A bombshell reverberated across the internet two weeks ago, leaving many a comic book fan shaken and stunned. If you haven’t already heard, DC Comics is giving its entire line of comics an extreme makeover. Essentially, they are renumbering all of their titles with a brand new No. 1, redesigning most of their characters’ costumes, skewing them younger in age and streamlining their decades of continuity. And now all of their books will be available for digital download via app on the same day they are released in print. All of this is in the pursuit of introducing a younger generation to their characters and pushing a new crowd to pick-up/download their books. But die-hard long-time comic book readers are a notoriously finicky and critical lot, and not surprisingly, many fanboys are already drawing lines in the sand and taking sides, voicing their opinions (quite venomously, in some instances).
Watching all of this play out, my attitude has mostly hovered somewhere between light trepidation and curious interest, a kind of “wait and see” approach to it all. But I do understand DC’s motivation. The comic book publishing industry is currently faced with numerous challenges. The down-turn in the economy has impacted sales. The world is moving away from printed paper to digital touch-screens. A bold new approach is necessary to counter this decline before it is too late to recover.
Odds are, unless you are a regular comic book reader yourself, this announcement has flown completely under your radar and has no impact on you. But I bring it to your attention for a reason. As I began to sift through the corporate hype and nerd rants, I couldn’t help but pick up on a fascinating parallel that struck a chord for me as a Christian.
Essentially, the purveyors of comics are out proselytizing, seeking to convert the previously unreached masses and introduce them to the world of comics. The more I read about DC’s (and other comic book companies’) attempts to adapt to a changing culture, as well as the passionate observations and critiques made by fandom both for and against this move, the more it vividly resembled many of the approaches taken by the American Church to find its place in the 21st Century and the more it resounded with many of the arguments that have been leveled by Christians on all sides of the debate. It was a far too interesting analogy to pass up, so I decided to develop my thoughts and hone in on these similarities in a series of posts I’m calling Comic Book Evangelism.
Let me be clear: my goal in all of this is not to needlessly allegorize and draw comparisons between the comic book industry and the Christian Church just for the sake of excessive and irrelevant symbolism and my own narcissistic gratification. Rather, I genuinely desire continuous spiritual examination, both for myself and for all believers, as we seek to move away from merely going through the religious motions and to instead achieve a heart-consuming fervor for Jesus Christ that will provoke us to make every sacrifice necessary to call people everywhere to repentance and faith in His redemptive Gospel. In the church, we get stuck on so many personal hang-ups that prevent us from carrying out the commission handed down to us and we tend to remain willfully blind to our own unholy motivations. It’s the ol’ “trying to get my neighbor’s splinter while missing my own log” issue that Jesus warned us about. Perhaps by examining the issues faced by a completely non-spiritual enterprise like the production of comic books, a kernel of truth will present itself and challenge our hearts to gain a more balanced biblical perspective on the mission of the church, to discern just what it means to be “in the world” but not “of the world”, and to repent of any previously unrecognized sin.
I would encourage you to stick with me here. I am building toward a point that I am trying to make during the course of this series. If you are passionate about Jesus and His church, then I hope and pray these posts would both edify you and stretch you in your faith. And if you are a fellow superhero aficionado, then perhaps this series will force you to abandon some of the extreme fanboy-ish traits that mark you as a prime candidate to manage The Android’s Dungeon & Baseball Card Shop.