Acclaimed writer Mark Russell, and illustrator Richard Pace collaborated to create one of the latest additions to the DC Comic universe.
To the writer, he was creating a satirical commentary on Christianity and its corrupted modern gospels — think "conscious message meets parody" — but his work has, so far, been called "blasphemous" and "inappropriate".
The new comic series, Second Coming, focuses on Jesus Christ who is "sent by God to learn from Sun-Man, a powerful jock superhero whom the heavenly father might actually love a little more than his own begotten son."
On the official DC website, the synopsis of the first issue says: "Witness the return of Jesus Christ, as He is sent on a most holy mission by God to learn what it takes to be the true messiah of mankind by becoming roommates with the world’s favorite savior: the all-powerful super hero Sun-Man, the Last Son of Krispex! But when Christ returns to Earth, he’s shocked to discover what has become of his gospel—and now, he aims to set the record straight."
In an interview about the comic, Russell tells Bleeding Cool that with the comic, he wanted to comment on the limitations of superpowers. "Sun-Man has to deal with things like his grandmother succumbing to dementia or that he can’t adopt," he says, "because he’s technically not a human being, and his wife wants a baby. These are the sorts of problems that superpowers are utterly helpless against. Jesus brings this very different view on how power can be used."
So, what lines have been crossed?
"The conceit is that God was so upset with Jesus’s performance the first time he came to Earth, since he was arrested so soon and crucified shortly after, that he has kept him locked-up since then."
This is one of the statements Russell offered, in his interview, as a plot sequence for the story.
Many Christians, in reaction to his interview, have expressed outrage, especially a group called CitizenGo, who started a petition to have DC comics discontinue the series. In their statement, they say: "This blasphemous content should not be tolerated. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His story should not be ridiculed for the sake of selling comic books... Can you imagine the media and political uproar if DC Comics was altering and poking fun at the story of Muhammad... or Buddha?"
While I cannot speak about "what would have been", I can speak about what should have been.
First, it's important to note that there are ethics a fiction writer has to abide by when writing about historical figures and events, as well as characters with identities that the writer doesn't "own". In this case, both clauses apply.
Of course, writers cannot be expected to only create clones of themselves in stories they understand, but should be allowed to be brave in telling stories they want to see. But when there are sections that identify with the character(s) and might feel violated, the writer has the responsibility to be respectful, at the very least.
Russell, in his comics, threw all ethics to the wind by referencing Jesus Christ, who is the main pillar in the Christian faith and who, according to history, lived and walked the Earth. The writer not only attacked Christ's "performance", but portrayed Christ as a clueless sidekick who has to learn the ways of being of a saviour from Sun Man.
All this with the aim to share his self-righteous, self-important socially-conscious message that Christians have "really misunderstood the teachings of the Bible and of Christ."
I believe that in this era where pieces on culture, race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation are subjected to strict scrutiny for political correctness, the same energy and respect should be accorded religion, especially when one is trespassing.
On the other hand, parodies like this have been put out for the longest time, to which a majority of Christians have often overlooked.
A popular case-in-point being Arnold Schwarzenegger's Christ-terminator parody, which got lots of laughs many years ago. Slowly, parodies inched closer until they stopped hitting close to home with ambiguity, and blew the entire house to pieces.