I got the call on a typically busy day of both ministry and publishing. FOX News wanted to do an interview on the upcoming Superman movie release, specifically on my thoughts of Warner Bros. Studios marketing this superhero to churches. Since I was both a comics publisher and a pastor they wanted to know where the church stood on Superman. Since I could do the interview in the Orlando studio I agreed and drove over to answer the questions with another man, a Greek Orthodox persuasion who joined in at the New York studio. The interviewer asked the right questions and I got to another interview later in New York when the Kingstone Bible released. She understood faith and asked the right questions.
Later, DC Comics got the not-so-brilliant idea of publishing “Second Coming,” a series written by Mark Russell and illustrated by Richard Pace. The overarching storyline was that Jesus was needing to return to earth to learn how to become the “true messiah” from a Superman-like character called Sun-man. And Jesus gets to learn how to be the true messiah from the all-powerful superhero Sun-Man, the Last Son of Krispex! Say what? After about 350,000 of us (Jesus followers and comic fans) complained, DC withdrew it from their line-up and Ahoy Comics, a new imprint started in 2018 picked it up.
So how does a person of faith that (also believes in one they cannot see) sort through the world of comics and superheroes about what is legitimate and appropriate? If the Bible is our style guide and authority what stories can we enjoy and follow? Which superheroes are worth our attention? Sometimes we have to exegete culture as well as Scripture, and especially so when it comes to the omnipresent superhero genre.
There are some elements of the superhero genre that resonate with the Biblical worldview. Many superheroes sacrifice or show a willingness to sacrifice themselves for the good of others. Most are ordinary people, but they perform extraordinary feats when activated by a superpower. In the early stages of comics the good and evil lines were pretty well drawn. But today’s super powers wrestle with angst about their persona, Marvel and DC both began releasing their own brands of Muslim superheroes, Dead Pool was released as an R-rated feature and in some of the movies (like the comics) the girls are curvy and sometimes not decorated with much. With violence, sensuality and coarse language it is not the exact fare we want to offer up to older children. In the comic genre we can see a lot of the long shadows cast from Eden in the pride of life and ‘I will be like God’ mantra and superhero scripting.
A whole genre of publishing that last year topped $1.3 billion not to mention the giga blockbuster films – all spawned from this original idea of a superhero. Could this be a cultural and social indicator of a universal soul scratch we are all looking for a superhero? If so, a lot comic consumers just haven’t gone far enough yet.
The superhero most of us at Kingstone Comics discovered has some rare qualities that I have yet to see in any other paper, animated or cinematic superhero. His superhero exploits over just a three-year time period were so astounding that if all of them were told “there would not be enough books to hold them all” (John 21:25) So if all the books in the world can’t contain his super heroic deeds, neither will the confines of this article, but let’s pop out a quick Top Ten.
- I guess we can start with fact that this superhero is uncreated and not created by any one or any force. We probably should start there.
- He was really the first one to be efficient at intergalactic space travel. Coming from heaven to earth is still quite the feat.
- His x-ray vision allows him to pierce and even know the thoughts of the heart.
- Unlike a lot of superheroes, he doesn’t keep this power to himself and showcase it – he imparts it into others.
- He actually created the world and universe in which he inhabits and rules.
- This superhero never makes a bad judgement or mistake. Never. What appears to be a loss turns out to be his (and our) greatest triumph.
- He has complete, 100% control of his superpowers and never throws a Hulk-like temper tantrum.
- He knows the future. By the way, he also has an intriguing and mysterious name – I Am.
- He has this uncanny ability to be everywhere at the same time. Certain studiers of him who call themselves theologians call it omnipresence. Even if you combined the whole Marvel Universe, they can’t touch that one.
- Did I mention he can also he is able to delete and blot all transgressions, sins, mistakes and horrid things we have done and then use them for good? It is as the British writer C.S. Lewis called it in the Chronicles of Narnia “the deep magic.”
One of the T-shirts in my closet has a bright graphic of a group of the top superheroes sitting on one end of a beam and Jesus Christ sitting on the other end. As they are giving him their attention the caption bubble from the lone guy at the end says, “…let me tell you how I saved the world.” I am doubtful the day will ever come where Spiderman or Superman pause the action long enough to share the gospel with a bystander. But I do hold out hope this wide-ranging desire to identify with superheroes and having extraordinary powers will eventually end in the discovery of the Ultimate One. We were created for much more than this!
Enjoy fun comics and stories. But just remember you are only looking at shadows of the original man of steel and the real iron man.
Art Ayris is the CEO of central Florida based Kingstone Comics.
Kingstone Comics was born out of Art Ayris’ desire to explain scriptural truth and provide healthy entertainment to kids. With this goal in mind, Art and a group of DC and Marvel Comics artists have succeeded in creating the most complete graphic adaptation of the Bible to date.