Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Present

In my last review, I actually praised Jack T. Chick for his cartooning abilities. It was praise earned; in the world of fundamentalist cartoon tracts, Jack stands high above the rest. All that skill and craftsmanship are on display in The Present, but they are not enough to save the tract from an extreme case of lameness. The story is a simple one, starting with a fairy tale before moving on to Biblical ‘truth’. There’s this king who lives with his only son “in a palace high above the clouds.” How he and his kid can breathe up there is never explained. The king decides to build “apartments in my castle as a present for all” his son’s friends, and sends his Only Son (hint, hint) down to the people below to “invite them to the castle.” It turns out the people below are a nasty lot, and kind of dumb, too. When Sonny-boy tells them the king “has a wonderful present for you,” they assume “he’s lying” and tell him “We don’t want his present!” And then they kill the poor bastard. Yes, bastard. We never do see a queen. The king is understandably put out by the news of his son’s death, so he sends his army to attack the town, and “no one survived!” “The next part of this book,” Chick tells us, “IS TRUE.” He re-tells the story of Jesus, sent by his father from his castle above the clouds down to the people below to offer them a present. You see, there are “many mansions in heaven that HE wants people on earth to come live in.” Just like the king in that story! Jesus tells the people he’s the son of God, come to invite them all up to his heavenly mansions. The people suspect “he’s lying to us!” And, well, we all know how that story turned out. The idea Chick is trying to put forward here is that God (like that king) is offering a wonderful present that is so good, it would be utter foolishness to refuse it. He also makes it clear that rejecting the gift will lead to dire consequences. The stories don’t exactly match up – the prince doesn’t rise three days later to become the townsfolk’s saviour. Nevertheless, The Present presents the Christian faith as something wonderful to be obtained, a rare thing for any tract. The whole notion of Hell is left off-page until the very end, appearing as something of an afterthought. At least until the reader figures out that the gift of Jesus is an escape from the predicament God put them into in the first place! I just didn’t like this tract. I’m not especially outraged, I’m not particularly amused, and I’m barely entertained. The Present is the re-gifted tacky tie of tracts, best left in its wrapping under the tree. Likely to Convert - 2 Artwork - 7 Ability to Hold Interest - 4 Unintentional Hilarity - 6 Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1


Here’s a tract that looks like it might be fun, what with the cartoons and everything. Sadly, the Fellowship Tract League can’t make a decent cartoon to save your soul. It starts out with a pale naked man with no penis looking up at the title in a cloud. “Boy! I’d sure like to go there!!” he says, uttering the only line of dialogue. The rest of the tract uses scripture quotes to provide context to the cartoons; each panel has at least two verses attached to it. A large brick wall, labeled SIN, pushes the pale naked man with no penis toward a cliff over the fiery pit of HELL. The brick wall has a human arm that points down at the scary flames, just in case there is any confusion about where the SIN is pushing him. Luckily, a cross-shaped bridge appears, allowing the pale naked man with no penis to cross over HELL’s flames to Heaven. This makes the pale naked man very happy. Even though he has no penis. Heaven is a simple little story that teaches all the main points about Christianity. Well done. A shame it won’t win any converts. It’s the cartoons; sure, they’ll keep the average reader on the page, but the style is too goofy to be taken seriously. Jack Chick knows the balance a cartoonist must strike when drawing a serious-minded comic strip. The uncredited artist on this tract does not. When you consider the fact that the rest of the tract is nothing but Bible quotes, one can see how the League have booked yet another ticket to Loserville. Wow, I never thought I’d compliment Jack Chick! He may be as loony as a roll of dollar coins, but the man knows his craft. Try again, Fellowship Tract League. Likely to Convert - 1 Artwork - 4 Ability to Hold Interest - 2 Unintentional Hilarity - 2 Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 0