The Beast is an Episcopalian

Toga, one of our favorite stalwarts, pointed us to this exceptionally thorough and thought provoking site, which provides a great deal of analysis on the religious backgrounds of super heroes. It seems to cover just about all of them. I’d almost call it exhaustive.

While the site seems to be written entirely without irony, I did notice that under J. Jonah Jameson, his religion is listed as “Hates Spider-Man.”
If you can’t find something interesting to talk about on this page, you’re just not trying.

For example, why is Wolverine a “former atheist?” Did Kurt convert him? I can’t keep up.

Also, they left out Jesse Custer, which is sort of a giant oversight.


  1. Green Arrow is in “The God Squad”? How the hell? He’s practically a godless commie!

  2. Well, I always thought that Thor was Catholic!

  3. Why is the Phantom Stranger a (maybe) Jew?

    I could look at this list for days.

  4. The whole Jewish Catholic group has me highly confused.

  5. Maybe they like that Jesus died for their sins but they dont think he is the savior.

  6. well, if my wife and I had kids, I suppose they’d be half catholic, half jewish.

    I mean, at least heritage wise. Because I’m not even sure where the nearest church is, but I sure don’t like the sound of the word, “rectory”.

  7. I love that they list Triathalon and the Triune Understanding (based on Scientology!)

  8. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies, so this page was VERY interesting for me. thanks to Toga for the heads up.

    One article was especially interesting to me — the Nightcrawler article describing his religious past and Chuck Austen.

    Having been out of the comic loop for a bit, and out of the Marvel loop for even longer, I must ask a few questions to X-Fans.

    Nightcrawler a priest? Huh? I mean, he’s German. A Lutheran priest, I can see. But Catholic?

    Was the portrayal of Chuck Austen fair in that article? If so, what’s the deal. I was listening to an interview with Paul Jenkins, who does not describe himself as a Christian, yet has a book by Dark Horse, Revelations, that — he says — will bring the character to some sort of place where he may not be just another skeptical cynic. The point it, he’s not a Christian, yet he portrays Christians realistically — using the whole spectrum, from fanatics to normal folk (sourced form some of his other work).

    And, for everyone, whether you are religious or not, what do you think about discussing and portraying religion in mainstream books?

  9. Great post Michael. That’s one of the reasons we do this site.

    What’s the link to the Austen article? I can’t find it.

    As for portraying religion, I’m all for it. But as you said, it should obviously be done in an intelligent way. Using stereotypes doesn’t make anyone happy, and only works for cheap jokes, and lazy writing. But at the same time, using realistic and varied positions can always lead to controversey, which I don’t consider bad. I think that’s what art is for. Art should make you think about your place and others’ places in life, and religion is certainly part of it.

    There are those who say that they don’t want “issues” in their comics. They don’t want to hear about politics, or gay rights, or religion, or anything except hardcore superhero action, but to them I say, “deal with it.” If I’m a writer, and I want to inject something interesting in my work, even if it’s Green Lantern, i’ll do it. And when the publisher hired them, they gave them the right to do that.

    Comics are an interesting place to discuss religion, because I get the sense that the comics audience varies wildly from the atheistic all the way to the fundamentalist. And there is something in comics for everyone, depending on how they choose to see it. As a flaming liberal, I see my values reflected in comics, but I bet an arch-conservative could also see their values in those same comics a great deal of the time. A lot of times in media, one genre will be aimed at a specific kind of audience, but in comics, the wide spectrum seems to all read the same things. This can be proven by the ridiculous arguments I’ve seen on message boards on the web time and again.

    I also know there are very religious comic creators, as well as very non-religious creators, who we would never know about one way or another if it wasn’t for the web.

    It’s all quite fascinating.


    It’s in the Nightcrawler article.

  11. Most welcome, Michael! I thought it was fun to read. I personally enjoyed it because when I read that Superman would be a Methodist, I had to think about it for a while.

    And anything that makes me think (without hurting my head) is good.

  12. Well, without getting too into it, I was raised Baptist, became Methodist and now am in the process of converting to the Episcopal Church.

    I find it interesting how a LOT of the religions that are represented on the list are geographically dispersed.

    Superman and Supergirl — Middle America — Methodist.

    The Guthrie Kids (Cannonball, Husk, etc.) — Southeastern America — Baptist.

    The Europeans are primarily Catholic (or Anglican) or Jewish (as are most New York based superheroes).

    Most Asian-based or martial artists are Buddhist or Hindi.

    I LOVE seeing religion in mainstrem comics. I know you’ve got books like Preacher, Testament and (sort of) Lucifer, yet those are Vertigo books. Not quite mainstream.

    Seemingly, comic characters religions are a byproduct of their geographic location. Now, there are a few exceptions, but not enough.

    Sometimes, I almost think you get more religious exposition from characters who worship “dead” religions, such as the Greco-Roman, Egyptian, or Norse pantheons.

    You also have books that deal with demons, angels and so forth, without giving any sort of specific religious context for it.

    Granted, that in itself is a universalist context, yet I think it would be interesting to have, say, a Southern Baptist character (usually stongly conservative) who is a mutant or recruited into a group in New York (highly Catholic and Jewish) or L.A. (um, Josh, what is the religious dispersion in that neck of the woods?), and have to deal with that sort of religious shock — female clergy, Christian/Gay groups, ecumenical councils, etc.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents for now.

    I’m pumped that my degree is coming in handy for something right now. :-D.

  13. “I find it interesting how a LOT of the religions that are represented on the list are geographically dispersed.”

    That makes a certain amount of sense, I imagine. You’d probably know better than I would, though. Isn’t region a major factor in religious affiliation?

    I think religion is tricky in superhero comics because you have so many characters who are walking around that are, literally, gods and goddesses. And they’re all of different faiths and beliefs. Religion in superhero comics seems to be of the “anything goes, it’s all right and true” variety.

    “I’m pumped that my degree is coming in handy for something right now. :-D.”

    Count yourself lucky, my man.

  14. ***WARNING – gross generalizations coming, mostly for humorous intent******

    There are two religions in LA

    There are a lot of catholics of mexican descent.

    The white people here worship money and celebrity.

    Actually, there’s everybody here, from all kinds of christianity, judaism, islam, and everything else, all in varying degrees of “intensity”.

  15. First off, to Conor. To an extent, region IS a factor in religion, but has become decreasingly so since the Protestant Reformation in (about) 1521. Granted, until then, every Christian was either Catholic or Orthodox. Now, when immigrants came to America, religion was centered around reigon because that’s how like minded immigrants centered — i.e. Little Italy, Chinatown, etc. Then, you started getting a dispersal of cultures in these once exclusive places. Then you find an interesting result. Take where I was born. It’s a little place called Harlan, Kentucky. Right on the border of Kentucky and Virginia, and one county away from Tennessee. Predominatly, everone there was Southern Baptist. But, so were the Methodists. So were the (small amount) Catholics. So were the Mormons (while they lasted). And so on. In some places, where one religion is dominant, the other religions in that area become, for lack of a better work, tainted with another beleif system.

    To Josh, I was kind of wondering how Catholic Hispanics factored into populous of LA. But, LA is one of those interesting exceptions to the generality I explained above. For whatever reason, this dispersal is almost reversed, in that there are so many, again for lack of a better word, warring religions competing for one’s soul that the more there are of them, the more they try to focus on what makes them unique, rather than focusing on shared qualities. (I mean, I know in conjunction with the Big tree you mentioned, there is quite a large population of Scientologists and Buddhists in that part of the country — two relgions that rely on, in America, setting themselves apart from the pack to gain intrest.)

    Now, in relation to comics, the first example may in fact be represented in comics. Seeing as how the Guthries are from my hometown
    (Cumberland is less than five miles from where I grew up) it is right and true that they are protrayed as a Baptist familiy. Baptists are what people in my reigion understand — from their theology to their day-to-day practices.

    I would like to see, in a book like Runaways, Teen Titans, or Young Avengers a discussion on religion, and maybe a child breaking away from their parents’ established relgion, and yet how thier understand of that relgion was “tainted” by their parents’ relgion. All three are set in places (LA, San Fran, and NYC, respectively) in which cultural and relgious diversity are commonplace, and hence can be exposed to quite a few different points of view.

    I hope I didn’t bore anyone.

    (Again, thanks to Toga, and thanks to Josh for posting this topic.)

  16. I agree, Michael. I was more attracted to WonderWoman when Perez took her back to Greek religious roots and when Smith cranked up Daredevil’s Catholic faith. I’m fairly religious myself (born into Catholism, moved on to nilihism, atheism, paganism and ending up at Taoism). I know most writers fear religon, for fear of alienating readers.

    But yay for the brave ones!

  17. Heavy shit guys.

  18. Here at iFanboy we like to roll low-brow or high-brow, depending on the what the situation merits. We’re versatile like that.

  19. To kinda keep this going, as I really have enjoyed the conversation and further thinking this topic has provided me, I have a nice littel question for you all.

    Who has, in your estimation, effectively used religon well in comics? Name the writer and a book as an example.

    I’ll give mine a few posts from now, hopefully.

  20. I’ve got a couple examples. I always liked the conflicting ideologies in Preacher. That book was loaded with tension based on fundamentalism, and the contradictions therein. But at the same time, there was an underlying goodness to the good guys, and badness to the bad guys. The points of the book were subtly made, but clearly stated.

    I’d also have to go for Lucifer, which uses the biblical backstory as it’s underpinning, asking many of the same questions as Preacher about the nature of God, and whether he loves his creations or is indifferent, as well as how we should feel about that.

  21. I can’t think of very many… is that bad?

    Maybe Kevin Smith’s run on Daredevil?

  22. Perez on Wonderwoman was nice. And yeah, Daredevil under Smith had that heavy flavor of Catholic.

    But all super-hero comics have some sort of religious bent, no? I mean, the heroes “do good” by what standards? Societal? Moral? Each has their own – and the best example of that is Batman and Superman.

    Oh, and if this is getting too heavy, I can bring up porn again. If you want. *grins*

  23. “What, you don’t like boobs?”

    Anyway, I like toga’s ‘do good standards’. Lots of heroes have motivations (Spidey’s redemption, Batman’s revenge, The Flash’s legacy to uphold) but how often does one think of their boundaries? If more heroes had differing moral, ethical, and religious differences, it would make for interesting story telling, rather than just a ‘black-and-white’ perspective (Ala Batman v. Superman)

    As per Michaels question, I think Daredevil OBVIOUSLY has used it well. Sadly, not many books will touch on religions. Sure, many will go with applied Christian and Catholic themes, but I think that with our ‘Post 9/11 Politically Correct World’, comic writers don’t want to risk offending any group of people what-so-ever. If a writer made a Jewish or Muslim character and messed up one detail, no doubt a media outlet would blow it out of proportion. So, for now, it’s too the three categories: Hero, Villian, and the gray spots inbetween.

  24. I agree with all on the Daredevil/Catholic thing that Smith (re?)introduced. And being the geek that I am, I love all things realted to religion that appears in comics — the Spear of Longious/Destiny, ideas of God and Angels, Asgard/Ragnarok, Greco-Roman and/or Egyptian pantheons, and so forth. I mean, the whole IDEA of the Spectre and, after Infinite Crisis’ lead-ins, Eclipso really intrigue me.

    Gaiman and Carey have kinda delved into a pseudo-Judeo-Christian religion with their interpretation of God, Lucifer, the Angels, and so forth. I find that version of Lucifer, especially, very interesting and compelling.

    I’ve never read Preacher, but that’s on my hitlist, when the funds come my way.

    Unfortunately, I understand spidermav’s perception of avoiding the non-Christian view to keep from ticking anyone off. It is sad, though, because a LOT of the greatest comic writerrs of the past and present are Jewish (although I don’t know to what degree of conformity they fall) — Stan Lee, Seigel and Shushter, and Bendis. I’m not aware of any overtly Muslim comic creators though, and I agree, you have to be careful with those type of perceptions.

    My two favorite religiously themed stories come from Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi. In Johns’ JSA arc that appears in JSA #59-62, we are told about Mr. Terrific’s tragic past with his wife’s death. There are also some interesting dealings with the Spectre in there as well (which leads directly into Rebirth), but I really enjoyed the interactions between Mr. Terrific and Dr. Mid-Nite. It deals with how Mid-Nite uses religion to understand and support some of the heroic things he does, while also relying on it for support when tragedy strikes. Terrific has problems with that. The end result I feel is one of the more moving sub-stories I’ve read.

    The Peter Tomasi book is The Light Brigade. Just read it. VERY religiously toned, both in the supernatural realm, as well as in the aspects of how religion can affect humanity.