New Comics Explore Moral Questions

For someone always interested in the issues of religion and morality in comic books, today’s visit to the comic book news websites was a definite payday.

First up is a self-contained graphic novel just released earlier this month, Ghostopolis, by Doug TenNapel.  He’s the writer/artist who wrote some of my favorite Christian comics, including Earthboy Jacobus, Tommysaurus Rex, and the out-of-print Creature Tech (possibly the best of the three, despite its dissing the Shroud of Turin as a forgery).  Ghostopolis an exploration of the afterlife, but done in a mythic way such that one can visit the lands of the deceased, in a way one reviewer compared to Oz or Narnia.


Tennapel, a Christian graphic novelist, says:

[I try] to keep the characters and the morality in a place of tension with the reader. I want them to see the morality, then not see it. Sometimes it hits you over the head like a frying pan and sometimes it’s invisible like the wind.

That’s how morality strikes me in real life. There are things that are so obvious that it smacks me in the face. I might see blatant racism or overt charity, preaching over the environment or someone flying a middle finger. Real life doesn’t present moral claims with the level of obtuse subtlety that much of our relativist culture demands.

On the topic of transcendence, he says:

I don’t need a story that tells me life is a ditch filled with worms. I get it. We all lived that. But almost nobody knows, or is even allowed to think about how there is truth, beauty and light to be found in some adventures. I’m not talking about wishful thinking or empty calories. I’m talking about the kind of beauty that exists outside of the perception of the beholder. I hope to get more of that in my stories. I’m not good enough, yet, but each book brings me closer to those ideals.

The whole interview is available here.  It’s hard to reccommend something sight unseen, but this is as close as it gets.

Meanwhile, in the world of super heroes, from D.C. Comics comes T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, written by relative newcomer Nick Spencer.  The first issue of this monthly comic series is due in November, 2010.

thunder agents 

He writes about the book’s premise:

The core premise is really a question: What if you had either made some mistakes in your life or had something happen to you that left you in a place where you were basically at the end of your rope? You were basically out of options and there was no way to fix things and your life was basically ruined and someone came to you and offered you a choice. You can do great things, be absolved of your sins, redeem yourself in the eyes of the world and become a hero, but if you do, you’ll die within a year. And so, that is the central question that is posed to all of these new recruits. And the choice they make is to accept it.

Asked about the characters, he replies:

One is Lightning who has super-speed, but every time he accelerates, it shortens his life. So every time he hits a certain speed, minutes and hours and days are chipping off of his lifespan. And he can see this. He can see the end of his life getting nearer and nearer.

Then we have Dynamo, who has super-strength and invulnerability. But again, every time he uses it, he is gradually eroding his nervous system. He is gradually doing severe damage to his body and he has to be careful how often and for how much duration he uses it.

I find this fascinating precisely because these are the kinds of moral decisions I think we’ll have to start making about transhumanism within the next 50 years or so.

Walking through either an interesting view or an all-too-well-trod footpath (depending on where he arrives), he offers this idea:

One of the things that I wanted to do in this story is explore the line between good and bad. The line between hero and villain is a very blurry one, here, and with the leadership of SPIDER [a terrorist organization], we’re dealing with a very young, idealistic, passionate group of people who want to do good. They’re not villains. They’re just people who have taken to very direct, very violent tactics in order to overthrow what they see as evil government and private entities.

This last bit reminds me of the good Tash-serving soldier from Lewis’ The Last Battle.  It’s good to see people making the distinction between act and intention, but I hope he doesn’t then go on to imply there’s no objective sin involved, or to say that the two sides are morally equivalent. 

I can’t say I reccommend the title yet, but it sounds at least potentially interesting.  Read the rest of the interview here.

Maybe this is some of the generational transformation recently mentioned by Barbara Nicolosi?  Not sure, but we could sure use more of it. 

Thy kingdom come!!


Eric Pavlat is a convert from Unitarian Universalism who entered the Church in 1996. He lives in Maryland with his wife and six children. He is also a perpetually professed Lay Dominican in St. Pius V Pro-Chapter, located in Catonsville, MD. He founded Democrats for Life of Maryland, Inc., in 2004, served one term as president, and stayed on the board of directors until 2010. He now considers himself more a Distributist than anything else. Eric teaches 10th grade honors and special education students in English literature, composition, and grammar at his alma mater, Parkdale High School.

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