DC Comics has given up rights to a series featuring Jesus Christ as a superhero’s peace-loving sidekick after receiving heated backlash from conservative Christians.
Over 230,000 people signed a petition calling the series “outrageous and blasphemous.” The series also received attention on Fox News and conservative Christian sites like the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Series writer Mark Russell told HuffPost that DC requested changes to the series that he and artist Richard Pace weren’t comfortable with ― including removing some profanity and covering up a nude Adam in a Garden of Eden scene. Russell said the publisher told him significant and larger changes would be coming but didn’t specify what those changes would be. DC also wanted to delay the release to an “unspecified date,” he said.
Russell and Pace requested to have rights to the series returned to them and are now seeking another publisher for the comic.
“DC was requesting these changes [regarding profanity and nudity] before FOX News set the outrage machine in motion, so it’s difficult to speculate what, if any, impact their campaign had on any of DC’s decision-making,” Russell told HuffPost in an email. “Though I imagine finding 200,000 auto-generated e-mails in your inbox can’t be too pleasant.”
DC Comics didn’t immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
“Second Coming” is a comic book series about Jesus’ return to Earth that offers cultural commentary on modern-day Christianity. God is portrayed in the series as being disappointed by Jesus’ first appearance since it resulted in Christ being crucified. Two thousand years later, God sends Jesus back to Earth to learn from Sun-Man, a superhero whom humans are worshiping. Jesus is shocked to see what Christianity has become and what has been done in his name over the centuries.
Jesus becomes Sun-Man’s roommate and tries to set the record straight about the Gospel’s teachings. In the end, the characters learn about the limitations of each other’s approach to saving the world.
Russell told HuffPost he doesn’t consider himself a Christian but is a “great admirer of Christ.” He said the series critiques the glorification of violence in superhero stories. Jesus’ message suggested that “maybe empathy and forgiveness are better tools for solving human conflict than super-strength and the ability to see through walls,” Russell said.
“[Jesus] is the counter-point to the ideology embedded in superhero stories that the only salvation for the world is the hope that the good guys are even better at violence than the bad guys,” he wrote.
On the other hand, the series also sharply criticizes Jesus’ modern-day followers. Russell said he believes churches have distorted Jesus’ message about “subverting power by living without greed or fear.”
“In this comic, Christ comes back and begins to reclaim his teachings from those who co-opted them for their own self-serving purposes,” he said.
The comic series has drawn fierce criticism from some Christians. CitizenGo, a petition website that focuses on issues important to conservative Christians, launched a petition in January demanding that DC cancel the release.
“Can you imagine the media and political uproar if DC Comics was altering and poking fun at the story of Muhammad... or Buddha?” the petition states. “Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His story should not be ridiculed for the sake of selling comic books.”
On Thursday, CitizenGo sent out a celebratory tweet about the series being pulled from Vertigo’s lineup.
Russell pointed out that his critics are attempting to label the series as “blasphemous” before reading it.
“They don’t know or care what the comic actually says about Christ, they just feel that they and their fellow travelers should be the only ones talking about him,” the writer said.
Russell previously broached religious topics in his book God Is Disappointed in You, an irreverent and comedic attempt to condense the books of the Bible.
On Twitter, the co-creators said their split from DC was amicable on both sides.
Russell told HuffPost that he and Pace are hoping to sign with a new publisher soon.