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Home > Letters to CR

Michael Netzer On Tom Scioli Reviewing Silver Surfer #1
posted August 24, 2013
 

While I thought Tom's piece was pretty engaging from a Kirby-centric point of view, I thought his paragraph on Lee's choice to do a Jesus-like rendition a little lacking - in that it settled for what has popularly become an artificial divide in the symbolic differences between the Moses and Jesus eras.

"I can imagine the thought process, "We’re making a comic about a superhero version of Jesus, what did Jesus do?" Angels did battle with demons. That translates easily enough into comics. What about Jesus? He didn’t wrestle lions or slay giants. He gave sermons. He suffered and underwent torture by the government. So that’s what the happens to the Surfer, a lot of sermonizing and suffering. It’s about as much fun as it sounds. Perhaps if the Surfer found a following to preach to this might've led somewhere, but the Surfer spends this comic preaching to himself."

I say artificial divide because I think the Moses/prophets era, though mostly seen as action/vengeful/warring theologies (wrestling with lions and battling giants) infused a lot of philosophy, anti-establishment thinking and martyr-like suffering into the culture of their time - while the Jesus theology was itself saturated with action, vengeance and violent battles of rage. And it seems to me that in another link on CR from the same day, Asher J. Klassen's piece on Man of Steel carrying anti-Semitic undertones touches on the differences between Jewish and Western cultural thought, as to why this artificial divide between the two eras has come about. Though I don't buy into the anti-Semitic charge, there seems to be some foundation to the notion that Western culture tends to want to clean-up the Moses/prophets era and launder the more sullied aspects of the stories so as to bring them a little closer into ideological comparability with the presumed purity of an idealized Jesus view.

While it's true that Jesus spent a little more time philosophizing and preaching than his Moses/prophets era counterparts, that's not necessarily the element of his story that gave it historical wings. All of his pontificating would have been for naught were it not for the violent rage he poured on the Pharisees and Scribes by attacking them as hypocrites and liars. If the physical wrestling with giants and lions can be viewed as a comics-worthy adventure story element, then I'd suggest that entering into the Temple stronghold of the Israeli monarchy and overthrowing the merchant's tables, as being no less worthy of the action/adventure battler persona. The notion of fighting a lion or a giant might become dwarfed next to the courage and intestinal fierceness needed to carry out such an act within the holiest core-heart of the perceived pretentious worship by the enemy. Indeed many of the Moses/prophets era stories carry a similar undertone of criticism and resistance to the spiritual/institutional authorities of their time.

I tend to think that many comics creators and art-form commentators have opened a few more channels within themselves for more insightful takes on such issues than many of their counterparts in other mediums. And though Scioli was only referencing how he imagined Stan Lee's thinking might have worked with the Jesus-like Silver Surfer, I might have expected a little more depth from his analysis that shows he understands the artificial aspect of that divide...at least to help open some doorways for other creators and commentators to rise above the superficial trappings we tend to run into on this subject, and with what seems like increasing frequency.