[weds] Falling Out of Love with the God Shot I: Info Dump

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Everyone has their comfort trash. Apartment 4-G. Those horrid Li'l Archie comics where everyone balances themselves on one foot during the course of normal conversation. Mile-thick installments of pulpy fantasy "cycles." Iron Chef America.(*)

From the January/February 2005 tract, 'Kidnapped!' Me, I have Chick tracts.

And I know you're staring at me like I'm some kinda predictable freak ("how can you enjoy that stuff? What, did you like old rapture movies as a child or something?" Errr...), but leave aside the matter of his cracked theology (bizarre and kooky at best, downright hateful at worst) just for a moment. Seriously. Just for a moment. OK?

Jack Chick arguably has the best independent comics distribution network ever.

Think about it. Many of us are going to be delighted if we get, like, more than half a dozen hits on our webcomics, or sell a couple dozen copies of "My Logorrhea Ate Montana" at the zine fair. Some are going to be delighted if books sell a couple thousand copies, especially if one can supplement that income with t-shirt revenue. A very few get respectable positions on the Amazon bestseller list for a day or two. A couple folks end up big enough fish in their small ponds that they, say, might be found at the mall.

Chick tracts, meanwhile, are all over the place. Public transit. Phone booths. Washrooms. Workplaces, if you're unfortunate. Cafes. Turnpike service stations. McKFCQueenKingThing(**). Hell, probably Sbarro, since all things inevitably lead to Sbarro. I've found them in three different countries, four different languages, just over the course of daily events -- they get hell of translated, so there's every chance you'll find one just about anywhere you'll go, assuming someone's eager.

Yeah, lots of your gaming buddies might have their favourite strip which keeps up with the industry chatter, but dude? Not only has everyone seen Dark Dungeons, gamer or not, chances are someone you know found a copy on the bus once.

The bus.

This has its effects. You get everything from people who know them on sight and by reputation (although they couldn't tell you much about the contents) to keen collectors. You could order a selection of the in-print tracts from the site, but that's cheating (and several of them have been altered, taken out of general circulation, or discontinued entirely), so there's a certain cachet to tracking them down if you go for that sort of thing. Comic distribution as scavenger hunt.

What's cooler than that?

Detail from Soul Story Also, what a lot of us are after isn't Chick, per se. It's Chick and Fred Carter, who drew Chick's vision for most of the highly recognizable tracts. (A less distinctive third artist has made contributions, but you can track down a copy of Imp #2 for more on that one). Chick's own approach is distinctive, but cartoonish. Carter's style is often lush, sumptuously detailed, and exaggeratedly gritty. Soul Story's finest panels (like that one right there) should be paid homage in a lower-profile Tarantino film, put it that way.

So it went. Until 1994. That's when Fred Carter began his extensive break from drawing tracts (he has only just resumed this past year) to work on paintings for a film called The Light of the World. In the meantime, Jack Chick himself suffered a stroke (circa 1996?) which affected not only his drawing hand, but, arguably, his writing style.

The decline really became obvious when LotW went into final preparations and we began seeing the solo-Chick companion tracts: The Bible Series, featuring ... this guy called Bob.

Bob is the worst Mary Suevangelist since Cameron "Buck" Williams, and next time we'll talk about him.

In scathing tones.

I assure you.

(*) Disclaimer: Wednesday has been told it gets better, but... Bobby Flay, people. Euuuurgh.
(**) KFC, for reference, should be pronounced "kafka."

31 Comments

I knew I should have pushed harder for that religion in comics roundtable for the WCE. I fun time it would have been. Some of Chick's stuff reminds me of those Christian radio dramas I used to run across. -Cue organ music.

I just picked up a couple of Chick Tracts two weeks ago at Curly's Hawg Shop, a diner in the back of a Harley-Davidson shop.

Yes, I quilt, make webcomics and frequent biker bars. I'm seeking gender equality within my own body.

Dude, I've gotten Chick Tracts in the mail. With no return address.

Come to think of it, I'm still a little weirded out by that.

Dark Dungeons was slipped under my door, once.

And Bobby Flay is increasingly fun on Iron Chef America. He comes across like a heel wrestler, which is about right.

Aah, the trials and tribulations of living in a religiously tolerant country. No-one sticks Dark Dungeons under your door.

In fact, I'd love for someone too, because it'd mean I'd have some detectoring to do and once I found them, I could a) have an argument with them and b) steadfastly ignore them.

I miss X-Entertainment's Chick Tract Theater features. They were hilarious. But Chick contacted X-E and asked them to take them down (apparently nicely, with no threats of legal action), so they did so.

I've seen a pretty vicious parody re-text of that one with the girl in the trunk. It's not one for polite company.

Interestingly, I've never found a Chick tract, or had one given to me. So, they're not /everywhere/.

I guess that Washington is the Forgotten State even when it comes to Chick tracts!

I had no idea Chick had such significant presence. The only place I've ever seen a Chick Tract is on Chick's website. I didn't even know they were distributed physically. And I've lived in three different states. (NY, MA, and PA)

Excellent Snark, Weds! I think Chick's signifigance is only beginning, considering the huge phenom that Right Behind is in this country. A film adaptation of Chick could be the biggest thing since The Porno Of The Christ!

I actually hadn't read a complete tract before now, just little bits and pieces in rants and the like. I must say that I find Dark Dungeons to be a vibrant source of humour for all ages.

Perhaps it's just that we're more tolerant in our True North Strong and Free. Even in backwoods nowhere, with some pretty strongly religious types around, I'd never seen one.

The art is impressive, for sure. And while the message is delivered hamfistedly, I sense a solid strata of compassion in there too. Maybe it's just that the artist has to, to an extent, identify with his subjects in order to depict them.

I don't think I would want to give these to anybody, but I can respect them for what they are.

Wait... why wouldn't Jesus just use his super diety powers to go and fuck up the kidnapper instead of waiting for Super Preacher/ Cop to walk by? Or maybe using is obvious voice-throwing powers by distracting the kidnapper into thinking that there was another little Ophan Annie-looking kid hiding in the bushes so she could get away?

I know the lord works in mysterious ways, but this was silly.

But I do see the truth in some of his tracts... I know I've seen little demons riding on the backs of every gay I've ever met.

Jack Chick is really one of those guys that people just love to hate, myself included. On one hand, quite a bit of his writing comes across as alternately conspiracy-theory paranoid and utterly bileful. On the other hand, a lot of it's just so out there that it's pretty enjoyable to read on some level, even for a agnostic like myself (which probably means I'll get the usual Jack Chick "chucked into the lake of fire" treatment when I die or similar.)

I will admit that I've never actually seen any Chick tracts lying around, though I do think I saw one laying next to the cashier at the campus commons a while ago (doing some reading waiting for customers, were we?). I guess I just never really looked hard enough for them (though given the conservative part of the state I live in, I'm really surprised I HAVEN'T seen any Chick tracts.)

I got my introduction to Chick tracts much the same way most every cynical Interweb hipster type has, I think: the hilarious Chick tract parodies that X-Entertainment used to run. (If anything, the removal of those has an awful lot to do with why I haven't read that site in about 3 years now.) I really wish those were still around, as they were really hilarious running commentaries.

Since I've written way too much for a long-time-reader first-time-writer, I'll just end by saying that one of my favorite Chick tracts (having trouble finding it on the site) basically just involved, at the end, little kids praying to Jesus solely to piss Satan off. Now if that's not a Christian sentiment, I don't know what is!

Harle -- I was living in the U-District when Dark Dungeons was slipped under my door. Chick is there, even in your precious Washington State! Mu hu ha ha ha!

The thing about Chick, to me, is I don't think he's a hypocrite. I reject his philosophy and theology (as you can likely imagine), but I honestly believe he's trying to save as many people as he can by his interpretation of the rules.

And say what you like about the Bob series -- it has impressive uses of continuity. Why, when the witch who rejected Bob's message shows back up to be horribly killed in the gas truck explosion in a later tract, you can sense a real sense of cause and effect.

(Now, I have to go shower.)

For sheer demented unintentional humor, nothing can touch the "Doom Town" tract.

Hey! I remember these! I was about twelve and trick-or-treating when this lady in a dark corner forced some of these on me. They warned me that Halloween was evil and the work of Satan worshippers or something--they even had the people around pentagrams--and that I needed to pray to Jesus right now or go to Hell. Now I'd laugh at it, but at the time I was trying to seriously consider the comics' views. That's kinda scary, I think.

When I was about 12, a friend found my Tarot cards in my bag, and totally flipped out. This kid was such a good friend that when he asked to borrow a quarter, I didn't hesitate to say "sure, I think I have one in my bag" and let him go get it himself; it never occured to me that this might be a problem. Boy, was it. Lost the friend over it, but that's another story.

Where I was going with this was that for weeks, nay months, I couldn't get through the day without a Chick tract magically appearing in among my books, or in my instrument case after band, etc. At first, they were quite hurtful, because I knew where they came from, but they couldn't stay that way. Over time, the sheer silliness of their hard-line "any deviation from the norm is sinful" approach overcame any message he may have been trying to send me. I mean, c'mon, really. sheesh. How could I NOT think they were funny, in an odd sort of way?

The thing that scare me about these things (and still does) when I see them is this: someone paid for these things, with their hard-earned money. Someone agreed with them so profoundly that they went to the trouble of putting them in every seat of the bus (which is usally where I see them here in Houston), or to visit the clubs vilified in these things so they could distribute this rather odd version of the Word. I even saw, once upon a time, someone get tossed out of the local grocery store for putting these things in every single newspaper on the rack, or at least as many as they could before the manager asked them to leave.

It just.. scares me. Makes me want to go find a mountaintop somewhere and hide from the crazy folk (I would, too, but I love my modern conveniences too much, dangit).

Excellent snarkage, though. I haven't thought of these things in years. Thanks, Wednesday!

hmm yes.. Dark Dungeon..

We've had people flyering that on on a LARP event once.. anonymously, during the night, leaving a damn mess of paper everywhere..

Real Christian Practice, that...

:rolleyes:

As for the things itself, they serve their purpose. Perfect educational material on: "How Things Are Not Done" .

Oh yes, I remember collecting Chick Tracts when I was a kid. And being horrified when I found out one of my friends actually took them seriously. Fun stuff, but you have to wonder how anyone could think the "logic" in those stories is even remotely plausible.

Geez, Eric, I can't believe that you didn't mention this. Or (cough) this. Laboring all day, over a hot monitor screen, with nothing to show for it... alas. Alack. ;)

...and my fiancee just reminded me to look at the name under the title. Nevermind... :)

I found a physical copy at a bank in Calgary a couple years ago. 'Twas the Halloween episode, in which a boy is killed and his mother wails because he's gonna end up in hell. But it's okay because his best friend is saved! And it's not like everyone can go to heaven anyway, because there's not enough room.

Gah. And, again, gah. Metaphorical-train-wreck style fascination, here. I still can't believe I read the whole thing.

Moe Lane: the really scary thing is, despite what that Jack Chick In Nomine page says, Chick *isn't* the most extreme fundamentalist. The Westboro Baptist Church (a.k.a. Fred Phelps & family), which runs such gems of the Internet as "godhatesfags.com" and "godhatessweden.com" (yeah, seriously), is even more bugfuck nuts. Even Chick is more tolerant than them.

"Westboro Baptist Church"

Yeah, these ae the sort of people who make me long for The Rapture just to get these assholes off my planet.

Personally I'd prefer to see their faces when the Rapture comes around and they find out where they're ending up.

For those of you who have never found a Chick tract, I have some observations (I have found a few dozen in the past five years), the places you will tend to find them are urban areas (I have yet to have found one in a small town--though I'm sure they're distributed there). Also, in urban areas they tend to be in working class areas. I live in LA and have found many in Koreatown and Pico Union but none in Beverly Hills or Santa Monica. Also, keep your eyes open. Newspaper stands, public phones, laundrymats, and bus stops are prime areas.

BTW, I met Jack Chick in 2003 at the premiere of his film The Light of the World. Those who claim that Chick looks like an older Jon Lovitz weren't too far off the mark.

My favorite part of this is that Wednesday has posted that its part one... meaning we'll get to see more...

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the esteemed Mr. Kurtz's offering on the subject

I laughed at the first few Chick tracts I saw. In fact, I still laugh at most of them. But there's a line that he crosses from time to time that puts me off my ease, which is pretty hard to do. Just one example is the fact that he blames the Jesuits, who are likely more in line with Christian ideals than any other group, for both Communism and the Holocaust. That and some of the more intense "god hates gays" strips unnerve me.

It seems to me that he and his followers have a severe case of the Fear.

I have only ever seen one Chick Tract. Oh, I've read quite a few on the web, but I mean I've only seen one actual, tangible, printed-on-paper Chick Tract. But this wasn't something that I found on at a phone booth, or that was slipped under a door. No, this was something I was actually given in person.

My freshman year of college, I think it was--though it may have been sophomore--in a creative writing class, it came up somehow that I was the DM for a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Someone else in the class--let's call him Paul, since I don't remember his actual name but I think it was something like that--expressed interest, claiming to have been a long-time role-player, and said he'd like to join the game; I told him he was welcome to do so. Next time the class met, though, he said that since we had last spoken he had had a realization, and he gave me a copy of Dark Dungeons.

Now, after looking over the tract, I very much doubted--and still do doubt--that Paul had ever had any intention of joining the game, or had ever been a role-player at all (let alone happening to see the "error of his ways" in the few days between the two times I talked to him). The tract paints such a bizarre and inaccurate picture of role-playing--even leaving aside all the "we cast real spells!" silliness--that no one who had ever actually been a role-player could possibly take it seriously. No, it seems quite certain that Paul's claim to have been a role-player himself and to have been interested in joining the game was only a ruse to gain my confidence so I'd accept the tract more readily than I would have had he just handed it to me without the pretext. Apparently bearing false witness is perfectly okay as long as you're doing it for the right reasons.

The funny thing is, though, that if he really believed what was in the tract...then I'm not sure what he thought it would accomplish to give it to me anyway. I mean, I'd told him I was the Dungeon Master of the game I was involved in. So, according to the tract, that should mean I was already fully aware of the game's secret agenda, and was at the head of an inner circle of spellcasting practitioners. So...the tract wouldn't be telling me anything I didn't already know, would it? Wouldn't that be kind of like, I don't know, presenting a pamphlet detailing the sinister plans of an evil overlord to one of the overlord's trusted lieutenants who was already helping carry out those plans? Okay, that's a very clumsy analogy, but you get the idea. It's kind of silly. I don't know what reaction he expected, really. "What? I'm the head of an evil cult? Wow, I didn't realize that. I'd better accept Jesus Christ into my life, pronto!"

Oh, for pure hilarity, nothing beats the one Chick Tract, "The Bull." Found in Harvard Square (yes, they are in Massachusetts, in the most liberal city there,) this told of a vicious, hardened lifer in prison who gets redeemed... buy a Chick Tract. I found that over two years ago and I'm still laughing over it.

Yeah, Dark Dungeons was some serious bullshit. Everyone knows that a cleric needs to reach at least level 20 before he can cast real spells.

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