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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Miguel Santos
Living Lightning
of the West Coast Avengers

Miguel Santos is a Mexican-American superhero known as "Living Lightning." He was a member of the West Coast Avengers and was portrayed as a Catholic.

Living Lightning, a devout Catholic
Living Lightning, a devout Catholic

Living Lightning first appeared in West Coast Avengers #63 (October 1990), which was written by Dann Thomas and Roy Thomas, and illustrated by Paul Ryan.

Living Lightning 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.

Many years after West Coast Avengers had ceased publication and the Living Lightning had stopped appearing regularly in any series, the character was retconned as a GLBT character by writer Dan Slott in GLA #2 (July 2005), a comedic story featuring the Great Lakes Avengers. In this story, Miguel mistakenly thinks that "GLA" stands for "Gay/Lesbian Alliance," and inadvertently outs himself to the third-rate GLA team. Prior to the Living Lightning's appearance in this issue, there was no indication that he was gay. In West Coast Avengers, Miguel Santos dated women.

We are unaware of any stories that have attempted to reconcile Miguel's previously portrayed Catholic devotion with his recent identification of himself as gay. Clearly there are conflicts between normative Catholic practices and beliefs and normative GLBT practices and beliefs, so this would seem to be an inevitable topic, but it may present complexity beyond that which most comic book writers or publishers are willing to address. The current religious attitudes of other Catholic comic book superheroes who have subsequently been portrayed as GLBT (Obsidian, Northstar, Karma) has similarly been unaddressed.

Discussion

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):
Dana Smith
13 May 2004
Catholic folks... Firebird (Bonita Juarez), Jeanne Marie Baubier (Aurora), Daredevil, Living Lightning, Karma (was, not sure if she's still practicing), Dagger (Cloak's partner), Banshee, Siryn?, Sunspot
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
From: OSinner1

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.


Date: 21 Oct 2004 21:06:41
From: Matt Deres

At the risk to my sanity, I've dug out that series [Infinity Crusade] to investigate.

Living Lightning sees a cross...

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):
From: Dwiff
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:

Living Lightning (Catholic)

[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: "Who's Catholic in the Marvel Universe" forum discussion started 5 February 2005 on "HCRealms" website (http://www.hcrealms.com/forum/showthread.php?t=123637; viewed 10 May 2007):

Shellhead
02/05/2005, 15:35

I know a lot of characters are Jewish, so I was wondering who is officially Catholic?

I know Daredevil is. It's a major part of his personality and often occurs in storylines.

I also believe Firebird from the West Coast Avengers... After that, I'm pretty much stumped.

Anyone have any others?

Marvel Catholics:
Daredevil
Firebird


UberDT
02/05/2005, 21:15

Pretty sure Wolfsbane is Catholic. [Actually she has always been identified as Presbyterian, NOT Catholic.] And I'd have to think that many of the South Amercian heroes would be Catholic as well.


Silver Lantern
02/05/2005, 23:51

Then who is South American?

Living Lightning?
Sunspot?

Anyone else?

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?...


[http://www.comicboards.com/avengers/view.php?rpl=010620201053]

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:

Infinity Crusade
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:
Living Lightning
Black Knight
Hercules
Sersi
Invisible Woman
Spider-Man
Quicksilver
Wonder Man
Captain America
Thor
Crystal
Moondragon
USAgent
Scarlet Witch
Moon Knight


[http://www.comicboards.com/avengers/view.php?rpl=010620141736]

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...


[http://www.comicboards.com/avengers/view.php?rpl=010620112702]

Posted by Omar Karindu on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 11:27:02 GMT

...Speculations:

...As stereotypical as it seems, I'd assume Living Lightning is Catholic (I believe that one of his solo stories in a WCA annual showed Catholic iconography in his house.)...

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):

Nogs
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...


LordEd1976
09-15-2006, 09:55 PM

Living Lightning is Christian, possibly Catholic...

From: "Superheroes and Religion" forum discussion, started 17 May 2006 on HERO Games website (http://www.herogames.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-42820.html; viewed 12 July 2007):

John Desmarais
Mar 17th, '06, 10:51 AM

Ever wonder what religion you favorite hero is? Check this out.

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


Lucius
Mar 19th, '06, 05:02 PM

"GLBT" is a religion?

"Well, maybe for some people" observes the palindromedary. "Kind of like Hates Spider Man can be a religion for someone we know."


AmadanNaBriona
Mar 19th, '06, 05:06 PM

I was wondering about that myself.

Is there a religion that also uses that particular abbreviation, or does the author of the site think that by default anyone with an alternative sexual identity CAN'T actually belong to any other religion, I wonder?


McCoy
Mar 19th, '06, 05:14 PM

[Quoting the "Religious Affiliation of Obsidian" page on the Adherents.com website:

We are unaware of any stories that have attempted to reconcile Obsidian's previously portrayed Catholic devotion with his recent identification of himself as gay.

Or words to that effect for almost all characters identified as GLBT.

This is such a steaming pile!


Lucius
Mar 19th, '06, 05:33 PM

Actually, I don't think it lists anyone as JUST "GLBT" but always as an addition to some other faith. Um, if "GLBT" is a faith. So I don't think his reasoning is "by default anyone with an alternative sexual identity CAN'T actully belong to any other religion..."


Teflon Billy
Mar 19th, '06, 05:37 PM

Well, if you are GLBT you are not living up to the tenents of the Catholic Church (for example), you are actively living an daily lifestyle (not momentarily lapsing into sinful acts) that is a violation of the doctrines of the Faith.

I chalk it up to giving elaboration to the designation "Catholic (lapsed)" that he uses for some of the characters.

If I started espousing Monophysite, Nestorian, or Gnostic beliefes though I was raised Catholic and these facts were mentioned in comics, then listing me as "Catholic (Nestorian adherent)" that would be similar.


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