Second Coming Comic Depicts Jesus as a Superhero, Outrage to Follow
It’s fitting that the first issue of the Second Coming comic book about the Christian Jesus as a superhero sidekick is its own “second coming.” Originally slated to appear as part of DC’s now-defunct Vertigo imprint, the realignment of their brand and outrage bolstered by “religious outrage” saw it canceled. The book, by Mark Russell and Richard Pace, is finally for sale thanks to the little-known house Ahoy Comics. The rescued series will be limited to only six issues, a shorter run than Russell’s previous limited comics series. The covers for the first three feature on Ahoy Comics’ website, drawn by artist Amanda Conner. It’s as bold a concept as it is an interesting story, which is why the creators asked for the rights to it from DC after they were targeted by an online petition calling the story blasphemous.
Russell wrote two books about the Bible, which examined the texts and criticized how well humanity learned the lessons therein. However, he also wrote a number of acclaimed comic book series starring classic Hanna-Barbera characters. Russell took the Flintstones and Snagglepuss—ridiculous characters at best—and used them to tell incisive and powerful stories. The Snagglepuss series especially resonated, painting the titular character as a gay playwright caught up in the Red Scare. No matter what the subject matter, it’s fair to assume that any story Russell pens will be thoughtful and worth the time to read. Yet, the Second Coming comic is a controversial choice. Closed-minded people will think because it’s a comic book, Russell is making fun of Jesus Christ.
Wait…Jesus as a Superhero?
The Second Coming comic is definitely a tale about Jesus becoming the sidekick to a superhero named Sunstar. This isn’t a job Jesus wants, but after the events of the New Testament, God was so angry he refused to allow Jesus to return. Yet, when God notices how awesome the hero Sunstar is, he decides to let Jesus return to Earth in the hopes that His son becomes more like the caped vigilante. God is a disappointed father, who resents his greatest creation for their flaws. The Almighty is not portrayed very flatteringly but does fit the character of a divine creator who tried to drown his creations.
Just look at the cover image at the top of this section to understand everything you need to know about this series’ approach to these characters. Sunstar is a moral man, well alien, who wants to help the good people of the world. Yet, he does this by beating people up and intimidating “evil” people. When he busts up a bunch of thugs fighting crime, Jesus heals them all. Aghast, Sunstar asks why Jesus would do such a thing. “Because they needed it,” he replies. Russell and Pace didn’t make Jesus a superhero, they put a true-to-the-Bible Jesus in a superhero’s world to suggest that maybe these moral mythic heroes aren’t as perfect as some of us fans think.
Is Depicting Jesus as a Superhero Actually Blasphemous?
Most attribute the controversy around this comic to the behavior of zealous internet trolls. Yet, let’s consider for a moment if this story is actually blasphemous. While blasphemy often lies in the eye of the beholder, it typically refers to offensive expressions directed at the figures in a given religion. What determines whether or not something is a sacrilege, again, depends on the individual asking. One thing that might piss of some Christians is in this story, Jesus is something of a failure. The premise is that Jesus’s father sends him back to Earth because his teachings didn’t take hold the last time. In this world, there is a Superman-like character who is the new moral leader of humanity. So, Jesus teams up with him so he can learn to be better deity. Yet, from the first issue, Sunstar will be the one who learns from the team-up.
To call the depiction of God blasphemous is, actually, fair. This God does not love all mankind. However, since humans are made in God’s image, Russell gives him a lot of human flaws. This is meant to serve as a counterpoint to the way Jesus behaves. He genuinely loves people, and to him forgiveness is the greatest superpower. Jesus is the hero of this story, and the message his character is there to deliver is as far from blasphemous as one can get. Both a critique of religious doctrine and the superhero genre, the Second Coming comic could be one of the best comics of all time. It’s fun, hilarious, emotional, and delicately balances its obvious message with telling a good story.
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.