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proselytistic

Chick tract

Chick tracts are short Evangelical-themed tracts created by American publisher Jack Chick. Chick tracts are styled as comics and are often controversial for their enthusiastic endorsement of fundamentalist Christianity and condemnation of other religions and other denominations, especially Catholicism.

Style and recurring themes

The tracts typically follow the themes of punishment or redemption in the afterlife, or set up a confrontation between a Christian and non-Christian in order to spread a religious message. Most Chick tracts end with either a non-Christian being converted to Christianity or a contrast between those who accept the religion and those who reject it; a convert receives entry into heaven, while a non-believer is condemned to hell, in a recycled scene in which God (portrayed as a giant, glowing, faceless figure sitting on a throne) condemns or welcomes a character.

Several tracts follow a spiritual warfare theme similar to that of the novel This Present Darkness; during scenes of human interaction, the presence of angels and demons manipulating the situation is sometimes revealed to the reader. The actions and conversations of the spiritual beings go unnoticed by the human characters. Additionally, Satan himself has appeared occasionally, portrayed as a devil bearing horns and a beard, and the Grim Reaper, in a black robe and wielding a scythe, is sometimes seen during (or before) a character's death.

Chick tracts end with a suggested prayer for the reader to pray to accept Christ Jesus. In most of these tracts it is a standard sinner's prayer for salvation. In the tracts dealing with Catholicism or Islam, the prayer includes a clause to reject these religions. Included with the prayer are directions for converting to Christianity. Occasionally, there is a scene in which Satan tells the reader that there is nothing to worry about, followed by a Christian character warning the reader not to listen to him, further driving the spiritual warfare angle home.

The comics are often drawn simplistically yet effectively, with dialogue and thought bubbles present during conversation. Profanity is often used in the words of demons and non-Christians, obscured completely by random punctuation marks. Sound effects are sometimes written near action scenes, and characters' dialogue is often bolded and italicized if it is intended to be emphasized.

Recurring characters

While most tracts feature unrelated events, semi-recurring characters occasionally appear in multiple episodes.

  • Susan "Li'l Susy" Barnes is an elementary school student whose parents are deceased and is being raised by her grandfather. Susy stands for Christian values in her public school. Her disruptions in class often get her into trouble, as she will now only speak against corrupt authority with her friends off of school grounds, as per her grandfather's suggestion.
  • Ms. Henn, Susy's teacher, was originally a substitute but seems to have now taken a permanent role. She stands for secular values and has promoted Halloween, evolution, and the gay "lifestyle" in her classroom. She has referred to Susy as a "stone in [her] shoe" and often snaps at students, particularly Susy, who disagree with what is being taught.
  • Bob Wilkins is an evangelist and pastor who is often used to bring characters to Christ in The Bible Series. He often punctuates his call to repentance with an example from the Bible.
  • Deacon Carter is an African-American police officer who stands for Christian values and has recently been added to the tracts.
  • Holly, who has appeared only twice, was a demon-possessed witch who was first lured into the occult by Harry Potter books. She was a spell-caster who rejected Bob's conversion attempt in "The Nervous Witch" and later appeared in "Gladys", where she intervened in Bob's (already slipping) attempt to bring a popular astrologer named Gladys to Christ. Later, she and Gladys were both killed in a car accident and sent to Hell.
  • Fang is a dog that is vicious looking, appears in several Chick tracts, often fighting with other animals.

Tracts

This Was Your Life (It's Your Life!)

This Was Your Life is one of Chick's earliest tracts (originally issued in 1972), and has become Chick's most well-known and best-selling tract.

The tract features a man who dies and is judged by God. The man had lived a good life, but claimed that he didn't need Christ. On Judgment Day, the man watches his life being revealed before God. The man is shown scenes of himself leering at women, telling dirty jokes, not listening to his pastor's sermon and committing other sins. God then condemns the man to Hell in dramatic style.

The foreign adaptations of This Was Your Life feature variants of the original art, in addition to translated text. One commentary makes light of differences between these versions, pointing out that the differences in the art and settings are based on cultural stereotypes.

In 2006 Chick released It's Your Life!, an updated version of This Was Your Life in English but with art based on the African language versions of the tract. This is a part of Chick's "Black Tracts" series, created to appeal to African-Americans.

A Flash animation of the tract, based on Chick's 1964 artwork (with his permission), was created by Kirk Demarais

That Crazy Guy!

There are two versions of the tract that differ slightly in plot: a 1980 version and a 1992 version. The 1980 version is out of print.

This tract features a mustachioed, sunglasses-wearing lothario named Craig. (The title of the tract, as well as Craig's image with a gag fake arrow through his head, are reminiscent of Steve Martin's comedic persona at the time, "The Wild and Crazy Guy".) Craig seduces a young lady (Susan, or "Suzi") into premarital sex in his convertible. An accessory to this seduction is an older, unmarried woman ("Ms. Damien") who advises Suzi to take the Pill.

Afterward, Suzi is repelled when Craig calls her by the name of another girl. Suzi is relieved to find she is not pregnant, but she has contracted a sexually transmitted disease, and Ms. Damien has nothing more to do with her, throwing her out and using Lysol to sterilize her chair.

A physician appears and notifies Suzi that she has contracted an STD. The particular STD depends on the version – in the 1980 version, it is herpes, while in the 1992 version, it is gonorrhoea. In the 1992 version, he then informs the victim that she also has AIDS and claims (falsely) that condoms are porous and do not provide adequate protection against the virus that causes AIDS.

In both versions, the doctor witnesses to Suzi, and she is saved from eternal damnation.

Somebody Loves Me (Hard Times) and Trust Me

A pair of tracts, Somebody Loves Me and Trust Me, tell very similar stories with few, if any, words.

In Somebody Loves Me, a child is sent begging by his (implied alcoholic) father in the pouring rain (an older version features a young girl). When he returns with only a penny, his father beats him and kicks him into the street. His only shelter is a cardboard box that he manages to find. A tract with the words, "Some Body Loves You" blows into the box. Because he reads it before he dies (and, by implication, trusts in Christ as Savior), he is brought to Heaven by an angel.

A modified version of Somebody Loves Me, dubbed Hard Times, replaces the Anglo character with an African-American character.

In Trust Me, a young boy comes across a group that seems to be a mixture of Satanists, hippies, and bikers. He takes a pill offered by one, and gets high. A day later, he is selling drugs in a park. Three days later, he's stealing televisions to support his habit. Soon, an undercover policeman catches him in a sting, he is sentenced to prison, and he is raped. Three months later, he is dying of AIDS. But, because he reads a tract with the words, "Jesus Loves You," and accepts Jesus Christ as his lord and savior, after he dies he is brought to Heaven by an angel.

Dark Dungeons

One of Chick's most satirized tracts is Dark Dungeons, which depicts a group of teenagers playing Dungeons & Dragons.

When one player's character dies, the other player tells her: "Marcie, get out of here! YOU'RE DEAD! You don't exist anymore." The game master then tells the surviving player that she will teach her how to cast real spells, claiming that the Dying Earth style Vancian magic system of D&D was already preparing her for spell casting. The reader then sees a hidden underworld of dark sorcerers; Debbie starts casting real spells and with these magical powers is able to exert mind control over her father. This is followed by Marcie committing suicide because her character died. The game master tells Debbie that the game and her character are more important than real life. An evangelist comforts Debbie, telling her that in fact, it is Jesus who is most important. After going to a church meeting, Debbie eagerly converts and attends a book burning of D&D-related materials, at which the preacher calls the game "filth of Satan" and possessed of "demonic forces."

Chick had been told by John Todd that C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, both noted Christians, were satanic, so the original tract warned readers about these authors. These admonitions were removed from subsequent printings of the tract as well as the electronic version published on Chick's website.

There are many parodies of the Dark Dungeons tract, using popular culture references such as Mystery Science Theater 3000. While Jack Chick has never translated Dark Dungeons into another language, the comic has been translated to create a Spanish-language parody.

The Bible Series

The Bible Series is a series of 25 tracts, each depicting or featuring a passage from the Bible:

  1. In The Beginning — Creation and the Fall of Man
  2. It's Coming! — Noah's Flood
  3. Sin City — Sodom and Gomorrah
  4. The Promise — Abraham and Isaac
  5. The Big Deal — Jacob and Esau
  6. Framed! — Joseph
  7. It's The Law — Moses and the Ten Commandments
  8. The Outcast — Rahab and the fall of Jericho
  9. The Scam — Joshua and the Gibeonites
  10. The LoserGideon
  11. The Last Judge — Samuel
  12. The Nervous Witch — King Saul and the witch at Endor
  13. Caught! — David and Bathsheba
  14. Payback — Ahab and Jezebel and the vineyard of Naboth
  15. Real Heat — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace
  16. The Monster — King Nebuchadnezzar
  17. Gladys — Isaiah's prophecies of Jesus Christ (this tract features a holdover character, Holly Parker, from The Nervous Witch mentioned above)
  18. God With Us — The birth of Jesus Christ
  19. Fallen — The Parable of the Prodigal Son
  20. Who Cares — The Parable of the Good Samaritan. The cover shows an airplane about to crash into the World Trade Center on 9/11, and features a Christian helping a Muslim store owner who was beaten up after 9/11.
  21. Scream — The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man
  22. Good Ol' Boys — Peter's denial of Christ
  23. Man In Black — Revelation 17 & 18, told from Chick's viewpoint that the "Whore of Babylon" is the Roman Catholic Church
  24. Who's Missing? — The Rapture
  25. Here He Comes! — The Beast, the Return of Christ, and the Judgement

Anti-Halloween Tracts

Chick opposes Christians celebrating Halloween, and several of his tracts purport to tell a link between Halloween and Satanism. Among them are Boo! and Happy Halloween.

Notwithstanding his opposition of Halloween, Chick believes that Christians can take the opportunity to witness during Halloween to candy-seeking children by providing gospel tracts along with the treats, an event he portrays in his tract The Little Princess.

The Little Princess tells the story of Heidi Spencer, a young girl who learns she is terminally ill. Heidi asks two questions of her parents – to go trick or treating on Halloween, a wish the family grants if she is well enough to do so (and which she is able to fulfill), and what happens after death – her parents reply that they do not know, and most likely no one does.

Heidi passes out during her adventure, but convinces her brother Josh to visit one more house, that of the Smiths, a Christian couple new to the neighborhood. The Smiths supply candy (and, in a bit of cross-promotion, a copy of Chick's Happy Halloween tract), immediately recognize something is wrong, and begin to pray for her.

Heidi reads the tract and accepts Christ as her Savior, then asks her dad to call the Smiths over, telling him that they know what happens after death. The Smiths share the Gospel message with the Spencers, who also trust in Christ as Savior. Later that evening, Heidi succumbs to her illness.

Tracts opposing Roman Catholicism

The Last Generation and The Beast are apocalyptic tracts which warn that Christians will soon face persecution at the hands of a brutal planetary regime installed by the Roman Catholic Church. The original versions of both tracts had a dispensationalist, pre-tribulation rapture view of the end times and did not include any overt anti-Catholic content. The content of both tracts was later changed to reflect Chick's increasing hostility toward the Catholic Church, and in The Beast, to portray the Pope as the antichrist. In The Last Generation, the government actively encourages people to turn in "sickos" (born-again Christians) in exchange for free drugs; the Christians are then tortured.

The Death Cookie is another of Chick's anti-Catholic Church tracts. It portrays the Roman Catholic Mass as a religious system invented by Satan to trick people into worshipping a "cookie" (the communion wafer) as God. Other anti-Catholic tracts or tracts which say that the Pope is the Antichrist include Are Roman Catholics Christians?, Is There Another Christ?, Last Rites, The Only Hope (mentioned in passing), and Why is Mary Crying?, as well as Man in Black from The Bible Series mentioned above.

The Big Betrayal is the biography of an ex-Catholic priest named Charles Chiniquy who claimed that the Vatican was behind the American Civil War and Lincoln's assassination. It is based on Chiniquy's autobiography 50 Years In The Church of Rome.

Tracts opposing other religions

Islam is another major topic for Chick tracts (Allah Had No Son, also drawn as Who Is Allah? for the Black Tracts series, The Little Bride, The Deceived, The Story Teller, Men of Peace?, and The Pilgrimage.)

In addition, Chick has written against other religious groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses (The Crisis,) Jews (Where's Rabbi Waxman?), Buddhists (The Tycoon), Hinduism (The Traitor), and Mormonism (The Visitors). Two tracts, The Curse of Baphomet and The Unwelcome Guest, oppose Freemasonry.

Chick also takes aim at ecumenical ministers (Reverend Wonderful and The Chaplain), social gospel missionaries (Flight 144), and Christians who oppose tract witnessing (The Letter). Why No Revival? is a montage of various scenes, showing Chick's view of the current state of the Christian church. According to the Chick biography posted on the company website, Why No Revival? was Chick's first ever printed tract.

Tracts on Current Topics

Several of Chick's publications feature the standard evangelical/fundamentalist viewpoint on modern day topics, such as:

  • Abortion (Who Murdered Clarice? and Baby Talk)
  • Evolution (Apes, Lies, and Ms. Henn and Big Daddy?)
  • Drug use (The Hunter)
  • Homosexuality (The Gay Blade and Birds and the Bees)
  • Modern-day persecution of Christians (The Trial)

In addition, several of the Bible Series tracts (listed above) cover controversial topics.

Chick is also an opponent of rock music, both secular and Christian rock. Spellbound? is, like The Big Betrayal, a full-sized comic, one of an 11-volume series titled Crusaders. It is based almost entirely on the statements of John Todd and features him speaking in a church under one of his pseudonyms, Lance Collins. Spellbound? claims that the rock music industry is controlled by organized Satanism and that witches are brought in to cast spells on rock music recordings before they are marketed to the public. The spells are said to bring listeners under demonic influence. Christians are warned to burn their rock music albums and that Christian rock is also Satanic.

A tract making the same statements about Christian rock is Angels?, in which a Christian rock band is required by their producer Lew Siffer (i.e. Lucifer) to sign away the rights to their souls in exchange for a record contract and commercial success. The band members find themselves drifting far from their faith and getting involved in drugs and vampirism while their lyrics start running to the likes of "embrace me, love of death". After one of the members contracts AIDS and another dies after collapsing onstage, one of the members realizes that he has been had and repents of involvement in rock music.

Other Tracts

The Assignment tells of the battle between Heaven and Hell for a lost soul. Charles Bishop is to die at 3:10 AM on November 22 of a massive coronary (2 1/2 weeks after the announcement of his impending death is made). Two people have the potential to reach Bishop: Tim Dobbs (Bishop's assistant who is portrayed as a milquetoast Christian, and who is quickly removed from the picture) and Cathy Hillman (a strong Christian teenager who is friends with Bishop's daughter, and around whom the majority of the plot is centered).

The Contract! is heavily influenced by the American classic short story The Devil and Daniel Webster and follows a similar plotline, that of a nearly bankrupt individual, John Freeman, who (after losing his crops to hail) exclaims he would "sell his soul to the Devil" to get out of his financial straits, only to receive such an offer from Satan (taking the name John B. Fox, the middle initial later revealed as Beelzebub) and gain revenge on the banker who refused to help him. Though Freeman lay dying 10 years later (the same time frame as in Webster), instead of requiring a passioned legal defense to convinced a stacked judge and jury to void the contract, Freeman simply broke the contract by praying for salvation, while a relative (who had no such contract) dies and goes to Hell, and finds out that Satan didn't need a contract to claim his soul – he already had possession from the beginning.

The Fool is a narrative of a king and his "fool" (court jester). The king asks the jester to give a golden wand to any "bigger fool" if one can be found. he jester is unable to find such a person, but is quickly summoned back to the palace, as the king has fallen terminally ill. When the jester learns that the king has not prepared for "a long, long journey" from which he shall not return (his death, implying that the king has not accepted Jesus as Savior), the jester has found the "bigger fool" and hands the king his own golden wand back to him.

Two Chick tracts, The Slugger and The Superstar, are nearly identical except for the main characters. Both feature a rich athletic superstar, who (after winning a championship and signing new multi-million dollar contract and endorsement) discovers he has terminal cancer. He comes to Christ through his gardener, then leaves his entire estate to the gardener upon his death. The difference is that The Slugger features a baseball player named Frank Stone, while The Superstar features a soccer player named Roberto Cordoba.

Another pair of tracts with similar (though not identical) plot lines are Bewitched? and Party Girl. Both feature a "conference" in Hell between Satan and his demons, with one demon reporting a problem involving a soon to be dead and Hell-bound teenage girl (Ashley Wilson in Bewitched?; Jill in Party Girl) and a "praying grandmother" determined to rescue the girl's soul from Hell. In both instances, the young girl is saved (in Ashley's case, only hours before her death).

The Mad Machine features spoofs of economic advisors, group therapy, drug and alcohol treatment (including a humorous skit where a father and son visit a rehab center, only to learn the son, not the father, is the patient), and modern psychiatry. It suggests that the only solution to stress and mental illness is to accept Jesus as personal savior. (This tract has also been revised from the initial version to include a scene where a married man abandons his wife – for another man.)

The Sissy features a tough truck driver and his younger sidekick being led to accept Christ by a Christian truck driver while eating at a truck stop cafe. The tough truck driver calls Jesus a sissy. The Christian truck driver, who is affable, but intimidatingly taller and more muscular than either of the drivers, responds with a novel explanation why Jesus said to turn the other cheek: Jesus being God, with "all that power still inside him", would have to turn the other cheek in a fight or else it wouldn't be a fair fight. The conversation ends with both drivers praying to receive Christ. A waitress overhears the conversation and asks if she can accept Christ too. The Chick Publications website advertises this tract as "great for truckers and bikers!"

Lisa, a Chick tract no longer on the Chick Publication website, features Henry, an unemployed father who, after renting video pornography, sexually abuses his daughter. After she is diagnosed with herpes, the doctor scolds and subsequently saves Henry, who goes home to share the Good News with his wife and daughter.

Fairy Tales tells the story about a man named Harry Garner, who is on death row for multiple murders. In a flashback scene, we are told that Harry's murders were caused by finding that his parents had lied about the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, etc. As a child, he hears that there is no Easter Bunny. Harry kills his school-mates in a fit of rage. He then spends the rest of his life committing violent crimes before being executed by the State and sent to Hell.

Oops! opens in the midst of the commotion surrounding a man named Bobby who has overdosed on drugs. After he is pronounced dead, an elderly minister begins warning Bobby's friends that he is now in Hell and that they will meet their own judgments someday. A teenager asks to hear more, but the minister is interrupted when a man mocks and violently assaults him. He convinces the boy that there is no concern. Later, both characters are killed in a car accident, and appear in Hell. The boy angrily tells his "friend", "Remember all those things you told me? You were wrong, you goofed!" The man, removing a mask, reveals himself to be a demon, and tells the boy that he was the one who "goofed" by rejecting the gospel.

Soul Story , written in the late '70s, leveraged the trend of blaxploitation to proselytize to the African-American demographic as he perceived it. Among his grittiest comics, and rife with self-censored vulgarity, the narrative and tone of this comic is very telling in terms of how Chick perceives African-Americans, and the amount of difficulty he assumes to be involved in converting them as a people to Christianity.

Parodies and popular culture

Some cartoonists have published parodies of Chick tracts that mimic their familiar layout and narrative conventions. Examples include "Devil Doll?" by Daniel Clowes, Antlers Of The Damned by Adam Thrasher, Jesus Delivers! by Jim Woodring and David Lasky, Demonic Deviltry by "Dr. Robert Ramos" (actually Justin Achilli of White Wolf Game Studios), and A Patriarchy's Nightmare by Keith Mayerson.

Issue #2 of Daniel K. Raeburn's zine The Imp, which consists of a lengthy essay on Jack T. Chick's work and a concordance of terms and concepts used in his comics, has dimensions and covers that imitate a Chick tract.

Hot Chicks is a collection of nine short films, each based on a Chick Tract. The film played at the 2006 Los Angeles International Film Festival, the New Fest in New York, and others. The films are word for word (and often shot for shot) adaptations of Chick Tracts. The Tracts adapted are Bewitched?, "La Princesita", "Somebody Goofed", Titanic, "Cleo", "Doom Town", "Wounded Children", "Angels?", and "Party Girl."

Why We're Here by Fred Van Lente and Steve Ellis is a Cthulhu Mythos-themed comic that parodies Chick's visual and proselytistic style as though it were promoting the theology of a cult from one of H. P. Lovecraft's stories. Where a Chick Tract, for example, would typically insert an intertitle box containing a pertinent Biblical verse, "Why We're Here" instead references verses from the Necronomicon and other fictional Mythos-linked books.

In his book America Unchained, the comedian Dave Gorman reads some Chick tracts (without referring to them as such) and gives a brief synopsis of the tract Flight 144.

The blog "Enter the Jabberwock" has a section called Chick Dissection, where he takes select Chick tracts and comments on them panel by panel.

The August 19, 2008 issue of the cartoon Achewood is about Chick Tracts.

Notes

External links

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