Jack T. Chick
More than 10 years go I’m walking the campus of East Carolina University on my way to some class or study session or something, when I pass by an older man. He was rotund, middle aged, and wearing a light colored suit with suspenders. As he passed by me he gave me a very warm and earnest smile and asked, “Would you like to read a comic book?”
I was a comics maker already, and had been obsessed with the art from for a few years by then, so HELL YES I wanted to read a comic. He smiled again, handed me a small wide format stapled mini comic, and bid me good day. This was immediately one of the greatest moments of my life. I lived, breathed, and thought of only drums, comics, and my hot girlfriend (who I married), and now unassuming men would just appear and HAND ME STAPLED UNDERGROUND MINI COMICS! This was the best thing ever. I read the thing and it was a short screed warning young people to stay away from the evils of halloween and the occult.
I chuckled out loud. It was glorious. It was well drawn and well lettered, which most underground minis aren’t. The message was as earnest as it was out of touch with reality. I decided I didn’t care how late I was that day, turned around, found the man again, and asked if he had any more. I walked away with 5 more mini comics. One of which warned me of the evils of Dungeons and Dragons. The game I had played since I was 8 years old, and had played at church with some of my church mates.
(Fun Fact: The Creator of these comics believed Catholics are a hell bound people. No wonder. Neither my parents, nor any of my church leaders thought there was anything wrong with D&D. My takeaway: Catholicism appreciates imagination.)
I love these freaking comics. LOVE them. Not only for the pure entertainment value that I find in bad cheesy movies, but also the earnestness with which they were made. Had they been made with any cynicism or irony, they would be worthless. The man that made these little comics had something that he really believed in. He took this thing that he believed and put it into his art. An art he clearly loved. He then distributed his art as effectively and widely as he could. And he succeeded.
That makes him a hero. A great champion of the virtues of comics, and art in general. Also a great hero of the underground art scene. How many other underground comics artists can boast that they have been as widely read or distributed as his tiny little minis?
Theology aside, I found them exceptionally uplifting. I stuffed all 6 mini comics into my laptop bag and kept them there for anytime I needed a quiet giggle. Each one gave me a giddy little hope that someday some stranger might hand one of my comics to another stranger and say, “Want a free comic?”
Anyhow, the creator was Jack T. Chick. Turns out he died just a few days ago. Age 92. God speed, you magnificent bastard.