Religious Comics 1
Many people have come across the small cartoon tracts published by Jack T. Chick, which carry a fire-and-brimstone message of Christian evangelism. Lesser known, however, are Chick’s standard-format comic books, 32-page full-color stories intended to deliver his fundamentalist message to adults and teens. Although these comics are typically shunned by fans of the art form, I decided it would be interesting to take “the road less traveled” into the backwaters of the comic book industry.
Issue number 15 of The Crusaders (copyright 1983) presents the fourth chapter of the epic “Alberto” storyline, in which our heroes, Tim Clark and Jim Carter, sit in a room listening to Dr. Alberto Rivera explain many of the astonishing secrets he discovered deep within the Vatican vaults while he was a Jesuit secret agent. As the dramatic tension builds, the characters are driven to stand up, and they continue their conversation in this manner.
The character of Dr. Rivera is based on the real-life Alberto Rivera, who was born in the Canary Islands in 1935 and died in Oklahoma in 1997. Rivera claimed to have been a Jesuit priest in the 1950s and ‘60s, during which time he discovered a fundamental corruption at the very heart of Catholicism. The Roman Catholic Church vehemently denied such claims, and painted Rivera as a crook and a fraud. Jack Chick, however, was convinced that Rivera was genuine, and agreed to publish his story in comic-book form. The six-part storyline was written by Chick based on Rivera’s testimony, and, although the artist is not credited, it is most likely Chick’s long-time associate Fred Carter. In any case, it is certainly the same artist who drew memorable Chick mini-tracts such as Dark Dungeons, That Crazy Guy, Bad Bob!, The Sissy?, The First Jaws, and Room 310.
This chapter, entitled “The Force,” opens with a suspenseful scene of an exorcism held in a village on Rivera’s native Canary Islands early in his career. When the local parish priest is overwhelmed by the evil “force” within the Montez home, Rivera is called in, for, being a Jesuit, he has been expertly trained in dealing with the occult. The hapless local priest is torn to bloody shreds by the demonic forces, but Rivera is undaunted and enters the dwelling. Once inside, he is swept into the air and spun about, as the women of the house, also levitating, vomit great quantities of green slime. Flying furniture and exploding chairs menace the heroic priest as his vestments are shredded by the unseen force. The sinister sound of laughter, the evil “HAW HAW” familiar to Chick fans, permeates the scene. Finally, he manages to administer a communion wafer to each member of the Montez family, driving away the evil spirits. However, Rivera reveals, although it seemed he had won the day, in truth he had merely been a pawn in an elaborate scheme perpetrated by none other than Satan himself.
Next, Rivera fills in some backstory by describing the origin of Satan and the development of his nefarious conspiracy to damn the human race to hell by setting up a false religion. The character of Satan is here depicted as a humanoid wearing an all-concealing magenta robe with a hood that leaves his face in opaque shadow. Only the eerie red glow of his eyes is visible. He lives in a cavern deep in the bowels of the earth, attended by his legions of monstrous demons. In a sequence curiously thin on scripture citations, Rivera describes the war in heaven that led to Lucifer and his fallen angels being cast down to earth, where the rebellious Lucifer became Satan, the Prince of Darkness, the Devil, and subsequently gained complete “legal and spiritual control” over the human race. Eventually, his demons had possessed everybody except Noah’s family, leading to the Great Flood and the famous animal-filled ark. Although the hapless humans all drowned, the cunning demons merely retreated to hell, where Satan began to scheme to subvert the biblical prophecies, all to gain revenge on God. In essence, he is the ultimate diabolical mastermind.
Satan’s false religion would, of course, eventually become Roman Catholicism, but it had its origins in ancient Babylon, where, according to Rivera, Satan established an occult religion centered around the beauteous Queen Semiramis and her hirsute husband Nimrod. At this time, which was shortly after the Great Flood, many familiar elements of Catholicism were introduced, such as the celibacy of the priesthood, the confessional, and the use of crosses and crucifixes. Each was a devious scheme concocted by Semiramis to keep the people under her wicked thumb. “The nuns were temple prostitutes, serving the priests -- just like today,” quips Dr. Rivera. Additionally, he continues, Nimrod oversaw the development of astrology, until he was finally killed by one of the sons of Noah in an attempt to end such occult practices. However, Semiramis merely claimed that Nimrod had become a god, and that he was reincarnated in her son Tammuz, a product of virgin birth. Already claiming to be a moon goddess, she added the title “Virgin Mother” to her list of accomplishments, and had statues made of her holding her son, the infant sun god, which were displayed in most Babylonian homes and gardens. Semiramis, the so-called Queen of Heaven, was clearly the prototype for the Virgin Mary. Rivera further claims that all the world’s pantheons were inspired by Semiramis, Nimrod, and little Tammuz in one way or another, and that Satan and his demonic agents even performed the occasional “miracle,” such as making a statue move or weep, in order to convert the gullible.
As Tim and Jim listen with rapt attention, Rivera continues his history lesson, briefly telling of the creation of God’s chosen people, the Children of Israel, commonly known as the Jews, and their period of slavery in Egypt. As the Egyptians adopted the religion of Semiramis, further pieces of the puzzle appeared, such as the concept of transubstantiation, by which their sun god Osiris was transformed into an edible wafer. Curiously, Rivera claims that the familiar monogram IHS originally stood for “Isis, Horus, and Seb,” although, of course, the ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphics rather than an alphabet. This point is not explained, although a footnote does reference the book The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop. Anyway, time passed, and dark days befell the Children of Israel. As they moved into Canaan after escaping Egypt, they slowly became corrupted by the influence of the false religion, which included, as we are shown, babies being sacrificed to Nimrod (in the guise of “Molech”) by being tossed kicking and screaming into a raging fire. Many of the Jewish elders offended God by creating a secret society “similar to Masonry” and engaged in both idol- and sun-worship. Thus, as a grim Dr. Rivera intones, “after the book of Malachi was written, God remained silent for 400 years.”
Although God may have been silent during the interregnum between the Old and New Testaments, Satan was, of course, very busy. Among the blasphemies he invented during this time was the Apocrypha, a set of books meant to subvert the true scriptures (which can, apparently, be found only in the Protestant version of the King James Bible). Out of the Apocrypha came the idea of purgatory, although Rivera defers revealing its sinister purpose until later. He further claims that the Devil also took the opportunity to lay the foundations for the concepts of liturgy, canon law, and dogma -- each of which would work its dark magic in the centuries to follow. Finally, though, God sprang into action, leaving heaven to be born on the planet earth as a flesh-and-blood boy named Jesus. Dr. Rivera gloats, “Satan’s deadliest enemy had arrived!” After knocking down the Roman Catholic contention that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life, Rivera introduces God’s “last prophet to the Children of Israel,” John the Baptist, who utters God’s first word after four centuries of silence: “REPENT!”
Then follows a three-page summary of the ministry of Jesus and its bloody, prophecy-fulfilling end. Rivera asserts, “Jesus is not a weak fairy like so many would like to picture him. He had guts and strength.... He didn’t pull any punches, and they hated him because of that.” However, Jesus appears quite passive and non-violent in the illustrations. The only violent image is of one of King Herod’s soldiers hacking a two-year-old child to death with his blood-drenched sword. The third page is given over to a dramatic splash of the crucifixion. Although Jesus is naked, a strategically-placed caption preserves his modesty. Rivera explains that the cross is shaped like a “T” in honor of Tammuz, and is not actually a Christian symbol, according to the Bible. Next, to Satan’s horror, Jesus rose from the dead and returned to heaven. Thus began the supernatural “cold war” between the Savior and the Devil. Satan’s initial tactics included the creation of the Latin Vulgate Bible and the persecutions of Christians in the Roman Coliseum. As the Christian church continued to grow despite Satan’s attacks, the Devil finally converted the Roman Empire itself into his new church, with the Emperor Constantine as the first pope. Rivera asserts that the letters of Constantine’s mother, Helena, which are housed in the Vatican vaults, reveal that he actually remained a worshipper of Nimrod / Tammuz (now in the guise of “Sol”) and continued to persecute true Christians after publicly declaring his conversion to Christianity. Rivera flatly states that “her son was an Anti-Christ, completely controlled by seducing spirits, just like every pope who ever followed him.”
Following the death of Constantine, Rivera reports, Roman Catholicism began to spread throughout Europe, and in its wake followed “witchcraft,” i.e., the practice of “hexes, spells, curses, soul travel, black masses, sacrificial murders, and drinking of human blood. Much of this,” Rivera adds, “went on in the convents and monasteries throughout Europe.” He further claims that “witches” were servants of the Vatican, and those who were put to death by Roman Catholics were merely renegades. “That is why Joan of Arc was burned to death,” he notes matter-of-factly, without elaboration. We are then treated to a gruesome image of the severed heads of Anabaptists, caked in blood and gore, atop posts stretching thirty miles along the road to Rome, illustrating Satan’s treatment of true Christians in the early days of his phony church.
Nevertheless, a revival was underway as the true Christians converted -- or “saved” -- numerous Catholics by preaching the true gospel. When Jim asks Dr. Rivera where he learned all this, the former Jesuit responds, “I read it in the archives of the Vatican. Every detail had been recorded, but very carefully kept out of our history books.” To counter this revival, he continues, Satan raised up his own champion, none other than Ignatius de Loyola, who instituted a series of inquisitions that, according to Dr. Rivera’s calculations, ultimately killed a staggering 68 million people -- which apparently includes the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust, as Rivera claims, in his inimitable off-handed way, that even that was masterminded by the Catholic Church. Furthermore, Loyola created the Illuminati to “control the minds of European leaders through hypnosis, witchcraft, and mind control” and also his crowning achievement, the Jesuits, who mastered such Satanic practices as levitation, telepathy, speaking in tongues, transcendental meditation, parapsychology, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, and psychiatry.
Dr. Rivera bitterly complains of the Jesuits’ studies of the occult, Buddhism, and Voodoo, as well as the many Satanic cults they have spawned, such as Freemasonry, Mormonism, Christian Science, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, all of which were molded by undercover Jesuit agents to serve the interests of the Vatican. Meanwhile, the Illuminati gained control of the world’s military forces and international banking systems, while cleverly covering-up their connection to the Roman Catholic Church, even using patsies like Adam Weishaupt to muddy the waters.
Next, Dr. Rivera rails against the evils of Christmas, an unbiblical Roman Catholic “holy day” that Protestants have been pressured into celebrating. In reality, however, he explains, it is a ceremony of white witchcraft derived from Semiramis, who declared December 25th to be the birthday of her child, Tammuz the sun god, since it is at this point in the year that the sun is furthest from the earth. With the first Catholic mass, which was said on December 24th of the year 394 A.D. (or thereabouts), the Church changed the birthday of Tammuz into the birthday of Jesus, adopting many of the pagan practices used to celebrate the day, such as decorating trees with shiny balls (which represent the sun), drunkenness and merriment, orgies, and, of course, roasting babies on an open fire.
The true Christian holiday, according to Dr. Rivera, is Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, even this has been marred by Satan’s sinister scheming, for every November, the Vatican-controlled mass media is sure to remind everyone about the Salem Witch Trials, calling them a “terrible blot on American Protestantism.” The Jesuit-controlled Church of Wicca and all its witches proclaim self-righteously to the TV cameras, “Never again will we witches be put to death by Christians!” However, they know as well as Dr. Rivera does that it was only Christians who were put to death during the Salem Witch Trials, while their accusers -- the real witches -- went scot free.
At this point, Tim becomes extremely concerned for the souls of Catholics worldwide, and Dr. Rivera assures him that their prospects are dim, due to the indelible mark of Satan placed upon them during the abomination that is infant baptism. Rather than throwing the baby on the fire, as in times past, the canny priests practice a symbolic sacrifice of the child to Nimrod / Tammuz (or “Baal,” as Rivera now calls him). They take the baby to the back of the church, far from the altar containing the cracker god (the pre-transubstantiated communion wafer), where they put the occult mark of Tammuz (the sign of the cross) on the baby’s head with oil, put salt in his mouth, and “baptize” him with water, all according to the Babylonian practices set down by Semiramis. Thus is the innocent baby made a member of the evil Roman Catholic system, which Rivera identifies as the “Great Whore of Revelation 17.” Unless saved, the baby will be kept in spiritual bondage by the mass, which is a counterfeit Last Supper using the ancient Egyptian IHS wafer, now called “the host.” Catholics are told that if they refuse to eat the host, they will be eternally damned, little realizing it is transubstantiated not into the flesh of Jesus, but rather that of Baal, the Satanic sun god of Babylon.
Likewise, the crucifix represents strong demonic forces that Catholics surrender themselves to when they pray to the blasphemous object. In order to illustrate Rivera’s point about the power of the crucifix, Count Dracula makes a cameo appearance, seen recoiling from such an item, “as depicted in the vampire movies.” Here, at last, the story comes full circle, as Rivera reveals what really happened during the Montez exorcism. The occult force behind the crucifix that the young priest wielded drove the weaker demons out of the women only so that they could be possessed by seven more, just as Jesus warned might happen in the Book of Matthew. Thus, the entire charade worked to Satan’s advantage, and the Montez women were merely bound that much more tightly to the Roman Catholic system.
Then, Dr. Rivera relates his most blood-curdling story yet. When he was 14 years old, he claims, he and a group of fellow students at the Jesuit college visited a nunnery elsewhere on the Canary Islands. While romping on the grounds, they discovered a deep trench, in which were hidden the bodies of seven babies. On the heads, hands, feet, and chests of each victim had been carved the symbol of the “Pax Christus,” and their hearts had been cut out. The boys were terrified. Days later, one of Rivera’s friends revealed their discovery to his teen-aged sister, who told her priest about it in the confessional. Shortly afterwards, her mutilated body was found dumped by the side of the road, and her brother vanished without a trace. Rivera was shaken to learn that the girl’s ears, tongue, and heart had been removed and the “Pax Christus” had been carved into her chest. Years later, he learned the motivation for these atrocities: the babies had been sacrificed to the Virgin Mary, just as babies had been sacrificed to Semiramis ages ago. “Nothing has changed,” he says grimly. The Jesuits use the “Pax Christus” as a sophisticated Satanic symbol for Mary worship, to indicate that the victim has suffered, as Mary suffered during the crucifixion, to gain her sympathy so that she might intercede on their behalf with her son Jesus on his heavenly throne. Without suffering, the thinking goes, there can be no peace. Rivera asserts, “If a nun is bleeding to death giving birth to a priest’s baby, medication is withheld so she can suffer for Mary... and if need be, die for her. The baby is always baptized before it is sacrificed. Many times, they are tortured so they can suffer.” This cold-hearted Virgin Mary is not the sweet, innocent Jewish girl who gave birth to Jesus; she is none other than Semiramis herself.
In the light of these purported horrors, Rivera advises a “zero tolerance” policy toward Roman Catholicism. He excoriates “Bible-believing fundamentalists or evangelicals” who support dialogue with the Vatican, and who attend Catholic healing services where the priests of Baal worship their occult symbols. In the final panels, Tim and Jim are utterly aghast, and Dr. Rivera closes by saying that true Christians have been betrayed by their own leaders -- modern-day Pharisees -- who have compromised with the Devil by cozying up to the Catholic Church rather than taking a stand against it. Furthermore, Rivera intones, unless the eight hundred million Roman Catholics in the world are saved, “they will be eternally lost and their blood will be on our hands at the judgment seat of Christ.”
As always, on the inside back cover, Jack Chick summarizes the message in his strongest possible language. Here, he writes, “Satan has tricked almost everyone into believing that the Roman Catholic institution is Christian. We found out that their “Jesus” is Tammuz, their “Mary” is Semiramis, the pope is an Anti-Christ, their “host” was stolen from the Egyptians and represents the sun god, and the Catholic crucifix is the heart of the occult. The Bible tells us this system is the habitation of devils. Jesus hates, and has cursed, this evil religion, and warns Catholics to get out of it.... Only by coming out and receiving Christ as lord and savior, can Roman Catholics be freed from this occult power and escape the lake of fire.”
Strong stuff in this extremely text-heavy comic book, with illustrations that, though skillfully done, are generally quite static. The lettering is typographical, done long before the advent of computerized lettering, and has a clumsy feel that detracts from the skilled rendering of the art. The sans-serif font is quite easy to read, however, and the sheer amount of text would have taxed the skills of even the most prolific hand letterer of the day. The coloring is actually quite sophisticated, far more so than was typically found in mainstream comics from this period, although it is occasionally hampered by poor registration of the color plates during the printing process. There are no ads, making, all in all, for a very dense read.
While the authors’ most basic premise, that much of Roman Catholic dogma and practice is not based on the Bible, seems valid, Chick’s overarching conspiracy theory is a tough pill to swallow -- in no small part because it hinges on there being a controlling intelligence provided by a malevolent immortal being with virtually a free hand in human affairs. And the true Christians, beset on all sides by this malevolence since time immemorial, seem to have done little else but survive in the face of it, which I suppose is commendable. But it should be remembered that, for an apocalyptic thinker like Chick, it won’t be long before Jesus rides down on his mighty steed to bail them out and set things straight once and for all. But that’s a story for another time....