Written: 17 July, 2000

[This post was written in response to a news item that Frank Miller is planning to write and draw a comic about Jesus, titled "Jesus!". The italicized portions below are excerpted from the news article.]

> "Putting together 300 taught me several lessons," said Miller of the project. "One was that there`s no point in being scared of a really great story. Another was that if one delves deep into research, and gives it the time it demands, history becomes a treasure trove. As I write and draw The Dark Knight Strikes Again, I`m stacking up a mountain of books in preparation for JESUS!, almost certainly the toughest job I`ve ever given myself. But the toughest ones are always the most fun." Miller`s editor on the project, Diana Schutz, senior editor of the Maverick line, concurs. "I`ve actually already begun reading some of the texts Frank has recommended, and it`s remarkable how this story, familiar to people the world over, can take on a brand new light - or even several - depending on who`s doing the telling.

This sounds to me like we might hear the story from different perspectives. "Jesus Christ Superstar" did this when it had a lot of the lyrics being sung by Judas, trying to figure Jesus out.

I'd be interested in knowing "some of the texts Frank has recommended." Not to sound like a religious fanatic, but the most important and reliable texts about Jesus' life are the four Gospels in the New Testament. Scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was the earliest one, and that it was written around 40 years after the crucifixion. It bugs me that some people will ignore what is written in the Gospels ("Well, they were written decades after Jesus, so they're not that reliable") and yet will agree with what some 20th Century academic has to write about Jesus instead because "it sounds more believable" (usually because they dismiss all the supernatural elements recounted in the Gospels -- after all, we all know there is no such thing as supernatural events in the real world, right?).

If Frank Miller is going to go by texts about the "historical Jesus" written by the controversial Jesus Seminar (who dismiss most of what the Gospels have to say about Jesus), then he's going to bring down the same criticism that Peter Jennings' recent TV documentary on "The Search for Jesus" did (which relied a lot from Jesus Seminar commentary). Such criticism would come not simply because Miller's Jesus would be different from the Jesus that Christians worship, but because Christians would feel that it is inaccurate, ignoring the best record of Jesus' life that we have (the Gospels).

> "I should have guessed something was up," Schutz continued, "when Frank first drew that Christ-like figure of Wallace in Sin City: Hell and Back #2. Sure enough, it was just a few months later that he began confiding in me, with an almost boyhood enthusiasm, about the JESUS! project. I`ve often joked with Frank, in a kind of serious way actually, that his Catholic upbringing is evident in all his work - here`s where he`s really gonna have to lay it on the line! As a former Catholic schoolgirl myself, I couldn`t be more excited at the prospect of working with him on this."

For some reason, this mention of "Catholic upbringing" bugs me. A lot of people "grow up Catholic," go to Catholic schools (which I think are taught by nuns or something and have the reputation of being more strict than public school), and then seem to break out of those confines when they are older. I mean, look at the singer Madonna for an example. For some reason, I think some people who grow up Catholic associate Christianity with a bunch of uptight rules and boring formality. So, maybe when they get older they are really tempted to go to the other extreme and be really irreverant and controversial (e.g., again, Madonna), as a reaction against what they were told as a child.

So, if that's what Miller's Jesus is going to be -- a reaction against his Catholic upbringing -- I fear that it will be more like a personal catharsis for Miller, and maybe for other people raised Catholic, but less helpful to the rest of us.

I particularly feel that there are probably a lot of people who grew up Christians, were raised that way, and then abandoned it when they became adults, and who continue to reject Christianity because they associate their childhood experience with Christianity. But there are many forms of Christianity, many ways of worshipping God, etc.

> "We talked about his plans: how and why he wants to do it, the approach he plans to take, and the mountain of research he`s winnowing, in order to get to the harvest of an exciting, moving, and - yes - entertaining work of art," Thompson continued. "It`ll also be a work of love. I know this, because Frank only puts his efforts into what he loves."

I'd love to know what texts he's looking at in this "mountain of research." I guess the most basic question to ask (and which the Newsarama article doesn't address) is whether Frank Miller's Jesus is faithful to the Gospels (as Chester Brown's Jesus was, in Yummy Fur) or whether it views the Gospels as unreliable and prefers to portray Jesus as simply a traveling philosopher who performed no miracles, etc. (Incidentally, see my [journal entry] where I posted recently about how Muslims share the Christian belief that Jesus performed miracles and was born from a virgin named Mary.) Or perhaps it will tell the story from different sides, so that to skeptical people Jesus is shown as just another man, while to his disciples he is shown as walking on water, etc.

> And while this project is certainly sure to spark controversy in some circles, according to a spokesperson for the publisher, "This is going to be a respectful, history-inspired look at the life of Jesus, neither irreverent nor reverent in tone."

Hmmmm, sounds like he's been reading modern books about the "historical Jesus." As I said above, modern academic theories about Jesus presume from the start that Jesus couldn't have been what the Gospels say he was. Why rely on them more than the testimony in the Gospels, which has stood the test of time and was closer to the event it describes?