The Religious Beliefs of Comic Book Character
in Neil Gaiman's acclaimed comic book series The Sandman and Season of Mists
From: Rebecca Salek, "Spirituality In Comics", on "Sequential Tart" website (http://www.sequentialtart.com/archive/dec03/tth_1203.shtml; viewed 5 January 2006):
For many people. December is a month which contains celebrations of religious, spiritual or cultural significance. For many people. December is a month which contains celebrations of religious, spiritual or cultural significance. In recognition of that, this month the Tarts pick out what they consider to be the best representations of spirituality in comic books...
Anisa: One of the greatest story arcs, and most memorable for me by far, was "Season of Mists" from The Sandman line by Neil Gaiman.
A quick recap for you uninitiated into the greatness that is Neil Gaiman: Lucifer decides he's had it being lord of the underworld and gives Morpheus the key to Hell (mind you, there's a bunch of in-between stuff I'm leaving out here). As the two entities are walking through the various aspects of Hell, Lucifer explains why he's leaving.
It all boils down to the fact that he's bored with Hell. Imagine doing the same job over and over again for ten billion years. Yeah, it was about as appealing to him, too, and he was desperate for a change and to get on with his life.
As you're strolling through various empty torture chambers, imagine talking with Lucifer and hearing his take on humanity's need for punishment and his role as keeper of sinners' souls.
"Why do they blame me for all their little failings? They use my name as if I spend my entire day sitting on their shoulders, forcing them to commit acts they would otherwise find repulsive. 'The devil made me do it.' I have never made one of them do anything. Never. They live their own tiny lives. I do not live their lives for them .... They talk of my going around and buying souls - never stopping to ask themselves why. I need no souls. And how can anyone own a soul? No. They belong to themselves - they just hate to have to face up to it." -- Lucifer, Season of Mists #2.
Hallelujah! Finally, there's someone out there who thinks like I do.
First, let me praise Mr. Gaiman for such a well written, realistic dialogue for Lucifer Morningstar. Oh sure, no one can really be sure of what Satan thinks, and I'm decently sure that he's not running a piano bar in the UK somewhere. Part of the reason why I think this arc, and especially this scene in particular, is such a spectacular example of how religion and religious figures are treated in comics is because Gaiman realistically looks at The Fall and points out that angels have free will.
With the gift (or curse) of free will, decisions can be made and not all of them are good. Lucifer obviously made a decision and dealt with the consequences of that decision, but Gaiman points out that leaving Heaven was not the last decision Lucifer can, or would, make. Gaiman takes the personification of Evil, and makes it/him tangible and realistic.
Gaiman also gets points for looking Humanity in the face and saying, "Get over yourself."
For anyone who is into comics, was into comics, or is a person who brushes aside comics as not being academic enough, Season of Mists is definitely a recommended read. The pacing is fantastic, as well as the dialogue and art, and is thoroughly engaging on so many levels. As a side note, the above quote taken from Season of Mists #2 is not the only little philosophical gem Gaiman puts in. Go read it for yourself and be amazed.
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Katherine: Spirituality and religion is often handled in an extremely juvenile and well, stupid, way in mainstream comics. Avengelyne being the classic. I still think it's one of the funniest comics ever published, largely because its creators really meant it.
That said, DC offered readers one of the finest religious-themed comics ever published back in the 1990s. I'm talking about John Ostrander's run on Spectre...
Another good theologically themed comic comes from DC/Vertigo. I'm talking, of course, about Lucifer. How much of our fates are predetermined? Is free will really free will? An engrossing exploration of "the bad guy" and his motives, Carey's take on Satan is as dynamic and compelling as Milton's...
These are the three books [Spectre; Lucifer; Dawn] that come to mind that I believe will not insult the reader's intelligence in terms of their treatment of the sacred and profane.
. . .
Lee: The best treatments of spirituality and of religion don't necessarily equate to the best written stories about spirituality or religion. I have always been interested in fiction that uses religious text and principles to set up conflict and drama, though I hesitate to call it the "best treatment" simply because practitioners of that faith may not appreciate such uses of their religion. My enjoyment of these works comes from my interest in world religions and the impact they have on the cultures that follow them.
But this enjoyment only comes if it is the author's intention to elucidate about a particular religious practice, to question the deeper meaning behind religious dogma, or to hold up a mirror and reflect the superficial aspects of the religion back to the reader. There must be substance to the story, after all. And truthfully, it doesn't matter whether an author is stringently challenging the basic tenets, and casting aside pretensions to dig for the kernel of truth, or updating religious allegories for modern audiences, the authors who write the best stories are those who have the clearest understanding of that religion.
I have consistently found that the best religious stories are by Vertigo. There seems to be a tradition of intelligent treatments of religious themes amongst the writers typically associated with Vertigo, including Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Mike Carey, Garth Ennis, and Grant Morrison. Ranging from examinations of the relationships between religious figures (as with Carey's Lucifer) to psychedelic religious pop (as with Morrisons' Invisibles) to angry iconoclasm (as with Ennis' Preacher), Vertigo proves that there is no one way to incorporate religion as either a primary or secondary element into stories. They have proven that if the stories are well written, then the audiences will come.
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Rita: I really like Lucifer and Sandman for their exploration of Christianity. The storylines really delve into some aspects of creation and God that the Bible does not specifically address. I really enjoy reading things that make me question and further study the beliefs that have been ingrained in me.
From: comments section on "The Beast is an Episcopalian" page on "IFanBoy.com" blog website, posted 1 February 2006 (http://www.ifanboy.com/archives/000675.html; viewed 10 May 2006):
Posted by: josh at February 6, 2006 02:08 AM
I'd also have to go for Lucifer, which uses the biblical backstory as it's underpinning, asking many of the same questions as Preacher about the nature of God, and whether he loves his creations or is indifferent, as well as how we should feel about that.
Posted by: Michael at February 6, 2006 09:51 PM
Gaiman and Carey have kinda delved into a pseudo-Judeo-Christian religion with their interpretation of God, Lucifer, the Angels, and so forth. I find that version of Lucifer, especially, very interesting and compelling.
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&start=120&tstart=0; viewed 15 May 2006):
Posted: May 12, 2005 7:32 AM
...I'm an atheist.
That said, I have no problem with a religious character, like Daredevil or Nightcrawler. I have no problem with characters based on religion, such as various angels in the main DCU and assorted Vertigo lines (or Lucifer in Vertigo, for that matter).
Posted: May 13, 2005 7:59 PM
...If we also consider Sandman, Lucifer and Preacher, God has not fared well.
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):
Posted by: David N. Scott at January 4, 2006 01:34 PM
I mean, either you want this character [Spectre] to exist or you don't. If you don't want Christian aspects in your stories, don't have Zauriel the angel (tm), Lucifer the Fallen (tm) and the Spectre running around. Marvel gets by fine with the Celestials and Galactus... DC's the co that made all these characters, so it seems very unfair to not be able to use them.
From: "Muslim characters in comics" message board, started 22 January 2006 in Batman discussion board area of official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000059913&start=45&tstart=0; viewed 9 June 2006):
Posted: Jan 29, 2006 2:10 AM
No offense to you are your belief system but I think religion as a practice should be left out of comics. I'm not talking about Greek gods of Norse Gods no one believes in anymore... I just think at some point some member of either a different Muslim belief system than you or another Christian of Judeo-Christian religion will get offended at the portrayal. I think we should separate church and comics.
Probably too late (Daredevil's priest buddy, Spectre's host being Islamo-Judeo-Christian and Heaven exisiting and Lucifer as a balance to "the light"...
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... DC gets away with Neron by using the excuse, so handily provided them by Neil Gaiman's Sandman, that Lucifer himself has abdicated Hell's throne...
From: "Doug TenNapel on Black Cherry" forum discussion, started 16 May 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=112821; viewed 28 June 2007):
05-16-2007, 06:15 PM
First, a lot of Christians already visit comic book stores and I dont see mass store burnings over the comics Chirstians would find "offensive", such as Lucifer, Witch Tarot, et al. In fact I remember an interview with Mike Carey writer of Lucifer, who found a good amount of the readers for Lucifer also practiced a Christian or Jewish faith, and enjoyed the comic because it tested it, but not in an offensive manner. It was intellectualy stimulating, yet still in a comic booky entertainment format.
From: "Superheroes/villains and their religions" forum discussion, started 16 March 2006 on "Animation Insider" website (http://www.animationinsider.net/forums/archive/index.php?t-17835.html; viewed 28 June 2008):
03-16-2006, 05:16 AM
Someone pointed this out at another forum. I found it to be quite amusing that someone would actually have enough time on their hands to ponder about this.
Religion seems to be a little pointless in the DCU. There's no point going around believing in things that actually exist. I mean Lucifer has a bar in LA for ****'s sake!
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=15&tstart=15; viewed 19 July 2007):
Posted: Feb 28, 2007 7:13 PM
They don't come more antichristian than LUCIFER over at Vertigo.
From: "Comics and Faith/Religion" forum discussion, started 12 August 2007 on Jinxworld website (http://www.606studios.com/bendisboard/showthread.php?t=122876; viewed 18 August 2007):
08-12-2007, 08:30 PM
I am looking for some new comics, or old ones I've missed, dealing with faith and religion. So far I have:
I am aware of Old Testament, Lucifer and Preacher, but I am looking more for mini-series. It need not be pro- or anti- religion, I am open to both. Suggestions?
Webpage created 5 January 2006. Last modified 18 August 2007.
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