Jottings on science, religion, technology, pop culture and faith from the Antipodes.


Constantine and comics revisited

Tim and I were talking yesterday about my comments to his post SansBlogue : Hell wants him. Heaven won’t take him. Earth needs him and I’ve decided to turn them into a post over here in response to that. Bear in mind my comments are more about the genre of comic books than the movie (which I have yet to go and see). Tim wrote,

It’s no wonder that the distributors thought a couple of free tickets should be thrown to the School of Theology… I was the theologian”, and my (still just) teenage son was the representative of the likely target audience. Well, the plot and script was based on the DC/Vertigo comic book Hellblazer so I assume teenage boys are the target

(Immediate response – how come Tim got the tickets!? More considered response follows.)

Maybe, but over the past couple of decades comics have changed a great deal in terms of there audience. Sure there are still the anatomically “perfect” and spandex-clad (or unclad) women and men but labels like Vertigo were created to explore (and market) more adult themes and my anedotal observations as a comic reader and occasional purchaser (restricted by budget) is that the target market is now male 20-40’s (with money!). Even the more general DC and Marvel labels deal with issues of sexuality, spirituality, racism and politics.

The theology is in both the script and the plot…This theology is highly dodgy and the mythology that packages it is worse.

There’s a discussion and bible study on Constantine from Reel Spirituality and Paul Teusner has a posting about Catholic mythology and Constantine at Slashing through the Information Jungle: Constantine.

Given the prominence of “Evangelical” (read Fundamentalist?) Christians in the USA elections recently it seems strange that the movie seems to be doing better in the European and Asian box office than at home. Perhaps the more secular Europeans can take their religion dressed up in apocalyptic myth more easily than US Christians can?

My observation of things “evangelical” would be that unless the movie came from an “approved” Christian source it has nothing to say to Christians (and besides comics are for kids anyway, not an adult genre).

Check out Neil Gaiman’s blog for some insight into one comic book writers world. Gaiman’s Sandman material is provocative, took seriously the idea that a comic could be a vehicle for exploring spirituality, morality and existential questions. (He’s also written a short story/essay called “The problem of Susan” (Narnia-related) that I’m trying to get hold of). Sojourners had an article about Sandman and other “spiritual” comics a while back. From an essay on Gaiman’s blog,

One of the reasons it (Sandman) is so loved was because it is accessible to everyone. It opened the doors for many like comics, and it became the flagship of Vertigo, a line for mature readers. Finally, not only were comics for everyone, but they were taught in classes and mentioned in magazines. The Sandman is about dreams and the nature of tales, and why, as Neil Gaiman says, “We owe it to each other to tell stories.”

Comics become a vehicle for mythos which might be why they are seen as irrelevant to those tied up in a logos mentality (evangelicals maybe?). They (comics and their transmedia siblings) become, as David Hughes puts it, the new morality plays for our generation. One thing that still permeates the stories is the myth of redemptive violence (see comments here by Andii). See also What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide by Jana Riess.

For more comic-related posts see the Greenflame category : Comics.

I also note IVP have a new book out Comic Book Character : Unleashing the Hero in Us All by David A. Zimmerman (Strangely Dim). The links to the sample sections are broken so I have not idea what it’s like. Anybody read/reviewed it?

Currently listening to : On Her Majesty’s Secret Service from the album Decksandrumsandrockandroll by Propellerheads.

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