Chick Tracts

Ever heard of Chick Tracts? Seek ye enlightenment? Jack T. Chick is a protestant comic artist who, over the span of about 50 years, has created over 100 short comic series’s dealing with issues ranging from abortion and drug abuse to Dungeons and Dragons (yup). The tracts serve as a form of protestant Christian propaganda, and tend to lean towards the ludicrous and moderately offensive end of the comics spectrum. The following image is taken from a tract entitled “Dark Dungeons”. Basically, a teenage girl gets involved with a D&D/witchcraft cult. Her friend commits suicide because her character in the game died, and she herself is freed from the grasp of an evil spirit when she accepts Jesus as her savior.

D&D

From what I’ve seen, this is one of his more ridiculous comics, but it contains one of the major recurring themes in his works: either you accept Jesus Christ, or you end up in hell. So before I go any further I should probably mention why I wanted to write a blog post about this guy. I mean, a lot of the reason was I just thought his comics were kind of hilarious and wanted an excuse to make fun of them. But I also wanted to bring up a relevant question for discussion: to what degree are religious propaganda comics like the Chick Tracts harmful? By harmful I mean do they have an ability to impact people in a powerfully negative way. Granted, it’s sort of up for debate as to what defines a negative impact with comics such as these. Certain people could argue that if Chick’s comics somehow managed to get homosexuality and abortion banned from all 50 states and convert everyone to Christianity that would be a positive thing, but that is not my argument. Let’s look at a couple panels from one of Chick’s more serious comics.

chick2

While the first image I showed in this post dealt with witchcraft and D&D, issues that most audiences would not consider particularly threatening or relevant in today’s society, this second comic deals with the very personal issue of faith. Obviously, Chick takes a biased stance on this issue. I’d say the majority of people who stumble upon Chick Tracts either read them and like them because they align with their own spiritual view of the world, or they read them and have a good laugh before moving on with their lives. The prevalence of Christian propaganda comics is so small and far from the mainstream that I doubt any group of people could feel seriously alienated by them.

Nevertheless, even if only one person feels hurt or alienated by comics like these, I would consider that a negative impact. And people are bound to get offended reading through Chick Tracts. Chick not only sends people of other faiths to hell in his comics, but also homosexuals, people who have had abortions, people who like rock music, and people who haven’t really done anything in particular they’re just not completely saintlike. Oddly, out of all the tracts I’ve looked at so far, I haven’t seen any murderers, rapists, or genuinely cruel and evil people go to hell yet.

The main way in which I can see the comics being harmful is the way they reinforce intolerance. The comics certainly present a very narrow view of right and wrong. Many of the comics are directed at children, and deal with the same controversial issues in an extremely one-sided manner. I can see this stuff being confusing and potentially damaging to a child’s sense of their own purity and their relationships with their peers. But as I mentioned before, I doubt anyone, even a child, would really change their outlook on life, themselves, and their spirituality after reading these comics. After all, there are plenty of more powerful factors in a person’s life that shape who they are; namely their parents, their peers, and the environment in which they are raised.

So yeah. I don’t think Chick tracts should be taken too seriously. Besides, all this over-zealous paranoid religious propaganda is just a bunch of fabricated nonsense. Chick doesn’t know what he’s talking about, right? Right.

devil

If you want to read some more Chick tracts, check out Chick Publications.

  8 comments for “Chick Tracts

  1. kbusch
    April 19, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Although I would agree with you that Chick’s comics are disgusting fundamentalist propaganda, I wonder what your reaction was to Wertham’s article in class? I say fundamentalist to point out that although this Chick calls himself a christian he is being blasphemous of his own religion. I say fundamentalist because there is difference between a religious person and a fundamentalist who uses that religion to harm others. Many people would assume the word christian means that you are ultimately a super conservative narrow minded and hateful person. Those are just the loud minority of Christians, I’m a christian and would be offended by these comics for all the reasons you point out that they are offensive as well as the fact that this Chick manipulates my religion in a way that is terrible. I wonder about your response to Wertham because Wertham argues that comics can be dangerous to children/future generations. You make the claim “The prevalence of Christian propaganda comics is so small and far from the mainstream that I doubt any group of people could feel seriously alienated by them. Nevertheless, even if only one person feels hurt or alienated by comics like these, I would consider that a negative impact. And people are bound to get offended reading through Chick Tracts.” I feel like these comics have the potential to warp someone’s mind as well as readily offend those that don’t align with Chick’s fundamentalist view. So what I wonder is if you did object to Wertham’s article then although Chick Tracts disgust you…aren’t they just as harmful as comics that are hyper-violent, anti-foreigner, and present distorted world to young impressionable minds? Our is it simple a double standard, this comic is super bad because they offend good liberal ideals (accepting diversity of faith and homosexuality) but mainstream violent comics (the ones Wertham is talking about) aren’t actually that bad…Wertham is just a prudish conservative?

    Not trying to attack you at all, but I think that the issue you raise in this blog post and your disgust with Chick Tracts (which I wholeheartedly share) brings up the problematic issue of what is acceptable in media/art/literature and what can/should we censor if at all in.

    • olingo
      April 20, 2013 at 11:23 pm

      Hm. Not sure where to start with this. Well I guess I’ll start by saying that I was definitely not trying to point an accusing finger at all Christians when I typed this blog post. Although I’m not a Christian anymore I had Christian upbringing and I attended church (UCC, for the record) on a regular basis up until I was about 15,and my reasons for converting were personal, not political. I realize that the word “Christian” applies to a very very very broad range of people. Granted, that doesn’t mean I’m not still biased towards Christianity (and all other religions, too) to a certain extent. Nevertheless, I meant this to be a criticism of Chick, not Christianity.

      Reading back over my post, I realize I did not make that clear at all. One of the things I that I really should have made clearer is that the majority of his comics are directed at his fellow Christians and their primary purpose is to criticize other Christians for not following his particular brand of Christianity. I decided not to go into this (I regret it now)for the sake of shortening my post, but he’s actually made several tracts condemning Catholicism. I call Chick tracts ‘Christian Propaganda’, but I realize that what he’s promoting is his version of Christianity. In his mind, and I agree with him on this though for different reasons, not all versions of Christianity are created equal.

      Ok. Finally, to get to your initial question about Wertham. I think he had some good points, as I mentioned in my comment on kwilsher’s post “Maybe Wertham Was Right: The Dangers of The Rapeman”. Certain subjects can definitely be harmful to their readers (thinking primarily of children here). It’s just very difficult to draw the line. Certainly, when directed towards the correct audience and handled with maturity; controversial issues like sex, violence, and racism, can be incorporated into comics to convey thoughtful messages and tell a compelling story. On the flip side, they can also be used to convey all the wrong messages. ‘Wrong’ of course being a subjective term. Same goes for religious values, I guess. Not everything that supports Christianity is necessarily harmful or offensive.

      And to delve a little bit into the issue of censorship: I don’t really take this guy seriously enough to even consider whether or not his comics should be banned or censored. I mean, this is a guy who wrote a comic about a girl joining a cult of witchcraft because she got into D&D. I guess some of his comics might have the potential to ‘warp someone’s mind’ as you put it, but I also feel like, if anything, banning or censoring his comics would only to serve to legitimize and call attention to them as serious and influential works. I don’t think they deserve that kind of credit. These comics should be laughed at, and not in the way Chick would like them to be.

      By the way, just out of curiosity (this probably proves that I was not a very good Christian), but what do you mean when you say Chick is being blasphemous of his own religion when he calls himself a Christian?

      • kbusch
        April 26, 2013 at 2:23 pm

        Classes and finals have been stressing me so I haven’t had time to answer your question but I would like to.

        I say that Chick is being blasphemous of Christianity because Christians are supposed to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. In one story in the new testament, I’m not sure which, the pharisees challenge Jesus by asking him which of God’s commandments is the most important. The first is to love God, to second is to love your neighbor. That is the basis of Christianity if Christians recognize Jesus as God which they do.

        The comics that Chick creates are hateful, although it is all too often an approach to getting someone to believe what you want them to, fear and hate were not what Jesus endorsed. Chick presents the loud minority of religious zealots and a particular brand of fundamentalist that twists a religion and distorts it. This is why I call it blasphemy because the comics are meant to be hateful and no where in the bible does it directly say that people who don’t believe in Christ go to hell.

        Thanks for your clarification by the way.

      • May 1, 2013 at 10:23 pm
        Chick calls himself a christian he is being blasphemous of his own religion.

        To clarify this a bit, it may help if I point out that many of Chick’s tracts are specifically anti-Catholic — ridiculously anti-Catholic. If memory serves, Chick identifies as Pentacostal (I could be wrong), but the origin of his feelings against Catholicism are spelled out in his Crusader’s comics. It’s more of a conspiracy theory than a theological nuance.

    • May 1, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      The parallel to and contrast with Wertham is interesting and potentially productive, especially considering that Wertham was not, as you say, a “prudish conservative”, but rather a bleeding heart liberal. (This makes sense if you think about it. Wertham wanted regulation that limited comics influence, and of course that regulation has to come from somewhere.)

      And really, even though Wertham is worried about the salacious content of comics and Chick is worried about your salvation, they’re actually in agreement that the comic form is ideal for holding someone’s attention and convincing them of something in a manner that is so automatic it’s almost subconscious.

  2. April 22, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    I enjoy collecting Chick tracts. He’s printed nearly 250 different titles so far, and they are a lot of fun to collect and read. The ones I disagree with I enjoy the most. I guess I believe in REAL diversity, especially diversity of thought. Even if you are not a believer, Chick tracts serve a very important purpose in America. They prove that we continue enforce the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights and our Constitution which stated: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press” The very first four things the Bill of Rights commands deal with Chick tracts: His religious unconventional views, how he practices those views (witnessing to others), his speech about his views, and his publishing of those views. Since the 1960s, America has become more intolerant of Fundamentalist Christians and their beliefs. Although I am not one, I feel they are entitled to at least as much respect as the Jews or Muslims, and that means they have the right to offend you and me, and we can’t make them shut up because we worry they might hurt someone’s feelings. We should remember our forefathers had more experience with political correctness than you and I ever will, because nothing competes with a Monarchy when it comes to its practice of “our way or the highway” group think. So viva la Chick tracts! If you don’t agree with them, do what our founding fathers suggested– draw up your own and publish them to persuade others to your alternate way of thinking. It’s what the free market place of ideas is all about. Just do me a favor and send me a copy, too, since I collect those as well. Thanks!

    • May 1, 2013 at 10:14 pm

      Kurt, I was about to reply to this post by providing some of my own perspective on Chick’s comics, a perspective gained first from having grown up in the Bible Belt, but also from having once read a fascinating collector’s guide a few years ago — speaking of which, am I correct if I guess you’re this Kurt? If so, then I’d say you’re writing here with some authority on the subject of Chick tracts! And also, thanks for writing your book! Chick exists in such an odd corner of the comics universe, and he seems like such an interesting person, all the anti-Catholic paranoia, Fundamentalism, etc. nothwithstanding. I’d seen the comics for years growing up, and I remember a time in High School when we sought them out to make fun of them. They became a kind of illicit contraband, which is of course pretty ironic. Our two favorites were “Somebody Goofed!” (which surely must be among his least nuanced works) and “Boo!” (which I think you point out as an example of how Chick seems to relish the theatrics of Halloween).

      Anyway, whether you’re that Kurt or not, I’m glad you write here in reference to the freedom of speech under which Chick tracts exist. Essentially, it’s a similar premise and publishing model to contemporaneous Underground Comix, despite obviously different agendas. While I find most of Chick’s ideas basically ridiculous, I respect he’s been publishing these for 50 years, embracing a medium that was then being accused of being inherently evil. I mean, he even had the foresight way back in 1996 to register chick.com — a domain name that, by the way, might otherwise have been highly desirable for its potential other meanings.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Bill Alexander
    October 23, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    I am trying to locate a 23/4″ X 5″ booklet type tract titled “The Facts of Life.” Printed by Life Messengers in Seattle, WA. It explains all the various methods of abortion with pictures-very graphic. It is a tract made of rough paper similar to that of the Chick Tracts. I originally had about 200 of them but have given them all out. I am interested in obtaining 200 more. Bill Alexander

Comments are closed.