Jack T. Chick, whose religious tract comics inspired revulsion and mirth– along with some faith, I’m sure — passed away over the wekeend at age 92, as his company FB page revealed:
Many might have been surprised to find out the reclusive artist was still alive. As noted by Steve Bissette, Chick may have been the most successful underground publisher of all times, with as many as 8 million of his tracts distributed around the world and in many languages. While they had the shape of a “Tijuana Bible” (small porn comics featuring licensed characters, the 4Chan of their day), Chick added the small colored box and black bar that has been endlessly copied and parodied.
Although the message of salvation through Jesus Christ seems benign enough on its own, Chick’s comics also disapproved of many things, including homosexuality, Jews, Muslims, evolution, Metallica, Halloween, D&D and anything else that’s fun. His greatest enemy however was the Catholic Church, which he blamed for a thousand year conspiracy that would shock even Hillary Clinton.
You can read most of Chick’s comics on his website, which encourages people to embed them on “MySpace and Friendster.” Amazingly, the technology even works in WordPress and here’s his best known comic. This Was Your Life, which is misleadingly free of the hate speech that caused his work to be banned in places.
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club has an excellent run down of what’s known as Chick’s life. Although few photos of him exist, a recent one was posted here, with a long discussion of whether it was actually him. I’ll let the Chick experts sort that one out.
Due to their campy melodrama, and purely unintentional humor (and, it must be said, the solid cartooning in the best of them) Chick comics had a cult following among with cartoonists, and were often parodied, notably by Daniel Clowes and Even Dorkin. Fred Van Lente and Steve Ellis have a parody right here.
I’m no Chick expert, but it’s obvious that several different artists drew these comics. They’re amusing, yes, but the very real hate behind them has hurt thousands of people over the years; lets not forget that.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.