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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
ABOVE: The gods of Olympus include (back row, l. to r.): Poseidon, Zeus, Hades; (middle row, l. to r.): Demeter, Hera, Apollo, Dionysus; (front row, l. to r.): Hermes, Aphrodite, Artemis, Athena, and Hestia; bottom left corner: Heracles, Zeus's son by a mortal woman, Alcmene. Source: Beatty, page 10. (Click on image to see larger graphic.)
Beatty, pages 10-11:
Gods of Olympus
The deities of Greek myth are among the mightiest beings in the whole of creation. They are the children of the Titans and the grandchildren of Gaea and Uranus, the earth and sky. Mostly, these gods are generous, but they only became so after Zeus, son of Cronus, deposed his Titan father from Mount Olympus and allowed his brothers and sisters and children to rule the heavens and the Earth and guide the destiny of mankind. The gods' dominion over humanity lasted for thousands of years. In time, however, their influence began to wane, and so they created the Amazons to lead mankind in the ways of virtue and keep the gods forever in people's hearts.
For millennia, the Olympians have been content to preside over mankind. They sometimes enjoy meddling in human affairs, but in general they seek to guide humanity to greatness. Ares, Zeus's son and the God of War, has always argued that man should be conquered -- and who better than him to do it!
The First Olympus
Although there are far higher mountains on Earth, the mythical importance of Mount Olympus in northern Greece belies its humble elevation 9,570 feet (2,917 meters). Since time immemorial, Mount Olympus was the home of the gods. Darkseid, an upstart "New God" from the distant world of Apokolips, destroyed the Olympian gods' halls and temples, but the legend of the first Olympus lives on.
Even older than the Olympians, the three Fates -- Clotho the spinner, Lachesis the tailor, and Atropos, the shearer -- are the mistresses of destiny. Their decrees -- represented as a carefully measured thread marking an allotted span of time -- must be followed both by god and man.
ABOVE: New Olympus. Source: Beatty, page 11.
Zeus joined with his elder brothers Hades and Poseidon to oust Cronus from Olympus. The brothers united once more to recreate the fabled home of the gods after Darkseid had obliterted it. No longer physically connected to its former mountain home in Greece, Mount Olympus now resides in a dimension adjacent to Earth. It is far enough removed for the gods' well-deserved privacy, but still close enough to permit the Olympians to watch over their beloved mortal believers.
Beatty, pages 12-13:
Queen of Paradise
The murder of a cavewoman more than 32,000 years ago, sowed the seeds of the Amazon race and its greatest champion. Hippolyta was that prehistoric female, pregnant with a child whose spirit would find its way back to her many millennia later. Reborn int he time of ancient Greece, Hippolyta and her Amazon sisters were created by the Gods of Mount Olympus to bring glory to Gaea, the Earth Mother. Dedicated to peace, the Amazons founded the city-state of Themyscira, ruled harmoniously by the queens Hippolyta and Antiope. However, a serpent lurked in paradise, and soon the fate of the Amazons would fall squarely upon Hippolyta's noble shoulders.
The life essences of Hippolyta and her unborn child were collected by Gaea and placed in the Well of Souls, which held all the spirits of women murdered throughout the ages. Five goddesses traveled to the Well to offer new life and purpose to the wailing souls longing to fulfill their destiny.
As the goddesses Demeter, Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis and Hestia watched, thousands of souls were called forth from Gaea's womb. The souls fell like rain into a lake and combined with the clay of the lake bed to form new human beings. Hippolyta rose first from the waves and was chosen as leader of this race of Amazon women alongside her sister Antiope. Both queens were given Girdles of Gaea, talismans that promised that none might resist the Amazons' power as long as neither girdle was removed. The Amazons then established the city-state of Themyscira in Asia Minor...
However, one Olympian did not support the creation of the Amazons. Ares, God of War, tolerated no one who stood in the way of his domination over mankind. Ares convinced Heracles, the son of Zeus, to lead his stepbrother Theseus and an army of men to make war on the Amazons. Queen Hippolyta wanted peace, but Heracles drugged the Amazon ruler, and stole the Girdle of Gaea fom her. Without its protection, the Amazons were defenseless against him and his men!
Though shamed and beaten, Hippolyta did not lose hope. Her prayers were answered by Athena, who helped the Amazon queen to escape. The Amazons rallied and defeated Heracles and his brutal army. However the struggle only served to divide the Amazons into rival camps. While her sister Antiope continued on the path of war, Hippolyta urged her battle-weary isters to renounce vengeance and deapart Patriarch's World for the promise of paradise.
The Amazons' new home would also be called Themyscira. By the goddess Athena's decree, Hippolyta led her sisters to the shore of the Aegean Sea. The sea god Poseidon parted the waters for the Amazons to journey to an island paradise veiled from man... The Amazons became immortal and regained the purity of spirit robbed from them by Heracles.
Hippolyta... First Appearance: Wonder Woman vol. 2 #1 (February 1987)
Beatty, pages 14-15:
Beatty, pages 16-17:
The Goddesses of Mount Olympus told the Amazons to lead mankind in the ways of peace. Yet, faced with men's hostility, the Amazons had angrily withdrawn from the world, and Heracles had enslaved them. Although the Olympians gave the Amazons the strength to deliver them from slavery, the gods decreed that Hippolyta and her sisters should journey to the land of Themyscira. There, on this secret island barred from mortal man, the Amazons would live as immortals and reclaim their purity of spirit as they guarded over Doom's Doorway and the unspeakable evils that lay beneath it.
The Amazons lived serenely on Themyscira for more than 3,000 years, concealed from "Patriarch's World"--the domain of mortal man--by the gods' wiles. They never knew the pains of aging or hunger, and they wore their bracelets, a symbol of their former bondage, as a reminder to never again forsake their patron gods and goddesses. The Amazons remained warriors, but achieved a perfect harmony between body and spirit.
Athena, goddess of wisdom, cloaked Themyscira in a bank of protective clouds. The island was situated within what would become known as the "Bermuda Triangle." This region became renowned for a number of mysterious disappearances of ships and aircraft.
Upon their miraculous births the Amazons were graced with bountiful gifts by the goddesses of Olympus. Athena gave them wisdom to help them follow the paths of truth and justice; Artemis granted them hunting skills; Demeter promised them plentiful harvests; Hestia elped them build the city of Themyscira; Aphrodite gave them the gift of love; and Gaea made the Amazons strong and powerful. After escaping slavery by warmongering men hostile to their ideals, the Amazons withdrew from the world to embrace peace on an island paradise where men were forbidden.
Blessed by Gods
The Amazons tried to lead humanity in the ways of virtue so that all men could know the Olympians and worship them always. Thousands of years after their creation, the Amazons still celebrate their origins in the annual "Feast of Five" honoring the goddesses who gave them another chance at life.
The Code of the Amazons
Let all who read these words know: We are a nation of women, dedicated to our sisters, to our gods, and to the peace that is humankind's right. Granted life by Gaea, the goddesses, and the souls of women past, we have been gifted with the mission to unite the people of our world with love and compassion.
Man has corrupted many of the laws our gods set forth. So, in their wisdom, the goddesses did create a race of female warriors dedicated to the ideals of uniting all peope, all sexes, all races, all creeds. No longer will man rule alone, for now woman stands as an equal to temper his aggression with compassion, lend reason to his rages, and overcome hatred with love.
We are the Amazons, and we hve come to save mankind.
Despite being cut off from ordinary mortals on Themyscira, the Amazons fulfilled the peace-loving drams of the goddesses of Olympus by guarding the world from the nightmares of Pandora's Box. These creatures were all imprisoned behind Doom's Doorway. Without the eternal vigilance of the Amazons, the world would have been destroyed many times over. The Amazons also pursued knowledge and the arts. Little by little, by staying true to the principles of the goddeses who had created them, they found peace and happiness.
The Amazons once faced the prospect of being stone statues forever when the Olympic gods left Earth and unknowingly took with them the powers that gave the Amazons life. Separated from their patron deities, the Amazons [including Wonder Woman] reverted to the clay from which they had been formed. Only when the gods eventually returned to Earth were the Amazons able to become living and breathing beings once again.
Beatty, pages 20-21:
The Birth of Diana
Immortality can be a lonely existence. Hippolyta and her Amazon sisters enjoyed peace and prosperity on Themyscira for 3,000 years, but the reincarnated Queen longed for the child she hd been denied in her previous life. The oracle Menalippe told her to mold a baby out of clay. Hippolyta did so and waited for a miracle. The goddesses of Olympus granted life to the child -- a girl Hippolyta named Diana -- giving her the sould of the unborn infant lost to Hippolyta some 32,000 years before! And so Diana became the first child ever born on Themyscira.
With powers granted by the goddesses of Olympus, Diana quickly grew strong. And with a thousand aunts and sisters to guide her, she swiftly mastered the ways of the Amazons. Her appetite for learning was voracious and Diana soon mastered all the skills of a warrior. She became expert at archery, swordplay, and all the martial arts practiced on Themyscira for thousands of years...
Diana made sure her Olympian benefactors knew how grateful she was for her powers. Every day she gave thanks to Demeter, Aphrodite, Athena, Artemis, Hestia, and Hermes. She promised not to waste her abilities and swore an oath to protect the innocent and always seek the path to peace.
ABOVE: Hippolyta prays to Hera for the life of Diana (Wonder Woman).
Princess Diana (Wonder Woman) was killed once by the demon Neron and the evil Dr. Doris Zeul. From: Beatty, page 31:
While the JLA [Justice Leage of America] and the rest of Diana's extended family were numb with grief, Hippolyta [Diana's mother] refused to lose faith in miracles. The woman who had once prayed toher gods to breathe life into a clay doll beseeched the godess Hera to restore Diana. And with a flash of golden fire, Wonder Woman was reborn!
For Hera, the simplest way to resurrect Diana was to turn her into a goddess. Diana became the Goddess of Truth and took her rightful place on Mount Olympus. For a time, Hippolyta assumed the mantle of Wonder Woman. Soon, however, Diana came to feel that her true place was on Earth. Without regret, she returned to the mortal plane so that the one true Wonder Woman might continue her quest for peace.
Wonder Woman is portrayed as a devout Greco-Roman classical religionist in all media that we know of.
Wonder Woman's religiosity is particularly evident in the Justice League animated series produced for the Carton Network, beginning in 2001. The pilot episode shows Diana, the princess of Themyscira, meeting other major super-heroes for the first time, having just left her secluded island home for the first time. She is still new in "Man's World." Much of Wonder Woman's introduction focuses on the vast cultural differences between her home and the rest of the world. The 3-episode pilot features many overt references to Diana's religious beliefs.
Wonder Woman's Greco-Roman religious beliefs are still evident in later episodes, even when she is not the focus. An example is an incidental reference in Justice League Season 1, Episode 6 ("The Enemy Below - Part One") - an invocation of the goddess Hera in a story focusing on Aquaman. When Wonder Woman learns that Aquaman is missing and in danger, she exclaims, "Hera help him."
This exclamation, or perhaps brief prayer, is especially poignant given the fact that Aquaman himself is a follower of the Greco-Roman pantheon, as are nearly all Atlanteans, particularly those of the royal and noble classes. Diana is known for exclaiming "Hera help me" frequently in the comics. In this slight varation from that, calling on Hera to help somebody else, is Diana cognizant of the fact that the Greco-Roman pantheon (Neptune/Poseidon specifically) watches over Aquaman and his people?
Justice League Season 1, Episode 6: "The Enemy Below - Part One"
Written by: Kevin Hopps
Original airdate: 3 Dec 2001
Interestingly enough, this Justice League episodes with Aquaman in them do not appear to acknowledge the Atlantean worship of Neptune. In the two-episode story "The Enemy Below" Aquaman's home of Atlantis is shown in great detal, along with his personal dwelling, his palace, members of the royal court, and numerous Atlantean soldiers. In none of this do we see any acknowledgement of Neptune or any other evidence of Greco-Roman classical religion. Yet the Justice League animated series openly portrays Wonder Woman's religiosity. This difference reflects how the religiosity of Wonder Woman and Aquaman are portrayed in DC Comics: with Wonder Woman being a far more devout follower of the pantheon that both she and Aquaman worship.
When the Crisis on Infinite Earths cross-over event shook up the DC Universe in 1985, it was established that Wonder Woman had never previously been introduced to the world at large before that time. Yet the legend of Wonder Woman was not entirely purged from DC history. Although Princess Diana's introduction to "Man's World" was pushed forward in time to become a contemporary event, it was retroactively established that Wonder Woman had indeed fought alongside the Justice Society of America during World War II - it was simply a different Wonder Woman. Current official DC history has established that Queen Hippolyta herself ventured away from Paradise Island as the superheroine named Wonder Woman. Princess Diana later took up the mantle of Wonder Woman, basing her costume on the one worn in previous decades by her mother.
As the Golden Age Wonder Woman, Queen Hippolyta was as prayerful and as religious as she was in modern times when her daughter was Wonder Woman. During a World War II era adventure, she prayed to the gods and Poseidon loaned her his trident. From: Sensation Comics #1 (1999), written by James Robinson and David Goyer, pencilled by Scott Benefiel; page 7. Reprinted in The Justice Society Returns! trade paperback, DC Comics: New York City (2003), page 121:
Admiral Spruance: I take it you know where the creature came from?
Wonder Woman (Hippolyta): It's one of seven souls created by a mad god named Stalker. He seeks to end war by ending life.
Speed Saunders (OSS officer): Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Admiral Spruance: He seems to have harnessed the tidal forces of the ocean. Gale-force winds, hurricane-like conditions. If this keeps up, there won't be anything left of our fleet. Can you stop it?
Hawkgirl: We aim to try, Admiral.
Wonder Woman: As Queen of the Amazons, I've supplicated myself before the gods of Olympus . . . Poseidon saw fit to answer my entreaty by lending my his trident.
Speed Saunders: Poseidon? You mean the fish guy?
Wonder Woman: God of seas and earthquakes, yes. Though judging from your tone, I fear the Pantheon have lost more than a little favor in your patriarch's world. I intend to use my lasso on that creature. Once it's been subdued, Hawkgirl will penetrate its heart with the trident. The shock should wrest control of the seas from the demon and reeturn them to their rightful master.
Speed Saunders: And if that doesn't work?
Wonder Woman: Then I would pray to whatever gods your world still holds dear, little man.
Speed Saunders (narration/thinking): I admit I was skeptical. Tridents on loan from sea gods, a lasso spun from the girdle of Gaea -- but then I watched Shiera [a.k.a. Hawkgirl, the cousin of Speed Saunders] take to the skies and damned if my heart didn't sing. Hell, I remembered her back from Thanksgiving at Grandmother's -- Shy, a little mousy, ready to cry if you looked at her crosswise. I used to give her Indian burns, for Godsakes. Two-fisted guys like me, Hop Harrigan, Slam Bradley -- this wasn't our world now . . . This was theirs. [Referring to the superheroines Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl.]
Wonder Woman: [Approaching the giant water creature rising up from the ocean waves.] Hera guide my throw -- [she lassos the creature with her magic lasso] This creature has no soul! It's not responding to Gaea's lasso!
From: Andrew A. Smith (Scripps Howard News Service), "Comics superheroes of many faiths", published 3 February 2000 in The Houston Chronicle (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/religion/446482.html; viewed 30 November 2005):
So, if you were going to dress up like a bat and fight crime, what church would you attend?... Which is not to say that comics are a Christians-only playground. Most superheroes haven't had a faith established, but those that have are all over the ecclesiastical map...
Then there are the religions that don't correspond to real-world beliefs. The Greco-Roman gods appear routinely in comic books and were instrumental in the origins of Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Donna (formerly Wonder Girl) Troy, Aquaman, Sub-Mariner and, of course, Hercules.
From: Bill, Radford, "Holy Superhero! Comic books increasingly making reference to faith", published in Colorado Springs Gazette, 6 May 2006 (http://www.gazette.com/display.php?secid=20; viewed 8 May 2006):
"I think when I go to superheroes, I see there is a religious metaphor to begin with," says comic-book writer Steven T. Seagle. That metaphor is most obvious with Superman, he says.
"He's the one who's better than us. He's more moral than us. He's more pure than us. He makes better choices than us, and therefore he is an example in a way that God or Christ is an example."
Generally, though, comic book characters aren't as simple or pure as they once were...
"Identity Crisis," a 2004 miniseries featuring DC's top heroes, revealed that Justice Leaguers had tinkered with the minds of villains, giving a sort of lobotomy to one. In a more-recent story, Wonder Woman killed a man who was controlling Superman's mind.
"What I really like about that story line and the 'Identity Crisis' story line is that basically what both of those stories tell us is that the end and means still need to be evaluated," Garrett says.
"Even if you're seeking to do good, even if you're pursuing justice, there are some things that make you no better than the person you're facing."
Greg Rucka is one of the most critically respected writers in mainstream comics. His run as writer of DC's monthly Wonder Woman comic book series was highly acclaimed and influential. Rucka attempted to explore character with new depths, from a very traditional perspective, respecting and utilizing the core nature of the character from throughout her long publishing history. Rucka wasn't interested in changing the essential elements of Wonder Woman, but in exploring what was already a fascinating, worthwhile character.
Below are some comments Greg Rucka made in an interview conducted near the beginning of his stint as the writer of Wonder Woman. Excerpts have been chossen from this interview that illuminate not only her religious affiliation specifically, but also general core aspects of her character and motivations. From: Arune Singh, "The Real God of Conflict: Greg Rucka on 'Wonder Woman' & the Industry" (interview with Wonder Woman writer Greg Rucka, posted 13 January 2004 by CBR News on "Comic Book Resources" website (http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=3142; viewed 24 April 2007):
...Greg Rucka has a big secret:
He's in love with Diana, better known as Wonder Woman.
Or at least that's what you might think if you spoke to the acclaimed novelist and comic book writer whose passion for "Wonder Woman" and its titular character is rivaled only by his desire to write stories that honor the character. With "Wonder Woman" #200 on its way this month... CBR News spoke to Rucka about Wonder Woman and brought readers up to speed on current events...
"One of the things we've been looking at and making clear to the reader is that unlike Superman, unlike Batman, unlike the Flash, Diana's public persona is also her job. She's the ambassador to the United Nations for her country and on top of that, she has a divinely guided mission, which is to bring the message of peace to the World of the Patriarchy, which is essentially everyone else who isn't an Amazon. At the same time, she is occasionally required to stop the giant killing robot who is attacking Manhattan. Come #200, everything goes crazy."
...Possibly the most popular of the new characters is Ferdinand, the Minotaur chef who cooks delicious vegetarian meals for Diana and seems to have developed his own cult following among readers... Rucka... adds that Ferdinand wasn't the result of his interpretation of Diana as a vegetarian. "No, the two came together. The Embassy is a home and Diana is a vegetarian, which is something I was pretty sure of early on and I'm surprised some people have been so irate about it - do they get that irate when their friends tell them they're vegetarians? She is a vegetarian, but she's not telling you to be one. There was going to be a chef at the Embassy and one of the really cool things about Diana is that she straddles these two worlds, one very realistic - as much as a DCU superhero book can have a realistic world - and this world that is established out of mythology. The reference for all these myths is there, the 'facts' are there, you can go pick up old stories and read them. When I was a kid, I was reading these stories all the time and they were required reading for me in high school. It's just to me so cool that she can be on the street, after talking to Superman, after addressing U.N General Assembly and on the next page, be on Olympus arguing with Zeus, for example. That's really a neat facet to the character and creates a whole bunch of different conflicts. One of the ways to make it clear she's in both of these worlds is to take a mythological creature and put him in a realistic environment, IE: the kitchen in the Themysciran Embassy on Embassy Row in New York City, and that's how Ferdinand came about..."
"...Diana's always been an amazing character to me [Rucka], for so many reasons: she is an exile from her own world in a way, she can't really go back to Themyscira and live there happily ever after. She's the only Amazon to have left and have spent a substantial amount of time in the Patriarch's World, even if you look at Hippolyta being in the JSA. The other element is that she's the only Amazon to have been born on Themyscira - Donna was this sort of magical creation, but Diana is the last soul the patron goddesses were harboring and Hippolyta said 'I want a child,' so Diana is absolutely unique. The mandate is just - all these paradoxes in the character. She's an Amazon. Amazons are a warriors, they're a martial culture. They can promote belief in peace in part because they've been living in absolute seclusion and isolation for so long, and also because if you mess with them, they'll kill you. It's easy to dictate peace when you're the baddest [expletive] on the block. Diana comes from this culture where she's bred for war, but is able to reap the rewards of 3000 years of peace - the art, the science, the philosophy. Add to that these divine elements, like the wisdom of Athena and so on, and you've got this person who has all these ingredients and they are in many ways pulling her in different directions, but she somehow manages to unify them all for a single direction. She's not going crazy, she's not neurotic - you look at every other superhero ever and they are all malfunctioning in some way [laughs]. In some way, they are internally malfunctioning - Diana really isn't, even with all the paradoxes and conflicts, she may be the most well-adjusted superhero out there. At least when I look at her, that's what I see. She's somebody who knows what she's about and has absolute conviction in what she believes and is willing to fight for those things she believes, be it with words or swords. I love the character and the more I work with her, the more I love her."
"...She's genuinely nice. That may sound cliched, but there's a pleasure in writing someone who is genuinely nice, who is genuinely a good person. Being a good guy is fun to write - it's fun to write someone who is smart, confident, wise and unafraid. It's a treat."
In addition to looking for that "in," Rucka also approached the book with an ambitious goal in mind, typical of his drive to make every one of his comics the best he can be, and can sum it up simply: he wants to show people that Diana is the best. "She's one of the holy trinity at DC and I think for some time she's been in it just because is supposed to, as a corporate asset, not because there's been a clear reason for her to be there. At the end of my run, if there's one thing Drew, Ivan, Ray and I all want is to say 'our Diana made a mark.' I want people to read these stories and say, 'that's a cool character.'"
The current storyline in "Wonder Woman," entitled "Down To Earth," has altered the status quo of the series, primarily through one main event: Wonder Woman writing a book to share her beliefs with the world. Now before you start crowning her a Clinton, Rucka explains there's a big difference behind the intents of Diana and the glut of "political" books on the market. "I've been asked that recently by someone else and it wasn't as deliberate as that. Looking around we have all these books going right or left - you say Hillary Clinton, I'll give you Ann Coulter or Bill O'Reilly and Al Franken. Very rarely do you get a book that says 'these are my ideas and that's it.' Most of these books are, 'I will kill and crush the opposition. They are fools.' That's both on the right and the left. If Diana's book is about anything, it's about the ideas - it has to be because you don't bring peace any other way. Peace through putting guns to your head and taking away your weapons is an artificial piece [laughs]. That's not a lasting peace - the only way to get a lasting peace is to propose compromise and lasting ideas in people's hearts and minds. Realizing that anything Diana wrote would cause problems with someone - it's just logical, if she had written a book saying, 'I love puppies' and someone would have started an organization 'Amazons Against Puppies' because these people would say puppies are evil and vile and the Amazons martial nature causes them to be breeding attack dogs [laughs] - it was logical. There was a time when we were going to put in what was specifically in the book, knowing it was going to piss everyone off and then we decided it was better if we don't. We hinted at some of the things in there and some of them you wouldn't expect to cause people to be shrieking bloody murder...
"I was surprised about the reaction to the vegetarianism..."
As most readers can already see, "Wonder Woman" has become a pretty politically charged book and with comparisons to the television series "The West Wing," some wonder how many of the beliefs espoused by Diana are shared by the former EMT Rucka. "It's dictated by the character - [the beliefs presented] have to be and there are things she believes in with which I disagree. She has views I do agree with, but I'm not her and my job is to write her, not me. I'm not going to elaborate as to what those points are, but we disagree strongly and we have fights. And she wins, because it's her book [laughs]."
From: "Wonder Woman and Religion", posted 21 February 2006 by Ragnell on "Written World: Hyper-Feminist Comic Book Culture Commentary" blog website (http://ragnell.blogspot.com/2006/02/wonder-woman-and-religion.html; viewed 20 June 2007):
Most of us blame the difficulty some writers have understanding Wonder Woman on gender. "She's a complex woman," I've heard. "They're each writing their ideal woman," I've read.
Most of these writers, of course, have no trouble with characters like Lois Lane, Barbara Gordon, or Dinah Lance. Those who do, they don't have problems to the extent they have with Diana. Lois, Babs, and Dinah seem to have much more clearly defined personalities than Diana. Diana seems almost schizophrenic, as every writer explores a different aspect, every writer makes their own personal stamp on her. For Perez, she was a total innocent, a full optimist. Loebs wrote a rebellious daughter who ran off to see the world and tried to become part of it. Byrne wrote a stiff, formal princess. Waid played up the warrior side. Morrison played up the disciplined competitor. Luke's Diana seemed lost to me. Jimenez wrote a highly emotional woman. Simonson introduced a rational, thinking woman. Rucka took to the rational, thinking side, too, but he added regality and spirituality. But the other three mentioned tend to be the same. Even lackluster writers have a basic handle on those characters, but it takes a really good writer to make Diana work.
Diana's problem isn't her gender, it's that she's from an alien and ancient culture. Not simply in attitude and philosophy, but in the religion. I think that's where it breaks down.
Most of the writers and editors (though not all, I'm sure) can be presumed to be from a monotheistic religious background. Supreme Deity, pitch perfect in all ways, representing the good and only the good in the universe, that's the measure of divinity. Most of their readers are from this background too. From this background, Diana's Pantheon seems like a kindergarten class with cosmic power. Hardly respectable or acceptable in their view of divinity (even though it's supremely unfair to judge a foreign religion in terms of your own). Divinity is good, and anything that's bad is not divine, after all. And if anyone finds the behavior of the Greek Pantheon acceptable in polite society, they need serious counseling. It's bad sometimes, therefore it can't really be divine.
Here's the thing, though. To the Modern Pagan Mind (I can't speak for the Ancients), this isn't the way to view divinity. Divinity is not good or bad, Divinity is good and bad. The Gods Just Are. Their behavior can be truly awful and truly wonderful. Their nature encompasses the extreme best and extreme worst of their spheres of influence. They aren't "people," they are "ideas." Aphrodite isn't a woman, she's the Love/Lust -- The Need to Continue/Protect the Species. Her arena includes lofty, self-sacrificial love and wild, self-(and other-) destructive lust. Ares' realm is protection and defense in addition to excessive force and violence. Athena's gentle compassionate wisdom exists alongside coldblooded scheming.
Some people who've read the Greek stories ask "How could they worship this?" (which is fascinating because I have a pagan friend who's read the Old Testament and constantly asks that about the Judeo-Christian religions). They have trouble reading in the abstract, I guess. They don't realize Athena and Aphrodite aren't women, they're concepts. Where it says "Athena does this" you should read "Wisdom does this," or "Knowledge does this." Apollo would be Reason or Light. Aphrodite is Love and Lust. Ares is War...etc..
Zeus alternately behaves as a loving father and an utter dick. I've seen it analyzed that Zeus represents Men in Power Positions (Kings, CEOs.etc..), or just Power itself. Power blesses, sets rules, rewards, creates and destroys, exploits, brutalizes, tyrannizes also. Worship of Zeus isn't necessarily embracing the worst indulgence of power, but it's representing Power as it is and accepting that it can harm and help. Aphrodite is the full scale of love and lust -- from the lowest urge to the highest regard. Her worship is respecting and accepting the nature of relationships/bonds between people, at the best and worst of it.
But people don't think this way. So, in order to write a character who worships these gods, and still use them, the writers need to find a way to make it acceptable to the majority.
They usually use one of three approaches: 1) Suck all of the life and personality out of these vibrant, energetic deities, 2) Write down the gods, making them subordinate/lesser than the supreme deity, or 3) both of the above.
Then Greek Gods are just background characters, and supporting cast in Wonder Woman. This would be fine, if they were used to support the story and move along the plot without being without being degraded in the above ways. Since the Post-Crisis Reboot, Diana's gods have been arbitrarily put in danger (Hermes, the entire Pantheon a few times), depowered (Hermes), made evil (Hecate), made ineffective (Persephone), rescued by her (Poor Hermes!) and even killed off (Hermes, Hades) in order to make Diana look stronger, and to make their existence more palatable to the majority of readers.
The trendsetter here was Perez. Sure, he told a fine story about a god being made flesh and suffering humiliation and depowerment as a human when he used Hermes. But in doing so, he drained Hermes of all of the personality that made Hermes so likeable. It could have been an acceptable result of this ordeal, but he did the same to the rest of the Pantheon. He turned Olympus into a funeral home. Even when Zeus acted like Zeus, he was so stiff and formal that it was unbelievable. Every god was the walking dead. A cipher. This is what he expected to represent the most vital pieces of life? Even Hades, the god of the dead represents a primal, energetic force in the universe that every human being knows in the deepest part of their soul. Perez's Olympus just didn't convey that. He couldn't even get their appearances right! (Artemis is Not A Blonde!) I groaned every time I saw the gods (with the exception of Hermes, whom I was excusing for his being weakened) when I read Wonder Woman for a long long time. And the death of Hermes was a continual sore spot which was only healed recently.
As I see it, Rucka seemed to have the best approach. The stories were heavy and plodding, like a Greek Tragedy, because he was playing up the cultural aspect. Ultimately, though, he has had my favorite Wonder Woman run to date. He'll always have a special place in my heart for returning Hermes to the living (conversely, he'll always be a sore spot for killing Hades). He wrote the gods as their personalities, introduced a mildly metaphysical (Cotton Candy Symbolism) explanation for their fluctuating power levels called "Indirect Worship" which reinforced the idea of the gods as Concepts with Consciousness as opposed to Normal Characters.
If you follow the maneuvers of Athena throughout Rucka's run, actually, you'll notice a parallel with what's going on inside Diana's head, which is truly an effective way to use the gods (if he did it on purpose -- and I have trouble believing the Hermes part at least wasn't on purpose). During his run I noticed:
-- Artemis -- the joy of the hunt, isolationist feminism (Themiscyra itself, which Athena and Hermes encouraged Diana to leave), seems to have been cut out of the picture (I know it was a name thing, but it still makes a great subconscious pattern especially considering that during Perez's run she was the one equated with Diana's personality the most) as Diana finally takes serious steps to spread her message to the world at large and tries to get away from chasing supervillains in favor of her professional life. Sure, it doesn't work, but notice the heavy themes of the run -- Supervillains scheme in the background while Diana focuses on the embassy, then they seek her out at work -- unlike the other runs, where the scheming took place during a lot of onscreen fighting and maybe a little side lecturing that is referred to but not shown.
-- Athena moves to take the throne as Wisdom, Strategy, and furthering her Ideological Goals moves to the forefront of Diana's thinking.
-- Diana is practically a cipher, seen through other's eyes for much of the run. She's not communicating herself to the reader, her supporting cast is. First person narrative, which is the standard of modern superhero comics, allows us a glimpse into her thoughts only once before Hermes, the God of Communication, Thought, and Learning is returned from the Dead. (Interesting how the single time we saw this method of narration is the crossover with the Flash -- a representative of Hermes if there is one in the DCU)
Rucka disappointed me, though, in Wonder Woman #225. Athena's narration is reverent of Diana, and hints at self-hatred. As though even the gods themselves cannot accept themselves as they are.
Diana's religion, once again, is undermined by the writer, even as he tries to build the character up. In a way, this cancels itself out. Diana is such a spiritual character, brought to life and empowered by the gods, given a mission by the gods, that anytime you undermine her religion you undermine the basis for her personality, and you start to lose what little ground you had.
I'm still really impressed, mind you (Despite my massive annoyance at Hades' treatment, and my irritation with Athena's attitude last issue) with Rucka's handling of the gods. I love using the events on Olympus as an allegory and a catalyst for the Earthly plot. I even more like the gods with their Homerian personalities, the sometimes benevolent, sometimes malevolent, always interesting Greek Gods that I've read about since Elementary school.
The clerk at my LCS knows this, and so he asked if I was angry by the implication in Infinite Crisis #4 and Wonder Woman #225 that they won't be an active part of Diana's life again. I don't think that's true, but on reflection, I don't think I'd mind if they are shuffled to the origin story and never used aside from retelling that. Too few writers can handle them correctly, and it gets downright insulting after a while.
kalinara said [5:26 a.m.]...
It's odd, but I saw Athena's role in [Wonder Woman #] 225 to be strictly symbolic of Diana herself.
Athena as the personification of Wisdom representing Diana's own rational mind. She loves the ideal (symbolized by Athena's love for Diana) and what she represents, her cause and righteousness. But I read Athena's implied self-hatred, not so much as the Goddess hating herself, but Diana's rational mind not quite yet able to come to terms with what she had done.
I'm not saying Diana's self-hating, but I think that a part of her hasn't forgiven herself for what happened with Max Lord, and the subsequent conflict in the League and the Trinity. Max's death was justified, self defense without a doubt, and the rest of it isn't her fault at all. And I think she'll come to terms with that eventually. And then perhaps the Gods will return.
Probably it's because of my own ex-Catholic, currently college-freshman-style-undecided religious affiliation, but I've always seen the Gods as something of a Greek Chorus representing Diana's own personal state. I never really read them so much as actual Gods so much as an extended metaphor.
I could just be weird though. :-P
Hmm, I also had another thought, the problem with the shared universe in which gods and angels and such actually exist is that essentially, the creators have to determine which, if any, are "right" with regards to the Universe.
It's easier to have Pagan Gods as some how "lesser" than a single almighty creative force, because most polytheistic religions do have some sort of "original source" figure, whether it be Chaos, Eurynome, Brahma, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah et al.
So then they try to take the easy way out. Assimilate like the Jesuits...okay, the Judeo-Christian god is Allah is Brahma is Chaos and so on and so forth.
Which gets complicated because in most Polytheistic Religions that original creative force is either not really personified or somehow inactive, allowing the Pantheons to be essentially supreme. Whereas in a Monotheistic religion that original creative force is still very much an active force.
Thus, when you assemble the correlation: Brahma is Allah is Chaos is Yahweh is Jehovah and so on and so forth, the Pantheons' Power will end up diminished, in some sense.
It's not fair really, and it's a gross oversimplification of people's actual belief systems, but when you've got the Earth Angel, Zauriel, Diana and Etrigan running around in the same universe, you need to construct a cosmology to make it all work.
Unfortunately, that means some religions unfairly get the shaft. :-(
Jeremiah Genest said...
Its totally possible in a pantheistic universe or better yet henotheistic (which the DC universe can be cast as) to have both monotheism and pantheism both be right. You can have the Angels and the Pagan gods.
The next reader of Wonder Woman could do alot worse than reading Promethea (and Snakes and Ladders) by Alan Moore and adopting some of its tools, though not its storyline, as a way of handling the cosmos Diana is in.
Melchior del Darien said...
As usual, R., you've gotten me thinking. I was conflicted after reading WW #225, too, but Rucka piled on such a hearty helping of wish fulfillment that I didn't dwell on it. (For hours after reading the issue, I could be heard muttering "Ummm, wish fulfillment...") Athena said so many things I wanted to hear ... that I didn't cringe too much at the realization that she was cutting herself off at the knees in doing it.
The mish-mash of paradigms in the DCU is a big problem. And the heart of the problem is that in the West it's pretty much ingrained in us to think of polytheistic religious thought and ritual practice as an intermediate "stage" in human-kind's progression towards monotheism or rationalism/deism, the "right answers".
As a historian of European-indigenous relations, I look at the misery that resulted when a group believing it had attained the "right answer" stage exerted control over peoples whom were judged to be "stuck" in the polytheistic stage of development--so I'm not saying the ingrained way of thinking is a good thing. Though things have, of course, changed in the last 300 years, the wider culture still doesn't "get" that polytheism can be a component of a complex, rich, and coherent system of belief.
A very nice post, that led me to two different thoughts:
re: worship of the Greek gods. Modern folks may ask "How could they worship this?", but the Greeks themselves around the year 0 were asking the same question. It was their rejection of the imperfections in their gods that led them to embrace more Eastern philosophies and eventually led to the embrace of Christianity in the Greek world. And your pagan friend asks the right question, because the Greeks couldn't embrace the Hebrew Old Testament God either. But the Christian God was the type of perfect being that the Greeks could get behind.
re: Why can't anyone write Diana? I think you're partly right that Diana is hard to write because she's from an alien culture, and is indeed totally alien because she wasn't even truly born as a human being is. She's (as you point out) a divine being in her own right, and its hard to get into the head of someone like that.
But, even more importantly I think, her creator gave the writers very little to work with. The early issues of Wonder Woman, unlike the early issues of Batman or Superman, don't lend themselves well to defining a personality for the character - or at least not one that would work in the modern day. Later writers have had to try to give Diana a personality beyond the one Marsden created for her. And while I think many of them have done okay with what they had (Perez, Messner-Loebs, and Rucka especially), her personality really hasn't gelled completely.
In a way, I feel this discussion gives the writers at DC more credit for nuance and intent than they actually deserve. Speaking as a lifelong non-Christian, it's always seemed pretty obvious that the DC (and Marvel) position on religion and philosophy is exactly that of mainstream America. Some sort of nondefined Protestantism is the default "normal" state and characters who are anything else -- including Catholic or Jewish or atheist -- are only those things because it's immediately vital to their histories or a significant plot point. There might be one or two exceptions (Kitty Pryde got to be a Jewish character without her backstory involving the Holocaust or Israel or the Golem of Prague or anything like that) but overall, a generalized nonspecific Christianity is the rule. The Spectre is not the voice of a god, but The Voice of The God...and that God is certainly not Yawheh or Allah.
The ONE good example I can recall in a superhero comic of a "pagan" viewpoint being depicted as equally valid to a whitebread American viewpoint is in a little-known Marvel comic called Big Town written by Steve Englehart. At one point, Dr. Don Blake confronts a gang of "Odinists" sent by the Red Skull to kill one of Blake's patients. Rather than playing his usual role, Blake stands up to the neo-Nazis and says something to the effect that "You've got it all wrong! I love Odin too! It's true that we admire strength, but we don't prey on the weak, and we hate racism!" For Thor's human alter-ego to "out" himself as a believer in Thor's dad is only logical...but all too rare.
The payoff is that the Odinist goons of course refuse to believe him...so Blake becomes Thor, and Thor tells them "My father wouldn't have a single one of you as followers!"
Englehart is that rarity who can look at mainstream beliefs with some perspective and distance, so it's no surprise he treats this issue well. I'm sure he'd do equally well by the Greek pantheon. But as a rule, comics writers are so immersed in the default assumption of the Protestant God being the one real God -- even if they themselves aren't believers -- that they can't get outside that headspace.
re: But as a rule, comics writers are so immersed in the default assumption of the Protestant God being the one real God -- even if they themselves aren't believers -- that they can't get outside that headspace.
Sorry to hijack Ragnell's blogspace but I disagree with this completely. A great many comic book creators *aren't* actually of a Protestant background. For example, the original creators of Superman were Jewish (and a lot of the alien-passing-among-humankind is thought to be a metaphor for their own struggles with their religion and dominant culture). Superman, the character, is Methodist because he was raised in rural Kansas, and that's one of the more common religious affiliations associated with that area.
Over at adherents.com, there is a fantastic list [link to: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/comic_book_religion.html] that compiles character beliefs based on creator and writer commentary and visual clues.
Let's look at some of the Jewish characters listed:
Kitty Pryde as you mentioned, Ben Grimm, Ragman, Colossal Boy/Gim Allon, Atom Smasher/Al Rothstein, Firestorm/Martin Stein, The Atom/Ray Palmer...
Now many of these characters are lapsed/non-practicing, it's true, but quite a few are pretty devout in their own quiet ways. And none of them have really had their Judaism used as a Holocaust/Israel related plot point.
Heck, even the current Robin, though it was never brought up in the comics itself, was considered by his creator, Chuck Dixon, to be Jewish.
The problem, I think, with Diana isn't that she represents a different religious background (though that's been handled with various success), it's that she comes from a background in which the divine interact with humans on a semi-regular basis.
The Spectre's God can correlate pretty easy with a wrathful Old Testament God, Wally in Supergirl could correlate pretty easy with the more forgiving New Testament analogy, but that works primarily because of their relative lack of prominence. We don't see the Spectre's God. Wally dances in and out to "work in mysterious ways".
But Diana's gods are different, while they represent ideas, no question of that, they've also got very strong literary rooted personalities that are connected with their sphere of worship but also feel enough like individuals on their own. And that clouds the issue.
You can get *mythical scholars* who claim they dislike some of the gods of Greek myth (Aphrodite for example, given many of her less than flattering portrayals). Of course they don't hate the prospect of love/lust/sexual fulfillment/procreation...but it's easy to overlook what she *means* and see her just as a female character in a story and respond like that.
Is it a fair portrayal, no. But is it an example of an all-pervasive Protestant bias in comics, I don't think it is. It's just a bunch of writers trying to tell a story, responding to stories that came before and not really thinking deeply about the religion behind it.
Kalinara, I agree with everything you said... and where we seem to disagree may just be a result of me having chosen my words poorly. (Which happens a lot... which is why I'm trying to make a concise reply to replace the longwinded and pompous one I deleted.)
I don't claim there's any all-pervasive Protestant bias in comics... or certainly not a conscious one. But we Americans all grow up in a culture so immersed in certain assumptions and values that we don't even recognize them as such. A lot of our values come from early settlers who came here to practice their religious beliefs, and these values are so engrained in our way of life that we view them as simply "American" values without recognizing their religious roots. Even for a Jerry Siegel or a Stan Lee or a Jack Kirby, a lot of the "Protestant ethic" was the default norm of being American.
Some comics writers like Englehart -- or Alan Moore or Grant Morrison, who obviously aren't American but, like many Brits, grew up learning our values through our pop culture and our comics! -- have made a conscious effort to step outside that mindset and examine religious and philosophical questions from an outside perspective. But treating other people's Gods (even archaic ones) fairly does require considerable thought and a deliberate effort to step outside a "box" which is so pervasive that we usually don't even recognize it's there.
Wait, isn't Moore non-christian, as well, (and Morrison, for that matter)... Wouldn't that make for the better portrayal of a pantheon?
I agree with Rab, the american protestant majority is generally blind to their on blinders, and (unless they fall prey to the "persecuted majority" complex, as I mentioned briefly in my own blog: For instance, they persist in seeing the portrayal of the sect Opus Dei as power-hungry in Da Vinci Code, when the sect itself is posed as pious, and the fictional leader power-hungry), are largely unaware of the bias they present, unless they are specifically trying to be unbiased or diverse. It's a natural human failing-If what you have is all that you need, generally you won't expend energy looking to see what else it out there. And basic christian monotheism fulfills the need of the general populace who doesn't want to look any further: It gives them a place to start feeling things mean something, when the world is trying to say otherwise. It's remarkably like the ethic pagan majorities that pre-dated it. *shrug*
Now, should we be forgiving of these writers? I mean, on a majority basis, aren't they writing for a group that shares their blinders?
Another point: Are the Jewish, Catholic and Protestant monotheistic traditions far enough from the mainstream to count as analogues for the ancient polytheism that Diana practices?
From: "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free", posted 5 April 2007 on "Grumpy Old Fan" blog website (http://blog.newsarama.com/2007/04/05/then-you-will-know-the-truth-and-the-truth-will-set-you-free/; viewed 15 May 2007):
...while many DC heroes are representatives of other cultures, they aren't charged with enlightening the rest of the world through Atlantean, Oan, or Martian philosophies. Only Wonder Woman has that mission, plus a set of Biblically-reminiscent traits backing it up. If any DC character could be compared to Jesus or Moses, Diana might just have the strongest case.
This category provides Superman's closest Biblical parallel. Like Jesus, he was sent to Earth "from above," and like Moses, he was sent away from his parents to save his life. Unlike the Biblical figures' parents, though, Jor-El and Lara died shortly thereafter. In fact, where Jor-El and Jonathan Kent are credited as important influences on Superman, the Biblical figures' mothers get more play in their sons' respective stories than any other parent but God Himself. Moses' mother Jochebed puts the baby basket in the Nile, and Pharoah's daughter finds it. Mary's role isn't limited to the Nativity, since she continues to appear in the accounts of Jesus' adult ministry, while Joseph fades into the background.
Although Diana has no foster parent (I'm not counting Julia Kapatelis), Hippolyta is certainly a more active mother (shut your mouth! ... sorry) than either of Superman's. Moreover, her maternity is a result of her faith, in keeping with Biblical mothers like Sarah (mother of Isaac), Hannah (Samuel), and Elizabeth (John the Baptist).
Seeing Jesus in Superman necessarily means seeing God in Jor-El; but Jor-El and Krypton are long gone. By contrast, until very recently, Diana's deities were constant sources of inspiration. In Wonder Woman vol. 2 #1 (by George Perez and Greg Potter), Athena's first words to the Amazons include the following:You are a chosen race -- born to lead humanity in the ways of virtue -- the way of Gaea! Through you all men shall know us better -- and worship us always! Therefore does Athena grant you wisdom, that you may be guided by the light of truth and justice!
It is significant that the Amazons hear this in an Earthly paradise into which they have just been "reborn" from the Cavern of Souls. Eventually, the Amazons will be cast out of this Eden, having failed in their mission by allowing themselves to be enslaved by Heracles. As penance, the goddesses will send them to Themyscira to guard an "unspeakable evil." This explains the Amazons' rededication to their original mission and, besides the obvious Garden of Eden parallel, also seems rather Old Testament-ish generally.
There are other similarities between Amazonian history (at least post-Crisis on Infinite Earths) and Biblical history. The brothers Jacob and Esau, who reconciled after an estrangement, are considered the fathers of the Israelites and Edomites, respectively. Likewise, after the Amazons defeat Heracles, the sisters Hippolyte and Antiope split up -- Hippolyte taking some Amazons to Themyscira, and Antiope's followers ending up in the Middle East -- and the groups are not reunited for centuries. The Biblical judge/prophetess/warrior Deborah (Judges Chapters 4-5) might also have felt at home in Themyscira.
Moses and Jesus both worked against the interests of those in power. Moses sought to free his people from Egyptian slavery, and Jesus found himself up against both religious and secular authorities. Although Superman started out as a more radical social reformer, he has since become strongly identified with the establishment; whereas Wonder Woman's mission has been consistently rooted in elevating the status of women worldwide. While this hasn't necessarily put her in direct conflict with the patriarchal powers-that-be, it is at least an indirect challenge. Greg Rucka emphasized the political nature of Diana's mission, putting her through the 24-hour news cycle and the trials of attack politics in the context of promoting her book of Amazonian teachings. (I'm not quite saying Diana's book was her Ten Commandments, but again, Clark/Superman writes mostly news reports, not philosophy.)
At the risk of belaboring the point, it seems almost necessary to both their purposes for Christ and Diana to have been at odds with the status quo at one point or another. Because of her involvement in politics and the stated underpinnings of her mission, it is easy to see how Wonder Woman could find herself pilloried for her beliefs. Indeed, while Diana's execution of Maxwell Lord was an extreme example of this, and led to her exile, those events are also at least superficially similar to Moses' flight from Egypt after killing an Egyptian who was abusing a Hebrew. However, it is almost antithetical to Superman's portrayal for the public (or a vocal faction thereof) to turn against him in the way that the crowd demanded that Christ be crucified and Barabbas released. Superman did exile himself into space after killing three apparently-irredeemable Phantom Zone murderers, but the circumstances were hardly as public as Diana's, and resulted in no public condemnation. Superman's self-imposed exile in Kingdom Come might be closer, but I'm not counting Elseworlds here.
Death and Resurrection
Although Jesus, Superman, and Wonder Woman have all returned from the dead, they each did so for different purposes. Jesus' death was the defining event of Christianity, and effectively marked the end of his face-to-face ministry. Superman's death was, at best, the springboard for a Big Comics Event. Diana's was likewise temporary, but instead of disappearing from her title for a few months, she "ascended into Heaven," becoming the Olympian Goddess of Truth while her mother went adventuring as Wonder Woman. Therefore, Diana's death added another level to her mission, making her divine at least for a little while.
As you might expect, such a transformation is not unprecedented in Greek mythology. Upon his death, Heracles became a god (or, as Wikipedia puts it [link to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heracles], the mortal part of him was burned away). Still, her deification continued to serve ... the gods' purposes, I guess, if not her original mission to Patriarch's World. Superman just got a mullet.
Like Jesus, Diana's mission was an inclusive one, seeking to spread the good news to anyone who would listen. As Themysciran ambassador, Diana helped reintegrate the Amazons with the rest of the world, bringing delegations to Themyscira and Amazons to the U.S. Again, this reflects the fact that (until recently) the Amazon culture was still thriving. Such an outreach will obviously never be part of Superman's mission, because he represents a lost civilization. (Never mind the post-Crisis motif of a cold, logical Kryptonian culture wanting to enslave the Earth.) With Amazons Attack on the horizon, though, Diana's sisters may be interested in a more radical form of evangelism.
And about the bondage...
Honestly, I think the character has moved past this part of her history. Still, if you want to be complete, there is probably an argument to be made that many religions require some relinquishment of one's self-governance. I'm sure that if you get to that point, there are at least some superficial similarities. I mean, there aren't women roping each other from kanga-back in the world's religious texts, as far as I know, but like I say, the argument can probably be made.
In a way, this whole exercise isn't quite fair to Superman. It's a little unsettling to argue that the creation of two Jewish teenagers has been transformed slowly into a Christian icon and infused with a Christian background. If religion's going to be a part of Superman at all, DC's old dodge of making Superman Jewish and Clark Methodist isn't a bad compromise. Accordingly, it's a lot easier to show Diana praying to Athena or swearing by Hera. (Superman only swears by Rao infrequently these days.) Unfair though it may be, that reinforces Diana's spiritual grounding and suggests that Superman is motivated by a more vague sense of social responsibility that neither wholly embraces nor rejects a particular religion.
Ironically, though, Diana's mission still doesn't promote much more than a secular philosophy. She isn't so much "winning souls for Zeus" (or is it still Athena?) as she is arguing on behalf of that particular Amazonian blend of compassion and combat. Nevertheless, at least her advocacy has real roots in a quasi-mythological tradition with Biblical echoes; and I do think she's more of a Biblical-type spiritual leader than Superman (who, again ironically, looks more and more like a classical-mythology hero).
Now, of course, she's a combination of Lynda Carter and the white-suit era, with a secret identity who works for SHIEL-- uh, the Department Of Metahuman Affairs. I don't expect this status quo to last very long -- perhaps not even past the end of Amazons Attack -- but even when the ambassador/emissary gig returns, I doubt DC will embrace Diana's evangelical aspects. Maybe Diana doesn't get Superman's Jesus/Moses analysis because she's not the same gender. Maybe her costume makes it difficult for such analysis to be taken seriously, or maybe all the Marston/Peter psycho-sexual baggage gets in the way. Maybe the express connection to Greek mythology disqualifies her from any Judeo-Christian comparisons.
Maybe I am full of skata.
Or maybe I'm not looking in the right place. Depending on which version of her origin is valid this week, Donna Troy had foster parents -- boy, did she ever! -- and she's been dead too...
From: Matt 'Stars' Morrison, "The Mount: 'I'm Telling You For the Last Time . . .", published in Fanzing #52, January/February 2003 (http://www.fanzing.com/mag/fanzing52/themount.shtml; viewed 22 May 2006):
From: Michael Hutchison, "Never Discuss Religion or Politics: A rebuttal to 'The Mount'", published in Fanzing #52, January/February 2003 (http://www.fanzing.com/mag/fanzing52/feature7.shtml; viewed 22 May 2006):
The other night, some fellow geeks and I got to talking about some political matters in addition to the usual shop talk and this question was raised: what side of the political spectrum do you think most superheroes come down on?
Now, there are a few obvious gimmies... Of course it's easy for second-tier heroes to have a distinct political identity. Many is the time a writer has used a lesser-known character as a mouthpiece for his own opinions...
But the big guns of the DC Universe? The major icons that everyone knows about? Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman? Well, that's a whole other story. Editorial mandate has kept politics out of their books for the most part, for fear of offending the readers who might just stop buying comics if they thought...
Well, the debate has gone on from chatroom to chatroom, message board to message board for years and years. And having thought a while about it, I'm ready to give you a very simple thesis.
Superheroism, by its very nature, is a liberal act...
And Wonder Woman? Classic feminist. Woman from an island populated by only women, saying they have created a paradise without men, made amazing scientific advances and achieved a lasting peace for several thousand years. I mean, just think of the political subtext here. Ignoring the obvious lesbian issues (And don't think most of us haven't!) it still doesn't look like Diana is going to be meeting with Liddy Dole or baking cookies with Laura Bush anytime soon.
Now, Princess Diana of Themyscira? She's a Democrat... if not more left than a Democrat. I mean, she's a big time, United Nations-loving Democrat if ever I saw one. Of course, pre-Crisis she worked for the U.S. military, so I should emphasize that we're talking about the modern incarnation.
Wonder Woman #11 (September 2007) has a beautiful scene showing Wonder Woman praying to Athena and having her prayer answered. Fellow super-heroine Stargirl looks on and wonders aloud what Wonder Woman is doing. Superman explains that Wonder Woman is praying and that her prayer was answered (page 5). Later in this same issue (page 10), Wonder Woman again prays to Athena, but twice her prayer goes unanswered (pages 10, 15). Wonder Woman wonders aloud if she is being tested by Athena (page 19) and she is confronted by the goddess Athena herself, in all her godly glory. Athena reminds Diana that she (Athena) is goddess of both wisdom and war.
14 May 2004 at 4:31 am
There are no specific editorial instructions, that I am aware of, dictating the religiosity of characters -- but I would assume the populations of the imaginary worlds are religious in the same numbers, the same faiths, as here. Superheroes would therefore be no different.
Raised in the Bible Belt, for instance, I always imagined Superman to have a fairly matter-of-fact attitude toward faith -- he believes in God, but he does not make a big deal about it. Wonder Woman obviously believes in her gods, since she has met them! (That is a central theme of my novel, Wonder Woman: Gods and Goddesses.)
From: "What religion do superhero's belong to? [sic]" forum discussion started 18 July 2002 on "Toon Zone" website (http://forums.toonzone.net/showthread.php?t=41332; viewed 21 May 2007):
07-18-2002, 01:02 PM
What religion do superhero's [sic] belong to?
I'd like to discuss what religious beliefs are favorite costumed hero's belong to. Everyone knows Daredevil is Catholic. But beyond that, what do we know of superhero's beliefs? I'm thinking of mostly the Marvel Universe, but you DC fans feel free to contribute as well...
07-18-2002, 02:05 PM
Wonder Woman believe in... yeah how do you call it in English when somebody believe in Zeus, Hades, Hera...
Because she always say "Hera help"...
07-19-2002, 03:40 PM
Wonder Woman is what is referred to as a Classic Pagan, because of her and her bloodline's continuing faith in the old deities of Europe...
07-20-2002, 11:39 AM
Wonder Woman: worships the ancient Greek gods (or "pagan" if you will)...
From: "Catholic Clix - Comic info needed!" forum discussion started 3 May 2003 on HCRealms website (http://www.hcrealms.com/forum/archive/index.php/t-40338.html; viewed 24 May 2007):
Ok, so in recent films it's been apparent that Daredevil and Nightcrawler are Catholic...
So, who else out there could be fielded in a "Catholic" Heroclix team?
Batman is a confirmed atheist, Superman is Protestant (exact denomination unknown), Thor's [religion] is his own dad. Wonder Woman is Greek Mythology (easy to maintain faith when you can have lunch with your god/gods and they give you presents). Martian Manhunter is Barsoom Orthodox. Tony Stark's is Jack Daniels [i.e., "alcohol"].
From: "What Religion is Your Favorite Superhero?" discussion board started 20 April 2006 on official website of DC Comics (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000072337&tstart=0; viewed 8 May 2006):
Posted: Apr 20, 2006 9:30 AM
...What is the religion of the heroes we read about?... Don't get me wrong, not picking on anyone, just wonder what everyone thinks what our heroes believe... (maybe a moderater can have some imput..?) ...other threads touch on the subject in passing, time to discuss it!
Posted: Apr 20, 2006 9:49 AM
For the vast majority, it is deliberately left unsaid and any distinct belief system is never referred to. Unless otherwise indicated, I pretty much assume most believe in God, but don't attend service very often. Here are the ones I know about.
Huntress - Catholic
Blue Devil - Catholic
Atom Smasher - Jewish
Ragman - Jewish
Mr. Terrific - Atheist
Wonder Woman - Greek Gods
Posted: Apr 23, 2006 3:57 PM
The problem is that, while there is proof of some sort of divinity in the DCU, there's proof of contradictory divinitities. Wonder Woman's Greek gods, who have their own traditions about the creation of the Earth and the rest of the universe, don't jibe well with the pseudo Judeo-Christianity that the Spectre or Ollie Queen's afterlife, or an angel superhero imply. But both are categorically there.
And because there is so many different proofs of so many different "true" religions, it's not that hard to disbelieve all of them, at least in terms of being the one true... truth. I think the fact that the line between mundane "reality" and the supernatural being as blurred as it is in the DCU would make it easier to look at gods, demons, angels or magic, as just another layer of science that we haven't found an explanation for yet, and quite distinct from meaning of life and where did we all come from kinds of religion.
Posted: Apr 24, 2006 3:31 AM
re: "Wow, if Superman is Methodist, it gives you new respect for the religion"
Er . . . why? He's heroic, sure, but is he more heroic than... Wonder Woman, who venerates the Greek gods? More heroic than Catholics like Doctor Mid-Nite, or Buddhists like Green Arrow?
...Not trying to be argumentative, just scratching my head . . .
From: comments section on "The Beast is an Episcopalian" page on "IFanBoy.com" blog website, posted 1 February 2006 (http://www.ifanboy.com/archives/000675.html; viewed 10 May 2006):
From: "New Christian JLA member" message board, started 5 May 2005 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000023085; viewed 15 May 2006):
Posted by: Toga at February 3, 2006 06:27 PM
I was more attracted to Wonder Woman when Perez took her back to Greek religious roots and when Smith cranked up Daredevil's Catholic faith. I'm fairly religious myself (born into Catholism, moved on to nilihism, atheism, paganism and ending up at Taoism). I know most writers fear religon, for fear of alienating readers.
Posted: May 5, 2005 7:53 PM
I propose DC adds a new superhero to the JLA. His name is Shepard [Shepherd] and he fights injustice and evil in a Christian way.
His powers would essentially be a the addition of the powers of Firestorm and Superman.
While the JLA fights to protect earth from alien threats, Shepard's focus would be to protect innocents such as unborn children.
What does everyone think?
Posted: May 6, 2005 3:09 AM
I am a Christian and pro-choice [i.e., "for widespread legalization of abortion"]. There is a reason there is no Christian superhero. Same reason as there is no real Jewish or Hebrew religious only (yes please don't hit me with Bloodwynd, etc.) that flaunt their religion or fight for religious belief specific notions. It's because they would be offensive to many, if not most, of the readership.
Besides -- Zauriel, Bloodwynd, Wonder Woman, the Spectre, the Quintet, etc., etc., are all based on or are slaves to religious beliefs, but none actively flaunt it, or debate which is correct, so a hard-line Christian super hero would probably not sit too well.
Posted: May 6, 2005 6:06 AM
I propose the entire JLA should all be confirmed atheists, except Wonder Woman, whose power is actually derived from her Gods...
Posted: May 6, 2005 9:49 AM
Since nearly the entire DCU is written under the presumptions of Christianity anyway, why do you need a figure head? Don't most people presume Superman is Christian? Even if most of the JLA are not Christian, do they not highlight the most positive ideals of Christianity already? I think none of the JLA should have open and identifiable religions because all it will do is alienate people. The exception would be of course Wonder Woman, but the "gods" are entirely entwined with her character.
From: archive of "Should Hal Jordan be a Christian" message board, started 15 April 2005 on Comic Book Resources website (http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-53171.html; viewed 22 May 2006):
04-15-2005, 04:37 PM
Should Hal Jordan be a Christian?
Well... technically he knew God first hand. Then he got reincarnated. So, I believe he should be a Christian, but I know that it will never happen.
04-15-2005, 07:02 PM
Why do so many people assume that "God" NECESSARILY means the Judeo-Christian God?
And considering Wonder Woman and Shazam, shouldn't there be more followers of the Greek gods and their counterparts? The existence of those gods immediately discredits Christianity.
04-15-2005, 07:25 PM
re: "And considering Wonder Woman and Shazam, shouldn't there be more followers of the Greek gods and their counterparts? The existence of those gods immediately discredits Christianity."
Okay, first of all there are people worshiping the older gods; Wonder Girl and Wonder Woman at least both seem to worship (or at least acknowledge) their pantheon of gods. It was one of the things that got Cassie thrown out of school (in a blatant disregard for, well, the law).
Second, It doesn't really discredit Christianity. A Christian can simply say that they're demons, or apparations used by God. And, hell, Christianity doesn't deny the existance of other gods outright. the ten commandments state (translation, obviously) "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Notice, it doesn't say "No other gods exist" or "You won't worship any other gods" it says no gods before God. So a Christian could say, okay, so these gods exist, but I will follow the commandments and not worship them before the Almighty and his son on Earth Jesus Christ. Now obviously this is a translation and thus is open to interpretation but that's something of the point; religion, all religion, is an evolving, changing structure. Chrstianity of today isn't the same as it was five centuries ago; the revelations of greco-roman gods doesn't invalidate Christianity as a whole and people would simply change their beliefs to cope. I think you're really underestimating the power of faith if you think revelations of powerful beings calling themselves gods with powers similar to that of the gods of myth would invalidate the Christian faith.
04-15-2005, 08:22 PM
re: "And considering Wonder Woman and Shazam, shouldn't there be more followers of the Greek gods and their counterparts? The existence of those gods immediately discredits Christianity."
Not at all. It's been made clear over the years that the DCU mythological pantheons aren't really gods at all, but essentially immortal metahumans. "Genesis" established that they were created by the Godwave. Even if that's not in continuity anymore, they're still not spiritual beings anymore than the New Gods are.
04-15-2005, 08:41 PM
I'm not sure about that. I'm pretty sure Genesis isn't in continuity and there have been a lot of explanations for various Gods in the DCU, but I don't think the Grecian gods are just powerful metahumans; they seem to have been always shown as more powerful than that and with a wide variety of abilities, from possession to creating life. It wouldn't be hard for humans in the DCU to view them as metahumans, what with the Justice League staring down at Earth from the moon and Superman constantly being described as "godlike," but I don't think they're just metahumans any more than the Creator is just a being older and with more energy than the Guardians. I usually go with Sandman's explanation on gods, it allows for almost all of them to be valid at the exact same time.
04-15-2005, 09:19 PM
Genesis ignored practically every explanation for gods that came before it, and it has been mercifully ignored by every book to come out since, so Genesis' explanation is not currently valid at all.
R04-15-2005, 09:45 PM
I'm pretty sure Genesis would still be considered "in continuity", but it was so god-awful (yes, bad pun intended) that everyone just ignores it... as is right, to my thinking.
From: "An argument for why religion should stay out of comics" message board started 17 May 2006 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000076170&start=15; viewed 30 May 2006):
Posted: May 22, 2006 9:47 AM
No religion in comics?
Here are some of the things that may be missed or have to be adjusted:
Posted: May 22, 2006 10:25 AM
As an atheist, and one who is vehemently opposed to religion of any kind in public life, I'm not as bothered as you might think by comics portraying religion. IF, and that's a big if, they know what the heck they are doing.
Of course, as a Wonder Woman fan, it would be entirely hypocritical of me to want religion out of comics.
Also, in some of the more interesting comics that deal with magic, it is basically portrayed as a religion, more or less. Then there's the Spectre. Heck, getting rid of religion would mean getting rid of "Kingdom Come", and that would ... well, it would suck.
Let's face it, there are certain issues that are difficult to write about in any medium: religion is one of them. It's complex, it has loads and loads of completely abstract notions, there's all sorts of symbology and specific language. It's a mess. But that doesn't mean that it can't be done well; it just means that it rarely is.
For the DCU to seem at least somewhat "grounded", for the New Earth to resemble our Earth at all, religion has to be a component of people's lives. It just does. And there are some great stories to be told there.
But it doesn't bother me that Huntress, for example, is a Catholic. Rucka used that aspect of her character to some degree in "Cry For Blood". The battle going on within Helena is the battle of the mundane vs. the mystical in microcosm.
From what I've read of it, Eisner's "Contract With God Trilogy" is amazing, and very remindful of Kieslowski's "Decalogue" series of films, in that it focuses on faith and right and wrong through the mundane lives and occurrences of ordinary people.
So, no, religion should not be a taboo subject for comics. I desire to see all subjects investigated in the comics I read. The DCU alone is large enough to comprise any and all issues, ideas, and philosophies.
From: "Does everyone have a place in comics?" message board started 27 May 2006 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?forumID=29209055&threadID=2000077383; viewed 1 June 2006):
Posted: May 27, 2006 11:48 AM
I've seen many threads on here about what groups/topics should be included in comics or not. There has been a serious effort by DC to diversify the universe. More ethnicities and other groups have been included. I started to wonder if there is any group that most everyone agrees should not be in comics. Here are a few examples of people I don't currently see many of in comics.
Posted: May 27, 2006 12:35 PM
Having just consulted the page of "Religion of Comic Book Characters"... there are no Mormon characters listed. This strikes me as odd, considering that some characters, like Wonder Woman, ascend to godhood like the Mormons hope they will in the future. I would love to see Mike Allred (a Mormon himself) to create such a character, and maybe even start a title on one.
Posted: May 27, 2006 12:50 PM
Just a note, badbilltucker, but the [collage illustration] "Legion of Latter-Day Saint Super-Heroes" listed in the link that you provided are all Mormon. [These include Power Pack, Doug Ramsey/Cypher, Captain Canuck, Straight Arrow, etc.]
Posted: May 27, 2006 12:53 PM
You're right. I was looking for the word "Mormon", not "Latter-day Saints." Man, I screwed up big time. Sorry about that.
From: "Superman Wedding -- why a Christian ceremony?" newsgroup discussion started 11 October 1996 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4d17a1ff0ee9c715/d141c36005b90ea4; viewed 5 June 2006):
From: Douglas Ethington
Date: Fri, Oct 11 1996 12:00 am
Email: Douglas Ethington
I always thought that Clark was most likely a Christian...
Anyway, this thread got me thinking about the other DC heroes and what their religious beliefs might be, so here are some of my thoughts (most of this MHO [My Humble Opinion]):
...Wonder Woman worships the Greek gods...
From: Kestrel the Fairly Decent Dragon
Date: Thurs, Oct 24 1996 12:00 am
"Anyone else wondering when the Religious Reicht [satirical spelling of "Religious Right"] is going to get all over Wonder Woman for worshiping pagan gods? (in the comic, I mean)"
From: Johanna Draper
Date: Thurs, Oct 24 1996 12:00 am
I think this happened in the Perez run, early on.
He's responsible for two of my favorite treatments of religion in comics: the WW [Wonder Woman] Christmas with the Super-Heroes story where Diana reassures a doubting female preacher, and the Golden Apples storyline where representatives of our world visit Themyscyria for the first time.
The upcoming WW [Wonder Woman] novel is also supposed to deal with this issue, featuring a fundamentalist challenging WW [Wonder Woman].
Date: Mon, Oct 28 1996 12:00 am
Interesting... I wonder, though, if Byrne is going to bother doing the research necessary to come up with a really accurate depiction of evangelical Christians (I took a seminar on the Christian Right last year and have ever since been bothered by the usually sloppy depictions of them in popular culture - for example, [Margaret Atwood's novel] The Handmaid's Tale...)
From: "Religious Inclinations of heroes" message board, started 1 March 2005 on StarDestroyer.net website (http://bbs.stardestroyer.net/viewtopic.php?t=63632; viewed 8 June 2006):
Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 6:38 pm
Post subject: Religious Inclinations of heroes
...Wonder Woman [is] of course a pagan of the Greek pantheon style...
Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2005 8:54 pm
Strangely most of DCU [DC Universe]... with the exception of the Amazons and a few others, should believe in God. But not out of faith, but the fact he really does exist. Though worship is another matter entirely.
And before one goes "Light show." Does it matter, if it's some uber being or really the divine. This version of God actually for all intents and purpose, doesn't care for worship (though I hated that Wonder Woman arc that tried to go DnD Diety power... which makes no sense because if you only require basically a small island of chicks believeing in you to be able to blow up small moons...then how does that leap to 1 billion yabbo allowing to render creation asunder... hate to see what X'Hal [the deity worshipped by Starfire] is given she has a entire star Cluster worshipping her... guess she outranks God.) and is really that strong. He does many deeds to prove to the average yabbo he is God.
Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 3:13 am
In the DC-verse isn't there some weird thing where most if not all the religions are true if enough people believe? Or was that only for Vertigo?
Posted: Wed Mar 02, 2005 8:12 am
They tried to do it in the God War for Wonder Woman.
Basically it was a way to justify how the heck the Greek Gods exist as gods, because they are worshiped, and why the Judeo-Christian God is so powerful.
Also like I said in my post, it makes no sense given that all he has is one planet, and cause things to affect universally, while X'Hal has a star system or two and can only squash a few worlds and stars.
From: "Banned for using this nic" thread began 4 Apri 1999 in rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/f38288dc4e56542/8a873a0a53da3d0d; viewed 12 June 2006)
From: Robert Justus
Date: Mon, Apr 5 1999 12:00 am
To keep this on topic (sorta), why are most heroes not as religious as they could be? I'm not into promoting religion (far from it), but it seems that most of the religious people in comics are the VILLAINS, and are presented as nut-cases (which Mary here seems to prove, unfortunately). However, the only really religious person that's sane that I recall in DCU is Huntress, and I guess Wonder Woman (she worships the Greek gods. Does this count?)...
From: Aaron S. Veenstra
Date: Mon, Apr 5 1999 12:00 am
re: "...why are most heroes not as religious as they could be? ...it seems that most of the religious people in comics are the VILLAINS..."
My theory on this follows along the lines of why Captain America never takes a political stand -- it's so the readers don't start seeing character traits they disagree with on a fundamental level... Some (e.g. WONDER WOMAN) feature religions that modern Western society passes off as almost non-religious myths, so that's OK.
Date: Tues, Apr 6 1999 12:00 am
[Religious affliations of] Others...
Wonder Woman is part of the Ancient Greek pantheon...
From: "Religion in Comics" thread started 8 November 2000 on rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.marvel.universe/browse_thread/thread/bb40343302f28aaa/7959f6422d01b7a4; viewed 6 June 2006):
Date: Wed, Nov 8 2000 12:00 am
Can somebody explain something that has been bugging me for a long time? What is the deal with religion in comics over the past 60 years or so? I guess it all started in the Golden Age with the debut of Wonder Woman, a modern day Amazon. Then came the Spectre, who's supposed to be a spirit of God. Now it seems that in comics all religions are real(yes I know that the OHOTMU says that there is no one ominipoten deity but just a bunch of pantheons but still). Marvel has interactions with the Olympians and the Asgardians all the time. DC has Zauriel taking everybody into Heaven during "Day of Judgement" with Wonder Woman praying to the Olympians the whole time, and they also had Aztec getting his powers from an ancient Aztec diety. This concept is highly illogical. How do writers get away with these stories without causing confussion. Am I the only one who notices these things, or are there just that many atheists out there?
From: "Religion in comic books", posted 14 June 2006 on "Get Religion" blog website (http://www.getreligion.org/?p=1679; viewed 14 June 2006):
[Comments section for this page]
Posted by Katie Q at 11:59 am on June 14, 2006:
As a fairly religious comic reader, this sort of stuff has always been of interest to me. Unfortunately, comic book religion is of a messy and flexible substance, tending to vary from writer to writer in any given series. No hero, even the ones with a noted religion, is devout. Of course, the iconic and universal nature of super heroes precludes any of the major characters being overtly religious (save Wonder Woman, who practices an unorthodox religion, to say the least); most heroes who actually do have a religion at all tend to have ones that are ethnically defined. Thus, Elektra is Greek Orthodox, Italian-American Huntress (from Birds of Prey) is Catholic, and there are a small number of nationalistic Jewish and Muslism heroes.
June 14, 2006, at 4:57 pm
American superhero comics are, first and foremost, about MYTHOLOGY.Not just existing mythology (though many characters - like Thor and Wonder Woman - are drawn directly from myths); new myths are constantly being created and developed.Jack Kirby was the greatest mythmaker of them all; one of his crowning achievements was even called NEW GODS(a comic STAR WARS owes a HUGE debt to).It's fasinating to watch these myths develop and change as they pass through the hands of different creators; it really is like watching little religons develop (and the infighting between comics fans sometimes seems like fanatics yelling "INFIDEL!" at each other). But it should be noted: Hollywood changes these myths when it sends them to the big screen, and not always for the better. (When the first X-MEN movie came out, I saw a pair of matched posters for it - one featuring the heroes, the other the villians. Seperated like that, I noticed that all of the heroes were depicted as being classically good-looking, and all the villians were made ugly- a sort of visual moral short hand that wasn't in the comics. . . and clearly intended as such, because the most popular of the heroes, Wolverine, had gone from short, hairy, and ugly to tall, dark, and handsome.)
Posted by Katie Q at 9:53 am on June 16, 2006:
Avram, the triple usage theory is interesting, but I'd say theology and mythology (in this context) are roughly the same. As far as the DC Universe is concerned, Wonder Woman's classical Greek pantheon-worship isn't much different from Zauriel's Judeo-Christian Silver City, which isn't much different from Zatanna the Magician's vague neo-occult beliefs. All lean heavily towards the mythology end of the spectrum; "theology" rarely plays a role in comic book worlds. This is largely because, when it comes to the validity of any given religion, the universes are very pluralistic.
You're right to point out that faith doesn't exist much in comic book universes; this is because actual magical beings are right down the street, so there's little need for "the substance of things hoped for."
From: Jan Edmiston (a self-identified Presbyterian), "Where Would Mutator Worship?", postd 14 June 2006 on "A Church for Starving Artists" blog website, part of the "Presbyterian Bloggers" webring (http://churchforstarvingartists.blogspot.com/2006/06/where-would-mutator-worship.html; viewed 14 June 2006):
...Newsweek reported this week that Superman is Methodist... You, too, can find the affiliation of your favorite Super Hero at [link to Adherents.com website]...
At first, I was wishing we could claim Wonder Woman (pagan) or even Jimmy Olsen (Lutheran). But seeing each other as Mutants and Mutators [referring to two actual Presbyterian comic book characters] is actually not too far off the mark as I think about members I've known and loved...
From: reader comments to "No Sunday School In Smallville", posted 12 June 2006 on "Tales to Mildly Astonish" blog website (http://talestomildlyastonish.blogspot.com/2006/06/no-sunday-school-in-smallville.html; viewed 15 June 2006):
...Also, it is interesting, as you noted, that people like Billy Batson and Diana Prince who are on a first-name basis with gods, nonetheless haven't time to chat with them nor the inclination to tell others aobut them. Curious, that.
From: "Superheroes and religion", posted 14 June 2006 on "On Christopher Street" blog website (http://somacandra.livejournal.com/410090.html; viewed 16 June 2006):
From MSNBC [Newsweek], the story is here [link to: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249146/site/newsweek/]
Beliefnet has a chart of superheroes classified by religious affiliation [link to: http://www.beliefnet.com/features/comicbookfaith.html], or by educated guess at religious affiliation. Wonder Woman was most interesting to me of course--it had not occurred to me that she was a classical Pagan :-)
Of course, there is always Isis, too. When you're a science teacher and Goddess avatar, its easy to figure out your religion. :-)
Date: June 16th, 2006 11:31 pm (UTC)
I may have to smack you for not knowing Princess Diana is a Classical Hellenist. It was always part of her character, but when Perez re-started her series in 1986, it became very "up-front", including episodes where various religious leaders had issues with her.
Oh I so wish they'd put those out in trade paperbacks... I have all the issues, but they're hard to lend in their original form!
From: "Any Christian Superheroes?" thread began 22 April 2004 on rec.arts.comics.dc.universe newsgroup (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.arts.comics.dc.universe/browse_thread/thread/4e5839f075fecf76/8821b5db671e7ce1; viewed 20 June 2006):
From: Gustavo Wombat
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 12:03 pm
I can't think of any major superheroes that strongly believe in any real faith, and that surprises me. Certainly not in the DC Universe. I think there are more minority superheroes than religious ones...
Date: Thurs, Apr 22 2004 5:23 pm
Nobody has mentioned Wonder Woman yet?
Granted she's not Christian but Diana does worship the Greek Deities.
From: "Superman as Christian Allegory? The religion of Comics" message board started 14 June 2006 on Military.com website (http://forums.military.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/672198221/m/8000028270001/p/2; viewed 20 June 2006):
On DC's side is Wonder Woman who is definitely a Greco-Roman Pagan invoking Hera, Artemis, and Athena, and whose birth to her mother was credited to a Goddess... seeing as there are no men on the island of the Amazons.
From: Mike Chary, "Blasphemy and the Single Superhero", posted 20 October 2006 on "All New! All Different! Howling Curmudgeons: Two-Fisted Comics Commentary and Criticism!" blog website (http://www.whiterose.org/howlingcurmudgeons/archives/009992.html; viewed 25 April 2007):
I've often wondered about the interjections that superheroes use. Great Scott! Holy Moly! Holy Mackerel! Great Hera! Great Rao! These all violate one or more commandments, and yet, the code authority says nothing!
The most important of the Ten Commandments is, of course, 3. Thou shalt not take the name of the lord thy God in vain. Why is this more important than, for instance, murdering someone? Well, because that's the commandment that shows they were probably written by God himself...
Yet in comics, we have "Great Hera!" Presumably, Wonder Woman actually does worship Hera, but I suppose maybe Hera doesn't care so much about the rule. Of course, she has to share the interjection honors with "Suffering Sappho," which I believe failed to survive the advent of the comics code...
Holy Mackerel! Those a lot of expressions, but seriously, where do these things come from?
[Reader comments about this blog posting:]
...Great Hera obviously refects a Greek Heritage. Merciful Minerva goes to the Roman side. Suffering Sppho, well, that's Marston for you. What we really need is a Xena/Wonder Woman crossover...
Posted by: Mike Chary at October 21, 2006 11:57 PM
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=2; viewed 25 April 2007):
12-04-2006, 12:44 AM
Originally Posted by admiralducksauce: Did Marvel (or whoever) ever explain why the walking gods, blatant proof of divine existence, still get marginalized compared to the prominent religions of our world?
Most people in the Marvel Universe believe that Thor is just some superpowered guy pretending to be the Thor of Norse Myth. After all, the Hulk is really strong and he's not a god. Storm can control the weather and she's just a mutant. Just because Thor claims to be a god doesn't mean that it's true...
Now, the DC Universe is another story. Yes, Wonder Woman is empowered by the Greek Gods. But Angels and Demons have been seen quite often. While both DC and Marvel use the "Everything is true!" take on religion, DC has made more use of it, considering that the Spectre has been around for decades. It's hard to say "Wonder Woman's cool, I'll worship Hera!" when you've got just as much proof that the Old Testament God is real.
12-04-2006, 02:48 AM
Interesting thing, we've seen in Wonder Woman comics that there *has* been an upswing in people worshipping Greek gods in the DC universe, and in Sandman (which, whatever the editors may say, is definitely set in the DCU, considering how tons of characters intersect) that some people still occasionally direct prayers directly to specific deities, like Bast.
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. And, being an ageless Amazon, Wonder Woman obviously leans toward the Greco-Roman deities...
From: Kalinara, "There Are No Lions Here", posted 15 October 2006 on "Pretty, Fizzy Paradise" blog website (http://kalinara.blogspot.com/2006/10/there-are-no-lions-here.html; viewed 30 May 2007):
...Admittedly, the amount that they practice within the text can be debatable. But still the number of Christian heroes vastly outnumber those of any other religion.
Sure, we rarely see outward expressions of faith by these characters. Except for celebration of Christmas, naturally, or the giant church scene in Infinite Crisis. But we rarely see a Jewish person do anything more than wear a Star of David or light a menorah. Diana [Wonder Woman] gets a little more focus on her pagan religion, sure, but given that the gods created her... It's really not any more focus though, than is received by characters such as the Spectre, Zauriel or Peter David's Supergirl, all of whom became living representatives of a (usually) benevolent Judeo-Christian God...
From: "Religion in Comics, or: DCU God hates you!" forum discussion, started 9 April 2007 on "Superdickery" website (http://z8.invisionfree.com/Superdickery_Forum/index.php?showtopic=4252&st=25; viewed 30 May 2007):
Apr 9 2007, 03:51 PM
re: See what proof do any religious factions in the DCU have that their dieties or prophets were not aliens or meta humans. Most to all of the abilities shown by Mohammed, Moses, Jesus etc have been shown in the present to be mimicable by metahumans or alien beings.
That's the thing, they can't.
I mean, technically, Wonder Woman should have her legend taken seriously because she both literally talks to her gods and goddesses, but they also meet real people in the DCU as well.
But despite this, when Diana wrote a book outlining her beliefs (religious, feminist, political etc.) it was banned in schools by hysterical parent groups for being "Pagan"" and "Anti-Christian!", while Wally West called her a fool for believing in the Greek Pantheon because her religion "makes no sense". Even Cassie was both mocked and bullied (ot as close to bullied as you can get when the victim can crush your skull with one hand) for her "weird" and "Pagan" beliefs.
Posted: Apr 9 2007, 03:54 PM
his could just be writing that wasn't thought through thoroughly.
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):
03-10-2007, 10:46 AM
An ASTONISHINGLY detailed site that delves into the religions of superheroes. Someone has WAY too much time on their hands.
03-10-2007, 10:54 AM
Not a lot of atheists.
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.
From: "Religion in Comics" forum discussion, started 17 May 2007 on official DC Comics message board website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?messageID=2003785241; viewed 7 June 2007):
Posted: May 17, 2007 8:37 AM
Yesterday, I read Action Comics #849, and the issue had several religious references and implications. Because of this, I decided to discuss it with everyone else here. Does religion have a place in comic books?
Posted: May 17, 2007 9:43 AM
Actually religion can do a lot to inform you of a character's backstory.
What if you found out your fave was into Scientology? Zen? or maybe as a Moslem? Christian Scientist.
...Obviously Wonder Woman believe in the ancient gods or the Greek pagans...
From: "New Joe Fridays: Week 49" forum discussion, started 1 June 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=114952&page=5; viewed 8 June 2007):
06-03-2007, 04:58 AM
You brought up the issue of comic-book stereotypes and religions. Since I study religion (all kinds, really) this is something I've thought about a lot...
What religions do we find represented in Marvel? A lot of them are "weird" ones associated with exotic fantasy. Several decades ago, comic book writers could be fairly sure that none of their readers would know or be Tibetan Buddhists, Kali devotees, Voodoo practitioners, or Gypsies, so they felt free to make up details out of whole cloth, or portray some religions as wicked. Today this is no longer possible. Recall the Hindu reaction to Krishna's appearance on "Xena: Warrior Princess" (as a villain). So today, weird or evil religions are more likely to be entirely fictional, like the Triune Understanding (a Scientology pastiche) or the Ultimate Shi'ar (a cult not an alien race). The Greek and Norse pantheons appear to also be fair game...
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):
12-02-2003, 09:00 AM
...Which brings us to Christmas comics.
On the face of it, Christmas comics are an odd phenomenon. The whole point of the holidays is communal experience -- reunion with loved ones, families gathering together. But comics-reading -- any reading -- is an inherently solitary activity. How does this fit together?... But now we're getting awfully heavy for a column about holiday comics. Pour yourself an eggnog (ecch -- does anybody really drink that stuff?) and let's look back at some of the best, and strangest, examples of the genre from years past.
A couple of notes before we begin. First off, holiday comics stories are almost always Christmas stories, despite the number of influential Jewish creators and editors in the field. This is partly because, in earlier decades, publishers tried to cater to the Christian majority of readers (and distributors). But it's also because of the nature of Christmas itself.
First... there's no holiday like Christmas for silly smiles, treacly sentimentality, and the ability to fool yourself into thinking all's right with the world for just one night. Which, if you think about it, plays right into those teenage tendencies we were talking about up above.
Second: When it comes to sentimental Christmas stories, DC rules. There have been very few Marvel Christmas stories, and they haven't been very good. This is partly because of the serial nature of Marvel's stories, which made holiday-themed tales harder to squeeze in -- they'd tend to call attention to the fact that, for instance, the entire previous year of Avengers took place the week before Christmas...
In the same vein, a 1942 Wonder Woman story (also reprinted in Christmas with the Super-Heroes, and more recently in Wonder Woman Archives Volume 2) takes our heroine to frozen Canada. This odd piece of work is narrated by a fir tree ("My real name is Abies Balsamea but my friends call me Fir Balsam." Uh, okay) who tells the tale of a two kids from a broken home and Nazi agents who come between the kids' parents as part of a larger scheme.
Because this is a Golden Age Wonder Woman story, everybody gets tied up a lot and led around by ropes around their necks. And because the villains are Nazis, they can't reform like Dr. Grouch and Mr. Meaney. But the husband realizes he's been unfair to his wife, and the family gets back together in time for a nice holiday... with our narrator as their Christmas tree.
"Look, dad -- put the angel on the top branch -- we'll make believe she's Wonder Woman."
12-02-2003, 09:57 AM
Some additions to your reprint list: the Golden Age Superman story, the Golden Age Wonder Woman story... "Wanted: Santa Claus - Dead Or Alive" and "The Teen Titans Swinging Christmas Carol" are all included in the trade paperback A DC Universe Christmas . Incidentally, it also includes a Darkseid Christmas story ("Present Tense" by Ty Templeton) that's one of my absolute favorites.
From: "The Religious Affiliations of Super Heroes", posted 27 June 2007 by Elizabeth "I'm Pro-Accordion and I Vote!" B. on Gather.com website (http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474977041058; viewed 2 July 2007):
Okay, anyone could have guessed that Shamrock, a.k.a. Molly Fitzgerald, would have to be Catholic. But did you know that Superman is Methodist? The Shadow is a Buddhist? Who knew?
A website, www.comicbookreligion.com, attempts to catalogue our Superfriends by religion and ethnicity...
Nippy Katz (Not his real name) sez: Ask me about Gather--I'll give you a wrong answer., Jun 27, 2007, 1:09pm EDT
Wonder Woman obviously worships the Greek gods. I'll bet she's fondest of Artemis.
Thor is another obvious one.
Wonder Warthog is a hard one. He definitely lost his faith but I'm not sure which one it was.
Mr. Natural worships himself.
From: "Religious Beliefs of DC Heroes" forum discussion, started 4 July 2006 on ComixFan website (http://x-mencomics.com/xfan/forums/showthread.php?p=1357699; viewed 6 July 2007):
Jul 4, 2006
I am a Christian (Baptist) in real life and I was wondering if anyone knows any DC characters that have been labled to a certain religion. I think DC has tried to stay away from religion, but... I thought this would cool topic. So please list anything you might know on this subject.
Jul 5, 2006
Well I don't think DC characters are very relgious because DC comics in general seem to have a very general liberal feel to it. That's not to say only conservatives are religious, but that's my opionion. Ok lets see... well Wonder Woman is polytheist since she believes in the Greek Gods. And I know Green Arrow II (Connor Hawke) is a Buddhist. But that's all that comes to mind. And since Donna Troy, Wonder Girl, Hercules, Fury (Golden Age), Fury II, Captain Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., and Mary Marvel are all heroes who got there powers from the Greek Gods I say they're polytheists as well.
From: "Superhero Religious Views?" forum discussion, started 9 June 2007 on Newsarama website (http://forum.newsarama.com/archive/index.php/t-116001.html; viewed 13 July 2007):
06-10-2007, 08:42 PM
Let's see this from the hero's point of view. Superman is always saying "Rao", so he might well be a worshipper of the Kryptonian gods. Supergirl and Power Girl were raised in a Kryptonian lifestyle, so they would certainly be worshippers of the Kryptonian gods. Wonder Woman would obviously worship the Greek gods, as would Donna, Wonder Girl and all the other Amazons...
06-13-2007, 01:43 AM
...Wonder Woman, Troia, and Wonder Girl obviously worship the Greek gods. So does Aquaman (primarily Poseidon)...
From: "Your Spiritual Thought for the Day", posted 15 July 2007 on "Roman de Renart" blog website (http://foxeddc.livejournal.com/467235.html; viewed 16 July 2007):
Jul. 16th, 2007 12:25 am
...Huntress and Catwoman are both Catholics. Wonder Woman is a believer in the Greek pantheon (well, more than a believer, she's the champion of Pallas).
I can't think of any actively atheist superheroes, but any of them who have dealt with cosmic stuff couldn't be atheists for long. The DC universe is very much a creationist universe.
The writer of the column excerpted below makes an interesting, valid point about the lack of genuine diversity among comic book characters. But this author seems to be unaware that Wonder Woman really is shown thanking the Greco-Roman gods, at least sometimes. From: Andrew Dabb, "Four Color Innocense" essay for "Under Duress" column, posted 7 May 2001 on "Ninth Art" website (http://www.ninthart.com/display.php?article=2; viewed 16 July 2007):
Why aren't more comic book heroes involved with groups like the NRA, or the NAACP, or ACLU, or PETA, or the KKK, or Nation of Islam? Why isn't a member of the X-Men actively Southern Baptist? Ninety per cent of the people on this planet believe in a Supreme Being. When was the last time you saw Wonder Woman, after defeating some terrorist, spike her lasso and thank Zeus for her powers? Why isn't there a Hindu in the JLA or a Mormon in the WildCATS? Comic book characters usually lack what makes us human; our opinions. Specifically, our unpopular ones... At least that would be different.
Even the most progressive books out there will take almost zero chances. The most controversial that mainstream comics get (and here I'm taking about comics from the larger companies; Marvel, DC, Oni, Dark Horse) is to portray homosexuality and/or drug use. Are people opposed to both? Sure. Do the creators get flack for it? Doubtless. Are these the same two issues comics were exploring a decade ago in books like X-FACTOR and GREEN ARROW? Yes. Are both prominently featured in multiple Network Prime Time sitcoms? You bet - and not only are they featured, they're often played for laughs.
From: "Sacreligious amd anti-Christian Comic characters" forum discussion, started 28 February 2007 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000107545&start=0&tstart=15; viewed 19 July 2007):
Posted: Feb 28, 2007 12:49 PM
Any character that uses magic, sorcery
Posted: Feb 28, 2007 1:17 PM
This is kind of a dumb topic, but I'd argue that Zauriel and Spectre are pro-Christian, since they are designated as Christian angels.
I wouldn't automatically classify all magic-users as anti-Christian or sacrilegious; I'd only count the ones that derive their power from demons or divine entities other than the Judeo-Christian deity.
Characters that derive their power from Christian mythology should count as pro-Christian IMHO, since their existence supports the Christian mythos...
Characters that derive their power from non-Christian deities probably fall squarely into the definition of anti-Christian, since Christianity denies the existence of other gods. This would include Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Manitou Raven, Black Adam, and all similar characters...
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):
November 30th, 2005, 11:55 AM
...And aside from these rare, overt (and often clumsy) efforts at politics, I find superhero comics to be much more conservative than you do. I don't think it is a conscious choice largely out of tradition and perhaps fear of controversy. I don't think the majority of villains are shown to be victims of society or poverty. Superhero comics absolutely recognize the concept of evil AND they recognize that the use of force is necessary to combat evil. I find it interesting that Wonder Woman is often thought of as a character that embodies liberal values (and on the social side that may be true), but when you get right down to it her whole promote peace/warrior angle is a page right out of Ronald Reagan ("peace through strength")...
From: "Religion in the DCU?" forum discussion, started 25 October 2006 on "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-37480.html; viewed 20 July 2007):
October 25th, 2006, 11:41 AM
I think the DCU has the Campbellian ideal:
All Religions Are True.
After all, look at the JLA. We have a pagan Greek, an alien, an agnostic, an Native American Spiritualism follower, and that's all I can think of right now.
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):
May 26th, 2005, 02:12 PM
It is hard to be a "well adjusted" Atheist when the Spectre is around or Etrigan or Neron or Deadman or the entire cast of Sandman. It is hard to be an Atheist when Zeus and Athena show up on your doorstep and people who have died come back later with tales of an afterlife. When you have Lords of Order and Chaos.
You most certainly cannot be a Skeptic in the DCU - Aliens, Magic, and psychic powers Do exist there. Superman is saving the world again. Chances are good if you lived in the DCU you'd have a chance to shake his hand.
Being an Atheist in the DCU is like being a Flat-Earther in our reality.
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 rather comic companies take a "don't ask, don't tell" policy about religion.
May 15th, 2005, 10:59 AM
I think don't ask don't tell is for the birds. I mean, no, I don't want some kind of sermon every time I pick up a comic, but if you were a writer trying to flesh out a character sooner or later you'd have to come up against his or her spiritual beliefs. They can make for great stories...
If you are going to write stories that are beyond mere kiddy stories about men in tights, religion will enter it at some point...
And really, if you think about it, many characters have religious or quasi-religious elements to them, its just that many readers choose to ignore it. Superman is a sort of Christ figure. Capt. Marvel and Black Adam's powers are based on ancient religions in Greece and Eygpt. Dr. Fate and most other mystical characters are rooted in pagan believes. Mantiou Raven loosely represents Native American faith. Wonder Woman, in fact, rests on the assumption that the Greek gods are real. There is Thor, taken right from Norse religion, and J'onn J'onz often prays to his alien gods. And Spectre is inspired by old school wrath of god stuff from the Old Testament...
From: "Question for other atheists" forum discussion, started 6 March 2006 on "Comic Boards" website (http://www.comicboards.com/dcb/view.php?trd=060306051129; viewed 23 July 2007):
Posted by Corn Stone on Monday, March 06 2006 at 05:11:29 GMT
Question for other atheists. Are there any? :-)
How do you relate to the characters in comics, DC especially, who are characterised as atheistic/agnostic?
And a sort of put-yourself-in-the-shoes - Would you still be an atheist if you'd had the experiences Mr Terrific and co have had? (Not counting Green Arrow, Barry Allen and folk who have been to Heaven, if their experiences are to be believed. And they are - this is the DCU cosmology.)
I doubt very much I would call myself an atheist, if, say, I was a member of the JLA or JSA and had some of these experiences.
Posted by Einheri on Tuesday, March 07 2006 at 03:53:00 GMT
I hold out hope.
As for Mr Terrific, if he is an atheist - from what I've seen - he's very polite about it. Atheists who try to "evangelize" me to their beliefs (or lack of beliefs) tend to iritate me more than religious people trying to evangelize me to their faith. But not much more.
Let me work it out for myself. And I'll try not to bother you. But I make no promises. ;-)
There, that's about as preachy as I get, Corn. But, to better answer some of what you're driving at, I think it could be very easy to be an atheist in the presence of Superman. I daresay that the presence of entities like Darkseid, Spectre, Dr. Fate, Deadman, Wonder Woman, Clark Kent, and even "things" like Bat-Mite sort of make the supernatural common-place. If we have comic book logical explanations of these folk, it wouldn't be too hard to reason that there could be other, more powerful creatures, even a "supreme being." But I don't think someone like Mr. Terrific would call this entity "GOD." Well, maybe he might if he thought it could get IT to stop making him eat playground dirt.
Posted by JesusFan on Monday, March 06 2006 at 17:41:35 GMT
Well, I will try to divorce myself from answering if it was me, as I am a born again believer in Jesus Christ. But your point is well taken, as it appears that you are asking if any of us were in the DCU, and saw things from the DCU perspective on God, angels, aliens, mystics, etc... Could we actually in that particular frame of reference stay an atheist?
My take is that the DC DOES have God in the picture, the Presense, and that there ARE Angels/Devils on assignment, Micheal/Morningstar etc, so probably Mr. Terrific Knows that such DO really exist, but his mental grid simple will not allow him to experience it as his truth.
Just as Batman KNOWS Spectre is real, and could go to seek out his Father in heaven/Hell, his mental grids will not allow him to support that truth, as he is "rational/scientific" mindset.
While WW [Wonder Woman] also KNOWS that there must be the Presense/God in the DCU, her mindset refuses to acknowledge that ANY being could be greater than her "gods" that created/empowered her, so she is like Bats in that regard, it's just that he refuses to believe based upon "rational/scientific" framework of reality, while Diana refuses due to her "spiritual" understandings.
Superman of the big 3 probably comes closest to being what would be considered a "true" believer in existence of Presense/God/Angels etc, as he has been raised undoubtably by his parents in some way to foster that belief, but he walks the line between Bruce/Diana, as he appreciates Science, abhors/reluctant to try to understand Magic, so he does probably have faith that God is real, it's just that he would not probably get into the finer details of... Is there a real Jesus? is Heaven/Hell real? Do I need to find the will of God for my own life? etc...
Posted by tolsvar on Tuesday, March 07 2006 at 00:30:12 GMT
Ok, so I wasn't going to go there, as I feel this subject does tend to walk a very fine line between "giving you an answer" and "getting too preachy". Then I read some other posts and thought "what the heck, I'll bore everyone with my opinion!"
First, I'm not an atheist, but I'm not part of any established religion either. I have my set of beliefs, formed by rationalizing what I know with what I believe. It's a fine line of science and faith, and it works for me.
If I lived in the DC Universe and saw things like people coming back from the dead, the Spectre and people like Dr Fate and the like, I don't think I'd have that hard of time fitting all that into what I believe. Someone like Zauriel (if I spelled his name right), who claims to be an angel, would be tough to understand. I would have a hard time believing that he was what he said he was, because of my views on what a supreme being is and does.
Situations like Donna Troia coming back from the dead, not so hard to understand because of what I believe. Unlikely? YEAH! But I wouldn't dismiss it.
Even someone like Wonder Woman, with her ties to Greek Mythology and their gods, could be understood based on my views on things. I could believe in someone like Zeus existing, I just wouldn't feel they were meant to be worshipped as they were back in the day.
Other dimensions, the little "hells" that sprinkle themselves across comic book universes, would be a curiousity to me, and I would definitely want to learn more to see how, if at all, they fit-in with what I believed. If my beliefs needed to be changed in order to accomodate what I learned, that's fine... I'm open-minded enough and certainly don't think so much of myself as to believe I have all the answers, not in the DC Universe!
Someone like Mr Terrific and Iron Man in the Marvel Universe are supposed to be portrayed as scientists, but I doubt the comic writers understand, truly, what it is that makes a scientific-minded person tick. They don't go through life doubting everything, they merely seek true answers to questions they have, and rarely take anything on faith. Based on what Terrific has been through, I'ld say his religious views are more complex than what we think they are. Iron Man should be the same way, but Marvel gets hung-up on showing how much he hates magic because he "doesn't understand it" and "it's not science". Seriously, hasn't he been hanging around Scarlet Witch long enough to have figured magic out by now?
So, in a nutshell, my faith in what I believe wouldn't be shattered or even shaken a little. Without a doubt, some of my more complex questions would be answered living in a world of superheroes and spirits of vengeance, but it would hardly make me over-haul everything I felt was true about life and why I'm here.
Posted by Hellstone on Monday, March 06 2006 at 14:20:26 GMT
re: "As noted in other discussions over the years they seem to bend over backwards to NOT assign denominations or faith statements to characters..."
Well, I think that goes for the "big 3" [Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman], for example. But many denizens of the DCU have expressed their religion explicitly, and I'm not just talking Wonder Woman and Kobra and Zauriel here... many more, have all stated their explicit beliefs...
From: "Vegetarian Superheroes" forum discussion, started 18 March 2005 in Brian Michael Bendis section of "Jinxworld" website (http://www.606studios.com/bendisboard/archive/index.php/t-231.html; viewed 31 July 2007):
03-18-2005, 01:01 PM
So... out of curiousity are there vegetarian superheroes? I'm not talking about supporting characters, but the actual heroes who wear tights and a cape. And are any of them vegan?
03-18-2005, 01:01 PM
Rucka's Wonder Woman.
03-18-2005, 01:02 PM
But was she always a vegetarian? Or when Rucka started, she just became one overnight?
03-18-2005, 01:04 PM
I don't think she always was. I think it was Rucka's idea...
I don't think there's PETA MAN if that's what you're getting at.
03-19-2005, 11:23 AM
...I think it's BS that Wonder Woman is a vegetarian now. She's not a hippie or an enviromentalist. She's a warrior from an island where I got the impression that her people lived off the land. She'd have respect for the animals she eats, sure, but I don't think she'd give up the way of life she was used to on Themysrica.
10-31-2006, 02:07 PM
She'd probably be smart enough to realize you can "live off the land" without eating animals.
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 8:01 am
It's rare for superheroes to appear in church, unless their religion plays heavily into their characterization (Wonder Woman, Daredevil). I don't see Batman or the Atom or Green Lantern going to church, but I don't assume they're athiest or agnostic. I work with dozens of people on a daily basis, have no idea if they attend mass unless they work it into a conversation (and very few do that).
From: "Religion in Comics" forum discussion, started 3 August 2007 on official DC Comics website (http://dcboards.warnerbros.com/web/thread.jspa?threadID=2000125054&tstart=0; viewed 6 August 2007):
Posted: Aug 2, 2007 3:52 PM
in real life, most people don't fight over religion unless you live in a place where you'd get killed for your religion. Personally, I'm an atheist although I was brought up Catholic. I'm still intrested in other people's religions and different beliefs or cultures, so I enjoy seeing superheroes' religions.
Apparently, Superman is either Methodist or some Krytonian religion. Batman was raised Catholic, but he doesn't practise. Spider-Man is Protestant, Wonder Woman believes in that ancient Greek Stuff. Deadman is obviously Hindu and the Thing is also obviously Jewish. I noticed in comics it seems as if all religions are correct.
From: "Need Help With A Research Project" forum discussion, started 9 December 2005 on the "Comic Bloc" website (http://www.comicbloc.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-16070.html; viewed 6 August 2007):
December 9th, 2005, 02:29 PM
I'm a Teaching Assistant at a major college and I am doing some research for a book being written by the professor I work for with the working title Modern Morality Plays: The Religion of Comics.
Essentially, the book will discuss how comics have become the primary form or morality storytelling much in the way that Bible studies were in the past.
One of my students suggested I come here and ask a few questions, as this forum is reportedly quite active.
If you wish to participate, please provide the following:
And answer the following questions:
1. Do you feel that comics reflect your moral values?
2. What are the primary moral values reflected in comics?
3. Do you feel that comics reflect any religious philosophy in particular?
I'll probably have more questions later, but this should get us started.
December 9th, 2005, 03:53 PM
...3. Yes. With the presence of the Spectre and Zauriel it reflects the Christian, Jewish, or Muslim beliefs of heaven, hell, angels, demons, etc (though I can't recall if those related characters ever actually state specifically Christianity). Plus we've seen characters go to church (the one that currently springs to mind is Mr. Terrific and Doc Midnight at the end of the Hal/Spectre story in JSA).
Then there's the defunct ancient beliefs like Greek gods in Wonder Woman, ancient Egyptian reincarnation in Hawkman, Norse gods from Thor, and then made for comics gods like The New Gods.
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):
...Superman is not the only superhero thought to be religious - Wonder Woman fancied ancient Egyptian religions, Batman is said to be a lapsed Anglican or Catholic (because of the crosses on his parents' tombstones), as is the Hulk. Rogue from the X-Men was raised as a Baptist, and Spider-Man prays to what is assumed to be a Protestant God...