Jack Chick, American Christian Fundamentalist Crusader & Arguably A Folk Artist, Dead at 92

One of Chick Publications best selling tracts: “This Was Your Life”:chickyourlife

Jack Chick has died. The christian fundamentalist author, cartoonist  and founder of Chick Publications passed away on October 23, 2016.

For many Americans, Jack Chick’s small, rectangular, illustrated booklets depicting the fiery struggles of good over evil in contemporary life are reminders of the fundamentalist evangelical christian tradition in the United States.  “Chick Tracts”, as they are commonly referred to, are “tiny comic books printed on cheap paper that are ubiquitous in subway stations, rest stop bathrooms, inside the dresser drawers of hotel rooms, and littered around other public places nationwide. “(via rationalwiki.org)  Chick Publications has been printing it’s  their three by five inch comic booklets since the mid -60s from their southern california publishing company.

The religious tone of Mr. Chick’s stories were sensationalistic and extremely xenophobic, centered mainly upon themes of spiritual warfare.  In Chick Tracts, the world is depicted as a place where a constant battle between demons and angels rages on.  Chick’s storylines are hostile to non-christian religions and homosexuality. Themes of anti-Semitism are omnipresent along with anti-catholic sentiments. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated Chick Publications as an active hate group. (via wikipedia.org)   Perhaps the most extreme and controversial storyline is found in the now-unavailable tract “Lisa” in which a man who had raped his children is exonerated in “10 minutes” by accepting Jesus Christ as his lord and savior. Chick claimed to have been inspired by early Maoist propaganda cartoon booklets (Lianhuanhua, linked comics) that were distributed throughout China in the 1960s. (via rationalwiki.org)

Most of his work follows a standard formula generally involving a highly caricatured straw man version of an atheist, Jew, Catholic, homosexual or some other “sinner“. Average Joes/Janes who are completely ignorant of even the basic tenets of Christianity despite living in the western world also frequently show up (“who’s this Jesus guy I keep hearing about?”). These ne’er–do–wells then get theologically owned by either a clean-cut kid who just fell out of a 1950s sitcom or a little old church lady. The sinner then either repents, generally losing whatever worldly position they had as a result, or ignores the proselytizing and ends up in the Lake of Fire, while the Christian kid/little old lady go on to eternal salvation. “Death is probably the most common event seen in Chick tracts, next to falling on the floor and reciting The Sinner’s Prayer with a tear drop of sincerity.” Occasionally he presents a “historical” tract, but the aforementioned crackers (whoops!) characters are still often used to introduce the story/rant. (via rationalwiki.org)

While undoubtedly representing the views and values of a faction of american christian  fundamentalists & evangelicals, Chick Tracts have also become despised by many who considered the paranoid, intolerant views espoused by Mr. Chick’s comics to be antithetical to christian values. Others have viewed Chick Tracts as an example of primitive american folk art and the tracts have garnered a ‘camp value’ as relics of an american underground subculture.

Mr. Chick became a Christian during his honeymoon. His new mother-in-law insisted that he listen to a radio program, “Charles E. Fuller’s Old-Fashioned Revival Hour.” He recalled, “When Fuller said the words ‘Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,’ I fell on my knees.”

Jack Chicks’ productivity slowed significantly since the late 1990’s. It’s been rumored that he suffered a stroke in 1996 and this theory is supported by his reduced output after this period, a more primitive drawing style in tracts which followed this period and storylines which espouse increasingly extreme and anti-social views.  Little is known about Jack Chick, as he was highly reclusive and gave very few interviews. Some people called Mr. Chick the Thomas Pynchon of evangelism. He had not given an interview since 1975 and, it was said, had chosen comics as his medium because he was too shy to bear witness any other way. (via Anita Gates, The New York Times, Oct.26,2016)

The company estimates it has printed over 800 million tracts during its first 50 years of business. As of January 2015, Chick Publications had produced over 250 different titles, about 100 of which are still in print, and are available in over 100 languages. We are assured, through the company’s twitter feed, that Chick Tracts will continue on with its mission.  It appears that the soft, white underbelly of american trash-extremist culture is alive and well, and not going away anytime soon.

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