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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
The Savage Dragon

The Savage Dragon is a self-described Atheist. This character's classification as an Atheist seems peculiar to some readers because the character has actually met God.

In an unusual and memorable story (issue #31 of The Savage Dragon), the Savage Dragon went the afterlife. The Savage Dragon actually met God, but but he told God that he is an Atheist. The Savage Dragon believed that his entire after-death experience was a hallucination. God told the Savage Dragon that if he does not believe in an afterlife, there would be none for him, because the afterlife people experience is based on their beliefs during mortality. In response, the Savage Dragon said that upon returning to his mortal life, he would cultivate within himself a belief in what he regarded as a paradisiacal afterlife (involving intimate relations with leggy supermodels).

After God returned him to his "normal" life on Earth, the Savage Dragon was forthcoming about what happened to him and openly told people that he met God. However, the experience had no discernible effect on how the Savage Dragon lives his life.

This entiry storyline was depicted as something that really happened to the Savage Dragon, yet there were also clues (such as the faces of God and the Devil being based on Savage Dragon's own face) that suggest the experience was in the character's mind. On the other hand, God told the Savage Dragon facts about his parents which the Savage Dragon didn't know at the time. But then again, those facts could have come from the character's subconscious. On the whole, the story can be read two ways: either these events really did happen, or they were somehow fabricated by the character's mind in such a way that they seemed absolutely real.

Is the Savage Dragon really still an atheist, even after he met God? The answer would seem to be yes, even though the character does not seem certain whether his experiences were real or imagined?

However, another way to interpret the outcome of this story is to take the Savage Dragon at his word and conclude that he really is trying to believe in an afterlife with leggy supermodels. But his comments about that seem more like an off-handed remark. Regardless of his intention when he said it, a single statement of intent to believe can hardly change a person's basic belief system or character. A person's true religion is not what they state they believe or claim to believe, but what they really believe, even if they do not refer to their most deeply held beliefs as a "religion." Regardless of what the Savage Dragon told God he planned to begin believing in, the human psyche simply doesn't alter its core beliefs so quickly and easily, particularly when the Savage Dragon's proposed new belief system would be totally lacking in outside reinforcement, such as fellow believers, spiritual experiences or childhood upbringing. Subsequent issues of The Savage Dragon never showed the character mentioning or attempting to cultivate a belief in an afterlife filled with beautiful supermodels. One must conclude that this is not actually the character's religious belief and that he simply made the comment in jest, has forgotten about it, or has consciously disregarded that plan.

The Savage Dragon's experiences with God were used to illustrate certain aspects of his character. The Dragon is not simply a nominal atheist or an atheist by default of how he was brought up or because of what his peers believe. Rather, he is a somewhat hard-boiled skeptical "non-believer". (Or, more accurately, he is a staunch believer in the non-existence of God.) This is part of who he is, and this belief system is apparently impervious to any outside experiences or rationality. While someone less set in their ways might be bent toward belief in God (or at least toward agnosticism) by these experiences, the Savage Dragon remained unmovable, illustrating that faith, belief and his innate nature (rather than any systematic analysis of available facts) are at the heart of his atheistic worldview.

So, yes, the Savage Dragon remains an atheist, simply because that's who he is at heart. He remains an atheist even though he has subsequently told people he met God and he appears to believe that it's at least possible that these experiences really happened.

Discussion

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: 22 Oct 2004 14:06:41
From: Del

Out of interest, are there any comic characters, mainstream or otherwise, that are unbelievers? And if so, how do they tend to be depicted?


Date: 23 Oct 2004 13:55:30
From: The Babaloughesian

...The Savage Dragon was sent to hell by some villain and rescued by the Christian God in #31. Actually had a conversation with this god that began like this: "Look, pal. I don't mean to seem ungrateful, but what the hell is all this? Any idiot knows that god was created as a way of keeping the peasants in check! This whole thing is some stupid dream I'm having and I keep getting caught up in it. Man created god! Everyone knows that!"

Later the Christian explicitly confirms that The Savage Dragon is an atheist.

From: "The Religions of Comic-book Characters" discussion page on "Captain Comics" website (http://www.captaincomics.us/forums/lofiversion/index.php/t26812.html; viewed 18 April 2006):

Mike Parnell
Jan 29 2006, 08:55 AM

I find it interesting that the Savage Dragon is listed as an atheist [on this website]. Didn't he meet God in his past? I remember seeing the comic in the shops years ago. Having never read it, I do not know the conclusion that was reached by the Dragon, but it seemed to me it is hard not to believe in someone after you met them.


Baron Bizarre
Jan 29 2006, 09:02 AM

You never know, pa. I remember a preacher once saying that there are people who, if Jesus manifested Himself 400 feet tall in the street outside their house, and called them by name, and said, "I'm Jesus, I'm the Son of God, and I want you to follow My will", they'd still manage to convince themselved it'd been a hallucination by the next morning.


Rich Lane
Jan 29 2006, 09:49 AM

He did (in a story that was either pure cheap-shot comedy or utterly sacrilegious depending on your point of view), and it was stated in that very issue that he was an atheist. When the meeting was over, he wrote it all off as a dream, I think.


Dwayanu
Jan 30 2006, 12:50 AM

Savage Dragon is actually a Leggy Supermodelite.

Dragon was sent to hell by the Mrs. Harris Fiend and an unnamed sorceror/scientist type she coerced into helping her. Essentially it looked like a chained up Dragon was eletrocuted by one of those cute hats they use on convicts sitting in Old sparky. Dragon arrives in the underworld, bumps into Spawn, adventure ensues, especially when Satan shows up to claim Dragon's soul.

Dragon is thoroughly convinced the entire thing is nothing but a dream or hallucination. God shows up to fight for Dragon since his soul has been unjustly sent to hell. Big fight with the devil. Predictably, the devil loses and by default so does the Fiend. Just before sending him back to his body God informs Dragon that upon death each person is filled with an overwhelming confidence that their beliefs were the true path and translated into the appropriate afterlife.

Dragon says that he's an atheist and God replies that if this is so there will be no afterlife for Dragon when he dies. Dragon determines that upon returning to earth he will take up belief in an afterlife where he makes love to bevies of leggy supermodels.

So there you go. Make of it what you will. Either Dragon was kidding and he's still an atheist or he's actually cultivating a belief in a valhalla full of hot chicks. As an aside, if what God said is true then those who believe in reincarnation actually come back - something that has never actually happened in the comics, nor do I expect it to, though it would be neat to see how Larsen would handle it.

During his talk with God Dragon says he believes religion was invented to keep the peasants hard at work on the farm, a reflection of Larsen's own beliefs if I'm not mistaken. Additionally, even if he doubts the reality of it, Dragon has never hid the nature of his experience, having mentioned to others he thought he saw God, though it doesn't seem to have fundamentally changed him as a person.

It is left up in the air whether or not God and the Devil were real. The Fiend got its powers from a deal with the devil, but Larsen has pointed out both God and Satan's facial features were modeled on Dragon's own so they could have been constructs of his own mind. God however did share a tidbit about Dragon's past. He has parents, which the amnesiac Dragon could not necessarily be sure of, but might have known on a subconscious level.

On awakening in the ruins of the burning hideout the dying sorceror informs Dragon the Fiend made her deal with the devil, but he had made his with God. All in all, a neat issue that works on several different levels.

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):

David Van Domelen
January 4, 2006 10:37 AM

Having God show up in Marvel is a bit trickier, because they've got a history of trying to avoid that, what with the Living Tribunal, Those Who Sit Above In Shadow, Eternity/Infinity/etc.

And then there's Image, where the Savage Dragon apparently got into a fistfight with God.

From: "Legion of Atheist Super-Heroes" forum discussion, started 17 November 2006 on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-152692.html; viewed 30 May 2007):

Tages
11-18-2006, 02:27 AM

It's funny how many atheist comic book characters there are in universes where supernatural beings demonstrably exist. In fact, hasn't Savage Dragon spoken with God personally?


Drew Van T.
11-18-2006, 04:22 AM

It's funny how many characters who have met those beings and come away hating, fearing, or disliking them. Jesse Custer thinks God is an a-hole, and all that.

Inside the craziness of supernatural-beings-made-flesh, the sanest response of any atheist should be to want to destroy the god(s). "Yeah, I believe you exist...but that's going to be a temporary condition, if I can help it."


Mike Smash!
11-18-2006, 09:18 AM

re: In fact, hasn't Savage Dragon spoken with God personally?

Dragon did, but blew the whole thing off as a hallucination. Which all things aside, is what alot of people might do in his position.

And it's amazingly easy to be an Atheist in a universe where it's not hard to see any "god" as another cosmic being, alien or beastie like Galactus.

Especially when you have friends that can kick such beings' asses or when all of these different religious icons co-exist and can join superhero teams or be beaten up by mere mortals.

It's not hard to write off the Spectre or Zauriel as being like Odin or Gaea... VERY powerful, but basically cosmic entities that claim godhood in some way. And especially when there are quasi-God type characters like Eternity or the Living Tribunal.

It'd be nigh impossible to deny that things like magic or even the soul exist, but Atheism isn't impossible in a superhero universe.

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

According to this (http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html#Me) list, the following superheroes are Atheists:

Rorshach [Rorshach was actually listed as an Objectivist, not an atheist]
Mr. Terrific II
the Savage Dragon
Booster Gold
Mystique
Starman Ted Knight
Colossus
Wolverine (possibly)


KameTen
06-21-2006, 11:18 AM

I thought that Ted Kord was an atheist as well. And I would have thought that the Savage Dragon wouldn't be [an atheist], considering his time with the Greek Pantheon, but I can see why the rest would be. Especially Rorshach, that loveable, crazy bastard.

From: "Does Batman Go to Church?" forum discussion, started 21 March 2006 on AppleGeeks.com website (http://www.applegeeks.com/sm/index.php?action=printpage;topic=6662.0):

Title: Does Batman Go to Church?
Post by: gabrielzero on March 21, 2006, 01:11:16 PM

Well find out here:
http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html

and other inqueries on which superhero worships which religion. Its a pretty extensive sight with theories and findings...


Post by: Sylver on March 21, 2006, 03:03:43 PM

Interesting, but it lists the Savage Dragon as an athiest. . . even though he went to Heaven and Hell and met both the devil and God.


Post by: Kinan on March 21, 2006, 03:04:57 PM

You should read Terry Pratchett's Feet of Clay. :) Especially the end applies to this [i.e., the situation with the Savage Dragon].

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):

Taylor Porter
12-02-2003, 03:25 PM

SAVAGE DRAGON, being one of the relatively few super-hero books told in real time, often features a Christmas story. I fondly remember #70, which featured a great "Moe's Tavern" style gag, the death of a main character, and the classic line: "Don't f*** with Santa Claus!"

I also remember on my first purchases, WHAT THE--? #16, which featured a Milk and Cookies story (anyone else remember them?) that retold, as far as I know, a pretty accurate version of the the story of Hanukkah.

From: "Increasing comic circulation through different perspectives" forum discussion, started 30 November 2005 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-15542.html; viewed 20 July 2007):

Erik Sternberger
November 30th, 2005, 10:53 AM

...God had an awesome cameo in Savage Dragon.


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