The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
The Watcher is one of the most important supporting characters in the general Marvel Universe. The character's given name is Uatu, and he belongs to an ancient and powerful race of alien beings who have made it their task to "watch" the universe, but to not interfere. The Watcher is frequently involved in cosmic-level Marvel stories, and is also used to introduce alternative continuity stories, particularly in the long-running What If? series.
Created by Jewish comic book legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the Watcher was introduced in Fantastic Four volume 1 #13 (1962).
Overt and explicity references to real-world religions and God were rare in comic books during the 1960s (as with many other decades). The "religion taboo" was particularly in force at Marvel during its early days, which is why the scene scripted by Stan Lee in which the Watcher refers explicitly to God is so noticable and memorable. The Watcher, it would appear, is a clearcut monotheist. The Watcher's status as a wise, quasi-omniprescient being also lends weight to his words.
From: Jeffrey Weiss, "Comic-book heroes seldom reveal their faith: Recent revelation of the Thing's religion was a rare moment for pop culture", published in Dallas Morning News, 24 August 2002, re-posted on BeliefNet.com website under headline "Comic Faith: The Thing's Religion Revealed" (http://www.beliefnet.com/story/113/story_11303_1.html; viewed 30 November 2005):
In a Fantastic Four from 1968, a really powerful good guy called the Silver Surfer was acting like a bad guy because he wanted to give all of humanity a common foe that could unite us all in a common purpose.
Two FF members, Mr. Fantastic (a.k.a. Reed Richards) and the Invisible Woman (Sue Richards), are now married and off someplace waiting for the birth of their son. The Watcher, another really powerful character who is usually a good guy, appears and sends Reed off to deal with the Surfer.
The visibly pregnant Sue asks, "But what can he do ... against the all-powerful Silver Surfer?"
"All-powerful?" the Watcher replies. "There is only one who deserves that name. And His only weapon ... is love!"
So how about it, Stan? Is that religious or what?
"I thought that was one of the best lines I ever wrote," he said. "I just thought it was such a beautifully dramatic line. And certainly nobody could find any problems with it."
"Is that religious? If that's religious," he said, "I guess I'm religious."
Note how the Watcher's given name ("Uatu") is only one letter different from "Utah." Is this perhaps a subtle clue that the Watcher is a Mormon, i.e., a member of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Uatu bears a striking resemblance to David O. McKay, who was the President and prophet of the Church when "Uatu" was created.
From: "Religious Inclinations of heroes" message board, started 1 March 2005 on StarDestroyer.net website (http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=63632&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=25; viewed 8 June 2006):
Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 6:38 pm
Post subject: Religious Inclinations of heroes
What about other heroes? I notice religion rarely plays a part in mainstream superhero comics (absent things like the Vertigo line) but have you ever picked up on hints or outright admissions by some heroes as to their religious inclinations?
Seems that atheistic heroes are as rare in comics as in real life. If they are religious it's a sort Judaeo-Christian wishy washy sort of religion... Any other examples of guesses?
Posted: Sun Mar 20, 2005 12:01 am
...I'm not sure about the Watcher. He makes a comment about there only being one all-powerful being, "and His only weapon... is love." The Watcher is definitely spiritual if not religious in some way...
From: "Religion of the X-Men" message board started 15 May 2005 on Comic Book Resources website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-58362.html; viewed 13 June 2006):
05-15-2005, 05:56 PM
Do you ever wonder what religion an X-Man is? I know they are just characters, but still, just for the fun of it.
I am wondering if you could guess their religion by their character, or what they've said, etc.
05-15-2005, 06:58 PM
This is an interesting topic!
I've wondered about this myself quite a few times. And not surprisingly, mostly wondered about Jean.
See, she is a God. So where does that leave her? Does she still worship the idea of a Christian God? Or does that conflict with what she knows about the universe? Anyway, this is all really interesting. Any thoughts?
05-15-2005, 07:08 PM
I disagree that she's a god. If she's a god, then a lot of (if not all) the "cosmic" characters are gods too, as well as some of the most powerful mutants, etc, etc - and "god" just ends up meaning "really powerful entity", which strikes me as nonsensical in a universe where pretty much everyone knows there's always an entity more powerful than them around the corner.
I'm not even sure I would class the Asgardian gods as gods in a useful sense - the only thing that seems to differentiate them from regular superpowered people is that long ago some humans worshipped them.
In a general sense, I can see having contact with cosmically-powered entities (or, in the case of Jean, being one) going both ways - either convincing you that "gods" are nothing more than people with powers, and there's nothing spiritual about them . . . or convincing you that the universe is such a vast and wonderful place that there must be something beyond what we can see.
Hmm - the astral plane is definitely real in the Marvel Universe, but lots of religions and belief systems believe in it, so I don't think that tells us anything anyway.
Hmm - didn't the Watcher once say something like the only all-powerful being in the universe is love?
David Thompson, "Secret Knowledge, Revealed", posted 1 March 1007 on "David Thompson: Culture, Ideas and Comic Books" blog website (http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/comic_books/index.html; viewed 15 May 2007):
Zounds! The religious affiliations of your favourite comic book heroes have finally been documented in a disturbingly thorough database. This improbable cataloguing project may well define a whole new stratum of nerdish preoccupation. But, given the effort involved, it's hard not to be impressed and, dare I say it, just a little curious. I was vaguely aware that Spider-Man is sort-of Protestant, that Ben Grimm is Jewish and that Bruce Wayne seems to have that whole lapsed Catholic thing lurking in the background...
But, shamefully, I didn't know the names of every prominent Hindu, Sikh or Muslim character, or the issues in which their faith plays a prominent role. And, even worse, I'd forgotten all about Moshe Chomsky, the Acidic Jew. Thankfully, these oversights can now be corrected, complete with sources, discussions and extensive supporting material. Ditto Shintoists, Taoists, Wiccans and adherents of Teutonic Paganism. Naturally, the database also includes extraterrestrial belief systems (e.g. Kryptonian metaphysics and Apokolipsian Darkseid Worship), along with characters who, via circumstances far too involved to relate here, came to meet God Himself...
[User comments posted on this page]
Posted by: David Thompson | March 01, 2007 at 15:40
What about the Watchers? Galactus and the Silver Surfer? How do they fit in to this model? Are they dieties? Galactus certainly has god-like power and the Watchers seem angelic in some sense.
Webpage created 20 December 2005. Last modified 15 May 2007.
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