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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Dr. Ong
in Creature-Tech by Doug TenNapel

From: Hernan Espinoza, "THE TRADELIST: Graphic Novels and Trade Paperbacks Shipping in February 2002", on (http://www.previewsreview.com/tradelist/0212/; viewed 5 January 2006):

CREATURE TECH
by Doug TenNapel. Top Shelf's fastest first printing ever! 5,000 copies sold out in 90 days! 20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises have picked up the feature film rights to Doug TenNapel's Creature Tech. Good battles evil, and the world hangs in the balance! Resurrected by the Shroud of Turin, the zombified Dr. Jameson intends to finish what he started 150 years ago - destroying the earth with a giant space eel. Standing in his way is Dr. Ong, a would-be pastor-turned-scientist who now works in a government research facility infamously known as "Creature Tech." Aided by an unlikely cast of rednecks, symbiotic aliens, and a CIA-trained mantid, Dr. Ong embarks on a journey of faith, love, and self-discovery. All in a day's work at Creature Tech! SC, 9x7, 208pg, b&w. $17.95

From: Alex Johnson, "At the comics shop, religion goes graphic: Judeo-Christian themes woven into comic books you might not expect", published on MSNBC.com, 25 April 2006 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12376831/; viewed 2 May 2006); re-posted by Worldwide Religious News (http://wwrn.org/article.php?idd=21302; viewed 2 May 2006):

At the other end of the comics spectrum [from Antoine Sharpe, star of The Atheist comic book series] are series put out by religious publishers for religious readers. Mostly, these are instructive parables targeted at young readers, while others are graphical biographies of saints and other church leaders. But there have been attempts to cross over to older, more mainstream audiences. "Creature Tech," by Doug Temnepel, is a graphic novel that grafts traditional science fiction space adventures onto the story of a scientist's return to his faith...

From: "WAGW #36", posted 30 September 2004 on ComixTreme.com website (http://www.comixtreme.com/forums/showpost.php?p=151233&postcount=1; 5 January 2006):

Well as I was finishing this up I received an e-mail from Dave Crosland, and the answer to that question.

...one of the best books I've ever read that also had undertones of faith and theology, is Creature-Tech by Doug Tennapel. It's so great because you have this central character who's discovering his faith, but you're not hit over the head with it. Doug manages to make that a major part of the story, without coming across as heavy-handed or didactic."

From: Keith Giles, "Interview: Doug TenNapel", posted 01.09.03 on Slush Factor website (http://www.slushfactory.com/content/EpukEpFlVVrvxvqqIT.php; viewed 5 January 2006):

G [interviewer]: You blend several concepts in this book that, on the surface, don't seem to work naturally together, and yet you manage to juggle them quite well. Why did you decide to bring together such a dichotomy of subject matter?

[Doug TenNapel]: Creature Tech's theme is Dr. Ong with a creature stuck on his chest. It's awkward, like a rusty nail sticking out of a wedding cake. Following this theme, every element added into Creature Tech was just another odd thing on top of another odd thing.

It's a sci-fi thriller...so I added conservative Christian philosophy...so I added irreverent humor...so I added heart-wrenching drama...so I added gore and monsters. It's actually very thematically consistent.

. . .

G [interviewer]: What sort of response have you received from fans regarding the themes explored in Creature Tech? What sort of responses have you been surprised about?

[Doug TenNapel]: I get all good news from fans. Even the fans that disagree with the material are not offended by my approach. It usually sparks up an interesting conversation! My biggest surprise was that nobody hated this book. I mean not one complaint. I'm always suspect of that.

G [interviewer]: But, you have received criticism though. Steven Grant, on CBR, has made comments to suggest that the spiritual and religious imagery found in Creature Tech is unnecessary. How would you respond to that?

[Doug TenNapel]: Anyone who says that Creature Tech's religious elements are "unnecessary" and "seemed tacked onto the story" doesn't get Creature Tech. Which religious element is tacked on and should be edited out? The Shroud of Turin? The small town church? The demons? The resurrection of the dead? The atheist son? The pastor father? Mantis heaven? How about the alien crucifix?

I don't want to overstep my boundaries because critics can write whatever about Creature Tech but the claim that religious elements are tacked on or unnecessary are wholly unsupported by his examples. When a claim is unsupported by specific examples it should be taken as just personal opinion animated by an agenda.

Here's the justification for the religious elements in C-Tech and your readers can decide if they sound tacked on:

Dr. Ong the Atheist vs. his father the Pastor - Every "Hero's tale" starts with a father son that are in some sort of conflict. The father could be dead, mean or missing. Dr. Ong and his father have opposite points of view about religion. Dr. Ong is a scientist so it is well within the framework of storytelling to have a scientist to be an atheist. That's no stretch. To create a proper foil for Dr. Ong's atheism his father would naturally be a Christian. The more religious the better for the father/son conflict. This brings me to another point that most stories about "man vs. God" are interchangeable with "son vs. father". The rage of Ahab against Moby Dick is like man against God or boy against father. The same goes for other movies like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Exorcist, Signs, 2001... where a parent-type God is in conflict with a man-child.

The Shroud of Turin - While it's just a prop in the comic it serves as a device to resurrect characters across a large time span. There aren't many other plot devices that I could have used that haven't already been used a thousand times before like time machines etc. Further, if Dr. Ong's spiritual regeneration is at stake isn't it appropriate to have said prop be a religious artifact? So much of what Creature Tech is about involves Science discrediting superstition so The Shroud of Turin made sense as a real life discredited superstitious artifact. It's hardly tacked on...it is woven throughout the spine of Creature Tech.

The Small Town Church - Small town America is full of evangelicals and so is the small town in Creature Tech. Some are good, some are a--holes just like real life. They serve to make Dr. Ong feel alienated having come back from the big city where he achieved fame as a Nobel prize winner. Urban centers are not known for their fundamentalism as evidenced when Robin Williams does his impression of an evangelist he always adds the big Southern drawl. City folk are supposed to be smarter...which is why most of them voted for Al Gore I suppose.

The Symbiotic Crucifix - This image is the climax of the entire story. Remember that Dr. Ong is physically rescued by the Symbiote at the start of the story when it provides respiratory function after his own heart fails. C. S. Lewis believed that if there was alien life and it had fallen that Jesus would provide a sacrifice for them as well (so much for Sagan PRAYING to find alien life to disprove God as sole creator of life). Here we find a planet of fallen Symbiotes and Jesus came as one of them and died on a kind of cross. Dr. Ong gives up when he sees to what length God will hunt him...now the Symbiote is not just a physical savior, but a spiritual one as well. It's a rich beautiful symbol that only a tin-eared biggot would call "unnecessary."

I don't mind if Creature Tech gets a negative review (though it is empirically good) but when people knee-jerk at the religious elements it says more about the reviewer than it does about my book. Atheists and agnostics alike love this book and it's not because they're convinced that Christianity is legit. I do hope that everyone who reads Creature Tech looks into alternatives to Evolution which I believe is about to go the way of the Flat Earth belief...it is far closer to phlogiston than Intelligent Design Theory. Read "Darwin's Black Box" by Behe THEN bitch about Intelligent Design. At least you'll be better equipped to make a logical argument against Intelligent Design.

If he can't come up with specific examples that the religious elements of Creature Tech were tacked on then [EXPLETIVE] HIM! This comic wasn't meant for him and he can choose from a billion other comics that are hostile to the Christian world view.

So much for diversity in comics.

Discussion

From: "Superhero Religious Views?" forum discussion, started 9 June 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-116001.html; viewed 13 July 2007):

JohnLynch
06-09-2007, 10:57 PM

IMO [In my opinion] Superman simply cannot be Christian, as Christianity has man above all other beings, and Superman isn't a man. He's an alien. Therefore he isn't equal to mankind, he's a lesser being under the Christian view. Any waffling on that point, IMO, is simply dishonest.


Inactiveman
06-10-2007, 01:13 AM

re: "Superman simply cannot be Christian as Christianity has man above all other beings, and Superman isn't a man. He's an alien..."

I don't think you quite understand Christianity.

Aliens are quite compatible with Christianity; in fact I once read a Vatican scientist (yes the Vatican does have a scientific research dept.) discuss the possibility of Jesus appearing to alien civilizations and whether or not the concept of sin would even apply to aliens.


Moonbeam
06-10-2007, 03:00 AM

re: "Man, and only man, are given souls in the Bible. Every other creature is simply an animal and therefore below man."

Your church takes the Jewish holy scriptures at face value? Wild. But hey - whatever floats your boat.

I tend to agree that Superman wouldn't be comfortable with your view of Christianity, but who knows what he might think of another view that incorporated Christ's teachings but saw the Jewish scriptures as moral myths, similar to modern liberal Judaism.


JAGII
06-10-2007, 07:11 AM

re: "Superman simply cannot be Christian as Christianity has man above all other beings, and Superman isn't a man. He's an alien..."

There have been plenty of Christians that would disagree with your conclusion. In fact, C.S. Lewis's ISpace Trilogy suggested that each planet and alien civilization had their own Christ. This was the incarnation of the same God the Father that Christians worship, just the God the Son takes a different form. Doug TenNapel borrowed this idea in CreatureTech.

Of course, he may have meant this allegorically, but I what I know about Lewis leads me to believe he wouldn't be outright opposed to the idea of aliens. Skeptical at best...


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