The Devil’s Lonely Boy, part 2: Christ in Comic Books

17 Jun

My mom bought me a comic book Bible to lure me into its pages. For a solid year I read my comic book Bible during Sunday sermons. It looked like I was paying attention and following along, meanwhile I was skipping ahead to Samson bashing ten thousand men with the jaw bone of an ass, Saul impaling himself on his sword, David committing adultery with Bathsheba, Ezekiel and the army of bones, Jesus thrashing the money lenders in the temple, all the good parts. But the comics my dad gave me, like the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Green Lantern, and countless others, in my head combined with the comic book Bible and I very quickly transposed the two. Both instilled a deep fascination with Lucifer Morningstar, also known as Satan, Beelzebub, Mephisto, and the Devil.

Lucifer loomed large in my imagination. Unlike the dour apostles, he was flashy and charismatic and hinted at unnamed reservoirs of fun. He was pastel red, caped, with tiny, fashionable horns in his forehead. He was a good dancer, like Fred Astaire. He could shoot energy bolts out of his hands. He was tall and thin and good looking, like Cary Grant, and he had long ago discarded the pitchfork for a steely, shiny sword. He wore dark, double-breasted suits when he wasn’t flying around shirtless to terrify the damned. And sometimes young heroes with pure hearts would battle him to a standstill.

In addition to being king of the underworld, the Devil also owned foreign oil cartels on earth and worked to have his people—like Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Bill Clinton—elected to high office, in the U.S. and abroad. The Devil manipulated people on a grand scale. The world was his playground. He had a perverse sense of humor and liked to tell dirty jokes. He didn’t need to eat and never had to go to the bathroom. His voice was rich and nuanced and slightly British, a cross between John Huston and James Mason. Flames sometimes shot out of his eyes. His teeth were perfect. Stare at him too long and you would fall in love with him and serve him forever. I saw him in adult magazines, bad words, late night television programs and in the Russians. He tainted everything.

And he had it in for me.

He was a clever chap. There was nothing too mundane for him to use as a trap. If I stepped over little scraps of garbage without picking them up, I had been tricked. Temptation for me worked in reverse; I confused omission with commission. If I stepped on an ant, killed a spider, didn’t speak to the lonely homeless man on the corner—anything, accidental or otherwise, was a sin. Satan knew my every weakness. He exploited my inflated sense of loyalty and my overwrought sentimentality.

When other kids made fun of me at school, I could feel his handiwork. If I did poorly on a test, he had clouded my thoughts. He caused wars, famines, hurricanes and earthquakes, as well as untied shoelaces, unzipped flies, bullies and stomach-aches. He was a constant presence, always enticing me towards Hell.

The hell in my head was straight out of Doctor Strange. It was a cavernous place, craggy and perilous, tinted red with perpetual fires. Demons tortured the damned on an endless loop, sort of like an ancient conveyor belt, prodding and poking and tearing the flesh of dead sinners. The demons never bored of this tirade; they approached their jobs with cacklish professionalism, worried only when Satan came to their little corner of hell to check up on their progress. Hell was a nasty, bendy slice of infinity.

I obsessed over eternity. I could feel the vastness of the universe breathing down my neck. I also wondered about the spaces between Heaven and Hell. Baptists don’t believe in purgatory. I filled the huge gulfs of gray matter—the spaces between Earth, Heaven, and Hell—with undulating, tentacled creatures that sometimes snagged an unlucky sinner out of hell. These unnamable beasts existed outside either domain, cosmic freaks not welcome anywhere; their mouths were snapping beaks, their soggy heads ringed with thousands of eyes, big bug-eyed slimy beasts that gnawed on human souls. While I was daydreaming about the afterlife, precious good deeds were passing me by.

I mashed Christianity and comic books together, interpolating Marvel characters with the Bible on a regular basis. The Avenging Angel in Exodus looked like the Punisher with wings. Ruth was Mary Jane Watson. Solomon looked like a combination of Reed Richards and J. Jonah Jameson. Goliath was a taller, flesh-colored Hulk. David was Peter Parker and Cain was Wolverine and Job the Silver Surfer. When I prayed, I saw flashes of superheroes in the phosphene glare of my shut eyes.

My cosmology even read like a comic book. At the beginning of time, God zaps Satan! Satan vows revenge and ruins the world! God sends his best hero to save the endangered world! Satan defeats God’s son! But it was a trick! Jesus’s death saves humanity! Jesus resurrects, goes home, and with God begins to plan the final battle! Lucifer vows revenge again! He and God spar with various earthly heroes and villains before the final days!

This was all innocent fancy. I remember the exact moment when my childhood innocence came to an end.

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One Response to “The Devil’s Lonely Boy, part 2: Christ in Comic Books”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The boy with a thorn in his side, part 1: Saint Simulacra. | simoneandthesilversurfer - October 18, 2014

    […] pulp science fiction, Gnostic thought, and how they all jumbled together in my young brain. (see The Devil’s Lonely Boy, my first blog […]

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