Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Sissy?

Here's Jack Chick at his absolute finest! If you are ever asked for an example of Chick's work (not very likely, but go with it),show them this one.

This is the story of Duke, a trucker who's tough as nails... nails that've been pounded through steel! After stopping bullets. Yeah. He rides with his best buddy Billy Joe. You don't learn Billy Joe's name until the very last panel because he's not in any way important. They pull in to a truck stop and see the words "Jesus Saves" on the back of an 18-wheeler. "Only a gutless idiot would have that up there!" says Duke, "...cuz Jesus was a sissy!" No sooner are the words out of his mouth when the driver of that rig turns up. He's a full head taller than Duke (he calls him 'little fella') and built like a tank. If Duke's as tough as bulletproof nails pounded through steel, this guy is the hammer! "How's about you boys joining me for supper?" the hammer asks, his plate-sized hands on their shoulders offering them very little choice in the matter.

Once in the truck stop with food ordered, the Jesus giant (who never gets a name) asks Duke why he thinks "Jesus was a sissy?" This leads to a ridiculous argument over who would win in a fight - a man with God's power, or "some dude." "That wouldn't be a fair fight," Duke points out. "It'd be like fighting the Bionic Man... only worse!" Who remembers The Six Million Dollar Man? Heck, even the remake of The Bionic Woman is old these days!

Jesus Giant gives the full Jesus story, complete with the warning that Duke is going to Hell. As he talks, their waitress (Martha) listens in. She isn't very important to the story either (but more important than Billy Joe), but she gets a name, too! Poor giant dude! Anyway, Duke isn't happy with the giant's assessment of his afterlife allotment. "You mean I should stop boozing, swearing and cheating on my old woman, and start going to church and lead the good life?" he asks. "Nope!" Giant replies, and he goes on to tell Duke that stuff "wouldn't do you any good" because he'd "still be goin' to hell!"

I pause the review here to look at that last interaction. Giant's response is strange, in that it completely divorces the notion of Salvation from doing (or being) good. He might have said, "that ain't enough to Save you, Duke," but he doesn't. Not what Chick intended, perhaps. Or is it? Tracts keep reminding us how our good works won't get us into Heaven, because the Bible says they are as filthy rags or somesuch. Chick seems to take that to its logical conclusion: one's actions and one's character don't matter to God, only whether or not one is Saved.

I'll leave the implications of that notion for another post.

Giant Jesus Truck Dude keeps the pressure on, making sure two important things remain in the forefront of Duke's mind: "He'll send (all sinners including Duke) to the Lake of Fire, and you called him a sissy!" Duke, Billy Joe and even Martha believe everything the Giant says, and all three get Saved. The tract ends with Duke back in his rig, saying "that Jesus had more guts than any man that ever lived." His truck even sports a brand new "Jesus Saves" bumper sticker.

The artwork in The Sissy? is some of Jack's best. The characters are perfectly realized, none more so than Duke. He's the meanest-looking bruiser you could imagine, and Jack's attention to detail is extraordinary when you consider he drew each hair on Duke's arms, knuckles, chest and back by hand. Plus, his visual transition from mean tough guy to worried sinner is flawless and credible. The others are also painstakingly detailed, but they don't stand out the way Duke does. Even the obligatory image of Christ on the cross is tame by comparison!

Duke is, of course, an avatar for the people Chick hopes this tract will reach. It's also a clear image of how he sees them; swarthy, sweaty gorillas who would just as soon punch his lights out as look at him. This could be you, Jack seems to be saying. You're tough, you probably think those Jesus people're a bunch of wimps, but if I was as big and strong as my giant dude here... Ah, nothing like a good ol' revenge fantasy!

The Sissy? is, like I said, some of Jack Chick's finest work. Entertaining, expertly drawn, and not completely implausible, this tract might just make a few people into Believers. The arguments the Jesus Giant puts forth are, on the surface, clever. They don’t actually prove anything, of course; all they do is set Duke up for the next stage in his conversion. Sure do make Jesus Giant look smart, though.

Was Jesus a sissy? Who cares? As long as there are still people out there debating this crucial theological issue, there will be a need for tracts like this one. Keep ‘em coming, Jack!

The Sissy?
Likely to Convert - 4
Artwork - 10
Ability to Hold Interest - 7
Unintentional Hilarity - 4
Level of Disturbing or Offensive Content - 1

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