Archive for April, 2010
I intended the following post as a discussion on the legitimate allusion to cultural touchstones as a way to ground the story in a familiar idiom. I’ll have to save that for another day. What came out instead is an exploration of form and
Having considered this concept in general (though not with the vampire/Jesus/zombies in specific) for literally years, I’ve known for some time that the piece of art I want to emulate is Shakespeare in Love. The fact that Shakespeare himself drives the plot excites me. I once watched a play along the same lines where some other guy was supposed to be the real force behind Shakespeare’s genius. It was all bollocks. Without the charisma of Shakespeare at the center, it all fell apart. What makes SiL even better is that Will seems almost conscious of the yoke placed upon him by history’s haters and conspiracy theorists. Shakespeare is Shakespeare is Shakespeare is Shakespeare, period, full stop. In Bible Comics, Jesus will be Jesus. (Manny will not, however, just be Manny) I’ve always thought the writer’s block that afflicts the young bard represents the weight of history’s assessment and doubt bearing down on him (I particularly love the souvenir Stratford-upon-Avon mug in his apartment) from which he actually must, you know, become Shakespeare. While most of the rest of the history is pure fantasy, I’m particularly fond of the Hollywood filter through which we see that fantasy: the punter (read: cab driver) with the script, the cash strapped producer, the actor who never drinks while he’s working. I seek to put a similar spin on the new testament and monsters without undermining the essence of either. I also liked Gwyneth Paltrow’s boobs.
The first two Pirates of the Caribbean movies also provide ample
inspiration. I love that Dead Man’s Chest basically steals the plot of Empire Strikes Back. I am mos def not above this kind of theft. I will mostly try to work with material in the public domain when swiping a plot in whole, though.
The movies also loop around into themselves, as the circumstances of his incarceration and imminent roasting resemble those of one of his many explanations for his earlier exile after mutiny in Curse of the Black Pearl. While I don’t plan to remake empire a third time, I do plan to steal plots and images from a whole host of media. At the moment, I have designs on repurposing a Rudyard Kipling plot for part of Jesus:the missing years.
With regard to depictions of the Holy Land and Roman Empire ca. 33 ce, I plan on looking predominantly to Life of Brian (though I admit I haven’t yet read Christopher Moore’s Lamb, which could have a yet greater impact.). The TV news constantly tells that things in the middle east haven’t changed for thousands of years, and I intend to take them at their word. LoB provides a useful model for the Galilee of Jesus’ time viewed through the lens of today, anachronism be damned. I foresee much less graffiti and, at worst, my leader will be called Phallus Maximus.
In a future post I will address more fully the literature and film to which I am writing in reaction, which is voluminous, but the anachronistic example of LoB demands that I reveal one of my pet peeves about the life of Jesus as portrayed today. Jesus lived in a supremely interesting time. “A decree went out from Caesar Augustus”–HELLO?! I find it hard to believe that he wouldn’t have spent time admiring the Pyramids of Egypt, still smooth and gleaming in the hot desert sun, or traveling to the library at Alexandria, and being a tourist at least a little bit. Remember, my Jesus is both entirely God AND entirely human. As the apple in the garden taught us, humans are innately curious.
In addition, there will be hints of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Tron, Hammer Horror, and all sorts of things I don’t even know about yet. I will be posting frequent reviews of the things I read and watch on my massive research list. I might even post the research list itself. Remember, I am not really a student of religion, vampires, zombies, or comic books. I feel like this guy.
Check back often, today I’m watching Lair of the White Worm and maybe a couple of Hammer Horror movies. I also welcome suggestions in the comments!
Whenever I tell someone about the central conceit of Bible Comics, he or she generally thinks for a moment, absorbs the awesomeness of the idea, and then the questions come. We already addressed one in the last post. Q: If Jesus is omnipotent, what would vampires be able to do to him? A: Jesus’ kryptonite is sin and the damnation of souls. However, many other questions follow:
Vampires were only invented in the 19th century, who did Jesus fight?
Does the wine and host destroy vampires and zombies, respectively?
What if a vampire bit a zombie?
What if a zombie bit a vampire?
Are Jesus and Adam half brothers, because God made them both?
Do the Apostles have any special power?
Was Cain the first vampire, as some suggest?
Where does the holy ghost fit in?
What about Isaac, was he half zombie because he was born from a barren womb?
The second group of questions center around heresy, sacrilege, and the damning of my soul (and these glasses, son) to hell. I think the first set of questions is more instructive. There’s maybe a little heresy, but I am really adamant about showing reverence and appreciation for the biblical Jesus while being irreverent in trying to highlight different aspects of his character. We seem to feel so little wonder at the miracles of Jesus. I have always thought that the miracles and teaching of jesus should receive a fairly straIght forward retelling in bible comics. I hope the vampires and zombies will add a context to the miracles that forces people to view jesus with awe, paradoxically emphasizing the full humanity of Jesus. I think the first set of questions illustrates the renewed sense of wonder people feel when hearing the concept. I think the answers to these questions and others will illuminate not just the awesomeness of Jesus, but also the split between Jesus as a pacifist and revolutionary, God and man, simultaneously savior and victim.
I recently read misquoting Jesus and learned in that, of a piece with not visualizing the aesomeness of Jesus, we’ve also blurred the differences between the four gospels. It’s quite clear that there were different points of view presented by Matthew, mark, Luke, and John, and even more points of view presented by the gnostic gospels. In the early Church, there were bitter Clashes over the nature of Jesus, the nature of the trinity, the meaning of the crucifixion, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I’m mindful of these traditions and will exagerrate them as necessary to make my points.
The point of this observation, then, I suppose, is that neither Jesus, vampires, nor zombies have a perfectly matched nemesis with whom to do battle. Van Helsing, while a dedicated and able vampire hunter, does not, per se, have any particular skill or facility that makes him more suited to killing vampires than any of those among us. Anyone with the correct weapon or utensil can destroy the brain of a zombie or remove the head from the rest of the body. (However, in deference to Rule #1: Cardio, I must admit that people who are able to run fast do tend to have an advantage against the zombie horde, though people with a means of transport and/or a weapon have an even larger advantage.)
Against Jesus, Satan wields only temptation. (We’re going to talk at length about how lame the devil actually is in a future post.) In fact, the Devil’s skirmishes with the Lord are limited to 40 day staring contests in the desert where the devil attempts to tempt the lord. So puny are Lucifer’s powers, they are used to the greatest effect on humans. Thinking of Satan, I’m reminded of the SNL skit where Norm McDonald, as a minion, harps on his master’s use of the cliché, “’til the cows come home.” Satan is small. He is at least, but without doubt, the most passive villain in history.
So where does that leave us?
As I will discuss in the very next post, one of the many questions most asked after I reveal the central conceit of my comic is, “But isn’t Jesus a divine being? How would a vampire or zombie present a problem for Jesus?” I must admit, they have a point. Jesus probably doesn’t have anything to personally fear from vampires or zombies. (there are caveats that will be revealed) My assumption is that his blood heals vampires and his brains like the five fishes, can feed thousands of zombies. However, with regard to the humans he is charged with protecting, one can assume, based on Christ’s prophylactic suffering and dying for our sins, that actual damage to our souls is exponentially more punishing to our Lord.
When compared to temptation, the bite of the vampire or zombie presents a much more tangible threat to our souls. If you’re infected, you’re damned to eternal hellfire. While the temptation presented by the devil is undoubtedly much more widespread, and perhaps more insidious on a macro level, the damage to the soul comes in gradations and is not necessarily fatal. The relationship is not unlike that between a terrorist attack versus heart disease. Everyone knows religious fundamentalists worry about the former far more than the latter. If Jesus is their homeboy, we must be forced to assume that an infectious bite hurts Jesus more than those who give in to temptation.
I expect many (a relative term, I must admit) of you have already fallen back on your knowledge of super heroes to potentially call “Bullshit!”
As my knowledge of superman goes no further than Christopher Reeve and the hall of justice and I haven’t even seen Heath Ledger’s Joker, I can’t speak to your objections with any authority. However, I will note that Jesus forms the basis for comic book super heroes who routinely perform what we would otherwise call miracles. In addition, in theory, the more closely matched heroes and villains are the more compelling their struggle.
Use the force Luke.
Welcome to biblecomix.com. Why Bible Comics? That’s what this blog was started to explain. Over the course of the next indeterminate period of time, I and my compadres will attempt, through word and picture, to give witness to the Living Word of Jesus Christ. Just kidding. The purpose of this blog is to explore in sometimes excruciating detail the life of Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter/Zombie Killer/Kung Fu Master/King/Vagabond.
We’ll get to all that. First things first. The larger aim of this blog is to document the creation and evolution of a comic concept driven not just by an artistic vision, but by broader theological questions, explorations of the theory of what constitutes legitimate monster fiction, conversations about the nature of Jesus and monsters in our world, debunking creationism while at the same time honoring it as totally cool, and reverse engineering Jesus using a not necessarily representative sampling of all the heroes endowed with Messianic qualities, among many, many other things.
The genesis of this concept is a thought experiment I’ve considered for quite sometime. If the followers of Jesus seek salvation by drinking his blood and eating his flesh, and vampires and zombies infect by drinking the blood and eating the flesh of their victims, respectively, what would happen if a vampire and/or zombie were to drink and/or eat of the blood and/or flesh of Jesus? The thought experiment has been around for sometime, but, as far as rudimentary googling has the capacity to reveal, it hasn’t really been fleshed out (please, pardon the pun). The fact that it has not been fleshed out (an assertion in which I am tentatively confident, based on the aforementioned Google search) and that it has not become a familiar trope of popular monster fiction (a fact of which I am virtually certain) renders the implications of this experiment all the more exciting.
I find this so exciting because this idea sets up a profoundly beautiful symmetry between the savior of humanity and some of our most feared monster creations. Not to wax melodramatic, but this symmetry actually humbles me. I think the fact that zombies, vampires, and the Jesus were all conceived (immaculately or otherwise, and yes, as an erstwhile Catholic, I am well aware that it was mother Mary who was conceived immaculately, that is, without original sin, another key element that will be addressed in some detail by the comic and this blog) independently of the other, but the method of damnation, as it were, of the first two, taken as a whole, represents a perfect juxtaposition of the means of salvation offered by the third is a testament to how deeply influenced we are by Christian theology. The fact that this juxtaposition is not widely recognized demonstrates how little we acknowledge how deeply weird and, frankly, creepy, our relationship to Jesus is.