The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Vitron is an explicitly "born-again" Protestant Christian super-hero character featured in a self-published comic book created by Mark Carano, and published by his company, Carano Graphics.
Both the character Vitron and his creator, Mark Carano, repeatedly refer to themselves as "Christians," but steadfastly avoid identifying their religious denomination or the name of any church that they attend. Vitron's obvious devotion to his religious faith and to Jesus Christ may seem reminiscent of Christian characters from many branches of Christianity - Catholic, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Latter-day Saints, etc. But the terminology and specific doctrinal concerns expressed in this comic make it clear that Carano and his character Vitron are Evangelical Protestant Christians. Some textual and visual elements of the Vitron comic seem reminiscent of Pentecostalism, but this seems more to be a result of widespread Pentecostal influences on conservative American Protestantism, rather than because the writer is formally a member of a Pentecostal denomination. In answer to our question about specific denominational religious affiliation, Carano identified Vitron as a Protestant and a "born again Christian."
From "About Us" page on Carano Graphics website (http://www.caranographics.com/about_us.htm; viewed 3 May 2006):
Carano Graphics is primarily a Christian comic book company whose main goal is reaching the lost youth and young adults (and even old adults) to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in their hearts through the medium of comic books, e-comics, and related material.
The main project for Carano Graphics right now is the Christian superhero named Vitron. You can read more about him in our About Vitron page.
Hope you enjoy your stay here and e-mail us at any time concerning ordering info, cares or concerns or just wanting to talk. Remember, Jesus is the true superhero.
This website wrote to "Vitron" creator Mark Carano on 3 May 2006 to ask about the character's religious affiliation: I would like to include Vitron on our "Comic Book Characters Grouped by Religious Affiliation" page. Are you able to tell us where Vitron could be included on this page? (e.g., is Vitron a Catholic, like Daredevil? Methodist like Supergirl? Presbyterian like Wolfsbane? Baptist, like Black Lightning?) Mark Carano replied:
"Thank you for your interest in Vitron. The character is a born-again Christian so he most likely falls under your Protestant category."
From: "About Vitron" page on Carano Graphics website (http://www.caranographics.com/about_vitron.htm; viewed 3 May 2006):
Dan Maxson was a Comet Labs scientist who, together with his team created the v-rtm-1, a virtual reality time machine.
The test destination was set to witness the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
But things did not go as planned. A malfunction in the booster ignitrons of the v-rtm-1 sent Dan to the beginning of all creation.
Click on the thumbnails below to read the first nine pages of the Vitron comic book. If you would like to download the whole book for free, click here.
From: Mark Carano, editorial page in Vitron #1, Carano Graphics: Canton, Ohio (2001), page 18:
It's been a long journey to get to this point where you're holding this mag in your hands now. I'm a comic book fan. I'm also a Christian. I thought, why not make a Christian comic superhero. It seemed silly at first but although done before, there still seems to be a market for this. Rest assured, there is no sex or strong violence in this book and I try to keep the story scripturally informal as well as entertaining. Let me know what you think of this project and/or if you got saved reading it. Give me your input. Compliments, or complaints. I want to hear from you. Other issues of this comic may slowly be in the process but I need your letters so I can print them here...
I await your letters and suggestions. Remember - Jesus Christ is the real superhero - and he loves you.
Vitron Created, written, penciled, inked, and lettered by: Mark Carano
For the Glory of God
Vitron No. 1 first printing. Published by Carano Graphics. $2.50 in U.S.A. Vitron is a Copyright and Trademark of Mark Carano and Carano Graphics 1995-2001... Printed in Canton, Ohio.
Vitron #1: Plot Synopsis
Plot synopsis of Vitron #1, written and drawn by Mark Carano, Carano Graphics: Canton, Ohio (2001):
Page 1 features Vitron striking a heroic pose against a blue background. The credits (Mark Carano is the sole creator) and copyright information appear here. The issue is dedicated "for the glory of God."
Page 2 is nearly a splash page, but features one inset panel. Dan Maxson is wearing a high-tech uniform (which looks peculiarly similar to a super-hero costume) and is strapped to a high-tech piece of equipment. Two fellow scientists in lab coats - Sandi Boston and "Proffessor Zork" [sic] - prepare equipment for their impending experiment. This is the scene at "Comet Labs," as they prepare to test the "V-RTM-1", also known as the "Virtual Reality Time Machine."
[The purpose of this device is to allow its users to view the past, but not to physically travel to it. This is a fictional technological invention similar to the machines featured in Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, by famed science fiction writer Orson Scott Card. Similar devices have been used as a plot device in many other works of fiction, and non-technological means of viewing past history date back even further, such as in Jack London's The Star Rover (1915). Pastwatch may be the most in depth exploration of this technology in a science fiction setting.]
Page 3: Although Dan Maxson and his two colleagues are about to test the history-making Virtual Reality Time Machine, Maxon interrupts their preparations to propose to his colleague, Sandi Boston. She smiles cutely and readily accepts.
Dan wonders if maybe now was not the right time to ask Sandi to marry him, as he is about to conduct a potentially fatal experiment, a job they had to do "in the name of science."
Page 4: The top of Maxson's head and his eyes are covered by a sort of metallic hood. A button is pushed and the Virtual Time Machine experiment begins. A stylized version of Maxson - without clothes, hair, or machinery and with glowing eyes - appears against a chaotic background. This is apparently Maxson's virtual reality self, or virtual time-travelling astral self. For the next few pages, it appears that Maxson's soul is travelling through time viewing events, rather than a portrayal of a simple computer-generated reality.
Page 5: Maxson's virtual self or astral self is floating in space. He thinks: "This can't be. But it is! I know I'm witnessing . . . something I shouldn't . . . be allowed to see. I feel it spoken into existance [sic]. The creation of the Earth!"
Against a backdrop of empty space, Maxson sees a glowing orb.
Page 6: Maxson is standing in a "the Garden of Eden. An Earth I thought I would never know. Paradise. And the Glory of God about." Maxson sees a Protestant version of events there. He sees Adam and Eve, nude, but tactfully covered by plants.
Maxson, silently witnessing what is happening before him, thinks: "Now I saw before me the event that would change this Earth to the one I did know. An Earth full of sin and tribulation. I wanted to say to them--Stop! Don't obey the liar! Stay in God's Glory! But I couldn't! I was just an observer ghost."
Maxson's thoughts indicate that he observes Adam partaking, having been tempted by Satan, partaking of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge Good and Evil, followed by his offering the fruit to Eve. Maxson's thoughts here clearly indicate that he strongly felt these events should not happen or that something terrible would happen if Adam and Eve ate this fruit. Of course, from a Biblical perspective, if Adam and Eve didn't eat the fruit, they would have stayed in the Garden of Eden and never born children, which would have made God's creation of the Earth pointless. In Maxson's desires to stop this from happening, it is not clear if the character does not understand the Biblical and theological implications of what he is seeing, or if he is simply displaying a strong emotional reaction to Adam and Eve doing something at the behest of Satan which Maxson knows will cause them pain.
[As a site note: One of the events depicted in Card's Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus (published in 1996 by Tor) was a naturalistic account of the story of Noah, placed in real-world history and viewed by a virtual time traveller from the future. After the publication of Pastwatch, Card stated that he intends at some point in the future to publish a sequel to Pastwatch in which the Noahic period is dealt with in more detail, as well as a sequel in which virtual time travellers view the actual, historical Adam of Eve and the events in the Garden of Eden that are the basis for the Biblical account. Card has not yet written such a book and has, in fact, said that if he ever does write such a book, it would only be at the end of his career.]
Page 7: The scene changes and Maxson sees Moses, a "servant of God" with the Ten Commandments, the "laws layed [sic] down to God's chosen people."
[Coincidentally, one of Orson Scott Card's novels is Stone Tables (Deseret Book, 1997), which is the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, told in greatly expanded detail. It should be emphasized that there is no connection between "Vitron" creator Mark Carano and science fiction writer Orson Scott Card. There are a few parallels between some thematic elements in their writing, but these are coincidental. There is nothing in the writing of Card or Carano to suggest that Carano has been directly influenced by anything Card has written. Carano has probably never read anything written by Card.]
Page 8: Maxson sees the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. His astral (virtual?) self buries his head in his hands in shame, conscious of his own unworthiness. Seeing this scene, he thinks, "Now I'm shown another servant... I shouldn't be aloud [sic] to see this. I-I'm not worthy. I saw my sins on his body. He died so God could forgive me. I wanted his forgiveness. I asked him to forgive me and I received him into my heart right then. I didn't even know I knew how."
Page 9: Maxson sees the resurrected Jesus Christ, who appears to look right at him. He thinks, "Then I saw him resurrected. I saw the victory in all his glory - and he saw me. He said to me 'Blessed are those who have not seen me and still believe in me.' (John 20:29) I knew I would see him someday in Heaven but now the blackness came again."
The New Testament verse that Jesus recited for Maxson is an interesting one, because Maxson has seen Jesus. So Jesus is apparently pointing out to Maxson that other people who believe in him without seeing him are more blessed than he (Maxson) is. While this is certainly Biblically sound, it might seem an odd verse to use here. But perhaps it is meant as a gentle warning, to Maxson that his responsibility is even greater given the fact that his conversion here comes as a result of actually seeing Jesus, the creation of the Earth, Moses, etc. One might wonder about the degree to which Maxson actually needs to exercise faith now that he has seen all these things.
Alternatively, one could speculate that everything Maxson has seen here is just in his mind, brought about by a hallucinatory state triggered by a less-than-fully-functional virtual reality time machine. The Biblical nature of the events Maxson saw would then indicate not a largely faithless man who witnessed Biblical events, but rather a manifestation of a believing Christian's innermost imaginings and desires. This alternative interpretation, while perhaps supportable by the text, does not, however, appear to be the writer's intention.
Blackness surrounds Maxson.
We see the interior of Comet Labs again. The Virtual Reality Time Machine that Maxson is strapped to is malfunctioning. Sparks fly around it. The helmet on his head explodes. Professor Zork and Sandi Boston try to get things under control.
Page 10: Professor Zork has fallen to the ground after sparks flew from the console he was manning. Dan Maxson emerges from the machine. He is bald, which is something that Sandi is shocked to notice as she goes to him. Maxson says, "I-I fell so new. Full of a joyful spirit -- I never felt before. Sandi . . . I met God."
Page 11: Maxson sees Professor Zork on the floor. He tells Sandi that the Professor is not dead yet. Maxson heals Professor Zork. Narration tells us: "The Holy Spirit still much on Dan, he reacts the way God would want him to . . . . by his word: 'I am a believer and these signs do follow me. In the name of Jesus I cast out demons, I speak with new tongues, I lay hands on the sick and they do recover.' (Mark 16:17-18)."
[Of course, only the part about healing applies here, as Dan did not need to cast out demons or speak with new tongues in this situation.]
Dan says, as he touches the Professor, "Wake up Proffessor [sic]! In Jesus' name!
Narration tells us, "Dan and Sandi now know a God of love and goodness . . . someone greater than science."
[This line suggests that Carano feels, at least on some level, that there is a great dichotomy between "God" and "science." Yet, the rest of this comic book story features three professional scientists embracing Christianity and using their scientific and technological creations to fight crime and to spread their religious message. This could indicate that Carano does not feel there is a division between "God" and "science," or it could be an example of Carano using fiction to symbolically co-opt and subjugate a rival philosophical system.]
Page 12: The next day, at Comet Labs, Sandi and Professor Zork tell Dan that they believe saw Jesus as he claims. Dan tells his colleagues that he is ready to use his experience and their technology to glorify God. He reads from the Bible, "In John 3:3 it says 'Jesus answered and said unto him 'verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.'"
We see Dan, Sandi and Professor Zork all raising their hands in the air. The narration tells us: "They all lifted their hands to God and asked forgiveness for their sins. They invited Christ into their hearts and were saved - and all of Heaven rejoiced at their holy hands."
This is a very Evangelical interpretation of John 3:3. This verse is particularly important in the "born-again" movement within Christianity. This movement had its roots in the 1800s, but as the movement's theology and terminology exists today it had its origins in the United States in the 1920s. Vitron represents a relatively recent religious movement, which is one reason why there are so few super-hero characters within mainstream comics whose religious beliefs and affiliation are similar to his. When writers associate major protagonist characters with real-world religious traditions, they tend to use older, more established religious groups (hence the commonality Jewish, Catholic and Episcopalian characters relative to the paucity of Evangelical and/or "born-again" characters).
Page 13: Weeks pass as, at Comet Labs, Professor Zork, Sandi Boston and Dan Maxson utilize their technology to modify the suit worn previously by Maxson in his virtual time travel experiment. They fashion a super-hero suit with a jetpack to create "a warrior for the King": Vitron.
The narration tells us that Maxson saw history and the light and the truth and the way, and that he now desires for others to see what he saw.
[Surprisingly, seems that Maxson's experiences gave him any permanent super powers at all. When I first read the synopsis of Vitron #1, I assumed that the accident that occured when Maxson tested the Virtual Reality Time Machine would imbue him with super powers. This is not the case. The super-suit created at Comet Labs seems to be the source of his physical "powers." His virtual time travel experience provided not his powers, but his motivation for becoming a super-hero.
In normal reality, becoming a flying, costumed crime-fighter might seem like an unorthodox way to share a profound and important religious/spiritual experience with the world. But as this is a super-hero comic book, it is a somewhat natural and expected outcome.]
Page 14: Using his "Vitron" armor, Maxson flies away from Comet Labs for the first time. "His training has paid off," we are told. Flying above the city, Maxson says that he is "in for [his] first super-hero gig" when he sees a mugger attacking a woman in an alley. He thinks to himself: "Even in this new millenium, New York is as violent as ever." This is apparently the first time the location of this story has been identified as New York.
Still flying, thanks to his jet pack, Maxson (Vitron) approaches the mugger from behind. A woman, on her knees, cowers in the foreground. The mugger is holding a knife in one hand and the woman's purse in the other hand. He is wearing what appears to be a dirty white tank top. He looks like he needs a bath.
Page 15: Vitron lands and announces himself to the mugger. He uses a repulsor beam in his gloves to knock the knife out of the mugger's hands. Vitron makes it clear here that his suit is the source of his "powers" when he thinks to himself, "The suit has many gadgets. The object repeller works excellent [sic]. I don't need to carry a gun ever."
The mugger tries to punch Vitron, who easily dodges. The mugger falls on the ground.
Page 16: As the mugger picks himself up off the ground, Vitron offers to share "some good news" with him. Vitron quotes John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotton son, that whosoever believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life."
Vitron apparently has no verses memorized about not mugging people.
The mugger tells Vitron that he doesn't need his "dis bull." The mugger exclaims that he had a hard life, what with his mom leaving him and his father beating him, which is why he steals.
[It is interesting to point out that unlike this mugger, perpetuators of voilent crime such as him are, of course, far more likely to have been abandoned by their fathers and raised by their mothers than the other way around. In fact, abandonment by fathers is statistically a key predictor of adult criminal behavior. Vitron mentions none of this.]
Vitron tells the mugger that God is ready to forgive him and that "in the blood of Jesus you can receive forgiveness."
Finally the mugger tires of talking to Vitron and tries to get away, but the police catch him. Narration tells us: "Justice is served. But Jesus still waits for an answer to his patient, loving voice."
Page 17: Seeing the mugger go away unconverted, Vitron says that it seems he needs more practice and study about how to do this. He says that he prays a seed has been planted.
The mugging victim tells Vitron that she heard what he said to the mugger, and that she is ready to know Jesus. She says she wants forgiveness. Vitron places his hand on her head and tells her the words to say. She repeats after him: "Lord Jesus Christ. I'm a sinner. I'm sorry for my sins and turn from everything I know is wrong. You gave your life on the cross for me, taking punishment that was mine. I'm grateful and give my life to you now. Come into my heart, my Saviour, my Lord, my friend. With your help I'll sever you all my life."
Narration tells us that "Sue becomes alive, born in the kingdom of God."
Vitron flies away, praising God. On the ground, "Sue" still has her hands raised to the sky.
Webpage created 3 May 2006. Last modified 18 May 2006.
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