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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Above: Who Is Donna Troy? trade paperback, DC Comics: New York (2005). By Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Phil Jimenez, et al.
Greco-Roman classical religion (also known as classical paganism, Greco-Roman paganism, or Greek mythology) was the dominant religion of the Western world for hundreds of years during the Minoan, Classical Greek, Hellenistic, and Roman periods (roughly from the 8th century BCE to the 3rd century A.D.). Today relatively few people practice Greco-Roman classical religion, and virtually all that do subscribe to revivalist movements (often categorized as "Neo-Paganism"), rather than religions which have had a continuous organized tradition since antiquity. On Amazon Island, however, Greco-Roman classical religion has always been the norm, and Donna Troy, who was raised there, is no exception in being an adherent.
An interesting aspect of Donna Troy's character is the importance of the Titans in her origin. Although she originally had no memory of her upbringing by the Titans of old, Donna Troy later learned that she spent many years during her childhood among them, learning and developing her powers. The Titans are the pantheon of elder gods who directly preceeded the more commonly known Greco-Roman pantheon led by Zeus, Hera and their other offspring. Traditional Greco-Roman religionists (including the Amazons) worship Zeus and his cohorts, rather than their progenitors, which many myths describe as having been defeated and banished by Zeus and his generation.
From: Andrew A. Smith (Scripps Howard News Service), "Comics superheroes of many faiths", published 3 February 2000 in The Houston Chronicle (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/religion/446482.html; viewed 30 November 2005):
So, if you were going to dress up like a bat and fight crime, what church would you attend?... Which is not to say that comics are a Christians-only playground. Most superheroes haven't had a faith established, but those that have are all over the ecclesiastical map...
Then there are the religions that don't correspond to real-world beliefs. The Greco-Roman gods appear routinely in comic books and were instrumental in the origins of Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Donna (formerly Wonder Girl) Troy, Aquaman, Sub-Mariner and, of course, Hercules.
A DONNA TROY (WONDER GIRL): [Speaking to Dick Grayson/Robin about her origin] I don't have any memories from before the fire. And actually I don't even clearly remember that. I do remember the smoke and heat and the bodies -- I guess they were my parents. Except for her uniform, I don't even remember Wonder Woman. But I can still see her golden lasso sparkling so brightly through the fire. I also remember feeling so safe as she cradled me in her arms -- carrying me away from the heat, away from the smoke, away from . . . my parents. I guess the rest is history.
DICK GRAYSON/ROBIN: She brought you to Paradise Island without checking your past?
DONNA TROY: Oh, she tried. But the apartment I was in wasn't rented, and the landlord said nobody lived there. Besides, Wonder Woman had me appointed her legal ward.
DICK GRAYSON/ROBIN: As I was with the Batman...
DONNA TROY: The Batman was more like your father. Wonder Woman seemed like my sister . . . She was always off fighting crime in Man's World while I was raised by her mother, Queen Hippolyte. Trouble is, though I lived with the Amazons, I wasn't one of them. Not until their chief scientist, Paula, modified their life-restoring Purple Ray, which siphoned a small fraction of all their Amazon powers and gave them to me. The Amazons took me into their homes and their hearts. I had a wonderful childhood. The Amazon way is both spiritual and physical, mind and body as one. Their ways became mine. That is everything I remember. There's no "Rosebud" to hang my life on, is there? I guess the shock of the fire wiped away my memories. I'm sorry I can't remember more.
NARRATION: You can see more stars twinkling over Paradise Island than you can over any other part of the Earth. The stars have more meaning here . . . each given the name of some still-worshipped god that we have banished to the dusty tomes of mythology. The air is fresher here, crisper here, more alive here. Perhaps, hidden away in the folds of the Bermuda Triangle, aay from man's follies, man's wars -- the Amazons have kept hold of some dream the rest of mankind has long ago lost.
The Temple of Athena . . .
NYSA (AN AMAZON): She's been praying in that temple all day now. I'm worried, Eurus. What if she fails?
EURUS (AN AMAZON): She won't. Hippolyta's words have swayed the deafest of gods!
PALLAS (AN AMAZON): Nysa, do you know what it is she wants that she has called upon wise Athena herself?
EURUS: Not in my lifetime has Hippolyta requested such a private audience.
PALLAS: I wish I knew. All Paula wuld tell me is Hippolyta has prayed four days for success. If its for battle strength, I am ready to lay down my life for our queen.
TYRA: I do not think so, Pallas. Your armies will not draw sword from scabbard this night.
NYSA: You know, Tyra . . . I agree. I believe our queen is thinking of matters closer to her heart.
EURUS: Then let us pray for her success. If Hippolyta wishes it, then so do we all!
PHOEBE (A TITAN): [Explaining Donna Troy's origins to her and the rest of the Teen Titans] The children [among whom was Donna] . . . the seeds . . . were brought to New Chronus . . . and we had prepared their welcome.
We wished to present to them a golden age, one to guide them and inspire them. For that we used what little remained of our powers . . . and rebuilt New Chronus. They were to be exposed to the best of all possibilities and aspire to the greatest of all dreams. Having brought the seeds to new Chronus, Rhea rejoined with Chaos. But her sacrifice lent us hope anew. We took to the children and embraced them as saviors. For, indeed, that is what they truly were. New names were given you all -- names taken from the planet Earth -- from those great cities that did us worship. Sparta from [the planet] Synriannaq. Idalium from Nyppos. Troy from Earth. There were lessons, and there was amusement. We opened our hearts to you and taught you our greatest secrets. You could soar on the wind like the bird -- or navigate the ocean depths. You learned physical realities and those beyond the physical. Thought, concept -- mind and body, all trained as one. You children would be everything even the gods could aspire to.
A TITAN: My friends [referring to the Teen Titans], in Sparta's tragedy, we [the Titans of myth] have been reborn.
ANOTHER TITAN: Our strength is full, our vigor restored. We are as young as the universe. As young and as eternal...
ANOTHER TITAN: We pray to Chaos and Gaea that we have learned these lessons well. We now begin our travels and atonement. And we begin a new life that we pray will be far richer than our old.
AN AMAZON: Lord Hades, most inevitable of the gods, we beseech that you honor our fallen queen, the noble Hippolyta, by escorting her adopted daughter safely beyond the tower of Cronus, to the blessed islands of the Elysian Fields -- an afterlife worthy of the favored of Athena and Artemis, of Aphrodite and Demeter -- one fitting an Amazon.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):
Jimenez, Phil. "Why?" Wonder Woman: Donna Troy #1 (NY: DC, 1998)
A distraught Donna Troy goes to a church seeking solace, having lost both her husband and her son. She reads aloud the text of a newspaper article that described one of her adventures. The article tells of how, in a display of racial and ethnic unity, several groups of people, "most prominently African Americans and a small but visible contingent of gays and lesbians, joined the march and were openly accepted by the primarily Jewish participants" prior to a riot provoked by neo-Nazi fanatics during a midnight candlelit vigil remembering those lost to the Holocaust. Another article shown later tells how Troy's non-Jewish husband Terry was beaten, along with a friend, in what was reported as an anti-semitic attack.
From: Gustavo Wombat
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 12:03 pm
I can't think of any major superheroes that strongly believe in any real faith, and that surprises me. Certainly not in the DC Universe. I think there are more minority superheroes than religious ones...
From: David Doty
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 2:51 pm
Of course, the Spectre was Christian, even if there were bits of other faiths mixed in. At least, before J.M. DeMatteis wrote him...
Jesse Custer... uh, believes that God exists.
Swamp Thing met Jes... nevermind.
I think Donna Troy went to church once.
From: "Religious Beliefs of DC Heroes" forum discussion, started 4 July 2006 on ComixFan website (http://x-mencomics.com/xfan/forums/showthread.php?p=1357699; viewed 6 July 2007):
Jul 4, 2006
I am a Christian (Baptist) in real life and I was wondering if anyone knows any DC characters that have been labled to a certain religion. I think DC has tried to stay away from religion, but... I thought this would cool topic. So please list anything you might know on this subject.
Jul 5, 2006
Well I don't think DC characters are very relgious because DC comics in general seem to have a very general liberal feel to it. That's not to say only conservatives are religious, but that's my opionion. Ok lets see... well Wonder Woman is polytheist since she believes in the Greek Gods. And I know Green Arrow II (Connor Hawke) is a Buddhist. But that's all that comes to mind. And since Donna Troy, Wonder Girl, Hercules, Fury (Golden Age), Fury II, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., and Mary Marvel are all heroes who got there powers from the Greek Gods I say they're polytheists as well.
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):
06-10-2007, 08:42 PM
Let's see this from the hero's point of view. Superman is always saying "Rao", so he might well be a worshipper of the Kryptonian gods. Supergirl and Power Girl were raised in a Kryptonian lifestyle, so they would certainly be worshippers of the Kryptonian gods. Wonder Woman would obviously worship the Greek gods, as would Donna, Wonder Girl and all the other Amazons...
06-13-2007, 01:43 AM
...Wonder Woman, Troia, and Wonder Girl obviously worship the Greek gods. So does Aquaman (primarily Poseidon)...
From: "Question for other atheists" forum discussion, started 6 March 2006 on "Comic Boards" website (http://www.comicboards.com/dcb/view.php?trd=060306051129; viewed 23 July 2007):
Posted by Corn Stone on Monday, March 06 2006 at 05:11:29 GMT
Question for other atheists. Are there any? :-)
How do you relate to the characters in comics, DC especially, who are characterised as atheistic/agnostic?
And a sort of put-yourself-in-the-shoes - Would you still be an atheist if you'd had the experiences Mr Terrific and co have had? (Not counting Green Arrow, Barry Allen and folk who have been to Heaven, if their experiences are to be believed. And they are - this is the DCU cosmology.)
I doubt very much I would call myself an atheist, if, say, I was a member of the JLA or JSA and had some of these experiences.
Posted by tolsvar on Tuesday, March 07 2006 at 00:30:12 GMT
Ok, so I wasn't going to go there, as I feel this subject does tend to walk a very fine line between "giving you an answer" and "getting too preachy". Then I read some other posts and thought "what the heck, I'll bore everyone with my opinion!"
First, I'm not an atheist, but I'm not part of any established religion either. I have my set of beliefs, formed by rationalizing what I know with what I believe. It's a fine line of science and faith, and it works for me.
If I lived in the DC Universe and saw things like people coming back from the dead, the Spectre and people like Dr Fate and the like, I don't think I'd have that hard of time fitting all that into what I believe. Someone like Zauriel (if I spelled his name right), who claims to be an angel, would be tough to understand. I would have a hard time believing that he was what he said he was, because of my views on what a supreme being is and does.
Situations like Donna Troia coming back from the dead, not so hard to understand because of what I believe. Unlikely? YEAH! But I wouldn't dismiss it.
Even someone like Wonder Woman, with her ties to Greek Mythology and their gods, could be understood based on my views on things. I could believe in someone like Zeus existing, I just wouldn't feel they were meant to be worshipped as they were back in the day.
Other dimensions, the little "hells" that sprinkle themselves across comic book universes, would be a curiousity to me, and I would definitely want to learn more to see how, if at all, they fit-in with what I believed. If my beliefs needed to be changed in order to accomodate what I learned, that's fine... I'm open-minded enough and certainly don't think so much of myself as to believe I have all the answers, not in the DC Universe!
Someone like Mr Terrific and Iron Man in the Marvel Universe are supposed to be portrayed as scientists, but I doubt the comic writers understand, truly, what it is that makes a scientific-minded person tick. They don't go through life doubting everything, they merely seek true answers to questions they have, and rarely take anything on faith. Based on what Terrific has been through, I'ld say his religious views are more complex than what we think they are. Iron Man should be the same way, but Marvel gets hung-up on showing how much he hates magic because he "doesn't understand it" and "it's not science". Seriously, hasn't he been hanging around Scarlet Witch long enough to have figured magic out by now?
So, in a nutshell, my faith in what I believe wouldn't be shattered or even shaken a little. Without a doubt, some of my more complex questions would be answered living in a world of superheroes and spirits of vengeance, but it would hardly make me over-haul everything I felt was true about life and why I'm here.