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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Andy Prentiss
Illuminator


From: Ross Pavlac, "Christian SF/Fantasy Recommended Reading", last revised February 1996 (http://www.spectacle.org/396/scifi/pavlac2.html; viewed 22 December 2005):
Illuminator, The. Marvel/Thomas Nelson, 1993. 2 issues published. This comic was an attempt at a joint venture between one of the larger Christian publishers and the largest comic publisher to create a superhero comic that was authentically Christian and had standards that would hold up to those held by comic book fans. It was doomed largely because Thomas Nelson insisted on no advertising, and the graphic novel format caused the comic to carry a $4.95 pricetag -- quite expensive for a comic, particularly one that did not contain any "big name" artists or writers. You can still find this in some Christian bookstores and some used comic book stores.
From: Regie Rigby, "The question of religion" article, "Fool Britannia" column, posted on "Silver Bullet Comics" website (http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/fool/111010997522360.htm; viewed 22 December 2005):
So, there's no shortage of characters based on religion in comics, but what about actual religion? ...I'm not really aware of any other religions [other than Judaism] that have been shown in quite this [positive] way, at least not in Western comics. It seems that every time I see an overtly Muslim character in a comic they're either a fanatic or a terrorist, or both and Christians seem to be portrayed as utterly boring, dull people. (With the rather obvious exceptions of Nightcrawler, and the wonderful Pastor from Kingdom Come) In fact the only story featuring overtly Christian characters is Crag Thompson's Blankets, a story which is as much about the gradual loss of faith as the way a faithful life is lived.

Of course it might well be that the fact that I'm an atheist makes me more likely to notice the negative images of religion while the positive ones pass me by. I'm not exactly on the look out for religious comics and I suppose that were I to see one on the racks I'd be unlikely to pick it up. Actually now I think about it, I seem to remember a co-publishing project that Marvel did a few years ago with a Christian publishing house. If I remember rightly, there was some sort of Evangelical Superhero they intended to call Paragon but ended up calling Illuminator. I don't know if it was any good, because of course with my anti religious prejudice I didn't buy it.

From: "Marvel Comics: Illuminator/No 1, 1993" item description page, on Campusi.com bookstore site (http://www.campusi.com/isbn_0840769792.htm; viewed 22 December 2005):
Marvel Comics: Illuminator/No 1, 1993
Author: Glenn Herding
ISBN: 0840769792
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Inc
Date published:1993-02 [February 1993]

Book Review:
Thomas Nelson has teamed up with Marvel Comics to create a totally new dimension in comics. Andy Prentiss is just a regular teenager--until mysterious lights from extraterrestrial visitorsgive him superhuman strength and the ability to fly. With Gus, a Christian who befriends the fledgling super hero, Andy begins to learn what to do with his new powers. Full color.
From: Alex Johnson, "At the comics shop, religion goes graphic: Judeo-Christian themes woven into comic books you might not expect", published on MSNBC.com, 25 April 2006 (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12376831/; viewed 2 May 2006); re-posted by Worldwide Religious News (http://wwrn.org/article.php?idd=21302; viewed 2 May 2006):
Meet 'The Illuminator'
At the other end of the comics spectrum [from Antoine Sharpe, star of The Atheist comic book series] are series put out by religious publishers for religious readers. Mostly, these are instructive parables targeted at young readers, while others are graphical biographies of saints and other church leaders. But there have been attempts to cross over to older, more mainstream audiences. "Creature Tech," by Doug Temnepel, is a graphic novel that grafts traditional science fiction space adventures onto the story of a scientist's return to his faith, while Arcadius Press, of Springfield, Mo., is launching a weekly series of comic books in which saints are transformed into superheroes.

The most ambitious incursion into the mainstream market came in 1993, when religious publishers Thomas M. Nelson teamed up with Marvel Comic to produce "The Illuminator." The goal was to produce an authentic Christian superhero in a slam-bang action style that traditional comics fans would embrace. Andy Prentiss, a normal teenager, is given supernatural powers and defeats a band of thuggish fellow students who are turned into zombies by a character who is very obviously Satan.

"The Illuminator" didn't overpower the reader with its religious message, and it looked and read like any number of other superhero comic books. But it was ahead of its time, and Nelson's refusal to allow advertising necessitated an expensive cover price. It lasted just two issues.

Discussion

From: "New Christian JLA member" message board, started 5 May 2005 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000023085; viewed 15 May 2006):
sensorsnake
Posted: May 5, 2005 7:53 PM

I propose DC adds a new superhero to the JLA. His name is Shepard [Shepherd] and he fights injustice and evil in a Christian way.

His powers would essentially be a the addition of the powers of Firestorm and Superman.

While the JLA fights to protect earth from alien threats, Shepard's focus would be to protect innocents such as unborn children.

What does everyone think?


cookylamoo
Posted: May 5, 2005 9:18 PM

Didn't Marvel have a Christian Character once called "the Illumuinator"? Hey, I've no objection to the Shepard. He would make for an interesting conflict.

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):
Stravo
Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 6:38 pm

...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.

On the other hand Daredevil, for instance, is a devout Catholic. Any other examples of guesses?


Darth Sephiroth
Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 12:05 am

Daredevil is a Roman Catholic, not sure which one Illuminator was (an old Marvel comic that lasted for 12 Issues, great stuff though) though he was definitely a Christian of some kind, fought all sorts of demonic critters. One thing that is strange is how many worlds have demons without angels involved, one side gets over-represented.

From: Rick Phillips, "Comic books and religion", posted 25 May 2006 on "On My Mind" blog website (http://onmymind1.blogspot.com/2006/05/comic-books-and-religion.html; viewed 15 June 2006):
Thanks to the Comics Reporter I was directed to this site [http://www.fortwayne.com/mld/newssentinel/living/14655020.htm] that has an article about Superheroes and Religion. As I mentioned in this posting [http://onmymind1.blogspot.com/2005/11/illuminator.html] the Illuminator, who is pictured above, was the first superhero who I know of who was shown to have accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.
From: Rick Phillips, "The Illuminator", posted 10 November 2005 on "On My Mind" blog website (http://onmymind1.blogspot.com/2005/11/illuminator.html; viewed 15 June 2006):
Here is an interesting book series. Around 1993 Marvel comics and Thomas Nelson publishers got together to produce this comic book about a Christian superhero. It centers around Andy. Andy is a young high school student who gains wonderful powers that make him the Illuminator. Not long after that he meets Gus the custodian of a local church. Gus leads Andy to Christ and each adventure he has helps lead Andy to Biblical truths.

Why Marvel and Neslon teamed up to do this book is a mystery to me but I am glad they did as it was an enjoyable read. I also am sure that it helped lead others to Christ as the Bible says that His word will not return void. I thought that it on ly lasted 3 issues as that is all I could find. However, I have heard that a 4th and 5th issue were also produced. I didn't find this comicbook in comic book shops or in any local Christian bookstores. I found the 3 that I have in Waldenbooks thanks to my cousin who use to work for them. I have searched the internet to find out more about this but so far all I have come up with is that one of the writers for the series Glenn Herdling also wrote the Beavis and Butthead comic book. Bet ya didn't see that one comming. I know I didn't when I found it.

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/4e5839f075fecf76/394c4ad930a0e68c; 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: Brian Doyle
Date: Fri, Apr 23 2004 10:12 am

The Brother Blood wears something which is apparently the Robe of Christ, though it's power has been corrupted by his intents.

The Phantom Stranger is tied in with God in some respect, various origins have included him being an angel who stayed neutral when Lucifer rebelled (And thus being accepted by neither side) and another that he is the legendary Wandering Jew.

And how could I have forgotten Marvel's one attempt to create a definitely God-empowered character; Illuminator, an actively Christian hero whose power came from a force of Universal goodness that was, IIRC, God. Lasted two issues, I believe.

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/af8d343aa5f07677; viewed 23 June 2006):
From: DOOM0880
Date: Wed, Sep 22 1999 12:00 am

...Luminator is a Catholic, Shamrock is [also Catholic]...

From: "Where are the Christian Superheroes?" forum discussion page started 22 August 2006 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-81451.html; viewed 5 May 2007):

Mr Wesley
08-22-2006, 10:03 AM

Found this blog (http://occasionalsuperheroine.blogspot.com/2006/08/power-of-forgiveness-in-jamie-cosleys.html) from a post in Blog@Newsarama, so I gotta give them the props for finding it. I won't post the entire entry, but I will post my response to it: While I know that Marvel actually published a couple of Christian specials back in the 80s or 90s, ("Lightbringer" or something like that) [this blogger apparently means "Illuminator"], I seriously doubt that any of the larger companies would be willing to take on a Christian character for the same reasons that there are so few gay characters: Christians are too polarizing, and if there were a Christian character, then they'd have to deal with the issue, and nobody wants to be the first to do that.

To have Christian characters means at least one of the following three things: 1) The character will be a pushy blowhard who will be shown having worse morals than other characters; 2) The character will be thoughtful and truly spiritual, which means either 2a) eventually there will have to be a serious conversation about faith, which nobody wants or 2b) the character will be Ned Flanders, and the character will be a point of derision IN SPITE of his good faith; 3) something will happen that will cause the character to walk away from his faith.

The entire nature of superheroes is humanistic ("I will avenge this person's death and bring the villain to justice!"). And the passivity preached in the New Testament doesn't lend itself to action scenes.

Plus, it'd be difficult to write such a character accurately if you personally don't have faith or don't explicitly agree with your character's faith, which would then be seen as proselytizing. And you'd have to get the characterization past your editor and publisher, either of which may disagree with your views or just be nervous about the can of worms you're opening.

Now, having said that, there are a few out there by DC: The Spectre and Grant Morrison's angel Zauriel are two characters who are explicitly tied to a Christian God. And I remember a scene in Infinite Crisis where several heroes gather in a church to pray before the final battle. But for the most part, it ain't happening.Now, I'm not looking for a flame war here (and if I find one, I'm shutting the thread down), but I pose the question to you, my fellow Talk@Ramanians: If Christianity is the most popular faith in the United States, why aren't there more openly Christian superheroes?

From VeeGee, question originally psted 30 January 1999 on the Unofficial Birds of Prey Message Board, re-posted in 2004 on Chuck Dixon's "Christianity in Comics" page on DixonVerse.net website (http://www.dixonverse.net/NEWSITE/ARTICLES/christ.html; viewed 5 May 2007):

Q: Christianity in comics question

I just read a wonderful interview with Scott McDaniel where he let people know he was a Christian, and that you were too. I just recently returned to a relationship with Christ (although He never left). I have been thinking about why past attempts at Christian comics/characters have not been as well received as their secular counterparts. I remember the line Marvel tried to start several years ago... but each book cost $5.00. [This message poster is apparently referring to Illuminator.] I would LOVE to see comic adaptions of Frank Perenti (sp?) books and other projects that really intertwine the fantasy of comics and faith in Christ. I kind of enjoyed John Byrne's Wonder Woman novel--I thought it would have made a better comic "event" than "Genesis" did. Are there a lot of Christian creators in comics? Are there any other characters besides,Nightcrawler, who are devout in their faith? What are your thoughts? I guess the bottom line for me is that "with great power..." ya'know, comics reach a lot of people and in a world like the one we live in-messages of hope and faith and turning to Christ are few and far between. I find it ironic that DC would have several mini-series about the devil; "Underworld Unleashed", and the new Vertigo series but wouldn't let Rick Veitch have Christ in a single issue of Swamp thing.


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