Doctor Who is, in many ways, an inherently religious show. At least according to Tom Baker, the Fourth Doctor himself, who’s played the Doctor longer than anyone else to date (a grand total of 172 episodes across eight seasons). I agree. In fact, I’d argue one of the many, many reasons Doctor Who has been around for nearly sixty years is because it does what religions often do and we, by nature, are drawn to such stories. By this I mean it addresses the fundamental questions of human existence and invites viewers to dialogue with these questions of meaning, purpose, morality, and the like. It offers hope, even when such stories are out of vogue. Most of all, its central catechesis is to be kind. Religions, when they are operating at their best, call us to do the same as they seek to connect us to the Divine and to each other. However, religion doesn’t always operate at its best and this can lead to confusing conflations of our ideas of “good,” “evil,” and “God.” “The Face of Evil,” the fourth serial of Series Fourteen of Classic Doctor Who, brilliantly explores the dangers of conflating the role of religion with the will of God.
Daredevil’s Violent Vocation: God’s Calling or the Justification of Man?
Sometimes I’m surprised I’ve not written of Daredevil before. I spend a lot of time thinking, talking, and writing about the intersection of comic books and theology and teach theology at a Catholic Mercy school and am a lifelong Catholic. So Matt Murdock/Daredevil feels like a character made for me. A lawyer by day who lost his sight as a child, Matt uses the radar sense he gained, along with his extensive martial arts training, to protect the people of Hell’s Kitchen as Daredevil. As Marvel’s most prominent Catholic character, his faith and his relationship with God influence all areas of his life, superheroing included. He attends Mass. He goes to confession. His parish priest and nuns are trusted natural supports. But I never “got” Daredevil. My brother David loved him but I wasn’t interested. He felt like a bargain basement Spider-Man (when quippy) or bargain basement Batman (when dour). Then I began reading Chip Zdarsky (writer) and Marco Checchetto (main artist on the run)’s Daredevil and OH. MY. GOSH. I get it now! Twenty-seven issues in and I love it! A major story beat is Matt discerning God’s will in his life and, naturally, I was excited to explore this myself. Is Daredevil’s vocation divinely ordained or an example of someone trying to sanctify their all-too-human violence in God’s name?
Batwoman: Free of Guilt, Driven by Faith
Kate Kane, the Batwoman, is a remarkable character. Even after a lifetime of being bored by Batman, I found her so compelling James Tynion IV’s Detective Comics – with Batwoman leading Batman’s team in Gotham – became a permanent part of my pull list. Her solo Rebirth Batwoman title, penned by Marguerite Bennette and Tynion IV, soon followed. Last Christmas I was excited to find trade collections of her earlier New 52 adventures had made their way under the tree. What draws me to Batwoman is, while she wears the bat symbol, she transcends the most serious faults we see in the Batman. In so doing, she’s not just a character I connect with and love reading about. She’s also one who instructs and inspires transformation in her readers, as only the most important characters do. Continue reading
Ghost Rider – A Vision of the Spirit of Vengeance in 2020
As a character, the Ghost Rider fascinates me. But, with the exception of the ‘90s Spirits of Vengeance title that teamed the Dan Ketch-possessed-Ghost Rider with his (then) demon-free first host Johnny Blaze, I’ve read very few of his comics. Looking back, outside of movies like Ghostbusters 2 (which scared the $#!T out of me), Spirits of Vengeance was really my first foray into horror. Well, horror-lite. Well, horror-lite for a comic book. Well, after I’ve come to enjoy things like Penny Dreadful, It Follows, and The Shining and have had to endure horrors like Hereditary (WORST THING EVER), I wouldn’t really call Spirits of Vengeance “horror” anymore. It’s more a supernatural thriller. But for young me, it was the first time I willingly and intentionally entered the (Ghostbusters-free) world of demons, possessions, and fiery hellscapes. Lately, I’ve found myself thinking of the Ghost Rider. A lot. I can’t stop imagining what shape this Spirit of Vengeance would take if it flamed into being in 2020. Continue reading
What is #Comicsgate? Small Minds with Big Mouths
I’ve intentionally avoided writing about “#Comicsgate” until now. Honestly, I felt it didn’t deserve any more attention than it already had. It’s a movement of intolerance fueled by a small (compared to comic fandom as a whole) group of angry, close-minded individuals. They are very loud about their displeasure with the modern comic industry in an attempt to a) appear larger and more influential than they really are and b) garner more attention for their rantings. As such, I haven’t written about it. Why give this little, prattling monster what it wants? However, as someone who writes about his love of comic books while often showcasing my appreciation for the social justice lessons the better ones teach us, I figured it was time to finally talk about it. As it’s sadly not going anywhere (yet) I’d also like to offer my two cents on how we can counter things like this in the comic fan community. Continue reading
New American Resistance – March for Our Lives
I was honored yesterday to travel with a group of my students to Washington D.C. to participate in the March for Our Lives. Like the movement itself, the entire trip was their idea. They wanted to go. They organized it. They talked to administration. They found chaperones. They figured out the busing and worked to raise the money. I was there because they asked me to chaperone and I was proud to march alongside them. I’ve had people asking me what it was like or about pictures I took or things like that. At the end of the day, I seemed to be able to say more with this short reflection than I could with anything I’d put on a Twitter or Facebook post. Continue reading
The Mighty Thor and the Nature of God
Ever since Jane Foster picked up Mjölnir and became Thor, Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman have been delivering the most exciting, original, and thoughtful stories – all gorgeously rendered – I’ve ever found in the pages of The Mighty Thor. Sure, I loved Tom DeFalco’s Thunder God, my intro to the character. I’ve enjoyed the other versions I’ve read too. (And who doesn’t love Chris Hemsworth?) But Jane Foster’s the mightiest Thor for me. Their most recent arc, “The Asgard/Shi’ar War,” is a perfect example of why this has become my definitive take on Thor. It features what all the best Thor stories do – a wild cosmic landscape, universe-spanning clashes between celestial beings and alien forces, layered/interesting characters – while also offering an elegant theological commentary on the ontological nature of both humanity and divinity. Continue reading
New American Resistance – Your Kingdom Come…
It’s been a while since I’ve done a post in this series. My homeroom students of four years were getting ready to graduate (awww…I’m so proud of them!) and I didn’t want to weigh myself down mentally and emotionally by going back through the week’s news to put these pieces together. Then I spent the first week of summer vacation as one of five chaperones on a mission trip with twenty of our upcoming seniors in Baltimore working with Catholic Charities. Well, a lot’s happened in the news that could fill this post. However, instead of going back and trying to make sense of it all right now, I’m writing something a lot more personal. I want to write about why I’m passionate about what I’m passionate about and explain the forces that shape my politics. Continue reading
The Marvel Cinematic Universe made movie history in 2012, bringing all of the characters from their solo franchises together in the shared-universe extravaganza The Avengers. (And every other movie studio has been trying to play catch-up and duplicate it ever since.) The MCU will try to make history once again as the size of the team-up and the danger of the conflict both escalate dramatically in 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Inspiration for this major movie event will (most likely) be drawn from 1991’s The Infinity Gauntlet miniseries, a story as epic as it was anxiety-producing. At least it made me anxious! Continue reading