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A demon′s nightmare according to Jack Chick

Jack Chick is by far the most prolific and well-known author in comic book history. Its 950,000,000 of self-published and finally distributed copies made him to be part of the pantheon of the early underground comic, the permanent exhibition of American culture at the Smithsonian Institute and the first place in the ranking of most read theologians in the world according to The Guardian. Many of our most civilized neighbors see him as a monster but the truth is that the merit is not exclusively own by him. Actually Jack Chick invested in these comics only $800 of a personal loan in 1960; the rest of the empire named Chick Publications has been supported by thousands of customers, readers and distributors, actually individuals hard to distinguish from any of us.

Article by Pablo Fernández from Barcelona on Tuesday, January 14th 2020 ·.·★ Reading takes 22 minutes or 4338 words.

Every story that expect to drive the audience requires an attainable goal, a recognizable truth as a reference and, of course, a good dose of imagination. The comic titled ′A Demon′s Nightmare′ (1962) has everything it needs to fit that category. It was the first step that Jack Chick followed in his lonely adventure against the world, just after he announced his break with the evangelical churches in his first comic entitled ′Why No revival? ( 1961). David Daniels himself, now head of Chick Publications, confirms that Jack Chick was not an active member of any church, practically since that first day in which some of them denied him their support. My goal today is to comment on the aforementioned second comic titled ′A Demon′s Nightmare′ in particular, but if you don′t mind, let′s identify first the context in which it was published.

His training between pencils, posters and dramatic art

Jack Chick was born into a family of Catholic tradition on April 13, 1924.He did it in Los Angeles downtown, California, which is the city in which he lived until his death on October 23, 2016. All we know of his childhood speaks of a sickly, shy and fond of warplanes drawings. When he turned five, the country was sinking into the longest, deepest and most widespread economic crisis of the 20th century. Jack showed himself to others as a child dominated by envy, especially from the displays of affection his sister Doris received. His father, Thomas Chick, had a business as a poster artist who managed to conserve with a lot of effort and that helped to give some comfort to the family. This, however, was not enough to calm Jack′s dissatisfied character, who first reproached the lack of attention he received when his father worked and later reproached him for overworking when he decided to start working with him.

Jack Chick become popular soon at school because of his evil and hostile character according to his own testimony. The Great Depression had left few amusements available and the streets of Los Angeles were then full of small clandestine entertainments, which later became known as ′Tijuana Bibles.′ Despite what was believed then, the production of those small comics was probably not based in Mexico but in the United States of America. These collectible pocket cartoons were printed thanks to the little vigilance in the night shifts, were signed with pseudonyms of authors still unknown as ′Mr. Prolific and had a high explicit, pornographic content. The politically incorrect, racist and misogynist content of those small comics it′s annoying now, but it was something that aroused interest in the audience during that time. To better satirize the news of his time, they violated all kinds of copyrights as Jack Chick will later do. They were, however, easy to buy in bowling alleys, hairdressers or even at the hands of some boy selling newspapers at a price of approximately 20 cents.

Everything around the ′Tijuana Bibles′ reminds the ′Chick Tracts′: its price, its inks, its number of pages or its stapled binding. His famous screen drawing in ′This was your life!′ appears in at least six ′Tijuana Bibles′ about Ella Cinders, Toots and Casper or Wimpy and all of them have in common that a large screen hides something shameful. You could find copies of ′Tijuana Bibles left in any bar, bus stop or phone booth, they were collectible and for many children of their time these comics were the first school in the world of sexuality.

It is believed that Joe Shuster collaborated as an artist in some of these anonymous pocket comics before creating Superman. There is no doubt in any case that these comics were very important during the learning period of many future comic book authors such as Jack Chick, Will Eisner or Robert Crumb. It was the Comic&primes Golden Age. The comic was also a very elaborate ′storyboard′, the previous step before the filming of a movie. Television was already using as scripts the stories of Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy or Buck Rogers. Jack Chick wanted to find his own place in the famous Hollywood industry and in 1942 his parents enrolled him in a two-year course at the Pasadena Playhouse School of Theater. However the government of the United States of America made different plans for him in 1943.

Nightmares of the front in World War II

Jack Chick assured to his friends that he did not participate in any armed confrontation during the three years he spent in Japanese-occupied countries during World War II. There are, however, as we will see when dealing with his comic ′Holy Joe′ (1964), many indicators that point to the opposite direction. There are facts that suggest he saw in the front row the details and the horror mainly at the battle in Okinawa, which is known today as the bloodiest one in the Pacific. The pictures of the civilians that he later brings to Los Angeles are proof that he at least visited the battlefield. The Emperor of Japan pushed 1,465 airmen to give their lives by crashing their own planes against strategic points in the rear of the Allied troops. Only in that battle of Okinawa the Japanese and the Allied troops participated in the rape, looting and murder, reaching a figure of 150,000 dead civilian.

The Japanese civilians had also developed their skills in creating comics in very different formats such as Norakuro before that war, but Jack Chick is unlikely to have access to them. It is quite likely in the other hand that he was used to Japanese and American military propaganda. You can still eve buy thousands of variations of those terrifying messages originally sent from the sky during World War II, decorated with all kinds of monstrosities and offering readers an offer that they should not refuse! The drawings on that propaganda include demons which are quite reminiscent of the drawings that we later find in the comic ′A Demon′s Nightmare′. It is not true that Jack Chick was one of the few survivors of Okinawa. It is estimated that 20,000 of the total 180,000 allies that started the battle actually died. Jack Chick wasn′t able to forget many of the atrocities he saw during that time.

When he was back home dozens of fictional characters such as Dracula, Frankenstein or the Werewolf were the sensation in television on weekend nights thanks to series like Shock Theater at Universal Studios. Jack Chick meets his first wife Lola Lynn Priddle then, in the classes he takes back at the Pasadena Playhouse School of Theater. EC Comics, which had begun as a children′s comic book publisher, launched its terrifying and satirical collections of that time such as Tales from the Crypt or MAD. Those comics were also on the radar of Jack Chick as we will see when covering his comic ′Somebody Loves Me′ (1969).

Jack Chick′s school archives still have drawings unquestionably made by him. One of Jack Chick′s first drawings is in fact a cartoon of the terrifying ′Christmas Tale′ by Charles Dickens. He then left the academy, got married and focused on one of his first professional employment working with the texts of P.S. Clayton for the comic ′Times Have Changed?′ (1953-1955). They were a collection of ingenious stories with the idea of ′The Flintstones′, but seven years in advance! Innovation and recognition, however, do not give him too much income and he ends up accepting a position of technical illustrator at Astro Science Corporation.

The hateful and incredible mission of Jack Chick

There are many institutions labeling Jack Chick comics as ′hate literature&prime but the truth is that this provocative effect was more than intentional. And what is more important: it was actually that particular effect what made attractive the comics to their audience. The persecution of his literature, which was done by influential institutions such as Southern Poverty Law Center or Christian Book Association, respectable magazines such as Christianity Today or Cornerstone, and even the government of more than ten countries including Canada, all that opposition was actually for him the seal of guarantee that matched him with the apostles. ′I′m always asking my secretary if we have received new hate messages in the mail,′ Jack said. ′If he tells me there isn′t, then I worry and I start thinking that maybe I′m doing something wrong.′ ′I want to shock people′ -said on another time. ′I want them to get bad literally, when they see my comics. I want them to feel the pain that Jesus suffered when he was crucified. According to Billy Ireland, his comics ′do not discriminate in discrimination′ but that is actually what happens today for example to Charlie Hebdo magazine, that is actually what makes the magazine interesting for many readers still today.

To be provocative is a huge resource to get attention. One of the most interesting cartoons that Jack Chick had painted for ′Times Have Changed? shows again his restless, innovative but also deeply dissatisfied character. The protagonist appears in the foreground carrying a wheel that has carved in the middle of the Stone Age. The protagonist of the drawing is taking the wheel to the Patent Office but they look at it with contempt while saying: ′We can extend a patent but I do not see any use to your invention.′ Another vignette, which was not published until recently by David Daniels, shows an artist working hard on his desk, in a room with the walls covered with the typical negatives of the editors. When bringing a new letter to the mailbox the artist is killed by a mailman&primes truck; the driver then picks up the manuscript and finally success editing it! Both approach can&primet be more depressive in terms of what should we expect from life.

The horrors of a war produce traumas that have been studied with great attention since then under the name of PTSD and that we will see in more detail when dealing with the fourth of his comics, entitled ′Holy Joe′ (1964 ). Jack Chick′s emphasis is partly due to these traumas that were common to Japanese soldiers as well. Jack must be deeply discouraged as he progresses in middle age. When his in-laws encouraged him to listen to Charles E. Fuller′s old Christian revival shows on the radio, Jack Chick discovers a world full of fantasy. He discovered then the supernatural powers at your fingertips, which fills much of your emptiness and mitigates part of the hostility against the rest of the world. Jack Click quickly learns to use the Bible as if it were a deck of Tarot cards and start opening the book at random, looking for keywords that may suggest a particular answer.

Looking for an advantageous position

Jack Chick said it was not until he read the book ′Power From On High′ by the preacher Charles G. Finney that he receives his mission and decides to draw the first of his self-published comics:′ Why No Revival? (1961). The preacher of the nineteenth century sought in his book the spirit of his congregation but in his comic adaptation, Jack Chick takes the idea much further. The characters are caricatures of the specific faces of those Christians he had personally met in the evangelical churches. He engages them in hateful dialogues where the church leaders are shown as indolent, hypocritical and with a devil′s tail that discovers their evil intentions. Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodríguez will bring to the movies scenes that owe a lot to Jack Chick. In the end, of course, all believers die and fall horrified into an abyss of flame. Not surprisingly, Jack Chick′s first intention was to publish it without using his personal name or postal address in the comic, exactly as they used to publish the ′Tijuana Bibles.′ These practices were prohibited in 1961 in his country and he was therefore obliged to provide that information printed on the cover.

′A Demon′s Nightmare′ (1962) is the first of many lessons that Jack Chick has to teach evangelical churches from his intended new position of advantage. Aesthetically it is probably one of the most impressive. The bad guys are usually drawn bald, ugly and obese. The drawings of the good ones seem more like himself; dressed more like insurance agents or commercials. The good thing is there is just only one or two good characters in each story, so the result is generally much more familiar and credible than usual in a cartoonist of fundamentalist evangelicalism. At least in the first pages. It happens in the comics of Jack Chick as in ′The Divine Comedy′, that the last pages where the sky is described are hardly to be interesting by mostly of the readers. You get so bored reading the last pages that you almost prefer to go back and read the torments of hell again. The heavenly descriptions by Jack Chick are not credible either and that is perhaps why Dylan Peterson′s thesis in Curator Magazine is this: ′Jack Chick didn′t really believe what he preached.′ You can really desire something without believing it and his endings are unbelievable to be honest.

The Anglican writer and theologian C.S. Lewis, who was born shortly after the death of the mentioned preacher Charles G. Finney, is probably the source of inspiration for this second comic titled ′A Demon′s Nightmare′. Kurt Kuersteiner himself, expert and disseminator of these comics, confirms the likelihood of this open secret. Jack Chick said clearly that the idea had been revealed directly to him by God himself, including also all the narrative details like if it was a movie. The book ′Letters from a devil to his nephew′ was published in 1942, TIMES magazine dedicated to C.S. Lewis one of its covers in 1947 and 20th Century Fox bought the rights of that story to make the film in the 1950s. So that idea of two funny demons making life impossible for a believer, which is the idea that the two authors had in common, was on the edge of the news in 1961. Not surprisingly Billy Ireland of the University of Ohio gives Jack Chick the title of ′Prince of Propaganda.′ ′Jack Chick was first and foremost a seller,′ adds biographer Daniel Raeburn.

Copyright, propaganda and the relativity of reason

Jack Chick was, however, a very religious salesman. When his old car burns in the parking lot of the offices of Astro Science Corporation in the town of El Monte, while they were making plans to edit this second comic, Jack Chick automatically confirmed to his manager George Otis that the fire was actually a strategy of Satan. Jack Chick believed that everything was part of a spiritual warfare in the same sense as hundreds of thousands of users and professionals of parapsychology believe. In the United States of America alone, the growing industry of ′Psychic Services′ has now declared around 85,000 employees earning a total of $ 1,500,000,000 a year. The Christianity preached by the apostles, which has been recorded in the books that survived them, barely shows interest in the supernatural. That way they were following the teaching of Jesus himself in chapter ten of the Gospel of Luke. The form or appearance of demons, for example, was not discussed in a council until more than 400 years after the Christian church was founded.

All the details about the day-to-day life of the demons are provided by Jack Chick also in other later titles such as ′Keep the Secret′, ′Satan′s Master′ or ′The Last Surprise′ - and still take a step beyond, twenty years later, when he meets the fraudulent writer Rebecca Brown. The demons were not a subject that aroused interest in the records of early Christianity and in fact Jack Chick himself hardly finds a few references, which he obviously writes at the bottom of page 8 and page 22. We often overvalue the authority that the reason has over our behavior. The New Yorker magazine has recently disclosed the studies of scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber in ′The Enigma of Reason: A New Theory of Human Understanding′ (Harvard, 2017) where they affirm not only that we believe what we want to believe, but that we continue believing in the same regardless of what reason can prove to us. The dream of reason produces monsters yes but, to what extent do we have control over reason? Do we have the guarantee of being able to put the reason before our own desires?

Jack Chick provides another false clue when he claims to have found the inspiration for the format of his comics in the communist propaganda that persecuted Christians in China. The Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong does not begin until 1966 and the closest thing to his comics is found in the mid-1970s, ten years later! The comunist comic ′Little Red Guards, for example, encourages children to betray and hand over their own family members to the police. The format of these books printed in China have very few common features with Jack Chick′s comics, which were printed in a pocket size, cost around 20 cents and, if we are honest, overflowed with creativity everywhere. As we saw at the beginning the format and the style is much closer to ′Tijuana Bibles′. Today those first editions of Jack Chick comics are sold at prices of $ 60 or $ 90 on Ebay or at comic book fairs, which are visited by several underground comic collectors such as Robert Fowler or Kurt Kuersteiner.

What is impossible for men

The particular element of truth or credibility that is used as a reference by Jack Chick is the following: the Bible warns about the existence and activity of spiritual beings who pursue our destruction. That is correctly referenced with his ′infallible′ translation of the Bible into English by King James. The problem is that everything he adds to that basic truth points to two other alien ideas, esoteric, that are not characteristic of the original source. First, the idea that our destruction really depends in the first place on how badly these devilish beings do their job. And second, the idea that our destruction depends on how badly we do our own job. These two twists help Jack Chick to clearly push the reader to help with his own purpose or objective, that is, to produce a higher number of conversions to Christianity. His biographer Daniel Raeburn writes that Jack sells his product literally as if they were hot dogs.

Comics published by Jack Chick usually ends with a methodology that was created by evangelist Bill Bright in 1952 for his organization named Campus Crusade for Christ. The methodology includes a few simple steps that the reader should follow and might seem an ideal easy guide for those who are more friends with DIY processes. That is the purpose of the story, to bring people to that easy guide. If there is something that we know well those of us who work daily with processes is that all processes fail sooner or later. We have seen it. Jack Chick also did not fulfill his own process and that is even when it was easy. We don&primet need to say Jesus himself is not found anywhere in the gospels suggesting processes, lists or easy guides. In fact, if there is something Jesus comes to say about the degree of difficulty of salvation, it is that it is ′impossible′ - which is the opposite to the ′easy&prime level of difficulty. This is actually what he tells someone who approached him to ask for details.

′What is impossible for men,′ said Jesus, ′is possible for God.′ We tend to avoid this thought but how small and helpless we are facing death. In fact we are! The security of the believer is necessary and exclusively in the promise made by God in Genesis; that it was not easy to fulfill actually, since it cost the life of his only son Jesus Christ. ′These things I have spoken to you so that in me you may have peace′ -said Jesus when he said goodbye to his friends- ′In the world you will have affliction; but trust, I have defeated the world. ′The trumpet will sound and the dead will rise with an incorruptible body, and we will be transformed′ - writes the apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Corinthians. ′Because the corruptible has to be clothed with the incorruptible′ - he continues - ′and the mortal, of immortality: When the corruptible is covered by the incorruptible, and the mortal, by immortality, then what is written will be fulfilled: ′Death has been devoured by victory.′ ′Where is your victory, oh death? Where is your sting, oh death?&prime The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thank God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!′.

This is an short translation of the original article published in Spanish by Entrelíneas: Revista de Arte as El sueño espantoso de un demonio según Jack Chick

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