Christian Comic Arts Society

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The Gospel According To The World’s Greatest Superhero

I’ve been on a “superhero” book kick lately. I posted recently about the book Who Needs a Superhero?, and the book I just finished was of like sort: The Gospel According To The World’s Greatest Superhero, by Stephen Skelton. To Skelton, the “world’s greatest,” is obviously Superman.

I always had problems really “liking” Superman. Not that I thought he was bad or anything, but I found it hard to be interested in a guy who do anything and couldn’t be hurt. Where was the suspense or drama in that?

I eventually learned that Superman wasn’t always like he is today, and in fact, Superman couldn’t always fly. Right now, you’re probably having one of those “duh” moments like I did when I realized it. Remember: “Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound”?

My son Brett loves Superman. I’ve said it before (yeah—I’ll likely say it again), comics of today are much different than when I was a kid. I won’t let my kids look at most of what is produced today. I can’t even let them read much of what I wrote a few years back…but that’s another story for another day.

Skelton’s book, though, makes me reconsider some of the Superman thoughts I’ve had.

Skelton reminds us that scripture says God reveals Himself to man in nature itself. Truth doesn’t have to come purely from the prophets. It can also come from worldly wisdom: wise men, scholars, and philosophers. If this is true, then when can’t God reveal Himself to us through fictional characters? Skelton’s argument, of course, is that He can.

I remember when I “got” it about God revealing Himself to us through nature. As a kid I did a lot of camping out with my friends—even sleeping on top of a 75 foot high water tower (another story for another day). At 2 a.m. in Mississippi during the “camping” months, the stars are usually visible for all to see. I can remember many nights just looking at the multitude of stars and talking about the vastness with my friends, particularly Wynndel and Mike. I remember being blown away by how big the universe is. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was just God revealing Himself to me through His creation.

Skelton goes on to say that “If Superman fights for truth and Christ is truth, then Superman fights for Christ.” (Emphasis mine)

Skelton falsely credits Superman for a few firsts, but we can’t blame him for that—many do the same. The Superman concept was actually originally presented in The Gladiator, a novel written by Philip Wylie and published in 1929, about ten years before Superman. Again, most folks don’t know this and Wylie’s novel is out of print and very difficult to find.

Skelton also says it is the Christian duty to bring spiritual revelation out of entertainment, something I find very cool. Generally, he means that Christians should take entertainment and cull spiritual truth out of it so that we can discuss those truths with non-Christians. I belong to an internet “group” of Christian comic creators and this topic is frequently debated, albeit from the creator side. What I find particularly enticing is that Skelton points out Jesus told the crowds parables…but explained it later to the disciples when they were away from the crowds and alone.

Cool.

I’d recommend this book to any Christian “artist” (spoken, written, sung, whatever) to help give encouragement for what you do. Also, any true fans of Superman would be interested in this. The parallels Skelton finds of Superman to Christ are both fascinating and interesting.

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Comment by Roland Mann on April 2, 2008 at 9:27pm
I'd heard of the Peanuts and Simpsons...but not the 1973 Superman.
Anyone else heard of other books like these?
Comment by Spike on April 2, 2008 at 6:35pm
A bit of trivia: I haven't read any myself, but there have been a number of books relating the Gospel to modern comic characters, such as John T. Galloway Jr.s "The Gospel According to Superman" (1973), Robert L. Short's "The Gospel According to Peanuts" (1965), and Mark I. Pinsky's "The Gospel According to the Simpsons" (2005.) Search Amazon.com for "Gospel according to" and you'll find Dr. Seuss, Harry Potter, the Beatles and a few others.
Comment by Roland Mann on January 22, 2008 at 9:16am
Thanks Jeff and Robert.
Yeah, Robert, I really liked that one, too. I had to read it over about 3 times to make sure I followed it. Then...I said, "cool!"
Comment by Jeff Anderson on January 21, 2008 at 9:27am
Thanks for this, very interesting, a non spiritual comment. I bought this book a year or so back at aChristian arts festival here in the UK, I seem to remember that most of his interest was mainly on the films, TV and radio. I was a bit frustrated at this, the first comics I bought as a kid were drawn by Curt Swan and his stuff really gripped me as a seven year old, and looking at his stuff now he was an excelent artist, maybe a bit tame for today, but a very good draftsman...when I think of Superman it is always as drawn by Swan. I don't think he gets a mention in the book. Shame.

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