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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Bart Allen
the Flash
of Young Justice and the Teen Titans
previously known as "Impulse" and later "Kid Flash"


From: Robert Greenberger (editor), "Teen Titans" (capsule biography page) in
Teen Titans/Outsiders: Insiders trade paperback (DC Comics, New York City, 2006), page 4:
Kid Flash
Bart Allen has quite a legacy to live up to. His grandfather was Barry Allen, the second Flash. Born in the 30th century, Bart was brought to the 21st century by his grandmother to be properly schooled in the use of his natural super-speed. For a time, he operated as Impulse, under the tutelage of Max Mercury, Zen master of speed. A dramatic turn of events led Bart to decide it was time to grow up, and toward that goal he has speed-read and memorized the contents of the San Francisco Public Library. He has the knowledge but now needs the experience that will make him worthy of the Flash mantle. Taking the next step in the process, he changed his name to Kid Flash.

Discussion

Excerpts from: "Superman Wedding -- why a Christian ceremony?" newsgroup discussion started 11 October 1996 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4d17a1ff0ee9c715/d141c36005b90ea4; viewed 5 June 2006):

From: Douglas Ethington
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
Email: Douglas Ethington

I always thought that Clark was most likely a Christian...

Anyway, this thread got me thinking about the other DC heroes and what their religious beliefs might be, so here are some of my thoughts (most of this MHO [My Humble Opinion]):

...Wonder Woman worships the Greek gods. Captain Marvel is probably a Christian... I'd mention the Flashes and the Speed Force, but that thread has been done to death on this newsgroup. Most of the supervillains probably believe themselves to be the equals of gods, and Superboy, Bart Allen, and Kyle Rayner probably haven't given much serious thought to religious matters...

From: "Three-Way Review of Doom: Impulse, Ray, Supergirl Annual" thread, started 11 April 1996 on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/43dc0fbe0ee83d3a/478773cef45ebb1e; viewed 20 June 2006):

From: Sean MacDonald
Date: Thurs, Apr 11 1996 12:00 am

Impulse #14

...Villain dressed like a red pope. Would work for Batman, not so well for Impulse.

Quel coincidence. Bad guy wants cross which happens to be in Manchester. That not enough: so does White Lightning.

Church stuff. Yuck. Max says to find faith in something maybe if you wanna. Uh, sure...

Thumbs down.


From: Bart Gerardi
Date: Fri, Apr 12 1996 12:00 am

I have to agree. There was nothing redeeming about this book. The art was poor, the story was weak at best. A serious topic like religion was dealt with very flippantly ("SEGAAA") to the point of near insult. I can give the benefit of a bad month, due to the fact that's it's been a good title thus far, but this one looked just like a formula 2-issue story that occurs for no reason.


From: Elayne Wechsler-Chaput
Date: Fri, Apr 12 1996 12:00 am

re: "A serious topic like religion was dealt with very flippantly"

It was?

Geez, I must be reading a different version than everyone else. I

thought the topic of religion was handled very, very well. Of course Bart's going to be flippant - that's his NATURE. But Max wasn't. And Max is The Voice We're Supposed To Listen To in this book. Most of what he said about religion came across as very reverent to me.


From: Sean MacDonald
Date: Fri, Apr 12 1996 12:00 am

Well. Speaking as an areligious [anti-religious] person, I would say that Bart (Impulse not Gerardi) seems too young to be capable of making a serious choice in this regard. Any attempt to get Impulse to "pick a god" (Side note: of course, the only choices are Judeo-Christian. Sure, that's the most common variety around here, but surely the Zen Master of Speed could suggest other choices) will likely only confuse the lad. It might be easier for Max to just drum into Bart whatever views he holds (like any other parent), and let Bart make more personal decisions in these matters when he's had time to mature a bit.

Of course, then we would have the problem that, as Elayne said, Max is the Voice We're Supposed To Listen To, the one who is never wrong (as witnessed by Johnny Quick's origin being subverted to...), so any proselytizing by Max would seem as Infallible Views. So imho [in my humble opinion] attempting to bring in religion under these circumstances is doomed to fail.

And the idea that the Voice WSTLT [We are Supposed to Listen To] says that everyone needs something to believe in, to me, is insulting from an areligious viewpoint.

Maybe I just see things too much from Bart's perspective. "Pick a god" indeed. Why? He's done well these past two (or how ever many it seemed like to Bart) years without any.

I find it odd that both areligious and religious types would be offended by the same passage, however. I guess it takes a writer of Waid's stature to piss off everyone.

(except Elayne, of course.)


From: Elayne Wechsler-Chaput
Date: Sat, Apr 13 1996 12:00 am

re: "Speaking as an areligious person..."

So was I, by the way.

re: "I would say that Bart (Impulse not Gerardi) seems too young to be capable of making a serious choice in this regard."

I would agree, but Max doesn't.

...Judeo-Christian places of worship were the only ones shown when they were speeding through Manchester. They were not the only choices VOICED. In fact, Mark [Waid, the writer] was very careful NOT to have Max espouse ANY one religion.

...[I] haven't been a practicing Jew since about 16.

re: "...so any proselytizing by Max would seem as Infallible Views."

Exactly, which is why Max PURPOSELY doesn't espouse one particular set of beliefs.

re: "...attempting to bring in religion under these circumstances is doomed to fail."

I still don't follow you. He's not bringing A SPECIFIC RELIGION into the discussion, he's talking ABOUT RELIGION AS A CONCEPT.

re: "And the idea that the Voice [Max Mercury] says that everyone needs something to believe in, to me, is insulting from an areligious viewpoint."

Why? I may not need a deity to believe in, but I believe in my own abilities, and my friends, and rac* (well, sometimes), and good comic book stories, and... every now and then... magic.

re: "'Pick a god' indeed. Why? He's done well these past two (or how ever many it seemed like to Bart) years without any."

Has he, then?

Mark [Waid] pisses me off somewhat when he kills characters, but that's usually about the only time. What can I say, he's my favorite writer for a reason. His stuff usually resonates quite well with me.

But this - I'm really surprised so many people are bent out of shape over a scene SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED NOT to bend people out of shape.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't...


From: Sean MacDonald
Date: Sat, Apr 13 1996 12:00 am

re: "a scene SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED NOT to bend people out of shape"

Well, I saw it as Max [Mercury] saying that people need religion, but that religion can be any sort, thereby attempting not to offend any particular religion. Which is different from saying that some people need religion and some people don't.

I suppose it's open to interpretation, and many people (myself included) are more likely to interpret things in such a way as to be offended when it comes to deeply-held beliefs (or disbeliefs).


From: GD 2000
Date: Sun, Apr 14 1996 12:00 am

I have noticed in recent years that more and more people (including myself at various times in my life) feel that they are not properly represented if their perspective/life experiences are not included explicitly in scenes such as this. Some such scenes deal with race, others with religion (as seen in this instance), gender, etc. I wonder if there is any way to present controversial issues such as this that could please everyone. Such issues should be dealt with IMHO. The question is how to do it in a society that includes so many people that consider themselves to be so very different from one another. I thought the way that Waid addressed the issue of religion was one of the better I have seen.


From: Elayne Wechsler-Chaput Date: Sun, Apr 14 1996 12:00 am

Nice argument... Religion is UNDERrepresented in comics, so putting it in there is corrective to an extent and interesting story-wise (if you do it right).


From: Randy Lander
Date: Sun, Apr 14 1996 12:00 am

Bart needs to be aware of religion as a concept... And it's his [Max Mercury's] parent or guardian who's responsible for telling him about it. It's just like talking to your kid about sex. Even if they're not ready for it in your eyes, you'd better talk to them about it somewhat before their friends do.

...I'm pretty sensitive to when someone is preaching to me from the confines of my entertainment (it's one of the reasons I stopped watching Star Trek), and I didn't feel that here.

...I think that whenever you touch any controversial topic, people are going to complain. People on both sides. If you're not offending someone, you're probably not saying anything worth hearing on the subject.


From: Sean MacDonald
Date: Tues, Apr 16 1996 12:00 am

...It's easier to start with a set of beliefs and then edit them to one's personal taste than to start from scratch...


From: Tracey Steele
Date: Mon, Apr 22 1996 12:00 am

That's an interesting comment--I think I agree, though I'd never thought about it like that. Of course, it's a difficult theory to test, since we're all imprinted by the beliefs of those around us. Another reason Bart's such a unique character--he's largely a blank slate, without those ready-made prejudices...

I disagree with the idea that Impulse is the comic book equivalent of the 3 Stooges... I don't think it's a silly book, I think it's a book with a silly main character. Bart's a silly young man, because he hasn't figured out that's just _not_ acceptable (I'm quite jealous of him, and his lack of baggage). I don't think Max is silly, I don't think the situations he's in are generally silly--I just think Bart uses his power to have fun no matter what's going on.

From: Doug Tonks, "A Higher Power", posted 22 October 2006 on "All New! All Different! Howling Curmudgeons: Two-Fisted Comics Commentary and Criticism!" blog website (http://www.whiterose.org/howlingcurmudgeons/archives/009995.html; viewed 25 April 2007):

The never-identified but usually heeded "they" claim that there are two topics you should never talk about: religion and politics. But since Mike already brought up religion... I'll follow it up with a link to this page [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html], which lists the religious affiliations of various comic book characters. Many of the religious identifications are backed up with lengthy supporting arguments, but some of the more minor characters get little or nothing in the way of explanation.

Some of them are not too surprising... Others are obvious...

But this being comic books, it's not too long until things start getting a bit less clear... And some are just silly. Here are a few characters and their religious affiliation as listed: Bart Allen (do we have to call him Flash now?)--"Zen Speed Force."...

Posted by Doug at October 22, 2006 7:12 PM

From: "Religion of Comic Book Characters" forum discussion, started 29 March 2006 on AllSpark.com website (http://www.allspark.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=4168; viewed 1 June 2007):

Alvatron! [a self-described atheist]
post Mar 13 2007, 02:58 PM

...I know for a fact that Bart Allen is an Atheist, there was an issue of Impulse that addressed this, and I certainly hope the current writers respect that, though, with the way Bart's been treated in the last five years, I ain't so sure anybody cares about his backstory except his fans.


Cybersnark
post Mar 13 2007, 03:06 PM

Well, to be fair, he's [Bart Allen] been through a lot in the last five years (like, say, the last ten years). Beliefs can certainly change.


Alvatron! [a self-described atheist]
post Mar 13 2007, 03:10 PM

Yeah, and I think that severely undermines important character traits.

If they're gonna change such an important character trait any ol' time they feel like, why bother mentioning it in the first place?

I ain't convinced that just because Deathstroke put a 12 gauge slug through Bart's Kneecap, that he's suddenly gonna find/need religion.

it just doesn't work that way... and it's unconvincing characterization.

It basically sends the message that eventually, every Atheist is going to need religion, or come back to religion, and that's simply not the case.


Cybersnark
post Mar 13 2007, 06:45 PM

re: if they're gonna change such an important character trait any ol' time they feel like, why bother mentioning it in the first place?

To show characters responding to their experiences and changing. Static characters aren't that interesting. It's why I can't read Superman anymore.

re: I ain't convinced that just because Deathstroke put a 12 gauge slug through Bart's Kneecap, that he's suddenly gonna find/need religion.

I was thinking more of losing Max, reading all the books in the library, reinventing himself as Kid Flash, ultimately replacing Wally after he's lost to the Speed Force. He was also Superboy's friend, so losing him would've had an effect as well.

Plus, y'know, he could go and talk to Zauriel, the Spectre, Etrigan. . .


Alvatron!
post Mar 14 2007, 03:33 PM

Latest Edition of Flash, Bart fights Steppenwolf.

So, he acknowledges the existance of gods, that doesn't necessarily mean he believes/worships one.

From: "Superheroes/villains and their religions" forum discussion, started 16 March 2006 on "Animation Insider" website (http://www.animationinsider.net/forums/archive/index.php?t-17835.html; viewed 28 June 2008):

Daikun
03-16-2006, 05:16 AM

Someone pointed this out at another forum. I found it to be quite amusing that someone would actually have enough time on their hands to ponder about this.

http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html


Tasermon's Teammate
03-17-2006, 06:22 AM

...The only TT [Teen Titans] member the mentioned that I saw was Aqualad. And of course he's Atlantean.


Dr. Killbydeath
03-17-2006, 03:03 PM

Well, as far as the Titans go, Raven is obvious. Superboy is the same as Superman. Wonder Girl is the same as Wonder Woman. Kid Flash is the same as Barry Allen... Starfire follows the Tamaranian religion.

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=060306142026]

Posted by Hellstone on Monday, March 06 2006 at 14:20:26 GMT

re: "As noted in other discussions over the years they seem to bend over backwards to NOT assign denominations or faith statements to characters..."

Well, I think that goes for the "big 3" [Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman], for example. But many denizens of the DCU have expressed their religion explicitly, and I'm not just talking Wonder Woman and Kobra and Zauriel here... many more, have all stated their explicit beliefs...


[http://www.comicboards.com/dcb/view.php?rpl=060306150825]

Posted by Icon on Monday, March 06 2006 at 15:08:25 GMT

Many of those have their beliefs tied up in their powers or character. I'd have a much harder time saying what denomination (or absence of same) some of the more generically-themed characters are, like: Robin, Argent, Impulse (Who had a whole issue devoted to it IIRC), Steel, Wonder Girl..., Joto, Hawkman..., Metamorpho, Captain Boomerang (Senior and Junior), and the like...


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