Religion is a central, defining element in human life, and the concept of God or deities holds such a central place in most religious traditions. Thus, it is natural that the subject of God comes up repeatedly in a pop culture medium such as Marvel superhero comics.
Direct portrayals of God, however, are rare in popular entertainment for a variety of reasons. From a story-telling point of view, it is problematic to introduce God as a character into any story, because if one simply relies on God to solve all of a character's problems, the story loses the tension and interest derived from the question about whether and in what way the protagonists will overcome their challenges. Thus, the power of the story is diminished. Furthermore, such direct intervention by God as an all-purpose genie-like problem-solver is contrary to most the doctrines of nearly all religions and personal beliefs and experiences of nearly all believers.
From a pragmatic point of view, because comic book publishers hope to attract buyers from as large a target audience as possible, editors and comic book creators generally limit the specificity of religious content, so as to avoid offending potential readers. Marvel Comics is not unique in that it appears to have either a de facto policy or clearcut editorial policy against directly portraying God.
The journey of the Fantastic Four to Heaven and their subsequent visit with God in Fantastic Four #511 (May 2004) is a rare exception.
Of course there are numerous Marvel comic book characters who believe in God, pray to God, and even appear to experience miracles they attribute to God. But in addition to these "personal testimonies" of mortal characters, there have been many references within Marvel Comics stories indicating that there is indeed a supreme being of the universe.
Uatu the Watcher is a member of an ancient alien race thought to be among the wisest and most knowledgeable beings in the universe. Uatu's reference to God, written by Marvel Universe co-creator Stan Lee, is compelling (see below).
Perhaps the most clear confirmations of the existence of a Supreme Being of the Marvel Universe come from the Living Tribunal, who is the most powerful being actually portrayed in the Marvel Universe (aside from God himself). Whereas God himself is rarely ever portrayed in Marvel Comics (or has never actually been portrayed, depending one how one interprets a few "possible" appearances), The Living Tribunal has portrayed with some regularity in cosmic-level stories, and is a firmly established fixture of the Marvel Universe. The Living Tribunal is apparently omnipotent, but claims to be powered by an even greater being, a being the Living Tribunal refers to as the One Above All, i.e., God.
Overt and explicity references to real-world religions and God were rare in comic books during the 1960s (as with many other decades). The "religion taboo" was particularly in force at Marvel during its early days, which is why the scene scripted by Stan Lee in which the Watcher refers explicitly to God is so noticable and memorable. The Watcher is one of the most important supporting characters in the general Marvel Universe. The character's given name is Uatu, and he belongs to an ancient and powerful race of alien beings who have made it their task to "watch" the universe, but to not interfere. The Watcher's status as a wise, quasi-omniprescient being lends weight to his words.
From: Jeffrey Weiss, "Comic-book heroes seldom reveal their faith: Recent revelation of the Thing's religion was a rare moment for pop culture", published in Dallas Morning News, 24 August 2002, re-posted on BeliefNet.com website under headline "Comic Faith: The Thing's Religion Revealed" (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/113/story_11303_1.html; viewed 30 November 2005):
In a Fantastic Four from 1968, a really powerful good guy called the Silver Surfer was acting like a bad guy because he wanted to give all of humanity a common foe that could unite us all in a common purpose.
Two FF members, Mr. Fantastic (a.k.a. Reed Richards) and the Invisible Woman (Sue Richards), are now married and off someplace waiting for the birth of their son. The Watcher, another really powerful character who is usually a good guy, appears and sends Reed off to deal with the Surfer.
The visibly pregnant Sue asks, "But what can he do ... against the all-powerful Silver Surfer?"
"All-powerful?" the Watcher replies. "There is only one who deserves that name. And His only weapon ... is love!"
So how about it, Stan? Is that religious or what?
"I thought that was one of the best lines I ever wrote," he said. "I just thought it was such a beautifully dramatic line. And certainly nobody could find any problems with it."
"Is that religious? If that's religious," he said, "I guess I'm religious."
From: "Living Tribunal" article on Wikipedia website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_Tribunal; viewed 19 January 2006):
The Living Tribunal is a fictional character in the Marvel Comics Universe. The Tribunal is an omnipotent entity that is empowered by an unknown force to pass judgment on beings capable of changing the universe and to maintain the 'cosmic balance of power'.
The Living Tribunal oversees all the realities that constitute the Marvel Multiverse, from the mainstream "616" universe to all the alternate realities... and parallel realities, such as Earth X and Squadron Supreme. They [The Living Tribunal] are sometimes compared to The Spectre of DC Comics.
...The Tribunal passes judgment on crises that endanger the multiverse... It has been said that there is one who ranks above them, the One Above All... whose will he seeks to carry out. This being, supposedly the God of the Marvel Universe, has never been fully described or displayed, and most likely never will be.
From "He's strong! He's powerful! He's fantastic! And he prays!" forum discussion page started 1 October 2002 on ToonZone.net website (http://forums.toonzone.net/archive/index.php/t-50423.html; viewed 12 July 2007):
10-04-2002, 11:34 PM
DC seems to hint strongly that one god, perhaps the God, created their universe. Remember in Crisis of Infinite Earths, when the origin of their universe is shown, a giant hand is shown holding the energy that creates the universe. And at the end Alex Luthor acts as a door to a place where "there will be no fear... only peace... everlasting peace".
From: reader comments to Christopher J. Priest's post "Hal and Jesus", posted 4 January 2006 on "According to Me", the official website of comic book writer Christopher J. Priest (http://phonogram.us/admin/logs/arch242ives/000658.html; viewed 6 June 2006):
David Van Domelen
January 4, 2006 10:37 AM
As a fictional universe, it's possible to prove that God exists in some form... you simply have Him show up. I have no problems with God being around in the DCU, because it's clearly a fictional setting...
So, sure...Spectre works for God. And if you look back in time far enough, there's this big hand. If you look forward in time far enough, everything is ruled by this mope in a robe called the Time Trapper. No problem.
Having God show up in Marvel is a bit trickier, because they've got a history of trying to avoid that, what with the Living Tribunal, Those Who Sit Above In Shadow, Eternity/Infinity/etc.
And then there's Image, where the Savage Dragon apparently got into a fistfight with God.
From: "Religious Inclinations of heroes" message board, started 1 March 2005 on StarDestroyer.net website (http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=63632; viewed 8 June 2006):
Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 6:38 pm
Post subject: Religious Inclinations of heroes
What about other heroes? I notice religion rarely plays a part in mainstream superhero comics (absent things like the Vertigo line) but have you ever picked up on hints or outright admissions by some heroes as to their religious inclinations?
Seems that atheistic heroes are as rare in comics as in real life. If they are religious it's a sort Judaeo-Christian wishy washy sort of religion... Any other examples of guesses?
Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 8:54 pm
Strangely most of DCU [DC Universe]... with the exception of the Amazons and a few others, should believe in God. But not out of faith, but the fact he really does exist. Though worship is another matter entirely.
And before one goes "Light show." Does it matter, if it's some uber being or really the divine. This version of God actually for all intents and purpose, doesn't care for worship (though I hated that Wonder Woman arc that tried to go DnD Diety power....which makes no sense because if you only require basically a small island of chicks believeing in you to be able to blow up small moons...then how does that leap to 1 billion yabbo allowing to render creation asunder....hate to see what X'Hal [the deity worshipped by Starfire] is given she has a entire star Cluster worshipping her... guess she outranks God.) and is really that strong. He does many deeds to prove to the average yabbo he is God. And for the most part, man isn't going to question a being that does squash you.
Which is another interesting point. In DCU, God is rather a fickle and mean being. Yet the general thought of religon is he's still the same gentle being who helps people... yet allows all sort of [expletive] to happen for really the [expletive] all reasons that even his agents question.
Seriously if I knew God existed yet was basically a whiny brat child with loads of power... I'm not going to go "Up yours, GOD!!!" knowing full well tomorrow I will be a frog inside a star. But really would you worship that?
Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 3:13 am
In the DC-verse isn't there some weird thing where most if not all the religions are true if enough people believe? Or was that only for Vertigo?
Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 8:12 am
They tried to do it in the God War for Wonder Woman.
Basically it was a way to justify how the heck the Greek Gods exist as gods, because they are worshiped, and why the Judeo-Christian God is so powerful.
Also like I said in my post, it makes no sense given that all he has is one planet, and cause things to affect universally, while X'Hal has a star system or two and can only squash a few worlds and stars.
Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 1:11 pm
Maybe there is a defined difference in Gods. X'Hal and God being two seperate creatures, shouldnt be really comperable just cause they inhabit the same environment. A shark and a sea turtle inhabit the same environment but who would argue they're the same, the shark simply developed far more power.
Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 1:47 pm
I haven't read any of the comics which feature gods blowing up moons and [stuff], but I got the impression from Sandman that gods (like the Greek gods, Egyptian gods, etc) need people to worship them and believe in them, but God (as in Yahweh) didn't, since He was the creator of the universe. I decided this after reading Fables and Reflections where Eve tells a story about her and Adam, and Abel says that 'this wasn't on Earth'. I don't know how closely Vertigo is connected to the other DC comics, though.
From: "Atheist superheroes?" thread, started 21 September 1999 on rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe/browse_thread/thread/e8d686f0b20944a6/1fc9137902d8202f; viewed 23 June 2006):
From: Robert Reinke
Date: Tues, Sep 28 1999 12:00 am
The beautiful thing about Stan Lee's Galactus story in Epic Illustrated #1 (Quoted below) is Johann's point that there are two sensible interpretations of the words "God is All". I'd put it this way: Literal-God exists, and exists in everything; Alternative-God does not exist, but the "God" that we seek can be found in all things.
Most people will embrace the first. I did not even consider the alternative. Thanks for pointing out this possibility, Johann.
Here is a synopsis and the actual quotes. WHAT DO YOU ALL THINK? Is Galactus embracing God, or rejecting God?
After searching for the (figurative) key to the universe by traveling through space, Silver Surfer enters a black hole, is not turned into pasta by the density, and emerges to find Galactus standing there. Surfer says hey, you got here before me. Galactus says I have not moved and Surfer says say what? Galactus says I tried to warn you and then says:"Man has always known the answer. Has it not been chronicled in science, song and legend since the dawn of time? Time and space are one. Here is there. Then is now. And God is All"
Surfer: "At last I understand. I searched for a place. But there is no place. The answer lies--within us."
From: Andrew Furdell
Date: Wed, Sep 29 1999 12:00 am
re: "Well, has there been ANY Marvel issue where it said one way or another there was a God???"
There have been a couple, yes. The Living Tribunal alludes to it all the time, even though nobody ever asks him.
From: no.fun@all [Markus]
Date: Thurs, Sep 30 1999 12:00 am
re: "Well has there been ANY Marvel issue where it said one way or another there was a God???"
Only people believing in God has been heard to say this in the MU [Marvel Universe].
But there was never something that can be interpreted as proof for/against the existence of God . And I doubt there ever will. Only the Living Tribunal referred to "The one above all", but we do not know who that is, either.
From: "The Church of Superman" forum discussion started 19 June 2006 on the "James Randi Educational Foundation" website (http://www.randi.org/forumlive/showthread.php?t=58627; viewed 15 May 2007):
19th June 2006, 06:03 AM
The Church of Superman
Hmmmm... the "religious" affiliations of comic book characters. Huh?
20th June 2006, 12:40 AM
Jesus Christ in various series, incl. Thor; Marvel Holiday Special; Marvel Comics Presents; Wolfpack; Fantastic Four; Union Jack; Wolverine: Evilution; Daredevil: Ninja Marvel, etc. Judaism; Christianity (God)
HA! Jesus is listed as a supporting character, and his religion is apparently "Judaism; Christianity (God)"
And apparently god's religion is "god"
Yeah, I can see people having a hard time being atheist in a universe where "god" is a supporting character...
From: "Religion in the DCU?" forum discussion, started 25 October 2006 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-37480.html; viewed 20 July 2007):
October 25th, 2006, 11:06 AM
I posted this in another thread, but since it goes off-topic I decided to start my own. Anyways...
If Fourth World is still in continuity and The Presence is the God of the three major religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) I was wondering...
Where do Moses, Jesus and the Prophet Mohammed stand in the DCU?
I know the Spear of Destiny is laced with the blood of Christ, but is there anything else that's been mentioned?
October 26th, 2006, 02:47 PM
re: "When I interviewed Judd Winick, he said he views the Spectre as more a magical entity as opposed to a servant of God."
And that's why I don't read his stuff. That's the whole origin of the Spectre. Take your choice God sends a man back to fight evil or God's wrath. If you can't get that, then don't bother with the character.
Getting back to the topic, I believe Moses was mentioned in the old Spectre series (like 75% sure) and while Jesus wasn't named, it talked about "God's Forgiveness" walking the Earth. And when Jesus died, it was the Spectre Force that caused the earth to tremble, the graves to erupt, the veil to be ripped, etc., etc., After which, I believe Arch Angel Michael told the Spectre Force that The Presence had decreed that God's Wrath couldn't walk the Earth without being grafted to a man. (Sorry for the extra info)
Another part that was touched on in the Ostrander/Mandrake Spectre series was that The Presence was known by all of the various pantheons. So it didn't dwell just on Christian/Jewish, but that was the main focus.
October 26th, 2006, 04:46 PM
I look at it as henotheistic. There are many "gods" running around, from the new gods to greek gods, magic, etc. But there is also a supreme being that is over everything, under several names perhaps (the Source, the Presence, etc.) that seems to fall under the general idea of the three theistic religions' idea of a supreme power, but is tied somewhat closely to Christianity through the Spectre and Zauriel. Not simply Judeo-Christian, (or Muslim) for sure, but not polytheistic or Campbellesque "Everything has an aspect of truth."
October 27th, 2006, 01:10 AM
In Hellblazer all religions and all gods are "true". Jesus and the Christian mythos is just part of a larger spiritual world that Constantine is always railing against.
October 27th, 2006, 03:24 AM
I actually think that what Jor-El posted is the way the DCU (I'm putting Vertigo in that also) is constructed. Every religion being true, but one surpreme Creator (The Source/Presence). And while Constantine may always rail against that, he doesn't disprove it.
But my post was just to confirm the existence of Jesus in the DCU.
October 27th, 2006, 11:25 AM
If I remember Fourth World correctly it goes...
Big Bang, the creation of the Source, and "birth"/awakening of the Presence within.
First World/God World
Second World/Lords of Chaos and Order, the destruction of God World (which in turn creates the Pocket Universe and the Godwave)
Third World/The Egyptian, Norse, and Greek Gods are created by the full brunt of the Godwave.
Fourth World/New Genesis and Apokalyps evolve from the remains of God World in the Pocket Universe.
Side note: By the time the Godwave reaches Earth it's at it's weakest and about to dissipate. Before it does it has just enough energy to alter the physiology of some humans and create the metagene.
October 27th, 2006, 04:01 PM
Well then, if the Presence came after the Big Bang then he wouldn't really have much in common with the supreme deities of the three major theistic religions either, as they are transcendent and Creators, not the created. I'll have to research that.
I believe they only did that so it wouldn't contradict GL [Green Lantern] #40 and the original Crisis (where Krona's experiment causes the Big Bang). IIRC [If I recall correctly], The Presence then sends forth the angels Michael and Gabriel to help it spread life throughout the universe (in the pages of Lucifer I believe). But according to Fourth World it is the God of the three major theistic religions in the DCU.
October 27th, 2006, 05:34 PM
Well, I didn't mean to conflate the Gods of the three major theistic religions, but apparently the DCU does.
But anyway, that's interesting, thanks for the info. I don't see how having the Presence exist before the Big Bang would contradict GL #40, but oh well. Is it just me, or is this discussion is quickly becoming somewhat bizarre? :p
From: "Possible writers' cliche/prejudice: No well-adjusted athiests/agnostics in the DCU?" forum discussion, started 26 May 2005 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-5064.html; viewed 20 July 2007):
May 31st, 2005, 09:33 AM
God and Jesus actually exist in DCU continuity.
I suppose God would be considered "The Source" that created the universe back in Crisis. He's also been referred to as "The Presence".
And The Spectre wasn't on earth about 2000 years ago when the "Spirit of Forgiveness" was on the planet. Gee, who could that be? ;)
Of course, they share the DCU with the gods of Wonder Woman and such... so I'm sure there's a deity for everyone.
May 31st, 2005, 05:02 PM
...The fact is, every major DC character has encountered divine forces. Zauriel, an angel, was seen on national news at least once, and every person on Earth flew into space to battle Maggeddon alognside an army of angels in JLA #41. If that kind of evidence existed in the real world, which, despite holding strong religious convictions of my own, I am of course aware that there is not, only the insane would be atheist around here, too.
As for the concept that multiple pantheons invalidate the existence of a higher power, Jeffery Neary is correct: it's been shown, though somewhat indirectly, that the supreme power of the DCU is, in fact, "The Presence," who is similar to the Judeo-Christian conception God in singularity, supremacy, and in a general "hands off approach."
From: "The New Improved Official Stupid Question Thread Marvel Edition" forum discussion, started 3 July 2004 on "Superhero Hype" website (http://forums.superherohype.com/archive/index.php/t-124699-p-15.html; viewed 11 August 2007):
07-24-2007, 11:01 AM
I recall an issue of Wolverine where it was said that in the Marvel Universe, the existence of god had been, beyond a shadow of a doubt, scientifically proven through some sort of mathematical equasion. So, wouldn't that mean that there are no athiests in the MU anymore?
07-24-2007, 11:02 AM
Do you know of any absolutely proven atheists in the Marvel universe?
07-24-2007, 11:05 AM
re: "Do you know of any absolutely proven atheists in the Marvel universe?"
Hmm. Well, obviously the old Communist villains from the 60s would be. Other than that, no.
07-24-2007, 11:42 AM
Is that in reference to the FF story where they met God, and He was Jack Kirby?
07-24-2007, 11:44 AM
No. Wolverine was just tracking some crazy super genius terrorist and, giving an example of the guy's genuis, mentioned that he had come up with a mathematical equation that proved the existence of God.
07-24-2007, 11:46 AM
It's possible that there are still atheists in the Marvel universe because people didn't believe him. After all, "crazy super genius terrorist" isn't exactly the kinds of descriptors I look for in an unimpeachable source.
07-24-2007, 11:47 AM
07-24-2007, 03:40 PM
There was an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy where the Beyonder was talking to a couple of other cosmics unfamiliar to me. They were talking about higher order beings in multiple echelons above what they knew. This would seem to prove conclusively that God does not exist in the MU. I don't remember it very well since I only glanced at it in the store and could not fit it in my budget at the time.
07-24-2007, 05:11 PM
Oh, God most definitely exists in the MU [Marvel Universe]. I was just asking if the bit in Wolverine where it was said that it had been scientifically proven on Earth was widly known or accepted, and how much it effected the MU.
07-24-2007, 07:05 PM
There are so many cosmic beings and forces of nature personified, that just like outside of comics, it would be impossible to prove God's existence.
07-24-2007, 07:46 PM
It would be impossible to mathematically prove much of anything in the MU because no matter what you did there are a couple of dozen entities already revealed who have enough control over reality to make the proof invalid even if the math was correct. Entities in the MU play with the fundamental nature of reality too much.
07-24-2007, 10:45 PM
Word. Except for, you know, when the FF go to Heaven and meet God. And He's Jack Kirby. ;)
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