Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by retailer Steve Bennett of Mary Alice Wilson's Dark Star Books in Yellow Springs, Ohio.  This week, Bennett continues his discussion of material that challenges more traditional belief systems:


I genuinely appreciate anyone who takes the time to read this column, and realize by bringing up religion in this sort of forum I take the risk of making some readers uneasy and others bored, so I'll try to make this as brief as possible.


From some of his comments I got the impression that Jim Crocker of Modern Myths (see 'Jim Crocker of Modern Myths on Confessions of a Comic Book Guy') read something other than what I had written, but he does have a point; I really should 'circle back' from this topic and write about how we can sell more comics -- or at least touch on why we're not selling more of them.  But to quote a song by The Animals (who, for those born after 1969, were a rock and roll band), 'I'm just a soul whose intentions are good, oh Lord please don't let me be misunderstood.'


To clear up a couple of his misconceptions: I'm (a) perfectly fine with the First Amendment, and (b) don't consider comics like Preacher or Chronicles of Wormwood 'horrid secular screeds.'  In last weeks' column I tried to make it clear in spite of some of the content that I enjoyed both series.  But if he wants a list of 'church friendly titles,' I'd be happy to supply one -- though not all of them are Christian.


Right off the top of my head there's The Guardian Line: Virgin Comics' India Authentic series, which retells Indian legends; and Teshkeel Comics' The 99; and if you want a hero whose values are derived from his faith you couldn't ask for a better role model than Dynamite Comics' The Lone Ranger.*


Chronicles of Wormwood is just the latest in a line of what I like to call the 'profane supernatural thriller' popularized by Vertigo Comics back in the 80s.  It's a genre that perverts Christian 'mythology' so human beings are merely pawns in a war between Heaven and Hell and where each side is so much like the other the only way to tell them apart is by their clashing color schemes.


It's certainly not my idea of fun, and of course if I don't like them I don't have to read them, but unfortunately the ideas in them have become extremely influential and have started worming their way into mainstream comics.  Ultimately the Ghost Rider movie, while not very good at all, was about hope and redemption; with its bleakness and massive body count the current Ghost Rider comic book reads more like a Vertigo comic than a Marvel one.


One was intended for a mainstream American audience, the other wasn't, which finally brings me around to an actual point beyond my personal distaste for the material.


I was around when the Vertigo line first started coming out and remember how it was intended to grow the market (as well as give people who bought Sandman something else to buy) and reach an older audience uninterested in superheroes.  Of course it's been a success.  The monthlies don't sell all that well but the trade paperback collections do, month after month, year after year. I know having to endlessly reorder copies of Preacher, Sandman, Fables, etc. has done a lot of good for Dark Star's bottom line.


So yeah there's definitely an audience for books like that, but like superheroes it's a niche; the material is too extreme to appeal to a mass one.  And with a 'civilian' readership ever more ready to accept graphic novels as literature, it would be nice if publishers stepped away from their comfort zone and tried something else. 


IDW is going to give us Executioner and Rogue Angel comics.  Yen Press is going to adapt James Patterson's Maximum Ride novels.  Now that Marvel has found some success adapting works of literature maybe they can go beyond classics, SF/fantasy and horror and do a comic book version of, say, Alan Eckert's historical novel The Frontiersman.


And while I still have a little room left (although it probably won't do us much good), the Marvel/Del Rey manga deal is nothing short of inspired.  I've said for a long time that if you tweaked the X-Men formula (reduce the fighting by two-thirds, emphasize the soap opera aspects), it would appeal to manga fans, and now we're finally going to get a chance to find out.  After reading entirely too many manga I'm particularly interested in seeing the one where Kitty Pryde goes to the all-boy Xavier Institute boarding school.


* This year for Free Comic Book Day, Dynamite Comics gave us a beautiful retelling of The Lone Ranger Creed, a wonderfully nonsectarian declaration of not just what the character stands for but what everyone should aspire to.  It's easy enough to find; just Google 'Lone Ranger Creed.'


The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of