Have you ever found yourself stopped in the middle of the street, with an odd pamphlet or comic book shoved rudely into your personal space? If you happened to read this strange little comic did you find absurd ramblings of brimstone and global conspiracy? If you answered no to both of those questions then congratulations, you’ve gotten lucky! If you answered yes then you have likely come face to face with the bizarre world of Chick Tracts.
Chick Tracts are a long running series of short evangelical comic pamphlets designed to spread the gospel of Jesus by an American publisher named Jack Thomas Chick. His company, creatively named Chick Publications, claims to have sold over 750 million different comics, books, posters, and videos throughout the world, all with the goal of spreading their religious and political ideals. Chick and his followers are a part of the “King James Only” movement, which argues that every English translation of the bible published after the King James Version is heretical, immoral, and contributes to social decay. Chick personally sees to the scriptwriting of each tract, making sure his own specific opinions and ideas are idolised, while attempting to attack opinions and facts that do not coexist well with his antiquated, often hostile, approach to the rest of the world.
Chick’s cartoonist crusade against the acceptance of others began in the 1960s, chasing a variety of topics with each publication. A classic (and laughable) example of his fearmongering can be seen in the 1984 comic “Dark Dungeons,” which posits that fantasy literature and gaming, specifically the tabletop roleplaying game “Dungeons and Dragons,” are works of the devil. “Dark Dungeons” contains a scene of a girl literally hanging herself after her character dies in the game, insinuations that role-playing gamers are being coerced by Satan (or willingly working for him), and the claim that fantasy books and games should be burned if one wishes to love Jesus. This particular tract has since gotten a film adaptation that, in some scenes, recreates panels directly from the comic with shot-for-shot accuracy. How seriously the film takes its source material is up for debate, but it still stands as a showcase of Chick’s work and the surreal impact it has had over the years. For more on “Dark Dungeons” and its ever amusing movie companion I highly suggest watching JonTron’s review of the film on YouTube, which is able to go into more specifics than I am here.
Outside of attacking gamers and fantasy fans Chick’s works become less humorously out of touch and more venomous in their nature. Chick Publication’s website contains a banner proclaiming to have been “equipping evangelism for over 50 years” with their particular form of hate speech and fearmongering preaching. Over the years Chick Tracts have accused a variety of other religions of heresy, immorality, Satanism, and of controlling a world government designed to destroy “true” Christian values (I honestly wish I was making that up). They have published over 20 different tracts targeting Catholics alone, with many more in circulation depicting offensive caricatures of Jews, Muslims, and others that Chick has deemed blasphemous by his insanely draconian standards.
Exploring Chick’s website is an exercise in extended self-torture, scrolling through seemingly endless pages of nonsensical hate speech and cringe worthy self-righteousness. As an atheist who accepts scientific thought and believes in the theory of evolution I find myself as one of the great multitude on Chick’s dizzying list of heretics and sinners. His website contains pages and articles with titles such as “Butterfly Gives Darwin an Absolute Breakdown,” “Doubt in the Bible Behind Cultural Decay,” “Proven step-by-step methods that will help you bring Jehovah’s Witnesses to Christ,” and one page in particular that claims that moderate Muslims “would prefer to replace US constitution with a caliphate,” which is so completely and utterly lacking in self-awareness that it would be funny if it wasn’t so bloated with ideological danger. Nobody seems to be safe from this spiritual war fought through comics and cartoons, with sections of the official site outright stating that “Good works cannot save you,” and arguing that ‘good people’ are not truly good unless they accept Jesus and subscribe to the stringent tenets of extremist evangelism. So no matter how kind that Jewish neighbour or atheist friend of yours is, they’re doomed to eternity in hell unless you save them with the power of Christ!
One of the most common tropes in Chick Tracts is the character of the goodly, kind Christian being subjugated to a vast, societal, liberal conspiracy meant to oppress them and destroy Jesus’ work. Whether it is a boy in school being bullied and punished by students and teachers alike when he expresses his knowledge of the “truth” that evolution is a conspiracy, or the weird reversal of reality in the comic “Sin City” where a man protesting homosexuality is referred to as a “stinking straight” and then beaten senseless by a leftist police force, essentially turning him into a martyr, this theme is heavily prevalent in most of Chick’s work. The assumed goal of this role is to self-victimise, casting those that Chick is actually attacking as the truly hostile force encroaching upon his violently theocratic existence. Oftentimes there is some sort of homosexual, devil-worshipping character working to pull the strings of the world with the over-the-top theatrics of old school supervillains.
While Jack T. Chick’s extensive body of work can oftentimes be laughed off as the insane ramblings of a religious zealot, it also should not be ignored. While it can be difficult to take any of his publications seriously over the years he has attacked everything from scientific knowledge and secular law to members of other religions and minority groups. His hate speech may be comical and purposely “politically incorrect” as he has argued, but that does not stop it from being harmful. He repeatedly attacks ideas of peaceful coexistence, refusing to look past religious, societal, and political lines that subjugate others while placing himself and his followers as truly worthy of God’s love. These views not only cast many Christians in an unfortunately negative light, but also promote intolerance and ignorance, using scare tactics in an attempt to force others into his rigid system of worship and control. In the end the greatest counter to Jack T. Chick and his ilk is to promote unity, intellectual freedom, and the loving acceptance of others.