I did it for the Chicks, man.

§ October 26th, 2016 § Filed under obituary, pal plugging, self-promotion § 7 Comments

hitherechickSo, about Jack Chick. On one hand, he seemed to be an always-present part of the weirdo comics landscape …his little religious funnybook pamphlets were just some strange thing we’d come across once in a while, in a variety of circumstances. I’d get them with Halloween candy as a kid. I’d see ’em at the local church neighbors attended. A neighbor of another friend “witnessing” to me (at me?) would press one into my hands. Some years back, my old high school friend and former coworker Rob would actively collect them, and a couple of his spares he’d pass along to me.

Nobody I knew took them very seriously. Well, maybe that one friend’s neighbor. But they were all amusing in some dark fashion…little morality tales of horror and death, all footnoted with Bible verses, where “bad” people were punished for doing shitty things to their fellow humans, and for not accepting the tenets of Chick’s particular interpretation of Christianity. That one booklet about the dangers of role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons is a highlight, much parodied and mocked over the years.

Some of the images still stick with me…the “lake of fire” that I’m pretty sure was used and reused in many of Chick’s comics. The construction worker trapped in hell, wondering if he’d get to see his friends again, and being told he’d be alone forever. The dead fella being forced to watch all the sins he committed in life, aghast that he’d have to watch himself tell the filthiest joke. “No, not that joke, not here!” Usually the comics were crudely arranged and drawn, but there was that occasional moment of frisson achieved, sometimes more by accident than by design, but still there.

On the other hand, beyond the amusement value, mixed in with the sporadic positive religious message, were messages that were anti-gay, anti-science, anti-Catholic, anti-anything Jack Chick personally didn’t care for. That undermines the pop-culture jocularity a bit. True, these were in the usual ham-fisted style and thus hard to treat seriously at face value (though I know some folks did), but it still revealed the ugly undercurrent of ignorance. Even saying that would make me one of those sinners in these comics, shouting and sweating and exclaiming my bad points of view, while the even-tempered hero calmly explains why I’m wrong and surely going to hell.

Still, I felt that I should note Jack Chick’s passing. Something…unique, shall we say, has gone from the comics world, what could be described as an odd sort of “outsider” art aside from the fact that Chick’s tracts are probably some of the most widely-read pieces of the comics artform ever.

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In other news: pal Tim, who wrote this lengthy essay that you should read if you haven’t already, has published his follow-up which I think you should read as well. Tim’s gettin’ back into the old blogging game somethin’ fierce, and if you’d like to help him out, he’s got one of those Patreons that you can throw some simoleons at if you’ve got a couple to spare.

I’ll be contributing myself in the next couple of weeks, as soon as I get through a month with the quarterly sales tax payment, car stuff, plus other big expenses, and by total coincidence here’s a link to my own Patreon.

7 Responses to “I did it for the Chicks, man.”

  • Rich Handley says:

    It’s a sad thing when someone dies, even someone we wouldn’t necessarily want to know. Still, although his work will likely be remembered long after his death, I believe Jack Chick was a hatemonger, so it’s difficult to feel bad about his passing. My condolences go out to his family… but I can’t help but feel, “Well, there’s one less gay-bashing, Bible-thumping, ignorant nutjob out there condemning others’ lifestyles now.” Chick would probably say I’m going to Hell for that, but I don’t spend any time worrying about going to fictional places. I’m also not scared of ending up in/on Narnia, Bizarro World, or Mordor.

  • Thom H. says:

    I remember seeing a big spinner rack full of Chick tracts at a local “alternative culture” store many years ago. The collector in me really wanted them all, but after reading half a dozen they got pretty repetitive. And even though I did my best to regard them ironically, the anti-everybody messages became grating.

    I appreciate that he dedicated his life to something he believed in. Too bad it was something so narrow minded and hateful. I doubt he was a very happy person, so I hope dying has afforded him some peace.

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Too bad. I know a lot of people consider Jack Chick to have been a wrong-headed person. But I think he was part of an older, weirder, more local time in America.

    Reminds me of step-dad (um, bear with me). In the 1960s, he was in a rock band and they put it a single that hit #1 in Des Moines and Kansas City, and was also highly-rated in some other Midwest cities. Yes, in those days there were local charts, and while some songs went nation-wide, many didn’t.

    Or when I visited New Orleans, and I learned about how they’re restoring the streetcars. But all the restoration work has to be done locally, because the old tracks and vehicles are different than how it was done in any other city and nobody else has any expertise in the way N.O. requires.

    I think we’ve lost a lot of that–where local folks would have their own ways, their own beliefs, their own raw music and religion and cuisine and even streetcars and so forth. So different than today’s nationwide, or even global, smoothly-produced, test-marketed culture. I think Jack Chick was a vestige of that older time.

  • Jack says:

    When I was growing up in small town West Virginia, the local (and only, this was a SMALL town) family doctor used to have his waiting room buried in Chick tracts. Being a kid who still went to church and who read comics, they’d draw my eye, but even as a ten year old, I found them to be absurdly over the top in term of fire and brimstone preaching.

    (An aside: I knew fire and brimstone preaching. My paternal grandfather was a Baptist preacher, in a town where if you went to a different Christian church, you were Going Straight To Hell. He passed away before the first Catholic church opened in the country, but he would have been first to decry from the pulpit that those folks were going straight to hell.)

    I moved away from that town when I was eleven and never looked back, so it wasn’t until I fell into the wider comics internet back in the oughts that I even knew who did those damn comics. I used to pick through sites that had them trying to find Chick Tracts I’d read in that doctor’s office, and I’m pretty sure the one with the construction worker you mention, Mike, was one of them. But oddly enough, it wasn’t until just now that I realized precisely what having so many of those tracts around his office said about what that small town doctor really believed.

    You’d think I’d figured that out sooner.

  • Jack says:

    The first Catholic church in the COUNTY, that is. I ain’t THAT old!

  • kiwijohn says:

    Those Jack Chick tracts even made it down here to New Zealand! I have no idea of the how or why though.
    That said, I first saw them in the small library at the Baptist Church that supported the Boys’ Brigade Company I went to in the early 1980s, in a small (40,00ish) NZ town.

  • Eric says:

    I remember about 3 years ago I was managing the Rancho Cucmonga Aaron Brothers. A older gentleman in his 80’s always came in to buy micron ink pens. His son who often came in with him told me about his famous father. ” do you know who this gentleman is. This is Jack Chick. I was impressed because he was a known recluse. He seemed pleasant, but I had nothing nice to say. so I did not say much besides the regular pleasantries. Meeting the world’s most published cartoonist is a odd experience.