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Monday, January 26, 2009


Holy frijoles, where to even start with this one?

Have you ever been on the train or on a bus and found one of those tiny comics that relate tales of horrible things happening to people as they either fall in line or end up in the Lake of Fire depending upon whether or not they accept Christ as their personal savior? Well if you have, it's a safe bet that the comic in question is the handiwork of Jack T.Chick, an Evangelist of incredible and indomitable conviction who has devoted decades to writing and sometimes drawing these comics — commonly referred to as "tracts" — designed to win souls for the Lord.

Chick tracts are by no means heavy literature and more often than not veer waaaaaay into laughable territory thanks to Chick's over-the-top point of view and wildly paranoid and largely irrational conspiracy theories, but there are many things about them that even irreverent, bound-for-the-Lake-of-Fire heathens like myself find absolutely priceless. I'm certainly not on the same theological page as Chick and take great offense at what he has to say on issues such as abortion and homosexuality, but I just can't get mad at the guy in the same way I find myself ready to draw and quarter the majority of other evangelicals out there who knowingly prey upon the fears and insecurities of their flocks, fleecing them for all the cash they can get. Unlike those fucksticks, I genuinely believe that Chick is sincere in his intent, no matter how wrong-headed I may find much of what he says, and to order one of his tracts costs a mere fourteen cents, so I'd say whoever buys one of them is getting more than their money's worth in terms of entertainment and the possibility of being "saved" while reading.

THE UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO THE ART OF JACK T. CHICK is about the most comprehensive overview of Chick's world and mission that one could ever hope for, and it has the added bonus of being written by a British convert to Chick-style Christianity who has a well-developed sense of humor that allows him to appreciate Chick tracts for the same reasons that I do, namely their in-your-face luridness, willful and smug ignoring of documented facts and simple logic, unintentionally hilarious dialogue and plots, some involving the horrors of domestic violence,

multiple examples of shameless homos on the loose (one of which featuring what looks like Pazuzu from THE EXORCIST hanging around in the background, just behind a horny monk chasing a young boy down the street),

fantasy role-playing games,

child molestation and incest (with more random homos thrown in for extra offensiveness),

drugs and booze,

rock music,

promiscuity, both straight and gay, that inevitably leads straight to full-blown AIDS,

prison rape (that also leads straight to full-blown AIDS),

personal appearances by Satan himself,

and watching BEWITCHED (which we are informed is Satan's favorite TV show),

each showcasing art that varies between childishly simplistic (drawn by Chick himself) to some of the finest art ever to grace a comics page (the truly incredible work of Fred Carter), hilarious ruminations on the Catholic church and several tracts that prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that Chick is not an anti-Semite as one might prejudicially expect.

Chick believes that since the Bible clearly states that the Jews are God's chosen people, that must absolutely be the case, so it's a good idea not to fuck with them (which doesn't stop Chick from throwing in appeals for the Jews to embrace Christ anyway on the final page of each of his Jew-related tracts)!

The book covers the history of Chick Publications and its trials and tribulations (of which there were many, including the open disapproval of the Catholic church and death threats from gays) in exhaustive detail, and there's not a boring sentence in all of its 224 pages. Along with the epic story of Chick's personal struggles and unwitting duping by some of his so-called collaborators (yeah, I'm talking about you, John Wayne Todd, Alberto Romero Rivera and Rebecca Brown!) who turned out to be con-men, sex-offenders or delusional liars, we're also treated to a visit to Chick Publications itself and perhaps the book's strongest draw, an often hilarious and very comprehensive synopsis and critical assessment of every Chick tract ever issued, totaling a whopping 170! In other words, THE UNOFFICIAL GUIDE TO THE ART OF JACK T. CHICK is not only a steal at its $29.95 in-store cover price (or $22.76 on Amazon, but it's currently out of stock), it's a must have for both the reverent and the irreverent and I recommend it most heartily.

Oh, and I got the majority of these illustrations from Chick's own website where all of those still in print and a few out of print can be found for free (or you can order all currently available tracts, nearly 100 of them, for a measly $14.95!!!). And while one could easily think the illustrations' over-the-top aspects may be magnified by them being seen out of context, I assure you that such is not the case; the tracts that each of them are pulled from are every bit as extreme as what's on display here, and they're each worth a read.

From THE BEAST: what may be the greatest panel in comics history.


John Bligh said...

Hah! The panel with Pazuzu and the last one need to be either t-shirts or posters suitable for framing.

Bunche, you should post up the Chick parody you did a million years ago in the Bullpen as "Jack Schitt" in honor of this book.

Satyrblade said...

Hear, her! I second that request!

Man, I gotta get this book. My evangelical uncle and aunt had these things strewn all over their apartment back in the late '70s, in total agreement with their messages. Those relatives, their tracts and my life-circumstances at the time provided gateway drugs to a brief evangelical period in my own life, and although the Chick tracts (among other things) eventually convinced me to toss the whole mess out like rotting garbage a few years later, I still bear a fond spot in my heart for the lurid little horrors!