Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Assorted Creatures: The Apocryphal Bestiary of Chick Publications

Article excerpt

Introduction

One of my earliest memories of Chick Publications was as a young person nurtured in a Christian home that carefully guarded my reading materials. Growing up in the Ozarks, my brother and I would read and collect comic books that focused on the heroic, crime-fighting exploits of Superman or Captain America. It was a rare occasion when I had the opportunity to veer off that path and see old copies of EC Comics or look at the covers of Warren Publication magazines such as Vampirella, Creepy, or Eerie in drugstore displays (see, for example, Glut 1975, 343-4). The material in these venues was too sexually suggestive and occult-laden to bring back home after a trip to the mall or used book store.

Nevertheless, on select afternoons, after our school day ended, my brother and I would accompany our mother back to her work place, a conservative, Midwestern Bible college where she served as a secretary and our father worked as an administrator. As children of employees, we were eligible for discounts at the campus bookstore. I have vivid recollections of a small, rotating rack of miniature comic tracts. They were labelled Christian and therefore acceptable for purchase, but their black-and-white content surpassed anything my small collection of Marvel or DC comics could offer. Tucked inside these miniature comics were bizarre themes and images from a world well outside of any comic book code (Burack 2008, 39). (1) I would buy several in one trip, along with pieces of penny candy. On their illustrated pages, I discovered a strange world well beyond the confines of Gotham City or Metropolis (see, for example, Kuersteiner 2004).

Several years later, at a Pentecostal Christian camp's gift shop, I would discover a larger, rotating rack. This one displayed Chick's new line of full-sized, colour comic books. Even though they displayed a mild warning at the top of each cover ("Recommended Reading For Adults and Teens"), I was fascinated by the colourful, artistic covers and bought some with my allowance funds (see, for example, Hajdu 2008, 240, 291-2). (2) They were unlike any comic books I owned. I was captivated by Chick's dark, horrific tales featuring Cold War conspiracies, crazed sex deviants, psychopathic killers, dangerous cults, cannibalism, demonic possession, and apocalyptic nightmares. At the end of all his comics and tracts, redemption was always offered, as he gave readers the chance to accept Christ or face the terrors of an eternal hell. The stakes of Batman and Robin's battles with the Penguin seemed tame in comparison to the battles waged by Chick's dynamic Christian duo, Jim and Tim--the Crusaders. A life devoted to Jesus Christ and a commitment to the Authorized Version of God's word prepared these spiritual superheroes for combat against the dark forces they encountered in Chick's tracts and comics (see, for example, Burack 2008, 38). (3) Future heroes could wage a similar war. At least, this was my initial understanding of Chick's worldview.

Later in my spiritual development, I would learn that a sacred tenet of Protestant Christianity is sola scriptura, roughly translated as "scripture alone." Both Evangelical and fundamentalist authors affirm this cardinal doctrine of the Reformation in different ways, over and against Roman Catholic acceptance of Church tradition along with sacred scripture in theology (see, for example, Sproul 1997, 41-57). The Protestant apologia for the Bible as the sole authority in matters of faith and practice has also found expression in popular sectors of Christian thought scattered far and wide across the American landscape. Historically, gospel tracts, comics, and self-published books have proclaimed the importance of standing on the Bible alone without compromise with non-biblical beliefs and practices. Some versions of this theological viewpoint have even sought to confine faith and practice to the Authorized or King James version (KJV) of the Bible. …