The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Susan Storm Richards
of the Fantastic Four
Susan Storm Richards, known as "Invisible Woman" (previously "Invisible Girl") is a founding member of the Fantastic Four, the foundational comic book series of the Marvel Universe.
The character of Susan Storm was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby (both of whom were Jewish), and appeared in the first issue of The Fantastic Four in 1961.
In published comics, Susan Storm has talked about how she and her brother Johnny (the "Human Torch") attended Sunday School while growing up. It has been well established that Susan Storm is the "most religious" member of the Fantastic Four.
For a number of reasons, including the social standing of her family, Invisible Woman is regarded by most readers (and apparently the comics writers as well) as an Episcopalian. It is not clear, however, whether this particular denominational affiliation has been officially established as canonical.
Sue Storm ("Invisible Woman") was one of 33 characters who were identified as the most religious superheroes in the Marvel Universe in Infinity Crusade (June 1993). In this issue, a powerful being who identified herself as "the Goddess" kidnapped the superheroes she had identified as being the most religious active superheroes at the time. The Goddess was a manifestation of the "benevolent" side of Adam Warlock, and she planned to use these heroes in her crusade to rid the galaxy of evil and usher in a new golden age of peace. After these 33 characters had been kidnapped by the Goddess, the remaining superheroes gathered to try to figure out what was going on. The Vision analyzed data about who had been taken and who had not, and explained his analysis (Infinity Crusade #1, page 32):
Now that the appropriate files have been examined I believe I have sufficient hard data to put forth that theory I mentioned earlier. I feel confident I know why these particular paranormals were abducted. All the missing share a common trait or experience... An event or attitude that might be categorized as religious. Many among the missing hold deeply felt moral stands or intense spiritual belief systems. Those who do not fit that profile have all had after-death experiences... My theory does not hold that these attitudes aided in the missing individual's abduction, only that these traits may have determined who would be taken.
Invisible Woman meets God
An interesting recent aspect of Invisible Woman's history is that she went to Heaven and met God. This occurred after Susan's husband Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) was forced to shoot and kill their long-time friend and partner Ben Grimm ("The Thing"), who was possessed by the consciousness of Doctor Doom and was about to kill Susan's brother, Johnny Storm ("The Human Torch"). Reed Richards rebuilt a machine that Doctor Doom had created many years before for accessing the afterlife. Susan Storm Richards accompanied Reed Richards and Johnny Storm as they journeyed to Heaven where they were able to find Ben and get him to return to life on Earth with them.
This story arc was told in the following issues:
- Fantastic Four #509 (March 2004): "Hereafter Part 1: Death of Ben Grimm"
- Fantastic Four #510 (April 2004): "Hereafter Part 1: Journey to Heaven"
- Fantastic Four #511 (May 2004): "Hereafter Part 1: A Glimpse of God"
From: "At DC Comics, Diversity Is No Laughing Matter", published on AOLTimeWarner.com website, 1 November 2001 (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/atdccom.htm; viewed 20 December 2005):
"The original creators of comics, 60 or 70 years ago, were almost all Jewish and Italian kids from various parts of New York," notes DC Comics Executive Vice President and Publisher Paul Levitz. "And the characters they created were pseudo-whitebread Episcopalian. It was almost de rigueur back then to paint people in this idealized American image."
As far as we know, this is the first time that God (the God, the Supreme Being - not some powerful demigod or mythological pantheon member) has personally intervened in the lives of mainstream Marvel Comics characters in such an explicit way. In the history of the Fantastic Four, which began as and has always remained a series rooted in science-fiction (with emphasis on science), this is apparently the first time that God has been explicitly depicted in any way.
From: Jeff Christiansen, et al., Marvel Encyclopedia Vol. 6: Fantastic Four, Marvel Entertainment Group: New York, NY (2004), pages 113-115:
Susan Storm was the daughter of Dr. Franklin Storm, a respected surgeon. When Susan's mother died in a car accident, Dr. Storm became a shell of a man, and wound up in prison. Susan, still a teenager, had to take care of her younger brother Johnny Storm herself.
At a young age, she met Reed Richards, a student at Columbia University who was boarding at her aunt's house. Susan was attracted to Reed from the start, and the two of them became romantically involved while she was in college... Sue became engaged to Reed.
After losing the funding needed for this rocket flight, Reed became determined to make the flight himself with Ben as his pilot... Susan insisted she accompany Reed, and Johnny demanded to follow her. Because of the rocket's ineffective shielding, Susan and the others were exposed to cosmic radiation during the flight, and crashed back on Earth. Susan was the first of the four to demonstate superhuman power by turning invisible. As the Invisible Girl, Susan joined the other three in forming the Fantastic Four, to use their powers for good...
Recently, Franklin [Richards, the son of Sue and Reed] used his powers to restore the child Susan had miscarried before, claiming to have sent the unborn child to an alternate world to save both it and Sue. This led to the same complications Susan had suffered in her previous pregnancies. Dr. Doom helped deliver Susan's daughter, and had Susan christen the child Valeria Richards, after his true love. Despite the unusual circumstances of her birth, Susan has bonded with her newest child. When Mr. Fantastic led the Fantastic Four to Latveria to dismantle Dr. Doom's arsenal, his relationship with Susan became increasingly strained as he did not allow her, Ben, or Johnny to know what his ultimate goal was. Reed's withholding of information ultimately cost Ben his life, and Susan again briefly separated from Reed in the aftermath. Reed and Susan reconciled once more when Ben was restored to life by God Himself.
Susan continues to live a busy life raising her two children, trying to keep [her brother] Johnny's life on track, continuing in her efforts to have Reed treat her as an equal in their relationship, and exploring the unkonwn as the Invisible Woman.
From: Christiansen, page 104:
The second of two children born to physician Franklin Storm and his wife Mary, Johnny and his sister Susan grew up comfortably in suburban Glenville, Long Island...
While still fifteen, Johnny had a crush on Susan's friend, Cammy Brandeis. When Cammy's father was killed under mysterious circumstances, Johnny and Sue became involved in a mystic plot involving the legendary St. Germain and the demon Zarathos.
Johnny later went to California to visit his sister, who had moved there... and had become engaged to Reed Richards.
From: Christiansen, page 194:
Sue and Johnny's father, Franklin Storm, was a famous surgeon before a car accident took his wife's life. Distraught, Franklin gambled his life away, eventually killing a loan shark in self-defense. After many years in jail, Franklin escaped, but surrendered so that he could perform drastic surgery on his injured daughter [Susan Storm]. Franklin was kidnapped by the Skrulls, who sent the Invincible Man to impersonate him. After the Invincible Man's defeat, Franklin was returned to Earth with a bomb strapped to his chest. Selflessly taking the full blast himself, Franklin savided his children but lost his own life.
Ed Griffiths (email@example.com) wrote to us (9 July 2007) with the following suggestions regarding Susan Storm's religious affiliation, posted here with his permission:
I just wanted to comment on the possible religious leanings of the various caped crusaders, most particularly towards a figure like Sue Storm of the FANTASTIC FOUR, and the human contingent of the AVENGERS. Forgive me, but I have a subversive sense of humour and there is something I cannot help pointing out.
Sue Storm, the Avengers and other chosen mortals hang around both on duty and off with Thor the thunder God, a Norse deity, and Hercules, a Greek demi-god. The pantheons of both Asgard and Olympus are well established in the MARVEL universe and the powers of Thor and Hercules acknowledged as divine in origin.
So, if Sue Storm or anyone else have a religion, surely they believe in Zeus and/or Odin whose tangible powers they can see in action almost continually?
Or am I speaking in tongues???
Excerpts from: "Are Superheroes Religious?" forum page, started 13 May 2004, in "The John Byrne Forum" section of the Byrne Robotics website (http://jb.24-7intouch.com/forum/get_topic.asp?FID=3&TID=558&DIR=P; viewed 9 January 2006):
13 May 2004
Others: U.S.Agent (Southern Baptist?), Windshear (Protestant Christian?), Human Torch and Invisible Woman (Protestant)... Wolfsbane (Presbyterian), Jean Grey (?... shown attending church at some point), Storm (worships a goddess of some sort), Cannonball (? ...some branch of Christianity)
Mostly Marvel, I know... BTW... some of these were revealed during the Infinity Crusade.
From: "New Joe Fridays: Week 49" forum discussion, started 1 June 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=114952&page=5; viewed 8 June 2007):
06-03-2007, 04:58 AM
You brought up the issue of comic-book stereotypes and religions. Since I study religion (all kinds, really) this is something I've thought about a lot...
So, on to religion. What religions do we find represented in Marvel? ...Mainstream religions were generally unmentioned before the 1990's (though we do find Cap consulting the New Testament for inspiration during the 1970's... Then suddenly a number of characters were revealed as being of Roman Catholic background (Daredevil, Invisible Woman, Nightcrawler, Punisher), or occasionally Jewish (Thing, though he is predated by minor characters Doc Samson, Sabra, Kitty Pryde, and Justice). USAgent, in his stint as Cap, was hinted to be a conservative Protestant. What was the motivation for all this? In the case of Daredevil, his being Catholic became a kind of shorthand for guilt and so on. Nightcrawler was assumed to be Catholic because of his Bavarian origins, Punisher because of his mafia connections. Jack Kirby once drew the Thing with a prayer-shawl, and Jewish ethnicity seemed to reinforce the character's constant suffering and kvetching (and maybe his sense of humor too). I don't know what the story was with Invisible Woman, perhaps someone else will enlighten me...
From: "The religion of comic book characters" forum discussion, started 3 December 2006 on RPG.net website (http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=299781&page=3; viewed 25 April 2007):
12-04-2006, 05:35 AM
Re: The religion of comic book characters
I've just finished reading the huge dose of concentrated Bronze Age Marvel Goodness that is Essential Marvel Two In One, and it tangentially hits on some of these issues:
...The Thing: Interestingly, there are several "between the lines" hints at Ben Grimm's background in Judaism (though it's certainly not the only possible reading):
- When Reed Richards' telescope detects strange lights over Arizona on Christmas Eve, he starts getting ready to check it out, but Ben offers to go out there himself, so Reed can spend Christmas Eve with his family. Ben isn't especially put out about missing the holiday himself as he goes out to meet Ghost Rider and an apparent Second Coming. [Reed Richards is the husband of Sue Storm Richards, the Invisible Woman. The fact that their family celebrates Christmas probably has more to do with Sue's preferences than Reed's.]
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/e46638dbdaa8a219; viewed 22 June 2006):
Date: Tues, Sep 21 1999 12:00 am
...Anyone care to post a list of those characters whose spiritual beliefs are on record?
From: Andrew Furdell
Date: Tues, Sep 21 1999 12:00 am
I can name a few more:
Invisible Girl (Christian)
[Plus 4 other characters listed]
That's all off the top of my head... there's probably more.
From: Andrew Furdell
Date: Tues, Sep 21 1999 12:00 am
...Since the majority of people are religious, it's usually assumed that the characters are too. And Infinity Crusade... establishes lots of characters as being religious, especially Invisible Woman. (I remember Living Lightning being Catholic too)...
From: Barry, "For Barry" page, posted 26 March 2006 on "Theo-Dongs" blog website http://theopeckers.blogspot.com/2006/03/for-barry.html; viewed 8 May 2006):
Why are all the cool characters [expletive] Episcopalians? What the hell! Like every hero with a descent power is all rich and beautiful. Look at that list. The Invisible Woman and the Human Torch (multi-millionaires), Warren Worthingtion - the Archangel (also a multi-millionaire), Captain Britain (millionaire and ruler of another dimension), Psylocke (Captain Britain's sister, so, yes, a millionaire), Henry McCoy - the Beast (not really a millionaire but a genius geneticist who lives in a mansion with Charles Xavier who is a millionaire), Jean Grey - the Phoenix (also not personally rich, but is a cosmic god who, when she's living, lives in a mansion with millionaires), and of course Bruce Wayne - Batman (who is not a millionaire, but is, in fact, a billionaire). So, yes. There's you're proof. All Episcopalians are lazy rich people.
From: "Religious Beliefs of Marvel Characters" discussion board started 20 October 2004 on Comic-Forum.com website (http://www.comic-forum.com/marvel/Religious_beliefs_of_Marvel_characters_397905.html; viewed 8 June 2006):
Date: 20 Oct 2004 21:55:56
Subject: Religious beliefs of Marvel characters?
Does anybody know the religious beliefs of various characters?
Date: 20 Oct 2004 23:16:20
From: Samy Merchi
Barring any actual solid evidence in the characters' own books, you could always fall back on the Infinity Crusade and see which sides the characters were on in that conflict. Anybody feel like whipping those issues out and checking these specific characters?
Date: 21 Oct 2004 03:52:34
From: The Black Guardian
Anyway, here's the list of those who "faithfully served" the Goddess: Captain America, Jamie Madrox the Multiple Man, Jean Grey, Namorita, Silhouette, Spider-Man, Puck, Archangel, the Inhuman Crystal, Firelord, Hercules, Shaman, Talisman, Moondragon, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, the Silver Surfer, Sersi, the Living Lightning, Thor, the Invisible Woman, USAgent, Moon Knight, Wolfsbane, Doctor Strange, Wonder Man, Daredevil, the Black Knight, Windshear, Sasquatch, Storm, Gamora, Sleepwalker.
IIRC, even if you read the crossover, it's still pretty vague in what religions the heroes believed.
Date: 21 Oct 2004 03:57:48
From: Samy Merchi
In many cases, it [Infinity Crusade] is the strongest canonical reference to many of the characters' religious stance. Some lucky ones have been dealt with at more depth in their own books (DD, Rahne, Storm et al.) but for many characters Infinity Crusade is the biggest canonical reference. If we want to go by canon rather than sheer postulation.
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/e8d686f0b20944a6/92a1d043ac0625de; viewed 23 June 2006):
From: Jamie Coville
Date: Wed, Sep 22 1999 12:00 am
...I remember [in Infinity Crusade] the Human Torch wondering why he wasn't chosen as one the believers, and then worried if he wasn't a devout enough Christian. He also seemed to be surprised that Sue was a "stronger" beliver than he was.
David Thompson, "Secret Knowledge, Revealed", posted 1 March 2007 on "David Thompson: Culture, Ideas and Comic Books" blog website (http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/comic_books/index.html; viewed 15 May 2007):
...Naturally, the database also includes extraterrestrial belief systems... along with characters who, via circumstances far too involved to relate here, came to meet God Himself...
From: Visconde Carlo Vergara, "The Faith of Heroes (Superhero Religious Trivia)", posted 14 May 2006 on "Carver's House" blog website (http://carverhouse.blogspot.com/2006/05/sony-buys-us-rights-to-iranian-comic.html; viewed 15 May 2007):
...Rogue is Southern Baptist, Multiple Man is Buddhist, and the Thing is Jewish (as opposed to Human Torch and Invisible Woman, who are Episcopalian). The site also cites the comics issues where the religious affiliations were suggested or revealed.
More heroes are presented in a table on this page [link to: http://adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html]. If you want pictures, look through this other page [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_collage.html].
From: "Catholic Clix - Comic info needed!" forum discussion started 3 May 2003 on HCRealms website (http://www.hcrealms.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-40338.html; viewed 24 May 2007):
Ok, so in recent films it's been apparent that Daredevil and Nightcrawler are Catholic...
So, who else out there could be fielded in a "Catholic" Heroclix team?
You could get a slew of answers from Marvel's "Infinity Crusade" series. The Goddess only selected religious heroes to assist her, not all are Catholic though... Sue Storm and Johnny Storm are though. The Goddess didn't choose Johnny to assist her though cause his beliefs aren't as "deep" as Sue's. Hope that helps.
From: "Atheist representation on the Avengers" forum discussion started 20 June 2001 on "Comic Boards" website (http://www.comicboards.com/avengers/view.php?trd=010620110715; viewed 24 May 2007):
Posted by Jae on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 11:07:15 GMT
Atheist representation on the Avengers
The teams pretty well rounded now, but are there any atheistic members?...
Posted by D-Man on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 20:10:53 GMT
...Probably the best comic you could find to figure out who believes in a god or a god, or have deep faith in God or a god would be:
The Goddess uses the heroes' faith and belief in gods and such to recruit heroes.
Here are a list of Avengers who are "believers" so are recruited by the Goddess:
Posted by Taxman on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 14:17:36 GMT
I just dug up some back issues of "Infinity Crusade"...
...I think that it is pretty safe to assume that none of the Crusaders [i.e., people chosen by the Goddess] are atheists...
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...
09-16-2006, 03:38 AM
...Eddie Brock is a Catholic. Villain, not a hero, but still.
Dust of course is Sunni Moslem.
Sue Storm is a Christian I believe.
From: "Which superhero would be the best Muslim?" forum discussion, started 17 January 2006 on the "Muslim Student Association: University of South Florida" website (http://www.msausf.org/MSAUSF/forums/467/ShowPost.aspx; viewed 4 June 2007):
01-17-2006, 9:00 AM
Which superhero would be the best Muslim?
Salam. Me and Momodu were speaking to each other over some delicious baklava and coffee about which superhero would most likely be Muslim. I would say Batman is most likely to be a great Muslim because he practices great self-restraint when it comes to alcohol consumption, and fornication mashallah. Also, Batman does not eat pork because it slows him down in his nightly crusades against Joker and other foes. Also, he does not have time to backbite or gossip or engage in other forms of fitna because he is too busy cleaning the Batcave and changing the oil in the Batmobile. Thank You.
Momodu, on the other hand, says the Hulk would make an amazing Muslim because he always keeps his gaze lowered. Also, Momodu says the Hulk's purple pants somehow always manage to cover his a'ura, as in his body from his belly button down to his knees. Please dont be shy about showing your feelings. No one is here to judge you and all your postings are welcome.
DC and Marvel superheroes are both welcome
01-25-2006, 1:58 PM
How about Aqua Girl...she always has wudu.
Or Invisible Woman... her awra is never showing.
Or Sailor Moon who saved a cat who was being tortured, and in which the cat gave her special powers to be a soldier for love and justice, principles of Islam.
The best superheroine is SHE-RA, she can horseback ride which is sunnah, and in addition the horse turns into a flying unicorn which is similar to the creature that took RasulAllah (saw) to Jerusalem. Oh yeah and she knew how to use a sword... Her and her friends fight to protect and free Etheria from the grasp of the evil Hordak, so they have a mission to spread peace and order in their ummah.
From: "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters" forum discussion, started 10 March 2007 on "Brian Michael Bendis" part of "Comic Creator Boards" section of "Jinxworld Forums" website (http://www.606studios.com/bendisboard/archive/index.php/t-106242.html; viewed 6 June 2007):
An ASTONISHINGLY detailed site that delves into the religions of superheroes. Someone has WAY too much time on their hands.
03-10-2007, 10:54 AM
Not a lot of atheists.
03-10-2007, 11:07 AM
Yeah, its kind of hard to be an atheist when you encounter gods and abstract entities on a semi-regular basis.
Even hard in the DCU, which is why I thought Mr. Terrific was a dumbass.
I mean c'mon. Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman draw their powers from ancient Pantheons, Raven is a daughter of a demon, the Spectre is the Spirit of God's vengeance, things like Etrigan, Zauriel, not to mention the various characters actually, you know, going to Heaven and Hell for whatever reason.
03-10-2007, 11:14 AM
All those people could just get their powers from a really powerful person, who got them from another really powerful person, etc. making Reed Richards:
1: the smartest man ever...
03-10-2007, 11:17 AM
But the gods physically appear in front of these people. Heck, freaking Thor and Hercules are superheroes. Zauriel is a superhero who happens to be an angel, and the FF have actually met God (who appeared to them as Jack Kirby, heh).
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, 02:28 PM
Can anybody help me? I've been looking for years for a Spider-Man Christmas story written by Kurt Busiek from his "Untold Tales of Spider-Man" period. I believe the story was published in some kind of Marvel Holiday Special, and has Spidey and J. Jonah Jameson trapped in a warehouse, pinned under a beam or something, and forced to spend Christmas night together...
12-02-2003, 03:11 PM
There was a Spider-Man Holiday Special published in 1996.
I don't specifically remember the story you mention, but it had a tale about Spidey and the Torch [the brother of the Invisible Woman] meeting on the statue of liberty each Christmas day to exchange presents.
Some very touching moments.
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 [the son of the Human Torch] 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: Brad Meltzer, "Jewish Superhero Website Listing", posted 28 June 2007 on his official MySpace website (http://www.bradmeltzer.com/labels/Comics.html; viewed 9 July 2007):
Thanks to Jack G. for this. And I so admire The Acidic Jew [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/AcidicJew.html].
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