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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Reverend William Conover
ally of the X-Men and the Punisher


From: "William Conover (X-Men/Punisher ally)" page in "The Appendix to the Handbook of the Marvel Universe" website (http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/conoverwill.htm; viewed 9 January 2006):
Real Name: William Conover
Identity/Class: Human
Occupation: Revivalist minister, head of the Glory Day Ministry and the Conover Crusade
Base of Operations: The Conover Crusade and Glory Day Ministery, mobile throughout the Southwest United States.
First Appearance: (cameo on billboard) Uncanny X-Men #232 (September, 1988); (full) Uncanny X-Men #233 (October, 1988)
Powers/Abilities: None, but his powerful sermons led even a Brood Queen to find salvation.

History: (Uncanny X-Men #233) - William Conover sat upon a hilltop near Red Rocks Amphitheater outside Denver, Colorado, where he was to give a sermon the next day for his Crusade. His wife, Hannah brought him coffee, and informed him of the battle between the Brood Mutants and the X-Men going on in nearby Denver. William revealed his sympathy towards mutant's rights, and wished that he was a mutant, if it would mean that he could cure his wife's debilitating arthritis.

(Uncanny X-Men #234) - Reverend Conover, preparing for his Sermon, heard once again about the battle, and objected to his assistant using the term "Mutie", and forbade it's use in his presence. As he walked to the stage, he failed to notice his wife, Hannah, leaving with Josey Thomas, who had offered to help her arthritis. During his sermon, Conover and the gathered Congregation watched as the Brood-Infected X-Man Wolverine crawled into the arena. Thinking him strung out on drugs, Conover went to pray over him, at which point the Brood aspect took control and Wolverine began to transform, threatening the Reverend's life. Horrified, and believing the Brood to be a demon, Conover continued to pray, asking God to hurl the "demon' back into the abyss. The Brood stopped taunting him and died, thanks to Wolverine's healing factor, but Conover believed it a miracle. Just then, the Brood Mutant Tension reached down from the scaffolding holding the Crusade's lights, and began to choke Conover, only to be instantly fried by Havok. Then the Brood Queen Harry Palmer took the stage, and William's wife, Hannah, holding her hostage and gloating about the "end of human hegemony", (which, ironically, the Reverend had been talking about, word for word, in the previous issue, I.E. that mutants were not a threat to humanity any more than children to parents...). Wolverine then crawled under the stage, dragged Palmer down, and, well, [used his claws to deadly effect]! Hannah was saved, and her arthritis had mysteriously vanished! The Reverend William Conover became the first major religious or political figure to speak out in favor of mutant's rights.

(X-Men/Brood: Day of Wrath #1 (fb)) - However, Hannah had not been saved after all, Josey Thomas had infected her with a Brood Queen's egg, (that's how her arthritis was healed), and Hannah began using her new "Miracle Hands" to "heal" others, implanting them with Brood eggs, building her own loyal army of Brood. However, during one of Williams's sermons, Hannah's faith and humanity were reasserted , she realized what she had done, preying on good people's desperation, turning them into Brood, and ran crying from the stage, refusing to perform any more "healings". William grew concerned with this, and the fact that his wife had begun having terrible nightmares.

(X-Men/Brood: Day of Wrath #1) - Hannah once again woke up screaming, but wouldn't tell her husband what was wrong. William went for a walk, and later watched as Hannah departed for town with two of his congregation, (and her Brood), an elderly couple named Fred and Nancy. The Reverend went into the main tent and prayed for help and understanding.

(X-Men/Brood: Day of Wrath #2) - The local police arrived and inform William that his wife, Fred, and Nancy were attacked by "Beasties" (the Brood Firstborn), that Fred and Nancy turned into "beasties" themselves to protect Hannah, and were killed, after which the X-Men flew off with Hannah. Remembering his earlier encounter with the Brood, Conover informed the police he was sure that the X-Men were taking care of Hannah, then went back into the tent to pray for Hannah's safety. As evening fell, the congregation called the Reverend to see incredible flashes of light in the desert, which he recognized as the X-Men in battle. Hoping to find Hannah, William jumped into a jeep and headed out into the desert, only to be ambushed by the Firstborn, who smashed the jeep and rendered the Reverend unconscious. He awoke in a cavern, and the Firstborn told him he was there as "bait" for the Rogue Queen, his wife, Hannah, who, sensing her husband's capture, had transformed into full Brood form to defend him. In an admirable, (and hard to believe) display of love, William revealed he still loved Hannah, even if she was a Brood Queen, and she returned to human form. The Firstborn closed in for the kill, only to be attacked by the X-Men. Realizing the only way Hannah could be safe is if she was no longer linked to the Brood, the X-Men, with William's permission, placed Hannah in stasis, (Iceman froze her), and took her back to the X-Mansion for treatment, (and placed her in a nice cryogenic pod instead of an ice cube). The Reverend Conover told the X-Men he would pray for their safety, as well as Hannah's recovery, and the next day gave a beautiful sermon on human/mutant brotherhood.

(Punisher III #12 (fb)) - Now renowned as being the first major religious or political figure to come out in favor of mutant rights, Conover traveled to Washington to appear before Senator Delmato's investigation into mutant activity. However, a group identifying itself as the Mutant Liberation Front (in reality, the anti-mutant group Humanity's Last Stand) targeted Conover for assassination, claiming that mutants were superior to mankind, not equal.

(Punisher III #12) - Conover appeared before the committee, and when it was observed that many religious leaders were citing the Legacy Virus as evidence of God's punishment on mutants, Conover replied, "I do not justify my views, Senator, although I do forgive them theirs. For the record, I'd like to note that many of the "religious leaders" you cite are extremists whose pronouncements have been repudiated by most reputable religious denominations." Senator Delmato ended the committee there, for fear of negative publicity.

Conover was then approached by FBI agent Carl Denti and SHIELD agent Kimberly Taylor, who had both been assigned to guard Conover from the MLF. Also guarding Conover, in secret, was the Punisher, who had been convinced by SHIELD to defend Conover as part of repaying his debt to them. Suddenly, a member of the MLF named Deadeye appeared and attempted to kill Conover, but the Punisher defended Conover and drove him off.

The three bodyguards conferred with one another as Conover insisted that he didn't require their protection. Before a decision on a safehouse for Conover could be reached, Deadeye attacked again, and the Punisher set off to fight him, while Denti switched to his guise as the X-Cutioner to do the same, and slew Deadeye.

(Punisher III #13) - After MLF member Blastfurance destroyed Deadeye's body, the Punisher, Denti and Taylor argued over the situation, while Conover insisted on continuing his mission in Washington. His bodyguards insisted that he remain hidden, but Conover refused to do so, feeling it would be a surrender on his part. Conover noted that if was God's will that he die, he would; if not, he would live. The Punisher asked him about the innocent bystanders, and Conover replied that he trusted that they would be there to protect them.

Conover worked in a soup kitchen that evening, with his bodyguards surrounding the area. He worked side-by-side with the Punisher, and was surprised to learn that he had once in a Roman Catholic seminary. The kitchen was attacked by Corpus Derelicti, another MLF member, but before the Punisher could kill him, he was slain by Blastfurnace. Blastfurnace set the building on fire, so the bodyguards brought Conover to the roof.

(Punisher III #14) - The Punisher and Taylor defended Conover against Blastfurnace and seemingly slew him in battle. Denti had Conover transported by train to Oklahoma, but they were intercepted by another MLF member, Burnout. Taylor fled the train with Conover aboard a motorcycle, but Burnout followed behind them.

(Punisher III #15) - Burnout caught up to the motorcycle, and defeated Taylor, then took Conover captive, teleporting him back to the MLF's base. At the base, Conover was confronted by Simon Trask, head of Humanity's Last Stand, who had provided normal humans with the means to impersonate mutants to serve in his Mutant Liberation Front, with the goal of further damaging human-mutant relationships. Trask's goal with Conover was to ultimately warp his mind so that he would preach against mutants.

(Punisher III #16) - The MLF base was invaded by the X-Cutioner, Punisher and Taylor, who slew several of the MLF getting to Conover. The X-Cutioner set Conover free, and teleported him outside to reporter Trish Tilby, so that Conover could tell the world the truth about the Mutant Liberation Front. Ultimately, Trask committed suicide when he destroyed his base.

Comments:
Created by Chris Claremont and Marc Silvestri.

I put down Revivalist Minister because his meetings have the appearance of revival-style churches, it's not meant to be a statement of a particular Christian religion, which was never given, (and undoubtedly never intended to be revealed), in his appearances. In all probability he's meant to be a Christian Non-Denominational Minister.

Discussion

From: "Religion in God Loves, Man Kills: Using the clergy as a bad guy" forum discussion page, started 2 September 2003, on "Captain Comics" website (http://www.captaincomics.us/forums/index.php?showtopic=754):
Chris Fluit
Sep 2 2003, 08:47 PM
I can give you one example of a relatively positive portrayal of a preacher. It was in Uncanny X-Men 234 during one of the Brood storylines. Wolverine is being chased by the Brood when he stumbles into a tent revival. The pastor isn't scared of Wolverine (even though he's a mutant!) and tries to heal him from the Brood infestation. Okay, the casting out a demon bit may not be the most positive scene but the pastor was shown as someone who loves his wife, who really cares about people and who isn't a fraud.

That one character and that one issue have made it so that I don't object too strongly to Rev. Stryker or to the pastor who raised Wolfsbane. As long as Claremont is willing to show pastors in both positive and negative light, I'll accept the latter.

Excerpts from: "Religion/Spirituality" discussion page, started 29 November 2003, on ComixFan.com website (http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/forums/archive/index.php/t-24121.html; viewed 10 January 2006):
P_Mac
Feb 5, 2004, 01:54 pm
Let me ask a dumb question that may raise much ire but has there been any good, by good I mean quality, comics with anything at all Christian in them? Or maybe even a character in a book... I have seen a few but the art was rough and the plot little more than okay. If so just let me know.
omegastorm
Feb 5, 2004, 02:08 pm
If that is what you think will raise ire (I dont believe I wrote) in this thread then feel free to ask them. Christians in comics, the Magdalena, Uncanny X-men (Nightcrawler), the Avengers (a latin woman was Christian in it, forgot her name though), then there was the mediocre Archangels series. More can answer as I think those are the only ones off of the top of my head that I can remember completely.
Jordan T. Maxwell
Feb 5, 2004, 05:50 pm
Other than God Loves, Man Kills, one of my personal favorite "Christian" type stories involves the X-Men going up against the Brood who have possessed a group of travelling Evangelicals. The first part happened back in the 80s, during Claremont and Silvestri's run... Then there was a follow-up mini series a few years back. It was pretty sweet, handled a few different themes while also having the mutants do bloody battle with parisitic aliens.
From: "Claremont's 'Revenge' / CC Trademarks" thread on rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks/browse_thread/thread/b6c76ad39ebedbac/82cfea80ebc7bade; viewed 12 June 2006):
From: Leor Blumenthal
Date: Thurs, Apr 30 1998 12:00 am

Characters with strong religious beliefs are depicted as old-fashioned, intolerant, or out of touch.

[This was one of about two dozen "CC trademarks" listed by this poster. These are plot devices that readers are suggesting Chris Claremont uses over and over again. Subsequent posters disagreed that Claremont is antagonistic to religious characters, and cited examples of positive portrayals. The upshot seems to be that Claremont's stories feature a relatively balanced portrayal of religion and religious characters, with some positive and others negative.]


From: AGr3691541
Date: Fri, May 1 1998 12:00 am

What, you mean like Nightcrawler or that preacher [William Conover] in the X-men/Brood confrontation just before Inferno?


From: Leor Blumenthal
Date: Fri, May 1 1998 12:00 am

No, like Reverend Craig, or the televangelist villain from "God Loves Man Kills"...


From: AGr3691541
Date: Wed, May 6 1998 12:00 am

re: "Why should Kurt's faith only matter when it is called into question?"

Because it's an interesting development. Nightcrawler reading the Bible for half an hour would make a crap comic (although no worse than the current X-men/Doctor Doom Annual).

re: "Why should religious people be constantly portrayed as backwards, primitive, or naive?"

Erm... except for the fact that they're not. The preacher in God Loves, Man Kills is an attack on TV evangelist style religion. It plays on peoples' fears, promotes intolerance and is led by sanctimonous nutters. They exist in this world. I've seen TV Evangelists promote hatred thru self-righteousness. Some religious people ARE backwards, primitive and naive.

While Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and the preacher in the Brood storyline [William Conover] all show religious characters that are none of the above.


[Samy Merchi disagrees with previous poster Leor Blumenthal's contention that most religious characters written by Chris Claremont are "backwards, primitive and naive", or, on other words, negatively portrayed. Merchi counters Blumenthal's contention by categorizing all the religious Claremont characters he can think of. Most do not display the negative characteristics Blumenthal is complaining about.]

From: Samy Merchi
Date: Sat, May 9 1998 12:00 am

re: "Why should religious people [in Chris Claremont stories] be constantly portrayed as backwards, primitive, or naive?"

Let's see.

Tolerant, un-backwards, un-primitive, un-naive: Kurt, Reverend Conover, Hank..., Ororo, Kitty, Dani, Forge, Amara..., Lilandra.

Total: 9.

Intolerant, backwards, primitive, or naive: Rahne, Reverend Stryker.

Total: 2.

Additions? You'll have to add eight backwards people to validate your point, or invalidate eight of the people I gave.


From: Tim Elf
Date: Mon, May 11 1998 12:00 am

re: "Does anyone have any other instances of positive (or negative) portrayals of religion in comics?"

Positive: Glory Day Ministries, the preacher and his wife tied into the Brood saga, introduced by Claremont, but really developed by John Ostrander in the X-Men/Brood LS. An excellent example of a postive, fair portrayal of Christianity in comic books.


From: Samy Merchi
Date: Mon, May 11 1998 12:00 am

re: "I was originally complaining about Claremont's tendencies of ignoring character's religious beliefs except in major stories, and of treating certain religious characters (notably clergy) as intolerant."

Reverend Craig and Reverend Stryker vs. Father Bowen and Reverend Conover. 50-50 ratio. I'd say he was fairly balanced at using clergy for both good and evil.

...Rev Conover's been mentioned several times: He pushed a Brood embryo into submission with the power of God.


From: Johan Lundstrom
Date: Tues, May 12 1998 12:00 am

We can't be sure; the scene was deliberately ambigous. It could have been a miracle or just Wolverine's healing factor finally catching up.


From: Samy Merchi
Date: Wed, May 13 1998 12:00 am

Yes, well, it's possible to read it that way. Personally, I always read it as Claremont attributing power to God, but not wanting to be obvious about it and therefore possibly offend people of other religions by implying that the Christian God was the real one.


From: Bigbear
Date: Wed, May 13 1998 12:00 am

I just reread that issue the other night and I definitely got the impression that Logan's healing factor caught up and fought off the Brood embryo. His healing factor was already working on fighting it off before he confronted the Rev. Then he went all Brood-y for a bit before his healing factor kicked into overdrive and got rid of the foul thing. When the Rev thought it was a power from god I don't think Logan said anything otherwise because he didn't want to take anything away the guy's faith.

That was a very good issue IMO [in my opinion]. He was supposed to go work towards easing mutant/human relations. He was definitely going to be a high profile muntant rights human. Was he ever heard from again? It would nice to have one of the books touch on that. They could say that he's been an active member of Chuck's underground or something.


From: Samy Merchi Date: Wed, May 13 1998 12:00 am

re: "I just reread that issue the other night and I definately got the impression that Logan's healing factor caught up and fought off the Brood embryo."

Well, that's your impression. Like I said, it can be interpreted both ways. I prefer the other interpretation.

Rev. Conover and his wife have subsequently appeared in John Ostrander's X-Men vs. Brood 2-issue LS [limited series].


From: Tim Elf
Date: Wed, May 13 1998 12:00 am

Ostrander also brought him [Rev. Conover] back for several issues in the short Punisher series. He was continuing his outspoken support for mutants and the "new" MLF was after him. SHIELD asked Castle to protect him. It's quite an interesting conflict of characters there.

From: "Religion and X-Men" thread started 21 July 1998 on rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.xbooks/browse_thread/thread/b61ff5d2e422d0a5/1ebe80a26a7df2e5; viewed 13 June 2006):
From: Alan D. Earhart
Date: Tues, Jul 21 1998 12:00 am

Some of the recent discussion got me thinking about this once again.

When has religion been used as a plot device in an xbook? [i.e., a comic book series related to the X-Men]


From: David R. Henry
Date: Wed, Jul 22 1998 12:00 am

Plot device or plot component?

...The Brood story in the Marc Silvestri run had a rather sympathetic religious character in it [Rev. William Conover]...


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