The PopCult Bookshelf
In a bit of a departure, this week in the PopCult Bookshelf we are going to look at two new tracts from the pen of Jack T. Chick.
Chick, if you don’t know, produces those little horizontal black and white comics that you tend to find laying out for free in strange places. These tracts are pure propaganda gold. I do not use “propaganda” in a negative way here. These books present Chick’s religious worldview and agenda in a persuasive and well-crafted manner. There are people who are reached by these little comic books.
Now, unfortunately, Mr. Chick’s worldview is pretty narrowly-defined. He is an end-timer and Zionist who strictly believes in the King James version of the Bible, and he also believes that Catholics are the army of Satan, who employ rock music, Mormonism, television, Islam, Christian Rock, Dungeons and Dragons, Harry Potter, Halloween, and pretty much pop culture as a whole in a grand conspiracy to prevent souls from getting into Heaven.
A lot of folks consider his tracts to be hate speech.
A lot more find them to be unintentionally hilarious.
Kurt Kuersteiner has authored a book and directed a film devoted to the ironic audience of Chick’s comics. Both are excellent and you can order both of them HERE. If you want a real treat, You can also find a parody site HERE, and you can order hundreds of Jack Chick’s tracts and other publications directly from him HERE. Tracts don’t cost much (sixteen cents each) and it’s easy to build a collection. I would imagine that Chick himself doesn’t mind the negative or mocking coverage. He probably feels that, if he just reaches one person, it’s worth it.
Also keep in mind that the man is 91 years old and has had a triple bypass. That he’s able to sit at a drawing board at all is impressive. In fact, it’s not clear if he’s still drawing these tracts himself, or if he’s using assistants. Aside from one additional artist, the extremely-talented Fred Carter, he has not acknowledged using any help for his art.
There has been a noted improvement in Chick’s art since the early days when he began producing these booklets almost sixty years ago. His crude, but effective, style has become more refined, but his hand is still evident. You may dislike the man’s message, or find him hilariously batsh*t crazy, but he sure knows how to pack a lot of storytelling into 22 two-panel pages.
Our first new tract is called “Bed Time.” This one is sort of tame as Chick tracts go. A little girl has a sleepover at her friend’s house and is astonished to discover that they pray. They pray a lot. The girl asks why and is told all about hell and Jesus and then she falls to her knees and accepts Jesus as her personal savior on the spot.
She goes home and shows her mom what she learned and her mother starts crying and explains that she stopped praying when her mother died and they all start loving the Jesus and all ends well.
It’s pretty tame as Chick tracts go. There’s no real fire and brimstone. No entire religions are condemned. Nobody gets hit or stabbed, and nobody angrily denounces god then dies and goes to hell. All-in-all, this is not as didactic or crazed as the movie “God’s Not Dead” so it’s a little disappointing. It’s melodramatic and the cartooning is top-notch, but it’s not the type of Jack Chick comic we all know and love.
This is followed by a skillfully-compressed retelling of the stories of creation, Adam and Eve, Noah, Jesus and the destruction of mankind–all in the remaining 29 panels.
While lacking in the blood, guts and blatant sinning that the most entertaining Chick tracts have, this one does offer up conspiracy, references to poison and homosexuality, and examples of the people of today mocking god. This is an angrier tract, and therefore is way more fun to read.
It’s not my place to say whether Jack Chick is right or wrong. Obviously his religious message misses the mark with me. I’ve been enjoying his work, probably for all the wrong reasons, for over forty years. He is a skillful, if crude, cartoonist who knows how to convey his message. Some of his ideas may seem crazed and/or repulsive and even offensive, but the same can be said of Robert Crumb (or maybe Fletcher Hanks and Boody Rogers).
However, if you want the over-the-top fire and brimstone tracts that condemn everything from homosexuality to evolution to Catholicism to multicuturalism to the Girl Scouts and more, you ought to order up a big batch of his classic tracts. These new tracts are evidence that maybe, since he’s hit his 90s, he may have softened a bit.
We’ll leave you with the classic Chick tract that started it all, embedded right here for your enjoyment…