Respectful Insolence

Jesus versus the vampires

After yesterday’s all-out frontal assault on a dubious scientific journal (which, by the way, you should still read if you haven’t already), how about some lighter fare for today?

A couple of months ago, when the fury of fundamentalist Muslims was directed at Denmark for the publication by one of its newspapers of cartoons portraying the Prophet Mohammed, I wrote articles arguing that freedom of speech demands that religion not be exempt from criticism or satire. Indeed, religion is such a powerful and pervasive influence on so many people and societies that freedom of speech almost demands that it be as much a target of frank discussion, criticism, and, yes, satire.

I couldn’t help but think about that incident when I came across an announcement about a new comic book featuring Jesus that is scheduled to be released just before Easter.

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Yes, Chicagoan Tim Seeley is publishing a comic entitled Loaded Bible: Jesus vs. The Vampires.

I have to give him props for a cool title, anyway, although his timing is rather obvious.

Here’s what Loaded Bible, a story that Seeley compares to Blade Runner and I Am Legend, is about:

“Loaded Bible” is set in the near future in a dark, dystopian world. “After 9/11, Americans become more insular, more routed in Christian faith, to the point where church and state become inseparable.

So far, it doesn’t sound all that far-fetched to me. Let’s continue on to the less plausible stuff:

Then, one day, we find out that vampires exist. And from there, everything goes to hell,” Seeley explained. “Bible takes place in the aftermath of a nuclear war with the Vampire Nation. The last outpost of humanity is a giant theocratic church-state called New Vatican City. Vampires are everywhere, most of them starving due to a lack of human prey. They’re getting desperate. And then, our boy Jesus comes along.”

Seeley is keeping mum on the details of Christ’s return, but Jesus finds himself thrust into a world where living up to the role of Savior of mankind won’t be an easy task. “Our Jesus is as much based on what I could find out about the real Christ as possible, combined with a sort of Snake Plissken bad ass hero. He’s a good person – a thinker, a progressive. But, he’s responsible for all these people, who all look to him to save them. It makes him sort of tortured hero – a guy with the weight of the world on his shoulders who covers it up with brash confidence.”

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Uh-oh. Jesus as “tortured hero”? That sounds dangerously close to cliché, although the fanboy slumbering in me finds the concept of Jesus as a Snake Plissken-style badass hard to resist. I’m also a bit skeptical about the choice of New Vatican City. After all, if any religious group is likely to impose a theocracy in the U.S., it probably won’t be Catholics. More likely it would be the religious right evangelicals who now control the Republican Party. In any case, the world of Loaded Bible sounds reminiscent of the world created by Matt Wagner for his comic series Grendel, specifically the storyline entitled God and the Devil, originally published in the late 1980’s. In this world, America was also a Catholic theocracy (albeit also ruled by corporations), and this time its fictional capital was known as Vatican Ouest and located in Colorado. There’s also the parallel that there were vampires in Wagner’s story; indeed, Pope Innocent XLII was in actuality a vampire in disguise, using the power of the Papacy for his own nefarious ends. From the description above, it almost sounds as though Seeley appropriated this world and added a vampire-hunting Jesus to the mix.

How do I know all this? Well, buried in my garage are boxes full of comics, among which are many of the Grendel titles, which I used to read avidly, of course. Maybe I should go back and dig them out to read again. They are among the very best comics I ever came across, and I have the original issues

Seeley’s idea is just crazy enough that it could work. Or it could be a huge mess. It’s difficult to tell which it will be just from the description; so here’s some more:

Some people might wonder what kind of special skills the Jewish carpenter possesses to aid him in his crusade against the vile, blood sucking hordes. “Well, he’s Jesus. I mean, just the image of a cross fucks with vampires,” Seeley stated. “Imagine what the actual guy who hung from it can do. Three words….holy water spit.”

Now we’re talking! If you’re going to be sacriligious, then be sacriligious! And throw in a lot of fight scenes with vampires while you’re at it! Preferably scantily clad female vampires.

Of course, this whole comic sounds like the sort of silly adolescent intentional sacrilege that I would on occasion read (and still on occasion find myself purchasing even now, I must admit). It’s clearly designed to annoy highly religious types and to appeal to adolescent boys’ sense of rebellion and love of descriptions like, “Contrary to what the heavy metal band Slayer would have you believe, Jesus saves everyone; not through sermons, but by kicking some undead ass!”

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Finally, given the intentionally sacriligious nature of this comic, you’d think that serious Christians might react pretty angrily to this.

You’d be wrong for the most part. In fact, the only Christian reaction I could find to this comic was surprisingly mild, with a few e-mail attacks, a thread on a discussion board that drifted into discussions of the Crusades, and a relatively neutral commentary in Christian Today, concluding:

Whether intentional or not, comic books and their superheroes have regularly dealt with spiritual themes of temptation, transgression, sacrifice and redemption, said Gregg Garrett, author of “Holy Superheroes: Exploring Faith and Spirituality in Comic Books.”

“You don’t have to look too hard to realize that Superman is Jesus, a messiah figure sent to Earth by a powerful father to help human beings,” said Garrett, an English professor at Baptist-affiliated Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and a master’s student at an Episcopal seminary in Austin.

“One of the things comics do is to give us this good versus evil conflict, and they do it in a larger-than-life way, which is one of the reasons it is such a valuable place to look for spiritual lessons.”

I can’t help but wonder how Muslims would have reacted if this comic had portrayed Mohammed as a butt-kicking vampire slayer.

Comments

  1. #1 lambic
    March 15, 2006

    You might also be interested in this 2001 movie:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0311361/

    “Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter”

    Jesus has to fight an army of vampires who are hunting lesbians. And it’s a musical!

  2. #2 coturnix
    March 15, 2006

    Jesus has to fight an army of vampires who are hunting lesbians. And it’s a musical!

    Sounds hillarious – I’ll have to get it and watch it soon!

  3. #3 Khalil A. Cassimally
    March 15, 2006

    Muslims are very recluse compared to the Western cultures. There are a variety of reasons which can explain this.

    However Muslims believe in the Prophet Muhammad and it forms part of their way of life – their culture. And to hide behind freedom of expression when a newspaper has hurt a belief can’t be good, can it? All religions have asked for co-habitation with other religious belief. The act of featuring the Prophet Muhammad, knowing that the Muslims disapprove of this because their sacred book The Quran itself forbids them to do so, can’t be right, can it?

    It should be noted that the Muslim community at first only asked that the newspaper to excuse itself. The paper didn’t do this and quite literally hid behind freedom of speech to justify its position. I am pro freedom of speech but I don’t think it should hurt other people’s belief or cultures. Muslims have grown up believing in something and it’s all too obvious that they won’t like it when one mocks this very belief.

  4. #4 Miguelito
    March 15, 2006

    “Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter” is a low-budget, 16-mm film filmed in southeastern Ontario. I’ve seen it multiple times and my favourite scene is where Jesus has to fight a truckload of atheists/nihilists. It isn’t just silly either, but has a nice message and a powerful ending.

    http://www.odessafilmworks.com/jcvh/index.html

    Go there to see the trailer.

    Khalil:

    I’ve used this argument elsewhere. My research in geology is very offensive to creationists. Should I not publish it because it’s offensive? Should I apologize for publishing it? There is a war on critical thought being waged here.

  5. #5 Miguelito
    March 15, 2006

    The link for the JC:VH trailer at Odessa Filmworks doesn’t seem to be working. Try below.

    http://videodetective.com/home.asp?PublishedID=839764

  6. #6 Corkscrew
    March 15, 2006

    The act of featuring the Prophet Muhammad, knowing that the Muslims disapprove of this because their sacred book The Quran itself forbids them to do so, can’t be right, can it?

    I thought that the reason for the prohibition was to avoid the faithful falling into the trap of idolatry (please correct me if I’m wrong).

    In which case, the only people who give any impression of idolising Muhammad’s image are in fact the morons burning down embassies (certainly not the cartoonists, who aren’t even Muslims so couldn’t idolise Muhammad if they tried). They’re not just getting angry over a non-issue, they’re committing exactly the sin that the prohibition against images is supposed to prevent.

    Anyway, my understanding was that the thing that got people really riled up were the three extra cartoons (Muhammad as pig, Muhammad as paedophile, Muslim having sex with dog whilst praying) that were slipped into the dossier of cartoons by Muslim clerics who were touring the Middle East. That’s not particularly the fault of Jyllands-Postern.

  7. #7 Will E.
    March 15, 2006

    Why is Jesus *fighting* vampires? Jesus *is* a vampire, isn’t it obvious? Sheesh.

  8. #8 John McKay
    March 15, 2006

    Back in the early seventies, Neal Adams drew a couple episodes of Son-o-God Comics for National Lampoon. Son-o-God was a superhero who transformed a normal mortal a la Billy Batson and Capt. Marvel. God showed up as the God of Job, sitting around with his friends thinking of newer and more painful tests for his favorite son. The villians were the Pope/Antichrist, the Whore of Babylon, and some wily Russians trying to steal oil from pious, but naive, Muslims.

    Russian: Have some vodka.

    Moslem: Allah says it is forbiddent to drink of the distilled grain or the fermented fruit.

    Russian: But vodka is made from potatoes and Allah will be none the wiser.

  9. #9 Bob Nigh
    March 16, 2006

    How can Jesus fight Vampires? He’s a zombie, right? I thought undead guys hung out together fighting us.

  10. #10 ev
    September 15, 2006

    hey .. i just wanted to no if u are a christian and did this “LOADED BIBLE” have anything to do with the truth about Jesus

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