The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
John "Johnny" Blaze / Daniel Ketch
Ghost Rider #13 (September 2007) provides a fascinating summarization of the Ghost Rider's religious motivation. As part of the "World War Hulk" storyline, the Hulk invades New York City, intent on having his revenge against the people who shot him into outer space to get rid of him: Black Bolt, Doctor Strange, Mr. Fantastic and Iron Man. The Ghost Rider consciousness has no interest in getting involved in any of that, but Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider's host, manages to force their combined self to confront the Hulk. Johnny Blaze wants to protect the largely evacuated New York City and the heroes that the Hulk might protect. However, as the battle between Ghost Rider and the Hulk escalates, the Ghost Rider's consciousness again becomes dominant. At that point, the Ghost Rider stares at the Hulk and then simply leaves the Hulk alone, despite the fact that the Ghost Rider's potentially limitless power probably could have stopped the Hulk. The reason for this, as Doctor Strange explains: The Ghost Rider avenges only the innocent. Which we -- all of us -- are not." Doctor Strange here refers to the fact that the Hulk has a valid grievance against himself, Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic and Black Bolt.
This illustrates the fact that the Ghost Rider isn't like other super-heroes. He has a very unique set of motivations and goals.
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...
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...
Frank Castle was once a Catholic priest... But you could say he "fell from grace" there. The second Ghost Rider, Dan Ketch is also Catholic, whereas Johnny Blaze is Baptist. (That may have changed since I was reading it, but who knows.)...
From: "'X-men' comic books and movie tackle Christianity" forum discussion started 11 April 2003 on IIDB Secular Community Forums website (http://www.iidb.org/vbb/archive/index.php/t-50750.html; viewed 12 July 2007):
April 13, 2003, 03:06 PM
Wolverine #175 also had a recent battle in which a Christian widow was murdered in the crossfire during a fight with Wolverine. Wolverine stated he was probably going to hell.
Another element is that Marvel has it's own "gods" and "devils"... apart from Thor and his ilk there are cosmic beings like Infinity, Eternity Chaos and Order, (and also to an extent Galactus), and demons such as Mephisto, Hellstrom, Ghost Rider, etc...
From: "An argument for why religion should stay out of comics" message board started 17 May 2006 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000076170&start=15; viewed 30 May 2006):
Posted: May 22, 2006 9:47 AM
No religion in comics?
Here are some of the things that may be missed or have to be adjusted.
From: Michael, "No Sunday School In Smallville", posted 12 June 2006 on "Tales to Mildly Astonish" blog website (http://talestomildlyastonish.blogspot.com/2006/06/no-sunday-school-in-smallville.html; viewed 15 June 2006):
...There are precious few heroes of faith in comics, mainstream or alternative, and the more I think about that, the less I like it...
Religious-themed villains are another thing. Marvel has no end of devil-analogues -- Mephisto, Hades, Cloot, Satannish -- but they balk at letting the cloven-hooved one himself make an appearance. (There is one exception: an issue of the '70s Ghost Rider where Johnny Blaze's soul is rescued from Satan by a robed, bearded figure who identifies himself only as "a friend." There was a retcon not long after, but the issue's writer, Tony Isabella, has confirmed that he intended the "friend" to be Jesus Christ.)...
From: " Religions of comic book characters" forum discussion started 18 April 2007 on Uberchristians website (http://uberchristians.org/vb/showthread.php?t=373; viewed 21 May 2007):
I wasn't aware so many characters had their religions defined at any point. I hardly ever remember running into it when I was into mainstream comics.
04-18-2007, 07:36 PM
Someone spent a lot of time looking into all that. I was only aware of three or four that had religion as a big part of their character. Including those who had sold their soul or went to hell kinda thing (Spawn and Ghost Rider come to mind). I know some character's families like Spiderman have religion in their background but I don't recall many practicing any faith.
From: "Religious Characters In Marvel" forum discussion started 15 September 2006 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-143850.html; viewed 25 May 2007):
09-15-2006, 09:01 PM
The other day I was thinking about religion and comic books... What I'm interested in is the way religious characters are portrayed in comic books...
I think the first step is listing what characters are what religion...
09-18-2006, 07:29 PM
...And off the top of my head I believe Dan Ketch's Ghost Rider was an atheist.
09-19-2006, 03:53 PM
And off the top of my head I believe Dan Ketch's Ghost Rider was an atheist. A person infested by a demon doesn't believe in higher powers?
09-19-2006, 06:32 PM
I found the issue I was looking for and here's what happens. Ghost Rider runs into Varnae in Cypress Hills cemetary. He tries to stand behind a tombstone with a crucifix structure on top of it, but it doesn't stop Varnae from advancing. However his dagger bares the mark of the Midnight Sons, and when he used that on Varnae it burned him since the Midnight Sons symbol was a worshipped artifact of good in Hyperborean times.
Now if I remember correctly, crosses cannot ward off Varnae since he was from the Hyperborean era, and Christianity was not a practiced faith in that time, so Christian iconography would have no effect on him.
Yet during a stand off with a Montesi, I forget which, the Montesi uses a cross to hold Varnae at bay, and it works, with Varnae having to trick him into losing his footing, falling and dropping the cross.
So either Montessi is an exception due to his extreme faith, Varnae is indeed vulnerable to crosses yet the Ghost Rider had no faith in the Christian God, or Marvel just screwed up.
09-19-2006, 07:49 PM
Given that in the MU, demons have nothing to do with any kind of religious cosmology, and are actually splinters of the entity that originally made up the Infinity Gems, anything is possible. What, do you think the Silver Surfer has any particular religious bent? And he's the dude Mephisto first went after.
From: "Religion in Comics, or: DCU God hates you!" forum discussion, started 9 April 2007 on "Superdickery" website (http://z8.invisionfree.com/Superdickery_Forum/index.php?showtopic=4252&st=25; viewed 30 May 2007):
I just got the Essential Ghostrider trade [paperback].
Early Ghost Rider has Satan appearing in almost every issue, and later Ghost Rider has a team-up with Jesus! Oh the delicious crack!
Posted: Apr 10 2007, 10:58 AM
If I remember correctly, that particualr "Satan" was revealed to be Mephisto. And just to help the confusion, almost every greater demon in the MU adopted that name for some time.
From: "Stuart Moore's A Thousand Flowers: O Deadly Night" forum discussion, started 2 December 2003 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-6949.html; viewed 28 June 2007):
12-02-2003, 10:13 AM
Well, two Christmas-themed stories which stand out for me are:
"The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus" in Justice League of America #110... My first comic at the wee age of 8, I somehow picked this over Amazing Spider-Man #129 and more amazingly got my aunt to buy it for me.
"Silent Night... Deadly Night!" in Marvel Two-In-One #8, wherein Thing and Ghost Rider helpfully distracted a 9-year-old version of me at a time when my parents were going through a rough patch.
12-02-2003, 11:55 AM
...Marvel did one X-Mas special in the 90s that had a Ghost Rider story where a blind girl thought GR [Ghost Rider] was Santa. She thought the sound of his motor cycle were his hungry reindeer. That story tickles me.
slug N lettuce
12-04-2003, 10:05 AM
...Marvel also has some good Holiday comics, even Ghost Rider gets into the holiday spirit of things. It's nice to see Franklin Richards learn a holiday lesson. To see Spidey stop crooks from taking off with a truck full of toys that are intended for those who are less fortunate. To see Captain America and Diamondback decorate a tree together.
I don't know what it is but they just make me feel good. They stop the pain from the real world from beating my spine for a little while. They bring out the type of character in Super-Heroes that they had in the Golden years. I know its cheesy but I love 'em and I'll keep searching back issue bins for any and every comic that has a holiday theme. Thank You Stuart Moore, I know you didn't intend on this but I consider this a great Christmas present. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!! EVERYONE!!!
From: Rick Phillips, "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters", posted 14 July 2007 on "Black Lightning Limited" blog website (http://blacklightninglimited.blogspot.com/2007/07/religious-affiiation-of-comic-book.html; viewed 14 July 2007):
I have linked to this site before but I didn't see the photos [collage illustrations] that they now have on the site. It is called The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters [http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_collage.html]. This is their group of Baptist superheroes [picture is posted]. Near the center of the group is our favorite, drawn by the great Jim Apro, Black Lightning. I found it hard to believe that Ghost Rider was any religion other then Atheist. Apparently Johnny Blaze said he was Baptist in one story. If you have your body possessed by a demon it is pretty good sign you aren't a Christian. However, just cause you are born into a religion doesn't make you a Christian unless you accept Jesus Christ into your heart.
Anyway if you have ever wondered what faith your favorites were you can get a hint by looking at this site. Who knew Jimmy Olsen was Lutheran?
From: "Sacreligious amd anti-Christian Comic characters" forum discussion, started 28 February 2007 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000107545&start=45&tstart=15; viewed 20 July 2007):
Posted: Mar 1, 2007 11:43 AM
Nightcrawler was born being a demonic being, and yes he's both anti-Christian and sacreligious.
Other anti-Christian characters:
Posted: Mar 1, 2007 11:57 AM
Hellboy isn't anti-Christian. He is very much pro-Christian (or would be if he were real). He has turned his back on Hell and actively fights against evil. What? You don't believe in redemption? I could hardly care less about Spawn and I am not familiar enough with the details of Ghost Rider's backstory to comment on it.
Webpage created 30 May 2006. Last modified 20 July 2007.
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