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Comics A.M. | Three of Zunar’s assistants arrested

Legal

Legal

Legal | Three assistants of the Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar were arrested last week for selling his books. They were set up near the Putrajaya courthouse, where opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is on trial for sodomy, a charge Ibrahim claims is politically motivated. In a press release, Zunar said the three assistants were “investigated under The Sedition Act, Penal Code and Printing and Press Act” and released on bail. It has only been a month since a Malaysian appeals court overturned a government ban on two of Zunar’s books. [Cartoonists Rights Network International]

Creators | Garry Trudeau discusses his portrayals of different presidents, and politics in general, in Doonesbury and Alpha House. [The New York Times]

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Texas pastor wants vampire books removed from local library

Vampire Knight 1A Texas minister wants the local public library to remove all books from its young-adult section that deal with supernatural romance, a genre that includes the Vampire Knight manga as well as the Twilight and House of Night novels.

According to the Dayton News, Phillip Missick, pastor of All Saints Tabernacle in Cleveland, Texas, addressed the city council during the public comment period of its Aug. 12 meeting. He also submitted a petition, signed by a number of local ministers, that he had circulated at the Cleveland Ministerial Alliance. He requested that the “occultic and demonic room be shut down, and these books be purged from the shelves, and that public funds would no longer be used to purchase such material, or at least require parents to check them out for their children.” However, at least two of the ministers who signed the petition have since backed off from it.

Missick was apparently referring to the Teen Room of the Austin Memorial Library, which, he states, contains 75 books about the occult, as well as “a demonic stuffed doll and a witch’s hat” (actually Dobby and the Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter books). He seems to be particularly concerned with books about vampires, or at least, that’s what local media have picked up on.

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Comics A.M. | Stan Lee greeted in Sydney with ‘Captain Australia’ shield

Stan Lee (via The Daily Telegraph)

Stan Lee (via The Daily Telegraph)

Creators | Stan Lee arrived at Sydney Airport for the Supanova Pop Culture Expo and was immediately presented with a “Captain Australia” shield, colored gold and green rather than red and blue. The Supanova Pop Culture Expo kicked off today, and continues through Sunday. [The Daily Telegraph]

Comics | Hussain Al-Shiblawi says he doesn’t usually mind the pamphlets he regularly receives from the local Bible Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia; even though he’s Muslim, he finds them inspirational. But he takes strong exception to the latest one, a Jack Chick tract titled Unforgiven, which claims that all Muslims are going to hell. The pastor, who declined to go on camera, says his church doesn’t create the pamphlets, it just distributes them, but he’s willing to meet with Al-Shiblawi to discuss the comic. [WDBJ News]

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Comics A.M. | ‘The 99′ creator questions reports of Saudi ban

The 99

The 99

Legal | The creator of the Islamic superhero comic The 99 says he hasn’t been officially notified of a reported ban of the animated adaptation of his comic in Saudi Arabia. “Nobody ever contacted me, nobody ever asked me any questions,” Naif Al Mutawa says. There have been numerous Twitter campaigns against me for a while now and so for me it’s not new. Maybe it is true this time, but I find it very difficult to believe that a group as influential and high profile as them [Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta] wouldn’t recognize the good that The 99 has done for Muslims around the world.” He adds that the comic has been available in Saudi Arabia for seven years, while the cartoon has been airing for two and a half years, making the timing of a ban “a bit weird.” [Gulf Business]

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Saudi Arabia bans ‘The 99′ animated series

the99The government of Saudi Arabia has banned the animated adaptation of the comic The 99, saying its representations of Allah’s names and attributes cannot be tolerated.

Based on Islamic concepts but intended by creator Naif Al-Mutawa to promote universal values, the comic features 99 ordinary teenagers and adults from across the globe who become imbued with magical powers. The title and premise refers to the 99 names and attributes of Allah.

According to Dubai’s Gulf News, Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta issued its decision in response to a complaint about the series’ broadcast on the Saudi-owned television channel MBC3.

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Washington Times frets about Muslim, ‘eerie’ gay superheroes

ms marvel1It’s little surprise that the editorial board of the conservative Washington Times didn’t embrace the announcement that the new Ms. Marvel is a 16-year-old Muslim from New Jersey, but the newspaper’s actual response is a bit … bewildering. One might even describe it as eerie.

Beginning a Sunday editorial with a declaration that “diversity and quotas are more important than dispatching evil” — because, as we all know, heroes can’t be diverse and fight villains! — the writer engages in a little concern trolling, warning that Ms. Marvel, and by extension Marvel, will have to be careful not to anger “militant Islam” if there’s any hope for newsstand sales in Muslim nations. Of course we’re told in the very next paragraph that, “Ms. Marvel probably won’t appear in comic books in Saudi Arabia, anyway,” which apparently takes care of that problem.

Once we slog through the bumbling writing and odd aside involving Secretary of State Kerry, however, we arrive at the crux of the Washington Times’ argument, such as it is: that diversity is strange and frightening.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Russell & Wheeler on ‘God Is Disappointed in You’

God Is Disappointed In You

God Is Disappointed In You

I happen to be a person of faith who also has a sense of humor. As a result, the effort by writer Mark Russell and cartoonist Shannon Wheeler to accurately, yet comically, condense the Bible, God Is Disappointed in You, amused the hell out of me. In Catholic high school, I once offended several people by characterizing a newly unveiled statue of Christ (hands outstretched blessing a crowd) as showing the son of God opting for a “basketball zone defense.”

Fortunately Russell and Wheeler, are far superior at comedy (and religious scholarship) than I have ever been. The book clicked with me from the opening pages. While it will not be released until August, you can preorder it now from Top Shelf.

Tim O’Shea: First question goes to Shannon, thanks to his part of the book dedication. Just to clarify: In the dedication, in which both you and your mom were glad you were not struck by lightning, you also thank Patricia, who survived a lightning hit. I have to hear the story about that.

Shannon Wheeler: My mom manages to be in the middle of all sorts of zeitgeists. Elvis played at her high school. When I was little we went to see Jim Jones preach (before Guyana). She managed to stop by the Koresh compound mid-standoff (she bought me a novelty Frisbee from a roadside vendor). She seems to be at the right place, or wrong place, at the right, or wrong, time. In college she was hit by lightning. It knocked the shoes off her feet and threw her into a ditch. She couldn’t move her legs. A couple of co-eds carried her back to her dorm. The doctor told her to take a warm bath and call back if the feeling didn’t return. Over the next couple hours everything returned to normal. She said it was “tingly” — the same as when your foot falls asleep. She had a circular carbon mark on her side for a bit. Some Native Americans believe that being hit by lightning makes you a shaman. She tells the story like it was no big deal.

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Is the Hulk Catholic? Definitely, says the Vatican newspaper

incredible hulk319As Man of Steel, with its spiritual themes, soars toward a $590 million worldwide box-office haul, the Vatican’s official newspaper has turned its attention to the faiths of other prominent superheroes, asking in the headline, “Is the Hulk Catholic?”

The answer, according to L’Osservatore Romano writer Gaetano Vallini, is yes, and he points to the wedding of Bruce Banner and Betty Ross as the most concrete evidence of this. “Bruce Banner, the incredible green man, in fact married his beloved Betty Ross in a church and a Catholic priest presided at the ceremony,” he writes in the full-page article. “There are other indications dispersed among the hundreds of comic strips dedicated to him that are said to unequivocally reveal his faith.”

Of course, Adherents.com, the go-to source for the religious affiliations of comic-book characters (and other figures, both real and fictional), lists the Hulk as a lapsed Catholic, but the website appears preoccupied with the Ultimate and live-action TV versions of the character. A final determination may require Pope Francis to intercede.

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‘Bizarro’ complaints draw two wildly different responses

bizarro-divine interventionAlthough at least one newspaper editor was quick to apologize for Monday’s installment of Bizarro, cartoonist Dan Piraro took a far less conciliatory tone in response to a reader complaint.

The one-panel cartoon, titled “Divine Intervention,” depicts a trio of angels confronting God with a list of how his behavior affects others, ending with, “… and then there was the weekend bender when you reached rock bottom and created man.” It’s not the stuff of such anodyne comics-page mainstays as Family Circus or Garfield, but it hardly seems offensive.

Yet the editor of the Paris, Tennessee, Post-Intelligencer donned sackcloth and ashes in reaction to a phone call from a displeased reader. “We won’t repeat its irreverent humor, accusing God is sinning — let’s just say we were horrified that we didn’t pay attention to it in advance, when we should have refused to publish it,” states the editor’s note in Wednesday’s paper. “We apologize to all our readers offended by this particular comic strip. And we’ll try to do a better job of ensuring it doesn’t happen again.”

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Man of faith dons Man of Tomorrow for children’s Mass

Catholic priest Alvarez wears a robe with an image of cartoon character Superman during a mass at Ojo de Agua church in Saltillo

Father Humberto Alvarez isn’t a typical Catholic priest. Every Sunday, the 40-year-old dons a tunic emblazoned with images of Superman, Batman and Spider-Man, and, armed with a Super Soaker loaded with holy water, delivers a special Mass to the children of Saltillo, Mexico.

It’s an unconventional approach, but one that appears to work, drawing parishioners young and old to the service. Alvarez told Zocalo magazine, that he embraced the superheroes because, “We talk about attitudes of struggle and effort to achieve overcome fears, find peace and forgiveness.” He began using the water gun to bless the congregation following a series of fatal shootings in Saltillo.

While not everyone agrees with Alvarez’s tactics, he’s undaunted, saying, “Jesus was different and always sought justice, we must follow his example.”

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The Pope quits, and comics react

These days, it doesn’t take long between a news story breaking and a couple of comics artists posting some sketches in reaction. Here’s a couple that have shown up from members of the sketch blog Drawbridge, 2000AD mainstay Simon Fraser and Tim “Fahrenheit 451” Hamilton. Fraser isn’t the first comic artist to point how just how downright … Emperor Palpatine-like … Pope Benedict XVI had a habit of looking. To Hamilton, however, it seems like just another occasion to display his ongoing preoccupation with Moebius-esque conical headgear.

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, it’s HeroesCon; civil liberties group defends The Oatmeal creator

HeroesCon

Conventions | Creative director Rico Renzi discusses HeroesCon, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this weekend with a three-day event that’s experienced a spike in advance ticket sales: “Stan Lee’s attendance to this year’s show has definitely caused a spike in advance ticket sales from what I can tell. I honestly like the show at just the size it is; it’s just right. I used to hop on a bus from Baltimore to go the NYCC and I loved it for the first couple years. It just got too big for me too enjoy it, you couldn’t walk around without rubbing up against strangers. It’s a great alternative to San Diego now I guess. If you’re looking for a pure comic book show though, HeroesCon is where it’s at.” In addition to Lee, this year’s guests include Neal Adams, Mark Bagley, Cliff Chiang, Frank Cho, Becky Cloonan, Geof Darrow, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Evan Dorkin, Tommy Lee Edwards, Matt Fraction, Francesco Francavilla, Jaime Hernandez, Dave Johnson, Jeff Lemire, Paul Levitz, Mike Mignola, George Perez, Louise Simonson, Walt Simonson, Scott Snyder and Bernie Wrightson. [The Comics Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | Comics rebound in 2011 while graphic novels slump

Justice League #4

Publishing | John Jackson Miller takes apart the December sales numbers and finds that while comics were up for the month, graphic novel sales fell just enough to prevent the direct market from having its first up year since 2008. In fact, trades are down 16 percent from December 2010, and Miller spends some time discussing why that might be — and why next year might be different. [The Comichron]

Publishing | Houghton Mifflin has high hopes for Are You My Mother?, the new graphic novel from Fun Home author Alison Bechdel: The publisher plans a first printing of 100,000 copies. [Publishers Weekly]

Retailing | Diamond’s Retailer Summit will be held the two days before the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, with attendees receiving free admission to the April 13-15 convention. [ICv2]

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Evangelicals weigh in on Superman’s underpants

RIP

There are a lot of places where I’d expect commentary about Superman’s costume changes for the New 52 and the Man of Steel movie. A blog for evangelical Christian leadership wasn’t one of them.

What I love about it is that it’s not a moralistic rail against pop culture a la the Jeff Lamb/Action Comics kerfuffle, but a fannish lament much like the ones we’ve seen on most comics and movie blogs. Pastor and author Skye Jethani calls it a “blasphemy against my childhood hero,” but the tone of his article is actually pretty thoughtful and balanced. In the end he decides to judge Man of Steel on its storytelling rather than Superman’s Underoos.

He also, appropriately for his blog, pulls some leadership lessons from the missing trunks: the power of symbolism, generational differences, compromise, and how much influence leaders (religious, political, or Warner Bros.) actually have. The piece is a fascinating and unexpectedly comfortable blending of religion and pop culture.

Grant Morrison clarifies that, yes, ‘GD’ is a grunt, not a blasphemy [Updated]

It looks as if The Great “GD” Controversy has ended as quickly as it began, with Action Comics writer Grant Morrison assuring anyone concerned that Superman didn’t utter a blasphemy in the first issue of the DC Comics series.

“It should go without saying that the offending panel and caption, a mere ‘GD’, is a sound effect grunt – to suggest Superman’s breath being forced through gritted teeth – much like ‘DHH’, ‘GNUHH’ or the many others used throughout this book and in general in the comics business,” Morrison said in a statement posted this morning on DC’s Source blog. “It’s not in any way representative of God or a curse.”

The clarification may satisfy Jeff Lamb, owner of The Comic Conspiracy in Asheboro, North Carolina, who on Thursday announced a boycott of Action Comics and all Morrison titles after he interpreted “GD” — see the offending panel below — to mean the Man of Steel was taking God’s name in vain. Labeling Morrison as “a liberal Scottish schmuck,” he called the first issue of Action “a slap in the face to Superman, Christians and Superman creators Siegel and Shuster!!” Lamb announced his intention to cancel orders for the second issue of the series, writing on his store’s Facebook page that, “I ask my customers to understand as best they can. I understand that it’s only a comic and it’s not the real world, but I feel that as a Christian I have to draw the line somewhere.”

But earlier this morning, Lamb indicated that a statement from Morrison could make the whole problem go away. “The bottom line is that nobody but Grant Morrison knows the TRUE intent behind the GD letters. This issue could be easily resolved by a simple post from either Mr. Morrison or the editors at DC Comics,” he wrote on Facebook, adding, “I will say that this was NOT a publicity stunt. I will be back later in the day for a final, and I do mean final, rebuttal. (Unless of course we hear from Grant or DC) As of now though, all things considered … the boycott stands.”

Jeff Lamb, the ball’s in your court.

Update: Lamb has responded to Morrison’s explanation, writing on The Comic Conspiracy Facebook page: “Thank you Grant Morrison. The boycott is lifted. Once again my apologies to Grant for the unwarranted name calling. Thank you to those who supported my stance. To those who didn’t… I respect your opinions. To those who only posted to bash Christians and people with opinions different from yours … grow up and get a life.”

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