirty years. He has been active in the work of the church during that entire time, and has been the director of the choir there from the starting to the present. This beloved physician has soothed and healed many a sorrowing, broken heart with his sweet, sympathetic music, which he has given without stint from early manhood, and will be long remembered by the poor of this parish to whom he has ministered so generously. He is a prominent Free Mason, and is past master of McKean Lodge, No. 388, Free and Accepted Masons; a member of Bradford Chapter, No. 260, Royal Arch Masons; and of Trinity Commandery, No. 58, Knights Templar. He is also affiliated with the local lodge and encampment of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and is a prominent member of the Central Club of Smethport.
Dr. McCoy was united in marriage September 8, 1849, at Smethport, Pennsylvania, with Clara Maria Ford, a native of Smethport, born November 29, 1849, a daughter of Philetus and Maria Everett Ford, in direct line of Edward Everett. Mrs. McCoy is also a member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church, and is active in the work of the church. Mrs. McCoy is a prominent member of the Pennsylvania Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution at Smethport, and the Ladies Club at Smethport. She is a member of a very old family, and can trace her descent from William Ford, who was born in England in the year 1604, and came to the New England colonies with his mother, his brother John and sister Martha, in the good ship "Fortune," which arrived in New Plymouth, November 11, 1641.
Dr. H. L. McCoy, Civic Leader, is Called to Rest
Taken from American Families Genealogical and Heraldic, 1917
Was a pioneer, physician, and musician of note
The death of Dr. Henry Lane McCoy, age the 84, McKean County's oldest physician in point of service, Smethport civic leader and a musician of note, occurred at his home on West Main St. Saturday, January 1931 at 1:30 in the morning from an illness that he had come down with ten days before...
Dr. McCoy's wish to retire from active practice of his profession, he found it impossible to resist the importunities of patients who relied on his recognized skill and his office practice was large up to the time of his last illness.
In addition to his skill as a physician, Dr. McCoy was a wonderful musician - the possessor of a tenor voice of unusual power and beauty. Had he chosen in younger life to enter a music career, that career would have led to great heights in the realm of opera or concert.
As it was, his great talent was reserved as a treat for his fellow townsmen.
The father of a lovely family, every member of which inherited the father's vocal talent, Dr. McCoy and his son and daughters were frequently heard in delightful public recitals. The bare announcement of a concert by the gifted McCoy family was sufficient to fill an auditorium to capacity.
For many years he instructed and conducted the choir, St. Luke's Episcopal Church, devoting his valuable time to that labor of love. His reward was a highly trained singing organization which was recognized as one of the finest choirs in North Pennsylvania.
In addition to his busy professional career, Dr. McCoy found time for many diversified interests. The possessor of a fine mind and of natural scholarly temperament, he was a delightful companion. His kindly, sympathetic interest in man, in addition to the practical greed he administered in line of his professional duties, endeared him to all.
He was an ardent lover of sports, particularly baseball, and following the organization of the Smethport Country Club, devoted much time to golf when his health permitted.
From: Barry, "For Barry" page, posted 26 March 2006 on "Theo-Dongs" blog website http://theopeckers.blogspot.com/2006/03/for-barry.html; viewed 8 May 2006):
Why are all the cool characters [expletive] Episcopalians? What the hell! Like every hero with a descent power is all rich and beautiful. Look at that list. The Invisible Woman and the Human Torch (multi-millionaires), Warren Worthingtion - the Archangel (also a multi-millionaire), Captain Britain (millionaire and ruler of another dimension), Psylocke (Captain Britain's sister, so, yes, a millionaire), Henry McCoy - the Beast (not really a millionaire but a genius geneticist who lives in a mansion with Charles Xavier who is a millionaire), Jean Grey - the Phoenix (also not personally rich, but is a cosmic god who, when she's living, lives in a mansion with millionaires), and of course Bruce Wayne - Batman (who is not a millionaire, but is, in fact, a billionaire). So, yes. There's you're proof. All Episcopalians are lazy rich people.
From: "Religious Beliefs of Marvel Characters" discussion board started 20 October 2004 on Comic-Forum.com website (http://www.comic-forum.com/marvel/Religious_beliefs_of_Marvel_characters_397905.html; viewed 8 June 2006):
Date: 21 Oct 2004 21:06:41
From: "Claremont's 'Revenge' / CC Trademarks" thread on rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks/browse_thread/thread/b6c76ad39ebedbac/82cfea80ebc7bade; viewed 12 June 2006):
From: Matt Deres
At the risk to my sanity, I've dug out that series [Infinity Crusade] to investigate...
Some other notes (please don't make me peruse this again!):
- Hank McCoy specifies that he does believe in "a God" (though he stays with the rationalists).
From: Leor Blumenthal
Date: Tues, May 5 1998 12:00 am
Why should religious people [in Chris Claremont stories] be constantly portrayed as backwards, primitive, or naive?
[Samy Merchi disagrees with previous poster Leor Blumenthal's contention that most religious characters written by Chris Claremont are "backwards, primitive and naive", or, on other words, negatively portrayed. Merchi counters Blumenthal's contention by categorizing all the religious Claremont characters he can think of. Most do not display the negative characteristics Blumenthal is complaining about.]
From: Samy Merchi
Date: Sat, May 9 1998 12:00 am
re: "Why should religious people [in Chris Claremont stories] be constantly portrayed as backwards, primitive, or naive?"
Tolerant, un-backwards, un-primitive, un-naive: Kurt, Reverend Conover, Hank (though if we're just conversing Claremont he's out), Ororo, Kitty, Dani, Forge, Amara..., Lilandra.
Intolerant, backwards, primitive, or naive: Rahne, Reverend Stryker.
Additions? You'll have to add eight backwards people to validate your point, or invalidate eight of the people I gave.
From: "Up, up, and oy, vey!", posted 5 February 2006 on MetaFilter.com website (http://www.metafilter.com/39326/Up-up-and-oy-vey; viewed 19 June 2007):
From: "Religion of the X-Men" message board started 15 May 2005 on Comic Book Resources website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-58362.html; viewed 13 June 2006):
...By the way, Marvel apparently recognized early on that its original books had been too whitebread. All five of the original X-Men [Cyclops, Iceman, the Beast, Angel and Jean Grey/Marvel Girl] were WASPs ["White Anglo-Saxon Protestants"], but when they revived the book in the 1970's, the new team members (Havok, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Storm, Wolverine, Thunderbird, Banshee and Sunfire) were WASP, German Catholic, African Pagan, Canadian, Native American, Irish Catholic, and Japanese, respectively...
posted by Asparagirl at 8:14 PM on February 5
05-15-2005, 05:56 PM
Do you ever wonder what religion an X-Man is? I know they are just characters, but still, just for the fun of it.
I am wondering if you could guess their religion by their character, or what they've said, etc.
05-15-2005, 06:22 PM
A good rule of thumb comes from the Infinity Crusade, where the "best" of the MU's religious heroes were brainwashed...
Beast also says something to the effect of "Hey, I believe there's a God, why wasn't I taken?" The reason was he didn't believe enough, or something.
From: "Where are the Christian Superheroes?" forum discussion page started 22 August 2006 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-81451.html; viewed 5 May 2007):
08-22-2006, 10:03 AM
...I pose the question to you, my fellow Talk@Ramanians: If Christianity is the most popular faith in the United States, why aren't there more openly Christian superheroes?
08-22-2006, 11:57 AM
I'm Episcopalian myself, so I remember whenever a hero comes up as one. From what I remember, Beast, Jean Grey..., Archangel, [and] Psylocke were all at some point identified as Episcopal.
From: "What are the religious beliefs of the main mutants in the X-Books?" forum discussion started 16 January 2007 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-160293.html; viewed 16 May 2007):
01-16-2007, 03:51 PM
What do you think the religious beliefs of the following mutants are?
01-17-2007, 05:33 AM
Character's religious beliefs aren't really mentioned that often... I remember Beast saying he believes in God, but that was just once and I've yet to see any signs of his faith...
01-17-2007, 05:45 AM
I believe Beast mentioned in Infinity Crusade that he's a deist more or less. Eg. believer in the Einsteinian Creator, and "God the Engineer"...
From: "What religion do superhero's belong to? [sic]" forum discussion started 18 July 2002 on "Toon Zone" website (http://forums.toonzone.net/showthread.php?t=41332; viewed 21 May 2007):
07-18-2002, 01:02 PM
What religion do superhero's [sic] belong to?
I'd like to discuss what religious beliefs are favorite costumed hero's belong to. Everyone knows Daredevil is Catholic. But beyond that, what do we know of superhero's beliefs? I'm thinking of mostly the Marvel Universe, but you DC fans feel free to contribute as well...
Anyone know if Charles Xavier is Catholic or Protestant, or uh, possibly Jewish? What religion is that man anyway?
07-18-2002, 01:30 PM
This is a discussion I've had several times with my friends, and usually I step out of it when it turns offensive. (Which with my friends, it always does!) Thing to remember though that until recently, like the past decade, religion and talks of such were verboten in most main stream comic books. Now that's changed...
...Xavier may just be nondenominational. No idea what Scott Summers is but it seems that Jean Grey is a Christian as well, and same with the Hank McCoy...
From: "Atheist representation on the Avengers" forum discussion started 20 June 2001 on "Comic Boards" website (http://www.comicboards.com/avengers/view.php?trd=010620110715; viewed 24 May 2007):
Posted by D-Man on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 20:10:53 GMT
...Probably the best comic you could find to figure out who believes in a god or a god, or have deep faith in God or a god would be:
The Goddess uses the heroes' faith and belief in gods and such to recruit heroes.
Here are a list of Avengers who are "believers" so are recruited by the Goddess:
The so-called "non-believers" that the Goddess didn't choose:
Beast (although Beast claims to believe in a god, but Vision counters with "Obviously because your belief in a supreme being is not as deeply felt nor well known as the others.")
Quasar (which was stated in his own book)
From: "Here, God exists in Four Colors and Two Dimensions", posted 7 March 2006 by grabbingsand on Metafilter website (http://www.metafilter.com/49827/Here-God-exists-in-Four-Colors-and-Two-Dimensions; viewed 11 June 2007):
Jimmy Olsen is a Lutheran. Really. And Clark Kent? Methodist, it seems. Daredevil, Gambit, Huntress and The Punisher? Catholics, all of them, though I have to wonder when Frank Castle last went to Confession. With about half of DC Comic's line-up heading to church in the latest issue of Infinite Crisis and knowing that Civil War is imminent in the House of Marvel, what better time than now to contemplate the particular faiths of our two-dimensional heroes.
I'm fascinated by the list of religions of superheroes. And I have a hard time believing that The Beast is an Episcopalian because he runs around shirtless so much even when there isn't any water.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:07 PM on March 7
Webpage created 23 December 2005. Last modified 19 June 2007.
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