Published on March 13th, 2019 | by The Riz0
The Controversy Over Second Coming
DC Comics pulls plug on Vertigo’s Second Coming due to public outcry over depictions of Jesus. The Riz has some things to say about it.
DC Comics has officially announced the cancellation of an upcoming Vertigo title the Second Coming, where, according to comic writer and co-creator Mark Russel, “is about Jesus coming down and being appalled by what he sees has been done in his name by Christianity in the last 2,000 years […] he’s shocked to discover what has become of his gospel—and now, he aims to set the record straight.”
The petition, started on the site CitizenGo, received 235,177 signatures declaring the yet unpublished, and unread comic, as, “inappropriate and blasphemous” and tells DC Comics the Second Coming “should be immediately pulled from your publishing schedule.”
Now that the series has been pulled there is a clearly displayed ‘Victory’ banner in the top left corner of the display graphic proclaiming their triumphant defeat of sacrilege and heresy in modern entertainment, specifically, the overlooked and underappreciated genre of sequential art.
Dear reader, let’s unpack this a bit, shall we?
Religion in comics is not new territory. Religious figures from diverse faiths have been depicted in entertainment from cinema, novels, short stories, cartoons, and comic books. (Everyone remember the religious fervor over Martin Scorsese’s Oscar nominated The Last Temptation of Christ and Kevin Smith’s non-Oscar nominated Dogma?).
Keeping this discussion to sequential art and graphing novels, there has been an impressive range of tones and subject matter from the epic (Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha), the comedic (Alan Grant’s, Jon Haward’s and Jamie Grant’s Tales of the Buddha Before He Got Enlightened) to the satirically vulgar (Garth Ennis’ and Steve Dillon’s Preacher). So why now? Why has this title for the DC Vertigo imprint, designed for a mature readership, suddenly gain such disdain causing DC Comics to succumb to public pressure?
DC Comics did offer Russell to make some editorial changes which, as heard on CBC radio last Saturday morning in my car, Russell commented, in a complete paraphrase since I was driving and unable to type at the time, that the changes would have impacted the overall narrative of the story to a great extent.
A change in editorial staff? Expected bad press from the online petition? Having Conservative-based Fox News pick up the story helping incite the petition in the first place?
A bit of all of it, perhaps?
The petition states, “Can you imagine the media and political uproar if DC Comics was altering and poking fun at the story of Muhammad… or Buddha?”
Siddhartha Gautama, the historical and religious basis for the Buddha, has been depicted in Osamu Tezuka’s Manga master piece Buddha, a sprawling story detailing the life of the Buddha in stunning detail. He has also been depicted in the Renegade Arts series Tales of the Buddha Before he was Enlightened, based physically on the Budai, the “Laughing Buddha”, where he smokes weed with Jesus and gets into other non-politically adventures with other religious, and historical, figures.
Muhammad appeared in an officially sanctioned animation entitled Muhammad: The Last Prophet where the scenes with Muhammad where all told from the first person perspective as to not conflict with Muslim principle of Muhammad being depicted in graphically. And then there was the South Park episode…
Here is where I am picking my spots.
The discussion can easily go to the philosophy of different religions, and their institutional outlooks, or how faiths that can wag judgmental fingers at other belief systems can’t take criticism, or even a joke, on itself; how frail is one’s religious foundations if it is shaken by a comic book?
Is not the endeavour of the arts, in print, or cinema, or instillation, to question, provoke, satirize and engage thought and criticism?
By extension, what of satire? Why can’t some collective consciousness not take a *expletive deleted* joke? Or is it the fact the Fox News reported on the story it received any traction at all before the series was released, encoring the wrath of a conservative mindset who would not have been previously aware, let alone purchase, the comic in the first place?
Here’s the thing; be offended. Be upset. Make your voice heard. The best part of free speech is that is free, and the best antidote for perceived disagreeable speech is perceived agreeable speech.
As I type clumsily thumb through my phone’s note pad key rabbit hole fluctuating between a literary survey of religion in comics and a social commentary of creative freedoms, I’m beginning to realize I am not upset that the petition happened and they “won”, I am upset I didn’t know it was happening and could create my own petition asking for the release for the book which, truth be told, I am sure I could have garnered more signatures.
So, what can I do, besides complaining about creative freedoms being circumvented by a singular perspective mindset?
I do run a digital comic website, and I pray, in a non-denominational, non-judgmental, pro-visualization, meditative manner, to have Mark Russell and Richard Pace release a digital version of the Second Coming on Draw Me In Comics.Com to aid, in my own small way, the continuation of diverging thought and discussion, to allow the freedom of ideas to flow freely, hopefully engaging readers in exciting, thought-provoking, new journeys.
Besides, goddess forbid, I super want to read it!
Editor’s Note: After The Riz handed in this story, it was announced that Second Coming has found a new publisher at AHOY Comics. Which doesn’t take away from the importance of what he is saying here (and will surely affect the title’s circulation numbers, going from DC to a smaller press), though hopefully means he’ll get to read it this summer.