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Jeff Smax of Top 10

The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Jaffs Macksun/Jeff Smax

Detective Jeff Smax, whose original name was Jaffs Macksun and who is commonly known simply as "Smax," can be classified as a "super-hero" by virtue of the fact that he has super powers, wears a colorful costume, and is a resident of Neopolis, a city in which virtually all of the residents are comic book-style super-characters. More importantly, however, Smax is a police officer who works out of Neopolis Tenth Precinct, known by the nickname "Top 10."

Smax does not strike most observers as a devoutly religious character. However, he retains a number of religious beliefs and practices from his upbringing and earlier adult life on his home world, a parallel world which resembles the realms depicted in our world's fantasy literature.

Smax was one of the stars of an ensemble cast of Neopolis police officers whose stories were chronicled in the colorful and critically-acclaimed Top 10 comics written by Alan Moore and published by America's Best Comics. The original stories were illustrated by Gene Ha and Zander Cannon. The original Top 10 series ran for 12 issues, and has since been followed up by two additional 5-issue limited series, a graphic novel and a few other stories set in the same universe.

Although Smax has generally assimilated well into the culture of Neopolis specifically and his adopted Earth generally, some of Smax's beliefs and practices seem quite foreign to nearly all people of this planet. This was illustrated particularly in the 5-issue Smax limited series which was a spin-off series from the Top 10 series that introduced the character. In the Smax series, the character returns to his home dimension for the first time in many years, accompanied by Toybox, his partner on the police force in the Neopolis Tenth Precinct.

On Smax's home world, many values and practices that are taken for granted there seem quite strange to us. For example, incestuous relationships are accepted on Smax's world. Smax himself had an intimate romatic relationship with his own sister, Rexa Macksun. The Smax limited series portrayed how Jeff Smax developed conflicted feelings about his incestuous relationship with his sister. Smax's conflicted feelings doubtlessly arose from his long exposure to the world he emigrated to ("our" Earth, the world of Neopolis portrayed in the Top 10 series).

The differences between the values of Smax's homeworld and his adopted Earth serve to illustrate how some religious beliefs and values are so widespread that they virtually become a part of a "universal" (or more precisely, "worldwide") religion that nearly all humans unknowingly subscribe to. These "universal beliefs and values" form what could be called "Earth religion" or "Earth culture." These beliefs and values do not necessarily have a purely rational scientific or mathematically replicable basis. Yet many of these values, including the incest taboo, are so widely held, even among people who identify themselves as "atheists", "rationalists", or "secularists", that they are believed to have a scientific basis.

As noted above, incestuous sexual relationships between brother and sister are considered moral and acceptable on Smax's world, but on our world such relationships are considered particularly unsavory, even by most people who would otherwise regard themselves as permissive or "liberal" with regards to sexual behavior and attitudes. Yet, as any scientist with even an elementary understanding of genetics and reproduction can tell you, there is no scientific rationale for preventing incestuous sexual relationships, as long as such relationshps take place between genetically healthy individuals and do not span successive generations. So strong is the incest taboo among most peoples of Earth, there has even arisen a widely-believed myth that the offspring of an incestuous relationship runs a high risk of being born as some kind of monstrous freak due to birth defects. There is virtually no scientific or genetic basis for this belief. In point of fact, the offspring of a biological brother and sister simply have exactly the same mix of DNA that each of his or her parents has. Such a child is no more likely to be a genetic "freak" than the brother and sister themselves were. If the brother and sister both were carriers of a deleterious recessive allele, their offspring would be homozygous for that recessive allele and the deleterious allele would be expressed. If only one (or neither) of the siblings carries such alleles, there is no such danger. And, of course, an incestuous relationship in which there is no possibility of producing offspring (whether because one of the partners is infertile or because birth control and/or abortion are routinely used) clearly has no scientific basis for being prevented.

In writing this, it is certainly not this author's intent to justify incest or to justify the various beliefs of Smax's world that people of our world would consider unhealthy, wrong, or sinful. But it is interesting to point out, and this seems to be one of the themes of Alan Moore's Smax limited series, that humans subscribe to many religious beliefs and values that often go relatively unexamined or unquestioned, even if they do not realize that such beliefs are religious and non-scientific in nature. This is not a bad thing. Values and beliefs such as love, peace, tolerance, protection of children, abolishing rape and slavery, etc. are all "religious" in that they are based on beliefs and not science. Such values and practices are not shared by non-human animals, and conceivably might not be shared by alien species. Certainly we know that even fellow humans in other times and cultures, and deviant or socially aberrant humans in our own culture, do not share values which we believe should be universal and embraced by all people.

Smax illustrates some of the ways that all humans are religious and all humans cherish many religious beliefs and values, although not all humans call themselves "religious." Many people (particularly so-called "secularists") unconsciously apply the word "religious" only to a limited range of specific formal and organized religious traditions of their childhood, and fail to recognize the many beliefs and values they continue to adhere to which likewise have no scientific basis. Such secularists may criticize as "un-scientific" the beliefs of self-described "religious" people who believe that certain sexual relationships are wrong (pre-marital, adulterous, homosexual, promiscuous, prostitution, etc.), yet these same critics are unable to provide a scientific basis for proscribing the sexual behaviors which they claim to be wrong (homosexuality, bestiality, pedophelia, prebuscent, rape, polygamy, etc.) Regardless of the basis for how they feel about what is right or wrong, acceptable or inappropriate, both groups ("religious" and those who call themselves "non-religious" or "scientific") are expressing their beliefs (i.e., their religious beliefs).

Fortunately, there are countless values which most people share, regardless of their formal affiliation with organized religion or their lack thereof. These shared values are a source of unity and commonality. The essence of these facts can be captured concisely by the following observation: There is no scientific basis for outlawing rape (a behaviour which is commonplace in the animal kingdom) but we certainly believe our society is better off having adopted this belief, whether or not we call it a "religious" belief, an "ethic," a "value" or something else.

From "Smax" article on Wikipedia website (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smax; viewed 31 March 2006):

Smax is a five-issue comic book limited series written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Zander Cannon and Andrew Currie, and published by the America's Best Comics imprint of DC Comics/Wildstorm. It is a spin off of the 12-issue series Top 10.

It concerns the adventures of the title character, Jeff Smax (born Jaafs Macksun), A gigantic blue skinned, white haired, super-powered policeman who lives and works in a city populated entirely by super-powered beings. Smax and his friend and partner Robyn "Toybox" Slinger, leave the world of Top 10, largely an amalgam of science-fiction and superhero literature to return to Smax's homeworld on the occasion of his uncle's death. Smax's world is primarily informed by fantasy literature such as the works of J.R.R. Tolkien...

The story deals with Smax and Toybox returning, via magical teleportation, to Jeff's magically enchanted homeworld. Smax, now a city dweller, seems embarrassed by his unsophisticated, sword-and-sorcery roots. They attend Smax's uncle's funeral where Jeff introduces Robyn as his wife, though no such relationship exists. At this point we are introduced to Jeff's sister, Rexa Macksun, [who] dresses in the typical garb of a female fantasy barbarian...

It's revealed Jeff hasn't come home in some time, having originally left his world fleeing personal and literal demons. Once a great dragon slayer, Smax failed to stop an extremely powerful, shape-shifting dragon named Morningbright from destroying a little girl, who was burned to ashes in front of him, forever leaving a white burnmark of a hand on his chest. Further story developments reveal a sexual tension between Smax and his sister.

The two were born of a union between a monster and a human woman who died in childbirth. Their monstrous father would abuse them both and molest the sister, who would also find love and solace in her brother's arms. Smax would eventually kill his father so they could escape together. Though in their medieval homeworld their relationship wasn't particularly frowned upon, Smax developed conflicted feelings about the propriety of their love...

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Webpage created 31 March 2006. Last modified 31 March 2006.
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