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′Holy Joe′ and the warlike attitude of Jack Chick

Jack Chick comics are classified as hate literature and penalized by companies such as Google, Facebook or Amazon. His biographer Daniel Raeburn says that his warlike attitude towards the world is actually what sustains and gives meaning to his work. “When I leave here, I′m going to take everyone I can with Christ!”, said Jack Chick after his three years fighting the Japanese. Like many other veterans, Jack barely talked about what he had seen and done on the front. His fourth comic ′Holy Joe′ (1964) is an exception that is worth analyzing in detail.

Article by Pablo Fernández from Barcelona on Monday, January 13th 2020 ·.·★ Reading takes 19 minutes or 3862 words.


On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941, on the sunny island of Pearl Harbor, the small military base of the United States of America was bombarded by 535 Japanese planes. The next day President Roosevelt confirmed the declaration of war on Japan and the official incorporation of his country into World War II. Many American citizens of Japanese origin were forced to leave the country leaving everything behind. The war cost a lot of money and the government needed the support of the civilian population. On June 13, 1942, the government of the United States of America created a new department called ′Office of War Information′ that would be responsible for raising public awareness through propaganda. Movies, radio or the press would be the usual tools of the new department.

The effects of military propaganda

Hundreds of his posters wallpaper cities like Los Angeles, like the famous American aviator poster saying: ′You give us fire, we will give them hell!′ The army definitely needed money, soldiers and, of course, a lot of encouragement to send Japanese to hell, literally! Jack Chick had drawn warplanes since he was a child and had even worked on posters in his father′s company. Jack remembered his father always working and talking about typographies and details of his profession, so it is hard to imagine that these military assets did not call his attention. When he was nineteen he was starting to study at a Pasadena Playhouse School of Theater interpretation school and received a letter from the government calling him to arms. He would spend the next three years traveling between the different countries occupied by the Japanese army during World War II. He would do it with his camera as part of one of the cryptographic units, an encrypted communication technology that was released in this same war and forced the government of the United States of America to train many of its soldiers in the use of about twenty encryption methods.

Many of those young people brought pocket literature to Japan, copies of ′Tijuana Bibles.′ These little pornographic comics of just a few stapled pages, could be found in any corner of the city, as we saw in the article about Jack Chick′s comic entitled ′A Demon′s Nightmare′ The soldiers of these divisions of encryption of communication spent long hours smoking, reading and waiting to receive some order, but it is not true that they were out of danger. The records speak of these operators sometimes running the risk of being shot by their own companions or captured by the enemy. William R. Wilson, for example, published an extraordinary example in 1997 through the American History Magazine. Philip Johnston, he says in the article, worked as a civil engineer in Los Angeles when he read the many losses that the army had for its difficulties protecting the messages.

Philip Johnston remembered when he was a little boy and when he accompanied his father, who worked as a missionary in the Navajos Indian reservation in Arizona. He remembered that in the language of the natives the same word could have up to four different meanings depending on the intonation and that there was no written documentation of the language, not even the alphabet. Initially, the government rejected this idea, so far from the technological solutions that were being considered. But at the insistence of Philip Johnston, and seeing the results of a test with four volunteers, the Marines recruited and sent two hundred of these young people from the reserve to the ′Operation Iceberg′ in Okinawa - which is precisely where Jack Chick was at that particular moment.

The atrocities of soldiers in Okinawa

The new recruits did everything in their power to live up to the circumstances, dressed and trained like the rest of the Marines. When they reached the coast, however, they could not help doing their ancestral rituals and dances. They then invoked their own gods primarily to confuse the enemy and also help their companions. Yes, they asked their gods for protection, also for those people who in the past had occupied their own country and held them in reserves. The interesting article tells that while they were doing it, many of their classmates made fun of. When they landed in the south of the island they found that there was no one. They doubted their skepticism for many hours, until they discovered that the Japanese soldiers were really hidden and waiting to surprise them from the north.

The battle of Okinawa has in fact gone down in history as the bloodiest of all those in the Pacific. 1,465 suicide planes were thrown on allied facilities in less than three months. Fear and bewilderment also led the army of the Allies to respond with all kinds of atrocities even against the civilian population. Nearly 150,000 civilian victims were identified in that battle of Okinawa alone. The same department of “Office of War Information” also designed and produced the propaganda that was thrown at the Japanese, from the airplanes, like that famous drawing of skeletons dressed as soldiers and the following text: “Live or die? Make your choice! ” Jack Chick had to read some of the hundreds of different models of these terrifying messages, sent from the sky and waiting to be found in any corner of the jungle. Some messages were for the Japanese and others, of course, for the Americans. The comics that Jack Chick draws later really claim for themselves the same attention as that military propaganda.

Japanese soldiers took their mothers ′food, used their bodies as shields against bullets and cut off babies′ heads so they wouldn′t cry. According to Japanese historian Yuki Tanaka, at midnight on April 4, 1945, about fifty American soldiers left three trucks and after the sound of a whistle stormed the Nakamura Hospital in Omori. It took just an hour to rape around eighty people who occupied him as patients or hospital staff. That night several Japanese patients were killed trying to prevent it and a two-day-old baby was thrown to the ground before his mother′s horrified eyes. Similar scenes were repeated for years and often go unnoticed when talking about them in terms of numbers. The numbers however also matter.

The memory of the atrocities of the soldiers

Numbers matter especially when mixed with memories. The civilians in Okinawa were so afraid that around 700 of them took their lives before the landing of the allies. It is estimated that 3,500 women were raped only in the first month of the landing of troops in Fujime Yuki. Particularly on the island of Okinawa, 10,000 more women were raped by the soldiers. Jack Chick however told a very different story to his friends in Los Angeles. According to David Daniels, who is now in charge of Chick Publications, Jack Chick′s story held that Japanese women were very beautiful, that they took the initiative offering to have sex and that it was they who refused - due to the risk of contracting Thus some venereal disease.

Jack Chick could certainly prove that he had met some Japanese civilian women thanks to photos he took of them and then shared with David Daniels in Chick Publications. The description of the behavior, which he did verbally later, however, is unlikely to come from civil women. His description fits much better with those of those women whom the Japanese government had commissioned, in order to remain in real public brothels for the military. Many women who were professionally engaged in prostitution gave their lives in those places, convinced that this would minimize the atrocities that the Allied and Japanese soldiers were committing with the civilian population.

Many sailors who returned to Castile from America in the 16th century, with often murky memories of what they had done and seen done, told when they arrived very strange stories of beings never seen before in Europe. The ′Bestiary of the Indies′ collects dozens of fantastic species, protagonists of stories that were often believed by those who listened to them. Christopher Columbus himself claimed in his diary on January 9, 1493 to have seen three sirens. The experience of horror and trauma can often isolate the sufferer. And it is difficult for those who do not participate in their experience to identify what might have led them to see what they claim to have seen. What is certain is that the audience was prepared to hear all kinds of unusual, shocking and frightening stories when Jack Chick returns to Los Angeles.

The return to the horror of the United States of America

Studies estimate that 20% of veterans, American soldiers of World War II, have since suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. Jack Gutman, for example, fought in Okinawa, has written his memoirs in ′One Veteran′ s Journey to Heal the Wounds of War ′and now presents it to FOX when he turns 92. To understand Jack Chick′s work is extremely useful to read the details of the symptoms he had in common with many of these thousands of veterans: (1) inability to remember important aspects of traumatic events; (2) persistent and exaggerated negative beliefs or expectations from oneself and the rest of the world; (3) significant decrease in interest or participation in meaningful activities. Jack Chick observed through this perspective acquires a more human dimension perhaps and explains part of the reasons he was hiding from the world and faced him with such a depressing opinion about himself and others.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is suffered by many other victims of different traumas produced outside the battlefield. Ailments that lead many to seek help also in the churches. The bellicoseness of the American fundamentalist or evangelical movement cannot be understood without understanding before the United States of America has been continuously in war for more than two hundred years. The mission for which Jack Chick thinks he is destined for God is therefore a mission with the same dose of military action as he had seen in the Marines during World War II. We have seen it already. ′When I leave here,′ he said, ′I will take all I can with Christ!′ The tension and aggressiveness in the face of their conflicts, of course, did not always have an easy solution. It can be relatively easy to invade and wipe out an island with a good amount of weapons, but what happens when the enemy is part of yourself? When he suffered a heart attack in the mid-1990s, Jack Chick said that in the ambulance he constantly turned to the same thought: “I laughed all the time and said to Satan:′ You have lost the battle, the Waxman comic has already been drawn. ′ This hand will be normal again and serve the Lord. ”

It was the feeling of guilt upon returning from the war, which prompted Jack Chick to totally change his mind about Jesus. According to him, he definitely did it when he heard the promise written in Isaiah: ′If your sins are red like grana, like snow they will be whitened.′ According to his own statements, he soon had notable feelings of anger, especially when he remembered that his companions in Japan never told him about Jesus. He reproached them that he could have died in the war and because of their silence he would never have had knowledge of the gospel. As part of his commitment and mortification Jack Chick assumes then that he must give his life to the propagation of that message. A message that inevitably, in the middle of an unsatisfied middle age, should give its very particular and improved format. A format of strategic and camouflaged anti-system guerrilla. Recall that his comics are intended to be deliberately abandoned at key points in large cities, anonymously, as military propaganda was distributed on the front.

The crossfires of legal battles with Jack Chick

It is no accident that the first group of people attacked by Jack Chick in 1961 is the evangelical church: the evangelical church was already a cause of attack by much of the counterculture of its time. ′Hippie, come home′ by Vic Lockman or ′The Adventures of Jesus′ by Frank Stack, are just two of the proofs that Jack Chick was not alone. Jack Chick anticipated Robert Crumb and the birth of the Underground Comic by an advantage of about 7 years but the breeding ground and the emphasis that both authors used were exactly the same. So much so, in fact, that David Peterson of Curator Magazine doubts whether Robert Crumb and Jack Chick are not really two pseudonyms of the same person. Jack Chick felt a huge dependence on the conflict and being involved in some kind of problem made him feel more comfortable.

The work of Jack Chick, like that of some of his famous collaborators such as Tony Alamo, is now classified as hate literature by the accredited Southern Poverty Law Center. The criteria of these lawyers is important not only for the FBI. We have said that for example important technology companies such as Google, Facebook or Amazon use their reports today, applying them to their algorithms to silence, within their own services, the voice of these groups accused of fostering hate. It is not surprising that many conservative businessmen and politicians today feel a real panic in this alliance in the United States of America. Southern Poverty Law Center was founded in 1971 as a resource to defend the rights of minorities affected by the abuse of white religious and supremacist groups such as Ku Klux Klan. Bob Moser in The New Yorker points out that nothing is more economically profitable for this institution than the extremisms of conservatives like the one produced by Donald Trump.

Southern Poverty Law Center is news these days, this time, for voices that particularly harm their own interests. Morris Seligman Dees, one of the three founders of the institution, has traditionally been accused of being more interested in marketing and the economic benefits of their cases, than in the justice he allegedly defended. The report that twenty-four of his employees have presented against him, linking Morris with the harassment and selective abuse of his workers, depending on his race and sex, has served at least for his dismissal. Seeing, however, people who have traditionally fought for civil rights, falling into the same mistakes of those they were persecuting, surely with the best of intentions, however, still produce a feeling of lack of protection. Cases like this raise interesting questions about whether or not to really hate hate with more hate.

The uniqueness of the comic ′El Santurrón′

The sign on the door of Jack Chick′s office did not include his name but a serious warning: ′THE WAR ROOM′ - which means something like ′The War Room′. Inside it was of course Christian literature but also many horror movies like the full Friday series 13. It is not true that Jack Chick attacks marginalized minorities, what is true is that marginalized minorities do not get rid of their attacks . His attitude towards attacks was also worthy of an anti-system organization; He knew well the interest that arouses everything that is forbidden and in the face of threats he took out his chest. His eighth comic was entitled ′This book has been banned′ or ′This Book Has Been Banned′ (1969) and showed some demons trying unsuccessfully to hide a movie screen. Jack Chick had, of course, a clear tendency to publish comics on subjects that were particularly alien to his own personal experience. Stories about Satanism, sects or the end of time allowed him to deal with issues that were far from his particular weaknesses. The prudence of many Christians of his time, for example, was also especially foreign to him as he himself wanted to make clear from his first comic in 1961. He definitely preferred to identify with sinners. The fourth comic that he publishes, as we have said, is an exception when dealing with the theme of war.

“This was your life! (1964), published by him a little earlier, that same year, sets a precedent, dealing directly with the theme of our darkest memories and his famous telemascope screen, which was already common in the drawings of the ′Tijuana Bibles′. ′El Santurrón′ or ′Holy Joe′ (1964) includes the screen, deals with a rather personal theme and also one of the most delicate themes of his work: a theme that even his most faithful collectors stand out as the most difficult topic to digest. In this comic titled ′El Santurrón′ a high military officer, a fat, bald and ugly sergeant, as is usual in his villains, treats his soldiers especially badly. He behaves like a real monster especially with the well-spoken evangelical who gives title to the comic, until just before he dies he makes a simple prayer in just a few moments. That simple prayer serves him, however, to justify himself before God for all eternity. All the evil infringed upon others seems to cease to be important due to that simple formula. It is a very similar outcome to another of his famous comics entitled ′Lisa′ (1984).

The original idea is not entirely yours. We all know the story of the two crucified thieves with Jesus, right? In more or less detail we have heard about how one of the two thieves receives from Jesus the promise that he would be with him in heaven that night. Jack Chick however adds a series of variations to that original story that is worth analyzing. (1) The first variation is that in Jesus′ account there is hardly any difference between a thief and another. The gospels do not speak of a good thief and a bad thief but of two thieves, as good or bad as each other. Because in effect the Judeo-Christian background is that all human beings without exception are bad, not only in our internal jurisdiction, but also in our actions. Jack Chick, however, spends the entire comic making the classic differentiation between good and bad. (2) The second important variation is that the thief who speaks with Jesus does not make any particularly singular prayer at the end, much less the popular and simple ′sinner′s prayer′. The prayer that the terrible villain of his story makes at the end, is the model that Jack Chick sells as infallible, the formula of the four steps, more in the line in which a magician can use an abracadabra or a Catholic priest administers the extreme anointing.

Jack really believed in the effectiveness of this formula. He believed in her to the point that when his own father is mute, on his deathbed, Chick recites the prayer and begs his father to repeat it mentally to avoid with her the eternal damnation of his soul. It is by the way a very evangelical tradition very similar to the sacrament of the Catholic church; precisely the church that in so many ways tried to discredit Jack Chick. In any case the conclusion of the comic, in its usual line, comes to say that although salvation is given by Christ for free in the end, it is the previous works of repentance of the believer that in some spiritual or magical way push Christ. In his comics the original free salvation of the gospels becomes cheap salvation and, in that way, is finally an easier salvation to control for him. It is an approach that is far from the original story of the Bible but that allows Jack Chick to grow the results of the objective of his comics: that is to produce the greatest number of conversions, in the shortest possible time. Thank God that the salvation of men did not depend on poor Jack Chick, but on his beloved son Jesus! The one for whom salvation was not cheap, but so expensive, so expensive, that it could only be offered for free by him, who was the one who paid it on the cross!


This is an short translation of the original article published in Spanish by Entrelíneas: Revista de Arte as El santurrón y la actitud bélica de Jack Chick


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