The Twisted Genius of Jack Chick
"The comic book world lost a mad master of the form last Sunday. Tributes to him on comic book sites have been mixed in tone. One reads, “Of all the many masterful artists that we’ve covered on ComicsAlliance, it seems safe to say that Jack T. Chick is the only one to regularly be described as ‘bizarre,’ ‘grotesque,’ ‘atavistic,’ and ‘savagely anti-Catholic.’”
Chick backed into comic book history almost by accident. He was an irreligious veteran who was converted to Christianity by his new wife in the late 1940’s. Too shy to share the Gospel by word of mouth, he took inspiration from the Chinese Communist Party’s pamphleteering success and started writing and drawing short cartoon tracts. He founded a commercial empire on these black-and-white pamphlets, selling them in massive quantities to churches and missionaries. The official Chick Publications website estimates that almost 900 million tracts have been distributed, a lifetime circulation that famous mainstream comic book creators would envy.
The subject matter of the tracts always hinges on sin and how trust in Jesus is the only escape from it. In many tracts, Chick warns against a specific scheme of the devil (the second-most powerful being in his universe) to keep people entrapped in sin, including playing the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons—or the Catholic Church’s insidious “Death Cookie.” The Death Cookie is the Eucharist, which Chick claimed was a false idol derived from Babylonian Baal-worship.
As a Catholic, I am horrified by Chick’s hatred of the Church and the outlandish lies he spread about her Sacraments. As a comic book fan, I have to admire him a little bit. Yes, Chick’s illustrations are simple and exaggerated, sometimes veering into broad caricature. (Chick later hired a trained artist, Fred Carter, to illustrate many of the tracts, but kept “Jack T. Chick” as the sole credit on the books.) But these miniature fire-and-brimstone sermons each tell a complete story, and have a clear theme. Modern mainstream comics that tell long meandering stories and often don’t get to point could learn something from the tracts’ concision and directness."