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Author Topic: At least he's not a Satanist  (Read 14869 times)
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Permanus
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« on: February 02, 2007, 09:35:18 AM »

The existence of a website called The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters confirms my suspicions that there is something for everyone on the Internet, and yields the information that Superman is a Methodist. Or at least, Clark Kent is. Unless Methodists worship Rao, it occurs to me that Superman's dual identity extends to his religion as well - Clark and Superman actually have different faiths.

Anyway, this website should keep me entertained for quite some time.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2007, 12:16:23 PM »

HAIL SATAN!

Wasn't there an interview with Julie Schwartz a while back where he said something to the effect of "most DC girlfriends are thinly disguised Jewish or Italian women?"

The Methodist label on Clark Kent comes from an interview with Elliot S! Maggin, I believe, where he identified the religious backgrounds of all the characters. While I admire Elliot Maggin as a writer, it was in an interview and not in the books itself, and thus is merely a guess by a wise man with great insight into the character. It can't be counted on as gospel (no pun intended).

In fact, even if Superman's religion was given in a published story, I'd find it suspicious even then because Superman and his personality transcend writer interpretation. Writers have over time made "authoritative" stories that "explain" who is the disguise, Clark Kent or Superman, yet the discussion never ceases because the response is, "well, that's just Maggin/Bates/Pasko/Wein's take on it."

I'm not sure if this is a strength or a weakness, but it is an interesting characteristic of bigger heroes. Look at Batman; they list two or three contradictory religions listed for him!

Also, saying Superman is Methodist is typical of the site jumping to conclusions on the religiousness of characters on scanty or harebrained evidence.

I'm not even sure Superman can be qualified as worshipping Kryptonian gods, either - the "Great Rao" stuff is no proof. Swearing by gods does not equal religious belief, that's just how people from outer space talk and think. In fact, in E.E. Smith's Lensman books, it's revealed slowly that Kimball Kinnison swears by the outer space god "Klono" as a joke.

The truth is, there are only a few characters whose religious affilliations we absolutely know for SURE: Ben Grimm, Justice, Songbird, Shadowcat (all Jewish), Morgan Edge (also Jewish, thanks to Martin Pasko), Daredevil (whose Catholicism is a major theme in his book), Triathlon (Triune Understanding cult), and then you have guys like Thor, Thanos, the Valkyrie, and Oggar, that actually ARE deities themselves!

We can make some educated guesses on a few others. Generally, it's easier to "spot" non-religious people and entirely rational types, like Tony Stark or Barry Allen, because pure rationalism and distaste for the supernatural is built into their characterization.

The problem with pinning a character's religious affiliation is, it sometimes requires a judgment call assessing a character's personality. And often, that involves jumping to conclusions based on lack of "evidence."

An example of this would be the Marvel "evil Russian" characters, like Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, the Abomination, etc. The website automatically assumes that because these characters are products of Soviet Communism, they must therefore be atheists. This makes sense with characters that were raised (and sheltered) by the Soviet state, like Vanguard and Darkstar...and while there's no definite evidence for his atheism, assuming brutish thug and true believer like the Titanium Man subscribes unquestioningly to atheism isn't exactly the biggest jump to conclusions in the world.

But what about a guy like, for instance, the Crimson Dynamo? What's his religious affiliation? It is known that the Crimson Dynamo is a KGB agent, yes...and a real phony besides. And it is true that members of intelligence agencies are usually vicious, reactionary pricks (and this generalization is true of ALL intelligence agencies in all countries, not just the KGB). Saying that Crimson Dynamo would be an atheist is a good educated guess.

Yet...Crimson Dynamo is an intelligent man no doubt exposed to many influences, unlike the sheltered Darkstar and Vanguard. It's conceivable he might have some religious background.

What my objection comes down to is this: you can't say, "because Razorback is a truck driver, he must therefore not like poetry." Yeah, true, the mental image we have of a truck driver doesn't read poetry, but that doesn't necessarily mean Razorback does or doesn't.
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Permanus
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« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2007, 02:31:38 PM »

Yes, the website does rather make the assumption that the Kents are Methodist based on the fact that they come from Kansas, but for all we know they could be Mormons. Superman himself never seems to go to church, and there's no particular reason for him to worship Rao since he didn't really grow up on Krypton, so his religious beliefs are anyone's guess, really. I rather like to think of him as a Buddhist-type, all-things-are-one fellow myself, but not one who follows any particular doctrine. He certainly seems to believe in God, though, which places him in counterpoint to Batman's presumed atheism.
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Kuuga
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2007, 04:48:36 PM »

I've often pondered the question of what religon Superman might be. I have no doubt in my mind that he would have the upmost respect for anyones belief system but would have very little paitence for ignorance and fear or the violence that is often borne out of that.

I can see a case for The Kents being of some Christian denomination. He may very well have been raised that way but at the same time I've always gotten the feeling that the Kents were intelligent enough and not the type to force their beliefs. They'd be able to instill strong values in their son while letting him make up his own mind about what religous path if any, he chose to follow.

As for Raoism I think this is also a possibility. The discovery and exploration of his special heritage could very well lead him to that path not only for spiritual purpose but as a way to connect to a world he will never see. Even if he didn't neccessarily choose it as a religon, there may be ceremonies or traditions that he would engage in as part of this exploration and out of respect for the culture of his birth.

Ultimately though I think that all obvious religous allegory with the character aside, Superman quite simply believes in US. This is not to say he worships us. There's no religon about it really, but rather that he is what he is because of the kindness and compassion of human beings. Knowing what he knows of humanity and Krypton he is able to see the pitfalls, but he can also the promise perhaps a bit more clearly than we do since he's usually not prone to becoming jaded. I remember the piece Alex Ross did for DC's 911 book which had him staring up at a poster filled with firemen and rescue workers, and policemen going "Wow!" and in a way that almost sums it up. As the movie version of Jor-El might put it, it's humanitys "capacity for good" that inspires, moves, and uplifts him.

I know this may sound strange especially to more religious people on the board and I don't mean disrespect to anyones faith. I'm simply being honest in my thoughts of the character.



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jamespup
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« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2007, 07:28:48 PM »

Why is it that Catholic is the only religion that seems to occasionally have (lapsed) after it?

I understand that "practicing" or "observant" is used for Jewish people, since this is an ethnicity as well as a religion, but shouldn't the same apply across the board?

You never hear "lapsed Methodist"
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Great Rao
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« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2007, 08:54:10 PM »

When I first saw the subject line for this thread, I thought Jullian was still trying to defend Geoff Johns.

Regarding Maggin's thoughts about Superman's religion - what Elliot said back in 1998 was:

Quote from: Elliot S! Maggin
I give all my characters religions. I think I always have. It's part of the backstory. It's part of the process of getting to know a character well enough to write about him or her. Jimmy Olson is Lutheran. Lois is Catholic. Perry is Baptist. Luthor is Jewish (though non-observant, thank heaven). Bruce and Batman are both Episcopalian and I said so in the text though it was edited out erroneously. Clark - like the Kents - is Methodist. Superman is something else, but I never did buy all that Kryptonian "Great Rao" nonsense. I do think Superman essentially adheres to a kind of interplanetary-oriented Kryptonian-based belief system centered on monotheistic philosophy, and I've got some ideas about it that I haven't yet articulated other than as backstory. I think Superman is too humble to ask for things in prayer, but I think he prays by rote, and constantly, the way some of us talk to ourselves in the shower.

which I think sums it up pretty nicely.  There's a lot more speculation about Superman's religion at the page Permanus provided:
http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Superman.html
but I think the post-crisis heavily religious spin is very different from the pre-crisis spin, and the tricky part is picking out which is which in that page.

Which gets me to Daredevil and the comments about his Catholicism (lapsed or not).  When Daredevil was just a blind guy with radar senses, I thought he was really really cool.  The bee's knees.

But when all that over-the-top Catholicism stuff was introduced, I lost interest in the character.  It was Frank Miller who decreed that, "Daredevil must be Catholic because only a Catholic could be both an attorney and a vigilante," which doesn't say much for Frank's respect of the religion...
http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Daredevil.html

« Last Edit: February 02, 2007, 09:11:52 PM by Great Rao » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2007, 09:17:40 PM »

I was looking through the list - interesting that DC has only had one muslim character - and that she was an angry-looking, over-the-top stereotypical one at that.  The fact that she was "MUSLIM" was her reason for being.

http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/Janissary.html

Reminds me of how any black character back in the 1970s had to be angry and black and over-the-top and defined solely be being "BLACK."
« Last Edit: February 02, 2007, 09:20:04 PM by Great Rao » Logged

"The bottom line involves choices.  Neither gods nor humans have ever stood calmly in a minefield forever.  Good or evil, they are bound to choose.  And when they do, you will see the truth of all that motivates us.  As a thinking being, you have the obligation to choose.  If the fate of all mankind were in your hands, what would your decision be?  As a writer and an artist, I've drawn my answer."   - Jack Kirby
Permanus
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« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2007, 09:43:44 PM »

I've seen the Maggin quote before, and I confess I am a little bemused at his notion that Lois should be a Catholic (I can't think of her as anything, really; if she were English, she'd be Church of England, one of the most softcore faiths around) and Luthor Jewish. Apart from Lex's surname, he appears to me to have a strong Protestant streak - almost Puritan. He could be Calvinist or something.

I can't imagine Jimmy having any religious views, but I can see Perry grappling with moral issues quite well. I find it easier to think of him as Jewish rather than Morgan Edge. (I can't help feeling that Edge as a Jew conveys that rather creepy "they-run-the-media" image.)

As a lapsed Catholic (with Jewish antecedents; guilt I can do), I rather like the depiction of Daredevil as a Catholic, but only because it makes sense given his Irish heritage. If Miller somehow thinks that "Daredevil must be Catholic because only a Catholic could be both an attorney and a vigilante", he hasn't really grasped the religion very well: it's a highly institutionalised religion with a central pontiff and doesn't lend itself well to vigilanteism. Also, I can't really see how the tenets of free will and forgiveness tally with going out and kicking people's teeth in.

Not to mention the fact that Matt certainly seems to go in for premarital sex quite a bit for a devout Catholic.
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