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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Reed Richards
Mr. Fantastic
of the Fantastic Four

Reed Richards, known as "Mr. Fantastic," is a founding member of the Fantastic Four, the foundational comic book series of the Marvel Universe.

The character of Reed Richards 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.

Reed Richards has always been portrayed as a brilliant scientist and inventor. Beyond simply possessing great skill in science, Richards also has a love of and interest in science and invention that occasionally seems all-consuming. Richards has been known to become so engrossed in a particular experiment or intellectual pursuit that his fervor has caused him to forget other obligations (such as to his family) or put the lives of others in danger. Fortunately serious lapses of this sort have been rare. For the most part, Reed Richards is usually an admirable, devoted father and husband. He also benefits immensely from the assistance of his wife, Susan Storm Richards, who is able to draw him out of intense bouts of concentration when necessary.

Reed Richards has always exhibited strong moral values and virtue, but he has never been known to be a member of any religious denomination. Richards is not simply a cold and calculating intellect in the manner of Nietzsche and even many so-called superheroes, who are willing to frequently violate their stated ideals for the greater good. Reed RIchards has always exhibited considerable compassion, even for his enemies. He is certainly not a pacifist, but among Earth's major superheroes, Mr. Fantastic is one of the least violent. Richards has even spared the life of the world-devourer Galactus, a decision which caused him to be put on trial by an interplanetary tribunal.

Although not overtly religious, Reed Richards does believe in God. In a conversation with his son, Franklin, Reed explained that based on all of his incredible experiences and having seen miraculous wonders in the universe, he believes that science and religion are simply different aspects of a unified reality behind which there is a God who has created an organized, rule-based universe. Moreover, Reed Richards has met God, which no doubt strengthened his conviction about the Supreme Being's reality.

Richards' commitment to science and his belief in science as a solution to most any problem have at times bordered on "scientism." Scientism is the belief that the methods and theories of the physical sciences are suitable for all fields and endeavors, and the belief that science has primacy over religious, humanistic, social, spiritual and other aspects of life. Whether or not Reed Richards' personal belief system can be described as scientism is a matter of debate. There have been occasions where Richards has trusted in science even to an irrational degree. Doctor Doom, for example, has exploited Richards' inability to comprehend or believe in magic, a force which Doom himself embraces.


Mr. Fantastic listens to his heart
Above: "Reed, one of your greatest gifts is that you always listen to your heart over your mind."

Well... maybe not always, but Susan Storm's sentiment here is instructive. Mr. Fantastic may be a brilliant scientist, but his heroism stems from his humanity, not his logic. [Source: Fantastic Four #504 ("Authoritative Action" Part 2), released 24 September 2003, page 14, written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Howard Porter, inked by Norm Rapmund; reprinted in Fantastic Four Vol. 3: Authoritative Action trade paperback, Marvel Entertainment Group: New York City (2004).]

Yet, on balance, Richards has shown himself to be more well-rounded and human than somebody who thinks purely about science and nothing else. Richards' consistent practice of numerous values such as honesty, loyalty, non-violence, marital fidelity, forgiveness, etc. (often characterized as Judeo-Christian, but not necessarily exclusively so) seems to owe nothing at all to science, stemming instead from an internal moral compass, the source of which has never been explained. It may simply be in Reed Richards' nature to be a good man.

An interesting recent aspect of Mr. Fantastic's history is that he went to Heaven and met God. This occurred after Mr. Fantastic was forced to shoot and kill his long-time friend and partner Ben Grimm ("The Thing"), who was possessed by the consciousness of Doctor Doom and was about to kill their teammate Johnny Storm ("The Human Torch"). Reed Richards rebuilt a machine that Doctor Doom had created many years before for accessing the afterlife. Reed Richards and his teammates Susan Storm Richards and Johnny Storm journeyed to Heaven where they were able to find Ben and get him to return to life on Earth with them. On their way home, God Himself appeared to them and restored Reed's face to normal (half of it had been melted and terribly disfigured by Doctor Doom).

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.

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: "The Shape of THINGS to Come" (interview with Marvel Comics editor Tom Brevoort) posted on Orthodox Union website (OU.ORG - Your Gateway to the Jewish Internet), (http://www.ou.org/ncsy/projects/kp/5763/kpwint63/thing.htm; viewed 30 November 2005):

KP [Keeping Posted/interviewer]: The Thing lives in a universe where you have characters like Thor and Hercules running around. What does this do to the state of monotheism, in your opinion?

TB [Tom Brevoort]: Well, I think that for the average person in the Marvel universe, sort of taking it from that point of view, they look at Thor and they say he is a superhero. He is no different then a Mr. Fantastic or Spider-Man or Cyclops; that his get-up, his shtick, his whatever, is based on the mythological god of thunder. But I do not believe that most people in the Marvel universe actually believe he is the bona fide article. In terms of the superhero community, they have a little more experience with, perhaps, having walked the streets of Asgard or walked the halls of Mount Olympus or whatnot, and given more of a tangible sense of the reality of the place, but in the same token they have seen colossal wonders. They've seen Galactus, they have been on other planets, they've seen the Celestials and whatnot. I think belief is a fairly personal thing. As a matter of fact, oddly enough, I was just editing this morning the script for a short eleven-page story for our upcoming issue of Marvel Double Shots that's all about Reed and Franklin talking about whether Reed believes in G-d. And his take is, essentially, that having seen, science and religion are two sides of the same coin and having seen the scope and the breadth and the depth of the universe, it seems like there is an ordered mind behind it, that it all follows rules and that it is all logical and that it all makes sense and that can't be an accident, and I believe because of these things that I've seen. So I don't think that having encounters with Thor, whether you are an ordinary person on the ground or a superhero in the air necessarily has that much of an impact. It may be a testing of your faith. It may make you question your beliefs a little bit more, but the basic tenet of the faith is belief in that which cannot be proven. And so it doesn't necessarily make such an impact depending on the individual.

From: Jeff Christiansen, et al., Marvel Encyclopedia Vol. 6: Fantastic Four, Marvel Entertainment Group: New York, NY (2004), page 144:

Recently, [Doctor] Doom raised the stakes against Reed, and turned to wielding magic against the Fantastic Four, as it was the one area of knowledge in which Reed was his inferior. Reed had difficulty even accepting the existence of magic, but Dr. Strange gave him a quick lesson and provided him with a wand that would channel magical energies for him from Reed's own admission of his lack of knowledge. Reed led the FF [Fantastic Four] in again defeating Doom by having him claim to be superior to the Haazareth, the demons that empowered him. They dragged Doom to hell, but Franklin [Richards, the son of Reed and Sue] was traumatized by the tortue Doom subjected him to, and Doom left a "parting gift" to Reed by melting half of his face.

With Doom gone, Reed led the FF to Latveria to take over the country and make certain that when Doom returned, he would not find his arsenal of weapons waiting for him to pick up where he left off. Secretly, Reed intended to place Doom within an impregnable prison and remain there with him as his jailer. But Reed did not share his plans with the rest of the FF, and they accidentally let Doom free when he entered their bodies. Doom took possession of Ben, and threatened to crush Johnny to death in his arms. To prevent this, Reed slew Ben with one of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s energy cannons.

Reed... quickly rebounded by rebuilding the machine Doom had made to access the afterlife so that he could bring Ben bck, having detected a faint signal from Ben's corpose. Sue and Johnny joined Reed in journeying to Heaven itself, and ultimately, Ben chose to return with them out of friendship. On the way back to Earth, God Himself restored Reed's face to normal.

Reed Richards kills the Thing
Above: Reed Richards ("Mr. Fantastic") is forced to kill his friend Ben Grimm ("The Thing") in order to vanquish Dr. Doom (who has inhabited Grimm's body) and save the life of their teammate, Johnny Storm ("The Human Torch"). From: Fantastic Four #508 (February 2004): "Authoritative Action: Part 6", written by Mark Waid, pencilled by Howard Porter, inked by Norm Rapmund.

A conversation about Reed Richards' religious beliefs

To: adherents.com
Sent: 17 May '06 04:29
Subject: Mr. Fantastic and "Scientism"

Hello.

I have just read the article on Mr. Fantastic from http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/MrFantastic.html

It is a difficult matter to write about religious affiliations of superheroes, and even more so with character such as Reed Richards who went through so many writers. Still, I can't help but wonder if the subject matter couldn't have been better covered.

There are many arguable, if not all-out distorted, points in that article. For one thing, it completely fails to notice that the so-called "God" that Reed once met had the likeness of... It also builds a charge of "scientism" out of thin air, for a character that on the contrary has consistently been shown to have one of the more open and balanced minds of either fiction or reality. He has even been shown to have a healthy respect for Native American beliefs in the fist appearance of Terminus, as well as for oriental religions in Marvel Team-Up #100.

Me, I would describe him as a particularly open-minded Secular Humanist, and probably make some reference to his role in Infinity Crusade. It is most interesting to note that his wife Susan (who IMNSHO can not be seriously said to be more moral or even more religious than Reed) was chosen by Goddess while he himself was not.

In fact, Goddess is probably worth a full article all by herself. Her criteria were most curious, accepting dangerous nutjobs such as USAgent, Moondragon and arguably Moon Knight at the same time that she rejected Reed and Ben Grimm.

OUR RESPONSE:
Thanks for taking the time to write. I appreciate your comments about Mr. Fantastic, and I will work on improving this article...

I think in the main article itself is in agreement with what you are saying... that "Scientism" is not an accurate label for Mr. Fantastic's worldviews. For example, the article states [quote relevant paragraph from this page]...

On the main page at:
http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html I have changed the listing for Reed Richards from "possible scientism" to "humanist". I do believe that Richards has exhibited hints of scientism many times, and there's always that potential that he go that direction, depending on the writer, but I think "humanist" better captures the essence of what he really is, rather than "scientism".

You are absolutely correct that we do not point out that God was depicted in the image of... in that Fantastic Four story. It's such a great story I didn't want to include this "spoiler" on our website, as this revelation might diminish the enjoyment for readers who learn about the story from our site and decide to pick it up. This fact is also largely irrelevant from the perspective of Reed and Sue, although it is relevant in any discussion of why this story was written and what it means for us as readers.

I completely agree that Sue Richards can not be said to be "more moral" than Reed. I'm not aware of anything on our website that makes such an implication. I disagree that Sue can't be called more religious than Reed. The Goddess's references to Sue's faith make it pretty clear that Sue is more religious than Reed. Sue has talked about her religious upbringing, including attending Sunday School classes with Johnny as she grew up. I'm not convinced that the same can be said for Reed.

I'm not sure if "Secular Humanist" should be applied to Richards, as this is usually used as as a term of self-identification to describe's one own religious position, and implies a level of decision or organization that beyond anything exhibited by Richards. For example, Isaac Asimov (a person who Richards would no doubt greatly admire) was at one time in the presidency of the leading American secular humanist organization. But Richards has never held membership in any such organization. Philip Jose Farmer is another person who held formal membership in the organization and identified himself as a secular humanist. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is well known for stating clearly in interviews: "My religion is secular humanism." I've personally watched him and other secular humanists describe their religion in this way, and I would tend to reserve the term for those who apply it to themselves, rather than use it as some kind of catch-all phrase or a synonym for "non-Christian" or "agnostic," etc. (I realize you're not suggesting that the term is synonymous with any of these.) I would want to see Richards identify himself as a secular humanist or somebody else call him one in print before I classified him in this way.




re: "In fact, Goddess is probably worth a full article all by herself. Her criteria were most curious, accepting dangerous nutjobs such as USAgent, Moondragon and arguably Moon Knight at the same time that she rejected Reed and Ben Grimm."

Not sure I agree with you about the Goddess, or maybe I'm not sure what you mean. Her criteria was not based on a person's individual morality, but on a person's relative level of known religiosity or experience with life-after-death experiences. Her criteria also had nothing to do with a person's relative level of sanity. USAgent, Moondragon and Moon Knight are definitely all considerably more religious than Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. Moondragon is former high priestess and Moon Knight identifies himself as a priest for the god Khonshu in last month's issue of Moon Knight #1. So, yeah, I would rather hang out with Reed Richards and Ben Grimm, but I have to say I would be more surprised to see them start attending my church than USAgent or Sue Richards. There are many things you can accuse the goddess of, but I don't think she was capricious.

But, like I said, I agree with what you said in your email message, and I over the next few days I will work on incorporating your points into our Reed Richards article.

- webmaster, adherents.com

Discussion

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
suedenim

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.

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

Kurt B. [Kurt Busiek] has stated that Tony Stark is an atheist, and I'd bet dollars to donuts Reed Richards is too.


From: Andrew Furdell
Date: Tues, Sep 21 1999 12:00 am

Really?! When and where?!! Kurt, is this true [about Iron Man]? That's great... I never would have guessed it about him so much though... Reed Richards makes sense too.


From: Cthulhu
Date: Tues, Sep 21 1999 12:00 am

...Either way, he's pretty much your standard agnostic.

I believe Richards is the same way, but leaning strongly towards atheism. I seem to recall around the birth of his kids something along these lines... perhaps the death of the 2nd child was a catalyst.

Either way, none of the characters [Iron Man, Reed Richards, the Hulk] are always portrayed in a consistent manner and sometimes they change their views.


From: Andrew Furdel
Date: Tues, Sep 21 1999 12:00 am

I don't believe Mr. Fantastic could be an agnostic. He thinks too much to resort to the agnostic ideal of "I'll never know, so why think about it?" He's definitely inquisitive and methodical enough to ponder heavily on the subject, and he's probably smart enough to figure out just how the universe actually came to be ("It seems we were all created by a man named Stan Lee...")


From: DOOM0880
Date: Wed, Sep 22 1999 12:00 am

Reed has expressed belief in some sort of higher power.


From: Eric Stevenson
Date: Wed, Sep 22 1999 12:00 am

I could see Reed going either way. He's smart enough to figure it out by pure logic or design a God-detecting experiment. For him, faith wouldn't come into it. As for why he doesn't talk about it, he's a self-absorbed bastard.


From: Terry Riopka
Date: Mon, Sep 27 1999 12:00 am

Atheism also requires faith. Your "belief" that the universe has no purpose and requires no creator is just that...a belief. You can explain how the universe has evolved, but believing in no God requires the same leap as in believing in one. Neither can ever be proved, and so ultimately both must be based on faith. You choose to believe that the universe just "is". Others choose to believe that the universe "is" for a purpose (unknown though it may be). Given what he knows about the universe, Reed, in my opinion, is humble enough to allow the possibility that a supreme being does exist, and is ultimately responsible for the incredible things he has seen. This would most surely make him an agnostic.

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: "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

The so-called "non-believers" that the Goddess didn't choose:
Vision
Mr. Fantastic
Thing
She-Hulk
Rage
Hulk
Iron Man
Spider-Woman II
Firestar
Darkhawk
Beast (although Beast claims to believe in a god, but Vision counters with "Obviously because your belief in a supreme being is not as deeply felt nor well known as the others.")
Quasar (which was stated in his own book)


[http://www.comicboards.com/avengers/view.php?rpl=010620125204]

Re: Atheist representation on the Avengers

In my opinion, this issue is pretty well addressed in the 'Infinity Crusade.' The whole premise of the story divides all of the major Marvel heroes into "crusaders," and "infidels." The infidels were not necessarily dyed-in-the-wool atheist per say, but they did not have the faith required to be influenced by the powers of the villain (Goddess was it?).

I cannot remember how it all broke down that well, but the infidels included the scientific like Richards, and Iron Man, and hard cases like Wolverine and the Hulk. In general it seems that females were much more likely to be crusaders, and I am sure that the Black Knight, and Cap were amongst them. When the crusaders were gathered, they were drawn by images of various symbols which reflected their faiths...


[http://www.comicboards.com/avengers/view.php?rpl=010620124246]

Posted by She Hulk on Wednesday, June 20 2001 at 12:42:46 GMT

In the Marvel Universe, magic is a fact and Tony is kind of more unique for his relative discomfort with that (Reed Richards, too, to a lesser extent)...

From: "Jewish Heroes or Villians in Marvel Universe?" forum discussion, started 12 December 2005 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://www.xmenindex.com/forums/comicbooks/t-97146.html; viewed 31 May 2007):

furie
12-12-2005, 05:50 AM

Reading the " Black Panther thread" got me thinking. Are there any Jewish heroes or villians in the Marvel Universe?


Pike
12-12-2005, 12:43 PM

...I think Stan and Jack took the right approach when they left religion out of the major characters (though Reed Richards has w.a.s.p. [White Anglo-Saxon Protestant] written all over him)...


StoneGold
12-12-2005, 01:01 PM

...what with Reed being Mr. Science and all, travelling to heaven is only changing dimensions, he's more of a WAS.


Dizzy D
12-13-2005, 04:01 PM

How about Reed Richard's [listing on Adherents.com's "Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters" page:] "scientist, met God"


StoneGold
12-13-2005, 04:42 PM

Yeah, and what happens when God is the guy who got kicked out of your wedding?

From: "How many Atheist superheroes/heroines are there?" forum discussion, started 20 May 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?p=3716053; viewed 24 May 2007):

05-20-2007, 06:23 AM
JoeZhang

How many Atheist superheroes/heroines are there?

Tony Stark - who else?


05-20-2007, 06:24 AM
Marchie77

Reed? When did Stark state he was an atheist...?


05-20-2007, 06:34 AM
RedRonin

re: Reed? When did Stark state he was an atheist...?

Reed met God though, it was Kirby.

From: "Ask an Atheist!" forum discussion, started 9 June 2006 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-128514-p-5.html; viewed 30 May 2007):

shadowraven
06-21-2006, 10:13 AM

...http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html ["Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters" website]...


Wesley Dodds
06-21-2006, 10:28 AM

That page is nuts. Animal rights a religion? "Scientism"? Fundamentalist environmentalist?


Mike Smash!
06-21-2006, 10:33 AM

Yeah, some of them are really bad. "Communist" is also not a religion, but an ideology and an economic system.

But some of the individual pages are fairly decent in distinct examples of certain characters expressing their beliefs. Sometimes with pictures.

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):

JoeE
03-10-2007, 10:46 AM

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

An ASTONISHINGLY detailed site that delves into the religions of superheroes. Someone has WAY too much time on their hands.


John Drake
03-10-2007, 10:54 AM

Not a lot of atheists.


Keith P.
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.


batmanbooyah
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...


Pablo Diaz
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: "Super Hero Religions" forum discussion started 15 June 2006 on "RonFez.net" website, home of the Ron & Fez radio show (http://www.ronfez.net/forums/archive/index.php/t-50765.html; viewed 11 June 2007):

booster11373
06-15-2006, 02:10 PM

Ron and Fez did an awesome bit on this years ago... Popular Comic Book Heroes Faith-by-Faith...


kdubya
06-15-2006, 03:10 PM

What about Green Arrow? I would say an atheist, but wasn't he brought back form hell or something? So maybe not.

I would also say Mr. Fantastic is an atheist because of the scientist thing.

Cyclops is a good red-blooded Protestant boy.

Prof X, Buddhist, just because of the hair-do.

Guy Gardner, former Catholic.

Booster Gold, Scientologist.

Yorick Brown, Agnostic.


EliSnow
06-15-2006, 03:20 PM

re: I would also say Mr. Fantastic is an atheist because of the scientist thing.

You would think, except for a recent trip to Heaven that the Fantastic Four made to bring Ben Grimm back from the dead. There they met God who looked remarkably like Jack Kirby.

From: "Doug TenNapel on Black Cherry" forum discussion, started 16 May 2007 on "The Engine" website (http://the-engine.net/forum/lmessages.php?webtag=ENGINE&msg=8767.1; viewed 28 June 2007):

[Discussing the interview conducted by Michael C. Lorah with comic book writer Doug TenNapel for Newsarama, 16 May 2007, posted here: http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=112821]

[Excerpt:] Doug TenNapel: ...The fact that Superman was born and raised in Kansas by conservative farmers yet he never even talks about the Bible stinks to high hell to me. It's idiotic and it ends up making these characters less human instead of more. Superman has exactly dick to do with any "Smallville" I've ever been to. This is why I actually LOVED the Red Son Superman [in Superman: Red Son] so much; they finally gave us a contrast of what would happen if Superman didn't carry Kansas in his worldview. More of this! Less of draining worldviews and philosophies out of comics! Especially worldviews that are considered "anti-comic" like certain conservative ones... It's why I laugh so hard at a vocal minority in comics that just freaks out if my characters bring up Jesus Christ. They don't freak out if a character says the word "____" or decides to be gay in a series, but if Spiderman ever converted to Christianity these critics would have a period. I thought we were farther along than that in the discussion and debate department of comics. I'm shocked at the level of groupthink within a medium that should be anything but a monolith of worldview. There should be a robust debate of worldviews within comics... it's why I so look forward to Frank Miller's Batman vs. Islamic terror. That kind of material should be the norm not the controversial rarity that it is...


From: CaseyMoore
16 May 18:06

I think he [Doug TenNapel] makes some valid points there.

As for Superman though, it reminds me of a friend of mine. He grew up in a very small town in Wisconsin. When he took me there I was amazed at how small and redneck the place was. But, unlike a lot of his friends from there who are the typical small town types, my friend's parents took him around the world (his dad was from India to start off with, so that alone set him apart from everyone). Superman is the same way, while he may have a conservative Christian background, traveling around the world and the cosmos would change one's "worldview."

But, I would like to see a character go the complete opposite. Say Reed Richards coming out as an atheist. Would TenNapel be willing to accept that is what I wonder?


From: Skipper Pickle
16 May 18:59

re: Say Reed Richards coming out as an atheist. Would TenNapel be willing to accept that is what I wonder?

Given that he [Doug TenNapel] professes an appreciation for Superman: Red Son [which depicts Superman being raised as a devout Communist], I would think so.

I identify strongly (pretty much down the line) with TenNapel's views, and i like your example. As a Christian, i realize that I don't particularly understand an atheist's point of view, and I think I would get a lot out of story that, for instance, helped me see Reed Richards as an atheist who keeps discovering one cosmic wonder after another, continually experiencing that sense of gratitude that seems to be the instinctive response to beauty, but having no one to express that gratitude toward. How does he respond differently than I would?

On the other hand, I don't think I would much appreciate a story that used an atheist Reed Richards to show me that believing in God is ridiculous.

So my current working hypothesis: If the character's worldview is something that they are struggling with, it serves the story. If the character's worldview serves as the Answer to all of their conflicts, it harms the story.

That seems too simple though, so I'll happily entertain amendments.


From: Matthew Craig
16 May 21:05

...Reed Richards should not NEED to come out as an Atheist. Reed Richards' universe does not have "Jesus H. Christ" sewn into the underpants...


[http://the-engine.net/forum/lmessages.php?webtag=ENGINE&msg=8767.41]

From: Justin Jordan (JUSTINJORDAN)
18 May 13:03

It'd make sense that people would establish the Church of Superman, absolutely.

"I haven't seen a fraction of a percentage of what Kal El sees daily"

See, there's a thing about religion and the DC (or Marvel) universe; Superman has gotten in fistfights with Angels. Reed Richards has stormed Heaven to grab his buddy.

While there's an argument to be made that the individual characters might not worship a particular god, they'd have to be reasonably mental not to believe they exist.

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):

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 Reed Richards] 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: "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):

job0476
June 2nd, 2005, 11:11 AM

You know, from my years of reading comic books, I've always felt like believing in God or a religion was held in a mostly negative bias (this is especially seen when a comic deals with sexual orientation). Maybe it's a perspective thing. Because I happen to be religious, I'm more senstive to anti-religious sentiment. As an atheist, you're most senstive to scenes in comics that seem hostile to you worldview. That all seems pretty normal to me.

As far as examples of agnostics and atheists in comics, I've noticed that most mystically based heroes and science based heroes tend to be this way. Mystically based heroes tend to scoff at the idea of a omnipresent God type because of there own abilities. Most people who are dedicated to science/are scientists are agnostic or atheist. This is even more obvious in the Marvel Universe when you think that Reed Richards, one of the flagship heroes, is athiest. He's as sane as they come. Maybe aloof because of his intelligence, but sane. In fact, that makes me think about it more. You said that if a character is atheist he's shown as being cold. Maybe I read that a bit differently. To me, it just seems like the writers are saying that intellegent characters are agnostic/atheist, idealistic characters believe in God.

On a side note, I think it's funny how many stereotypes pop up in these threads. "Christians don't eat fish on Fridays", "Atheists are cold", Christians are stupid", "Atheists hate babies", etc., etc. I think it would do all of us to be more informed about other people's beliefs, whether we agree about them or not.

From: "Barry Allen is Jewish?" forum discussion, started 13 May 2005 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-4308.html; viewed 20 July 2007):

Heatwave the Rogue
May 15th, 2005, 07:44 AM

...I would say that any characters' religious affiliation would depend also on what the religion of their creator or writer happened to be. Stan Lee was Jewish so he probably leaned most of his characters (Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, etc...) in that direction, at least a subconscious level.

I would rather comic companies take a "don't ask, don't tell" policy about religion.

Apparently an issue of Comic Book Marketplace inadvertently indicated that the Hulk had been revealed as Jewish when in fact the writer was trying to note that Ben Grimm ("The Thing") had been revealed as Jewish. This misprint prompted the following discussion. From: "What issue was the Hulk revealed as Jewish?" forum discussion, started 12 November 2004 on IMWAN website (http://www.imwan.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=999; viewed 31 July 2007):

Posted: Sat Jul 21, 2007 8:27 am
Simon

I tend to think of Banner as being totally non-religious. I don't know that a guy that obsessed with science would think twice about it. Same as Reed Richards. It just doesn't fit with the character.

From: message posted 14 July 2004 on "The Bleat" blog website (http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0704/071404.html; viewed 2 August 2007):

Finally, I give you a comic that didn't last very long:

[Scanned cover of Strange Tales #174, featuring "The Golem."]

A "Note from the Bullpen" said this was the first Jewish superhero in comics, but now we know that's not true. Ben Grimm (the Thing) is Jewish [link to: http://www.forward.com/issues/2002/02.07.26/fast1.html/]. Reed Richards? Episcopalian, I'd bet. Silver Surfer? Unitarian.

From: Tom R., "It's Kabbalah-in' Time!", posted 24 July 2006 on "Father McKenzie" website (http://fathermckenzie.blogspot.com/2006/07/its-kabbalah-in-time.html; viewed 10 August 2007):

IT'S KABBALAH-IN' TIME! [updated]... It's official: Ben Grimm, a.k.a "The Thing" in Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four, is Jewish. And devoutly so [link to: http://www.forward.com/issues/2002/02.07.26/fast1.html/]. Link via James Lileks [link to: http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/04/0704/071404.html], who comments: "Reed Richards? Episcopalian, I'd bet. Silver Surfer? Unitarian"...

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