If you’re surprised that I’m including Chick Tracts in my reviews of webcomics, I’ve got news for you: Jack T. Chick is one of the original webcomickers.
I talk a lot about the “early days” of webcomics, but in truth, the 2000-ish era wasn’t “early” at all. But the true early days are kind of difficult to talk about, because we have to talk about the early days of the web itself, and very little from this period survives today. The history of internet culture wasn’t really being studied and catalogued like it is today, and first-hand accounts of the period are hard to come by. Even the Wayback Machine can only take us back to 1996. In 1996, chick.com was already there (for reference, the web was created in 1991). I couldn’t find hard dates for when Chick bought that url, but one way or the other, these comics have been online for a long ass time.
Chick Tracts are so called because they were originally created to be pamphlets handed out as part of fundamentalists’ evangelizing efforts, or “witnessing”. In the 70s, Chick wanted to be able to get that sweet, sweet “impressionable child” demographic, so he started making tracts that would appeal to children: comics. Chick’s work makes for a hilarious meme, but when you think about a kid with still-developing critical thinking skills being handed one of these while they’re trick-or-treating, it seems a lot less funny.
(Then again, when I was a kid, I would’ve just been pissed that some asshole gave me something that wasn’t candy.)
Maybe kids deserve more credit, though – even a child could probably see through the blatant bullshit presented as fact in these comics. In fact, Chick’s ideology is so baldfaced in these that it’s hard to imagine anyone being taken in by them. He scorns all forms of religion besides his own, including Christianity. He makes up things (or relies on ideas invented by other fundamentalists) about queer people, trans people, witches, Freemasons, uh, D&D players? You get the idea. He even makes statements about Satan as if they were historically documented facts. Being a good person isn’t enough. Living by the Bible isn’t even enough for this guy! You gotta subscribe to his exact idea of what sins are AND accept Jesus. It’s a bit baffling how this kind of fundamentalism can even survive at all, without the barest modicum of human empathy or fact-checking.
And that’s probably the funniest thing about Chick. His ideology is so disastrously out of touch, yet so completely earnest and self-assured, that you can’t help but laugh at him. He’s quixotic without being sympathetic, a perfect target for mockery. And have you seen some of these panels?? There’s no need to parody Chick’s work; it’s a parody of itself.
So what have we learned? What is it even possible to learn from someone so detached from reality, so immune to criticism, so fucking evil? “Don’t be like this guy”? I guess that’s a good start. But given the disconcerting prevalence of fundamentalist Christian institutions in the United States and their predilection for making queer and trans people, uh, die, understanding the way that they really think and the things that they actually believe about us can be of the utmost importance. And while it might not seem like a threat to take seriously, I do think that kids should be protected from this sort of shit, because evangelists take a shotgun approach to these things; they don’t care if most people slam the door in their faces, they’re just looking for those one or two people desperate, sad, ignorant, or young enough to be taken in by it.
So I guess that might be why we love to laugh at Chick Tracts: the alternative is admitting how terrifying they really are. Wow, this review ended up in a really dark place.
Nope, nope, bringing it back. It’s at least nice to know that door-to-door evangelists hate each other as much as we hate them. Isn’t that nice? I think that’s nice. Okay bye.
The verdict: I HIGHLY recommend reading these with a snarky friend, and not thinking too hard about the implications of their existence.
6 comments on “Chick Tracts”
Grew up going to a fundamentalist, evangelical church with Chick Tracts available on the way in/out of the chapel. I went to that church about three times a week. Wasn’t allowed to watch/read/etc anything with magic, including The Smurfs and Scooby Doo. My mom burned my D&D books (as well as my Vampire books, but obvs). Had demons exorcised from me and ran away from home. So, yeah, I’d say these can have a damaging effect.
Didn’t work out too well for them, though, seeing as I’m a super gay goth trans woman witch (who still plays D&D).
Holy shit, that’s awful. I’m glad you got out of there, Elise.
Ohhoho man, I’m so glad I never had to grow up in a religious cultist environment, but my mom’s childhood is sure interesting. She was raised in, what I call, a Mennonite cultist group. They weren’t allow to watch tv, read books outside of the church, listen to any music (including gospel music) that wasn’t sang in the church, you couldn’t go to other churches, women weren’t allowed to even look at men until they were set to be married, and everything and everyone outside of the church was of the devil… even your family members. If someone did something against the church, or left, the entire town shunned them to the point of stores even denying that person’s business.
My mom didn’t want to raise me with that kind of lax in freedom, so she (and unconsciously, my grandparents thanks to them renting me science books and horror movies out of ignorance) raised me to believe in whatever I wanted… although I don’t think she intended for me to turn out atheist, really the idea of an old man in the sky loving and always watching me never made sense, and was a little creepy.
On a side note, I’ve always loved how supposed Bible thumbing religious people ignore, or conveniently miss/misread passages of their own books to justify their blind hate. Convenient passages such as the one talking about how the worst sin of all is the sin of judgement, or the almost universally misread passage about sodom and gomorrah that they like to use as a scape goat to hate gays, even though it is never stated that they were destroyed because of homosexuality. Not only showing the towns full of several sins but the daughter Sodom being depicted as prideful, lazy, and gluttonous. Really, I don’t mind theism, but religious cultism is just… cringing.
I’m sorry this got so long, religion is an entertaining subject. <_<
Milo. Interesting. Which Mennonite Cult, and what town?
I´m a bit surprised that there are so many fundamentalist christian comics out there to be honest. Like how many people are out there to make boring ass religious comics, that might be unintentionally funny? At the top of my head, I could name three not including chick tracts.
I never understood this sort of propaganda, because it´s so obvious that people, if they don´t already believe the same things or are subjected to this at a very young age, will repel it instantly. It´s good that those things are not longer handed out to children, making it much more unlikely for them to get subjected to this stuff.
I had my fair share of dealing with people like that and it makes me mad, that my favorite medium is used to get their hateful ideas out there.
Uff! I’m pretty sure I’m masochist. Why? Because I forced myself to read through the tracts on their website. Like, honestly! I completely agree with the review, tho the primary options is to never read them. Don’t inflict that pain upon yourself, this tarot-reading gay warlock warns you.