God in the Details

The role of religion in DC Comics and their Vertigo Imprint By Zina Hutton

A Bit of History
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One of the earliest comics in American newsstands was 1933’s Funnies on Parade which sold for ten cents The first instance of a modern action comic book was created in 1936 with New Comics It focused on FBI agents and was a nod to how fascinated Americans were with their government. Two years later, the first issue of Action Comics was released and comics were never the same. From the very first modern comic book, comic book culture and human culture have been intertwined. Comic book characters mirrored humanity as much as they were able, from romance to aliens and communism scares, nothing was really separate. And that includes religion

In others.  In the pages of DC Comics and it’s mature imprint Vertigo.Talk about an overbearing religious figure…  God is actually everywhere in the pages of various DC comic books. the role of the divine is subtle (see: Superman as a Christ-figure). the divine is never far behind. In some areas. . the role of the divine is held by an actual character with dialogue and a physical avatar.

 The purpose of this presentation is to show how religion and comic book culture are definitely intertwined and how some very important characters are tied to the divine .

Who’s Who in the DCU The divine take many forms… Some more pleasing than others… .

but her most notable appearance is in the award winning work The Sandman .Bastet  The cat-headed goddess Bast shows up in several DC works.

She isn’t as beloved as she was in times of old.  When he doesn’t give the delegates from Egyptian mythology the key. Bast is a goddess with little if any human followers. Bast speaks to her former friend one last time before leaving with her kin .  Bast comes to bargain for the key of hell from the personification of dreaming. In a universe where gods can and do die. Dream. And it shows.

Rama  In DC Universe Presents. death would probably be a kinder fate. . the miniseries about Deadman shows that when a goddess like Rama has her eye on you.

Rama is a goddess who likes to have things her way. She’s mean. In the comics. She’s Bostan Brand’s type right down to her measurements and when the Morningstar himself is suspicious of her real motives. Comic book Rama? Desperately seeking godhood. He serves as an inspiration to people all over India and east-Asia and is renowned for his acts of courage. She’s suspicious. . she’ll do anything to claw her way to the top. things are a little different.    In Hindu mythology. He has a purpose. you know there’s something going on. use human souls for her own gain. Including. Rama is the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu. The mythological Rama is a kind god that fights rakshasas and saves the countryside from bandits.

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Death  So she isn’t technically a god… This woman is probably the most powerful creature in the DC Universe and she chooses to be good.  She doesn’t have to call herself a god in order to be one .

 Death is what her name says on the label.  She is there when a child is killed in a car accident. More so than any of the other deities that come across the pages of these comics. . even more so than Desire.  Not everyone believes in a god. when soldiers die in a battle. and there’s something about Death that draws the imagination. she’s there to lead it onward to its next path. and even when murderers are executed. When something dies in the universe.  She’s at the heart of all things.  But everyone believes in Death. Death represents humanity at its best and its worst.

she’ll lock it up and leave. when the universe itself dies. And someday. .

Lucifer  Lucifer may not be a god either.  That makes him close enough (not just for this project. he is one of the few creatures with the power to create life in some form or another. but for a significant portion of time. but for several followers that rise up in his service) .

But that isn’t the last that we see of the fallen angel. . With the success of the Sandman series. Lucifer has Dream cut off his wings and then abandons Hell to its own devices. And for the fallen angel and former caretaker of Hell. Vertigo Comics created a second series where Lucifer would shine and scheme. A series where the Judeo-Christian god has abandoned the universe and the universe is falling apart. Lucifer has no other choice but to find someone to do what he can’t: remake the world in the image of the presence of god. After realizing that the events of the fall and his coming to reign over Hell were akin to the story of the Monkey in Buddha’s palm (where the Buddha’s presence is everything and in everything).Lucifer as an antihero     Lucifer’s role throughout the Sandman and then his own series is that of an antihero.

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 But the DC Universe is proof that the divine is at times like an infestation that worms it’s way into everything… . and unbelievably awful ones. Gods that exist in one pantheon or another in our world and gods that aren’t native to any world. There are good members of the divine. Other gods show up in the DC Universe from time to time.

Big Barda and Scott Free .

Hera and Strife .

Zeus .

Rao .

Superman DC’s Ultimate Christ Figure .

Superman’s Origin Story .

There are so many parallels between the story of Superman and the story of Jesus Christ in the JudeoChristian mythology. that they can’t be simple coincidences The last son of Krypton come down to Earth only to wind up serving as an inspiration and figurative representative of the divine… How could it be anything else? .The Man of Steel    Superman is the ultimate Christ-figure in terms of the characters that DC Comics has created in over 75 years of history and publishing.

Clark Kent/Superman   Jesus Christ    The only survivor of an alien race Has two adoptive parents that instilled humanity and a sense of goodness into his mind. They were responsible for the path that Clark Kent took Did things that were called miracles (repairing the sun among the most notable) Sacrificed himself to save humanity    The earthly son of a god (that might be a member of an alien race…) Has two human parents that trust in his heritage and facilitate his growth into the religious figure we know today Did things that were called miracles (raise the dead. turn grape juice to wine. etc) Sacrificed himself to save humanity .

   For all that it may seem to be a heretical parallel to make. Superman’s death at the hands of Doomsday is one of the most important ones to make when calling him a Christ-figure. Because neither Christ nor Superman had to make their sacrifice. Neither one had to die in order to save humanity. . It’s that theme of selfless sacrifice that truly connects and solidifies the idea of Superman as this Christ figure in the pages of DC comics. but they did so anyway instead of leaving humanity to its own devices.

More than anything. . You see that emotional conflict doesn’t only plague the mortal members of the universe. the presence in the divine in these comics shows that god is definitely in the details.  The divine is in every work of DC comics. In the pages of these comics we see good gods and bad ones.

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