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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Manuel Alfonso Rodrigo de la Rocha
Empath
of the Hellions and X-Corporation

Empath is a believing Catholic from Spain.

Manuel Alfonso Rodrigo de la Rocha is known as "Empath", a comic book character and a member of the Hellions. The Hellions were a team of mutants that fought the New Mutants on multiple occassions. The Hellions were trained by Emma Frost (the White Queen). Originally he was portrayed as a particularly malicious member of the Hellions. He also fought the X-Men.

Later Empath mellowed considerably and apparently repented from his previously evil ways. He was a member of X-Corporation, a peaceful organization organized by Charles Xavier. He later lived peacefully on the grounds of the X-Mansion as part of the "198" in the wake of M-Day.

Empath's past "villainy" may have stemmed largely from the influence of his teacher, Emma Frost, who herself repented and became a member of the X-Men in good standing.

Empath's comic book appearances include: New Mutants vol. 1 #s 16-17, 26, 28, 38-40, 43, 53, 56, 62, 81, Annual #4; Firestar #s 2-4; Uncanny X-Men #193; X-Treme X-Men #s 31, 34-35.

From: "Empath" page on "Left Turn at Westchester" website (http://p082.ezboard.com/fleftturnatwestchesterfrm6.showMessage?topicID=209.topic; viewed 9 August 2007):

History: Manuel de la Rocha was born to the Duke of Segovia, Leandro and his wife Eva de la Rocha in Castile, Spain. He was born to a wealthy family that could even trace their lineage to the Ancient Romans. His family name alone is known throughout the upper-class of society. Manuel was an only child and grew to be a spoiled brat who was use to getting everything he wanted and being better than everyone around him. Leandro wanted his son to be an exceptional heir once he passed, so he taught his son to never let anyone cut him down or gain more power than he ever has. Manuel was growing up to be exactly what his wanted him to be: powerful and resilient at a young age. His grades exceeded most of those around him and eyes were always upon him, watching his every move.

Except that one wicked day, swarms of emotions bombarded Manuel in his school. He would feel anger towards people who had done nothing to him, fear of those he'd once respected, and a lust for others he couldn't explain. All of these things for a young boy at the age of nine proved to be maddening. Manuel was drowning in the emotions, desires, and fears of those around him. At his age, he was unable for a time to actually function, not being able to piece together his own mind and emotions. Since those around him were overlapping Manuel's emotions, his behavior was unpredictable. Outburst of crying, fits of anger, and tantrums became the norm for the young child.

So, like many with psionic gifts, he was believed to have gone mad. His parents had hired a 24-hour staff in their home to tend to their son in hopes that he would get better, and to keep his condition from reaching the media. He would sometimes go into catatonic states, unable to talk or communicate effectively with the outside world. It was his way of shutting everything out, but in reality, he turned himself into a sponge absorbing everyone else's emotions.

Manuel would spend about two years on and off of the couches of many shinks regaining himself and control of his abilities, albeit slowly. By the age of 14, Manuel had a decent amount of control and was back in school, with records of his 'breakdown' destroyed. He then realized that not only could he sense emotions of people, but could also project and change those of others. Girls that before had blown him off because of his age or arrogance would instantly desire him; men who would in some way threaten him, cowered or lost interest. With his mutation working in alignment with his hormones and arrogance, he had coaxed many of his classmates into his bed and had teachers giving him A's just for coming.

It did not take long for some to question just how Manuel was doing this and he was rumored to have been a mutant. When his parents asked, he gladly told them, but being the Roman Catholic socialites they were, warned Manuel never to use his abilities or else he would be cut off. Not liking their response, Manuel made them "feel better" about his powers.

Recently, he was invited to the U.S. by Emma Frost to be trained in developing his abilities. Having never been to the States before, Manuel took the offer since his father is a member of the Hellfire club as well.

Discussion

Excerpts from: "Religion/Spirituality" discussion page, started 29 November 2003, on ComixFan.com website (http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/forums/archive/index.php/t-24121.html; viewed 10 January 2006):
Eric Travis
Feb 6, 2004, 04:52 pm
Manuel De La Rocha is also, I believe, a self-labeled Catholic (albeit a smug and utterly slappable one).

From: "Any Christian Superheroes?" thread began 22 April 2004 on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4e5839f075fecf76/8821b5db671e7ce1; viewed 20 June 2006):

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: Daibhid Ceannaideach
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 1:07 pm

In addition to the ones others mentioned, I thought of Zauriel, but I'm not sure he is religious, as we'd understand it. Religion is an interpratation of a truth that he actually knows.


From: Brian Doyle
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 2:42 pm

There was a nice conversation between Magma and Empath one time, when she tells him about meeting Hercules. He ponders whose faith is greater, her, because she has met one of her deities (well, demi-deity, but you get the idea), or his, because he has faith in something he's never seen (Despite the fact that Empath was a sociopathic sadist up until about this point (Thank you Ms. Simonson!) and was about as Un-Christian as it's possible to imagine).

From: "X-Men religious affiliations" thread started 1 June 2002 on rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks/browse_thread/thread/78e6830d00083d2f/102a03cd2dab9fda; viewed 13 June 2006):

From: Chris Dodson
Date: Sat, Jun 1 2002 9:38 pm

I'm looking for information on the religious beliefs of all the current X-Men for a story I'm submitting to Marvel. The only one I know for sure is Nightcrawler (Catholic). I get the impression that Wolverine is an atheist or agnostic, but I have no in-comic evidence to support this. Any help you guys could give me would be greatly appreciated. Also, in your responses, could you provide titles and issue numbers of the comics in which the information is stated? Thanks.


From: Brian Doyle
Date: Sun, Jun 2 2002 8:28 am

...Magma - Worshipped the Roman pantheon when she thought she was a Nova Romani...


From: Brian Doyle
Date: Mon, Jun 3 2002 11:21 am

There was an interesting issue where Magma and Empath discuss faith, Magma has MET Hercules so knows her Pantheon to be real, whereas Empath, a Catholic (in name if not in deed) has never met his deity, so they ponder which is the stronger faith...

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):

[http://www.comicboards.com/dcb/view.php?rpl=060306112630]

Posted by Hellstone on Monday, March 06 2006 at 11:26:30 GMT

re: "Are there any?"

Hoo boy, yeah.

re: "How do you relate to the characters in comics, DC especially, who are characterised as atheistic/agnostic?"

Well, being a bit self-centered, I guess I consider all (or most) characters atheists until they have explicitly stated otherwise.

Other than that, I don't relate to atheistic and religious characters in any different ways. As long as they aren't fundamentalist nutjobs (but those exist among atheists as well).

re: "Would you still be an atheist if you'd had the experiences Mr Terrific and co have had?"

Impossible to answer. But I can easily see Mr. Terrific's point. In a world of cosmic energy beings and larger-than-life superheroes, why would we believe that the so-called "gods" are any different in nature. Maybe it's even easier to be an atheist in the DCU because of that.


[http://www.comicboards.com/dcb/view.php?rpl=060306115558]

Posted by Icon on Monday, March 06 2006 at 11:55:58 GMT

As noted in other discussions over the years, they [DC Comics] seem to bend over backwards to NOT assign denominations or faith statements to characters, due in part to a fear of alienating readers who might find it too much of a disassociation. Heroes should be relatable, and there are few things more divisive than religion.

I recall a discussion in an old New Teen Titans where Dick and Wally are infiltrating Brother Blood's base and have a discussion about their repsective viewpoints. IIRC [If I recall correctly], Wally definitely had a denomination, though I can't recall if mentions it by name (Baptist?), and Dick says that he believes in God, but doesn't go to church regularly. That struck me as an interesting commentary, but certainly didn't feel it changed my opinion of them as characters.

I am not an atheist, and am happy in my religious beliefs, but even if I WERE an atheist, I'd probably join a church just to annoy the likes of Richard Dawkins (A particularly irritating, "evangelical" atheist here in the UK who views anyone who has a faith as being, essentially, a misguided fool) :-)

...There's a nice discussion in an old New Mutants where the Catholic Empath and the Roman pantheon worshipping Magma (I think that technically makes her a Pagan, but I'm never sure whether that's a suitable word to use) discuss their respective faiths after Magma relates a story wherein she met Hercules. Is her faith stronger because she's met one of her Gods, or is his, because he still believes even though he HASN'T met his God. Appropriately, it doesn't give an answer.


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