One Fan's Opinion: Issue #75

Mon, March 5th, 2007 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Erik Larsen, Columnist

Sigh.

Y'see, there's a reason I didn't want to get into politics. Whenever the discussion goes in that direction, one side invariably starts putting their fingers in the ears and shouts their points at the top of their lungs without allowing any information that contradicts theirs to reach their ears.

And it's pretty sad that it's got to that point.

Years back the standard of the day was "the truth." Reporters were asked to consider if what they were reporting was factually correct.

After Nixon got so beat up over the Watergate scandal, forces behind the scene have made a valiant effort to change that standard to "fair and balanced." Which has come to be interpreted in such a way as to mean if you run a negative story about one party, you need to do the same in regard to the other. Nixon's people had argued that to be "fair and balanced" every story about the Watergate scandal should have been accompanied with a corresponding negative article about what dirty deeds the Democrats were doing. These days, with no "truth" standard, huge conglomerates with their own agendas owning vast chunks of the media and little accountability - it's no wonder that Reporters Without Borders rank the United States at a paltry 53rd place (tied with Botswana, Croatia and Tonga) in their Worldwide press freedom index (Finland, Iceland, Ireland and theNetherlands are tied for first place. The Czech Republic comes in at fifth). It's no wonder so many stories are being squashed and suppressed long before they read our televisions and newspapers.

Certainly there were a few folks that got fired up and read me the riot act in regard to my last column and like most Americans, these individuals seem to have had limited access to much of the information that has passed my desk - and, like many of us do, they pick and choose what to believe. They chose not to believe the Conyers report or chose not to do a Google search and see what went on in Florida in 2000 and how Diebold was or wasn't making votes disappear. A lot of folks simply chose some boob on the radio or TV to nod their head to than to have to do any reading or searching for answers. And who's to say what's real? One guy says something's nonsense and another says it's fact and it's no easy task making sense of it all.

It all gets really messy and really involved and to put together a reasonable guess as to what went on is extremely difficult. People on both sides of the aisle have made compromises that have adversely affected the way we Americans are able to get information and I don't think it really is all for our own good.

But seriously, we're not going to sort this all out. Not you and me. Not here. And it's really not an appropriate place to be doing that. This column is supposed to be about comics. My column last week just happened to touch on where politics and comics converged.

History will sort out who was right and who was wrong. I really don't want to dwell on this topic and longer. We have more important things to discuss.

Like Religion.

Now, religion is a touchy subject as well. Most mainstream comics have steered away from the topic, not wanting to alienate readers of any particular religious persuasion by identifying a particular character as believing one thing or another.

Does Aunt May go to church? She certainly seems like the sort, but as far as I can remember we've never really seen her going there.

What about Superman? His Midwest upbringing likely had him attending services, but what would a man from another planet really believe?

There are, of course, religious comics. EC Comics started out doing Bible stories and those bizarre religious tracts have been circulated for years. The Bible treasury edition from DC illustrated by Nestor Redondo with Joe Kubert is an amazing piece of work and Mike Allred's "Golden Plates," an adaptation of The Book of Mormon, is worth checking out as well.

Will Eisner hasn't shied away from mentioning religion and Frank Miller brought religion into the pages of "Daredevil," but most writers don't touch the subject. For years comic book characters have been painfully evasive when it comes to the subject.

And I wonder why that is.

You see, people with other opinions fascinate me. When somebody thinks a different way and has another opinion, it makes me wonder how they got that way and what helped them form that opinion. I'm not fascinated by women that have big powerful legs and asses, but R. Crumb certainly is and that obsession is part of what makes his world fascinating to me. The chance to try and see the world from somebody else's point of view interests me a great deal. If I can read about something new and experience something new, I'm all about that. Are there readers out there that would stop reading a book because it was revealed that its lead was a practicing Buddhist or Christian or Jew?

Not that I want to be preached to, mind you.

People can get all fired up about religion. If you don't fall into line with this or that you're going here or there and you'll suffer for all eternity.

Here's the thing - I don't know with 100% certainty what the truth is. That being the case, I think it makes a certain amount of sense to hedge your bets. Maybe there's a God that would never allow mankind to be wiped off the face of the Earth and maybe he or she will clean things up if we mess things up, but just to be safe why don't we not pollute the planet to the point where it becomes unlivable. That doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

I think a lot of the virtues of a lot of religions are terrific. I wish that the followers of those religions would adhere to those principles and virtues a little more than they do. Gandhi once said, "I like your Jesus. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Jesus." And he had a point. (Which is not to say all Christians are evil - far from it - but that some people have done evil things in the name of Christianity).

It's hard to know where to draw the line and what will offend, which is why, I suspect, more writers simply avoid the topic altogether.

But these are comics and there will always be those stories that require a nod in one direction or another and there will forever be questions. If Thor or Hercules exist - what about Buddha? What about the Christian God? Do we just dance around this stuff forever? Would it ruin your world to find out that Aunt May is a Protestant? Or that the Kents are Lutherans? Or would that make them more real to you? More believable?

There have certainly been times in my life when I've wanted to believe one thing or another. After my best friend died a long, lingering death from Melanoma, I certainly wanted to think he could have passed on to a "better place," but I can't say with any degree of certainty that that's what went on. It's certainly the easy route to take. To say, "everything's covered in this book" and let it go at that. But I'm not a fellow that likes to take the easy way just because it's the easy way.

I dunno.

I just can't take it all that seriously. Every theory seems to have some holes in it that are insurmountable.

I tackled the subject at one point in the pages of my comic "Savage Dragon." It took place in Savage Dragon #31 and it was collected in the trade "Savage Dragon: A Talk With God."

It was actually my intent to come up with a viable answer that would please everybody (stop laughing). My thought was to come up with a solution that would work for everybody (stop it, I say). I thought it was pretty nifty (c'mon - knock it off).

My solution?

Everybody's right.

That's it.

Your own belief is correct. Whatever it is, that's it for you. When you die, you have an immediate, calm, reassuring feeling that everything you believed is true and you go on to the afterlife that you anticipated. It's all true. All of it. And if you believe something else, that's true.

The idea being that we create our own afterlife. In the case of the Dragon - who met and talked to God - it would mean that he would cease to exist. But that for somebody else, they'd be running around in heaven or hell or limbo or be reincarnated or whatever.

Thing is, this wasn't an answer that pleased a lot of people.

Y'see, there are people that don't want there to be a billion different answers. They want there to be one answer - their answer. They want to be right, and they don't want everybody to be right - they want their "right" to be the right "right."

So much for my efforts.

At least I gave it a shot.

Religion can be a touchy subject, yes, but I think it's an interesting one and I'd welcome more exploration of the subject in the funnybook field. But I don't think much of anything should be a taboo subject.

We can do anything. So, why the hell not? It might make for some interesting reading.

You're okay with that, aren't you?

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