'B.C.' SERVES UP CONTROVERSY FOR EASTER DINNER
One hardly thinks of the venerable "B.C." comic strip by Johnny Hart as one that will rock the boat. But Sunday's comic strip, which put aside caveman observational humor in favor of religious sentiment, did just that.
The strip quoted the last words of Jesus as the lights of the menorah being extinguished, one by one, before finally burning down to a cross.
Critics, including the Jewish Defense League, have charged that Hart is promoting "Replacement Theology," the notion that Christianity has supplanted and replaced Judaism. The JDL called for newspaper readers to ask the comic strip be pulled from Sunday's paper.
Hart released a statement about the strip through the Creators Syndicate Web site:
"The true purpose of Christmas and Easter is to honor a man. The same man, Jesus. They are not designated holidays to honor red-suited Santas or egg-laden bunnies. Yet, whenever I try to honor this man of men, for whom these days are set aside, hackles go up.
"True Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah, I am one of them.
"The God of Judaism and the God of Christianity is the same, and the people of Israel are His chosen people, and Jesus is one of them.
"The first Christians were all Jews. The olive tree is the symbol of Israel, and by God's grace and the work of the Apostle Paul, all non-Jewish people who believe as I do are grafted into the olive tree. Therefore, I, too, am a Jew. One who believes that the Jewish Messiah is King of kings, Lord of lords and the savior of all mankind.
"The Torah, the law of the Old Testament demanded death as payment for sin: 'Without the shedding of blood there is no redemption of sin.' But God in his gracious mercy allowed animal sacrificial substitution for atonement.
"Then, one starry night, along came Jesus, Emmanuel (God with us). His birth alone fulfilled (four) Old Testament prophecies of the 'Law and the Prophets' from the tribe of Judas (Gen. 49:10) of the House of David (Isa. 11:1), born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), in Bethlehem of Judea (Micah 5:2).
"Jesus lived a sinless life for 33 years and dwelt among us. He never missed a Sabbath, a holy day or a feast. He was more than a good Jew, he was a rabbi, teaching in the synagogue, and a healer of multitudes.
'I came not to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them,' Jesus said. And fulfill them he did. He became the willing substitutionary sacrifice once for all time, past, present and future. He purchased a pardon for all people: salvation for all who believe, and cleansed them of all unrighteousness with the shedding of His own blood on Calvary's cross.
"Jesus was called 'the Light of the World.'
"The menorah, with its seven candles, to Jesus and the Jews, was symbolic and emblematic of the many facets of Jewish life and worship.
"It was because of the mystical marvel of 7's -- seven candlesticks, seven utterances from the cross -- that I chose the menorah as part of the symbolism for my Easter strip:
"The LIGHT of the WORLD being slowly extinguished candle by candle with each utterance, His life blood flowing downward leading us into an empty tomb.
"The cross, the tomb, the blood of the lamb, the wine, the bread of life: unleavened (without sin), striped and pierced.
"Symbols both of Passover and Resurrection: VICTORY OVER DEATH!
"The message of Passover was immunity from death through the blood of the lamb. The message of Easter -- the same. Jesus was called 'the Lamb of God.'
"I regret if some people misunderstood the strip, and it hurt their feelings. I abhor the so-called 'Replacement Theology.' This is a holy week for both Christians and Jews, and my intent, as always, was to pay tribute to both."
COLLEEN DORAN TALKS SEXY (COMICS)
For comic professionals considering working with family members, here's a cautionary tale from "A Distant Soil" creator Colleen Doran, who employs her mother as her assistant.
"I confess that there are a couple of times where I opted to do certain pages without any help from Mom!" Doran posted Thursday at Comicon.com's news message board. "Last issue there was a gay love scene. I was so nervous about it, I didn't even let Mom see it until the book was published! That week, I had dinner with my parents and they teased me mercilessly about it! Mom hadn't even known there was a page in that issue she hadn't worked on.
"Sometimes Mom makes jokes, and comments about the anatomy. She's pretty cool about it all. In fact, I am probably more nervous about showing it to her than she is about seeing it!
"The whole family has had some good laughs about the content of my book.
"Once, some years back, I actually did do the illustrations for an erotic graphic novel. Mom NEVER saw than one, and whenever she would walk in my studio, I would fling myself across the art on the drawing board. It was a pretty funny situation!
"I have never been more embarrassed in my life than when I had to do the naughty graphic novel! I was originally hired to do one story, in black and white, which was very erotic, but kind of sweet. You know, young romance and all that in the Victorian era, everyone releases inhibitions, lots of pretty naked drawings, blah blah. No problem, I had fun and it turned out to be one of my best art jobs, the kind I can never show my parents.
"After that pleasant experience, the company offered me another story. I agreed and signed the contract, sight unseen. What a big mistake! It was way more explicit and way too, uh, well, off kilter for my tastes. I begged to be let out of the contract, but no go! I was stuck! So, I, er, screwed up my courage and went to. Hated the whole thing! Not only did I do a lousy job, but I found myself unable to draw some of the bits I was supposed to draw. It's not like I had any laying around the house. If you know what I mean.
"So it takes me nearly two weeks to paint this dog, all of which I spent flinging myself across the drawing board lest Mummy get an eyeful. Finally, after days of procrastination, I force myself to finally finish the thing, waaaaay past deadline. I spend all night trying to do the job and there's a knock on my door about 10 a.m. after I'd spent a sleepless night trying to bring this thing to a climax.
"Who would it be? A friend of mine and he's brought his young niece! They'd like to see my studio! YAAAGHHH!! I had dragged the drawing board into the living room and popped some erotic videos in the VCR to get in the mood and a 12 year old girl shows up to see a real professional at work! I nearly broke some vital body parts trying to cover up all the evidence of my depravity.
"This was my last foray into adult material and now that I've destroyed my reputation as a decent woman, I can never marry a senator.
"Oh well, I needed the money at the time.
"Funny thing is, the original art was bought by the mother of a very prominent film director to put in her guest room as a 'marital aid for young couples.' Neil Gaiman took a gander at the story I painted and commented that it looked like I was reluctant to render the naughty bits, which was true, but I also didn't have a model hanging about, so what's a girl to do? The videos weren't that erotic!
"Anyway, now that my sordid past is all out in the open, no one can use it for blackmail."
Don't think that Doran is a prude, though. She expanded on what she likes and dislikes about such fare.
"I don't mind erotica if there's a decent story to go along with it, or if there's a romantic atmosphere, but most is just gross.
"The story I had to do involved a young girl coming on to her obese, elderly stepfather. I was completely disgusted. I changed some elements of the tale, including what went on on-panel and what went on off-panel, much to the consternation of the editor. Too bad.
"Naturally, I made the stepfather much handsomer than described in the script and I drew the girl to look much older. It was the only way I could stomach the material. I also avoided close-ups of all the bits. Geez.
"If there was good erotica aimed at women readers I bet it would sell, but you can't convince most American comics companies to publish anything for women, so why bother to try! I hear there are romance graphic novels being produced for American publishers, but only for sale overseas! Isn't that a hoot!
"Anyway, I'm with you on this subject. The X-rated stuff is amusing for about two pages. I can't imagine having to do it full time.
"Actually, I think one of the sexiest things I've ever seen in a comic book was drawn by Frank Miller in an issue of 'Ronin' (the scene where the 'Ronin' seduces the woman just by running his hand along her arm!) Now THAT was pretty hot stuff. Very tasteful, gracefully drawn.
"I remember thinking a guy who can draw a scene like that must be the kind of guy who knows what women like. Lynn Varley is a lucky woman."
YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SPIDER-GIRL
THE LETTER THAT SAVED A COMIC
When Marvel Comics announced that it had changed its mind, and would not be canceling "Spider-Girl," they cited the outpouring of support from fans, including one letter in particular that reached Marvel's head, Bill Jemas.
On Wednesday, the company posted the letter on their Spider-Man message board:
"I'm writing to you because I'm really upset that you guys are canceling Spider-Girl. My dad told me yesterday. I don't know why you are doing this. May is such a real character that she could be in my geometry class. I can relate to her, she's got normal problems just like me, especially boy problems. Most comics are all macho stuff or all the girls are like half-naked all the time. Also it's cool because me and my dad actually talk about May and talk about what's going on in the comic. He fills me in a lot about Peter and MJ's past. She's a great role model and I hope you guys change your mind and keep Spider-Girl alive.
"P.S. My dad is going to send you a letter too."
The campaign to save "Spider-Girl" has paid off with another dividend for series fans: According to series writer Tom DeFalco, a trade paperback collecting issues #0-8 of the series is planned for a November release.