Tag Archives: superheroes

Islam and Comics: Sensing a Trend?

The Burka Avenger

The Burka Avenger

Part of Rao’s modus operandi is to catch religion and comics stories in the news as they happen and save them to a repository for later re-reading, analysis, and then write up. Of course, while that allows for cautious commentary and limited knee-jerk reaction, it also can cause a back-up of reportable items, sometimes having them fall completely off the radar.

In this case, however, there’s been another intriguing effect to this scheme: The backlog of reportable items is hinting at a trend.

That is, despite coverage over the last several months of, say, the Muslim Superhero Tournament on The Huffington Post or a politician claiming Batman is only for Judeo-Christians, still a massive amount of news concerning Islam and comics has amassed for Rao “backstage.” More than any other religion, Islam seems to have the most constant, news-worthy engagement with the medium, over any other faith or community circa 2013. For instance:

Response to the Burka Avenger is still unfolding, but, unquestionably, it will be met with a steady stream of new news stories on comics engagement with Islam globally, culturally, artistically, and politically. They are everywhere.

Rao wants to know: Does modern Islam have a special relationship with the comics medium?

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Is the Pope Catholic? Better Yet, Is the Hulk?

The Hulk's Catholic ceremony

The Incredible Hulk #319 where the Hulk’s alter ego Bruce Banner marries in a Catholic wedding ceremony. (Image provided by Robot 6.)

In July, Matt Staggs of Random House’s genre site Suvudu conducted a brief examination of comics’ relationship with religion, prompted by a report by the British Telegraph that the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano “devoted a full page looking at the Catholic identity of popular comic book superheroes while questioning the religious affiliation of some of the most popular like Superman and Batman.”

Senior journalist Gaetano Vallini writes,

Bruce Banner, the incredible green man [the Hulk], in fact married his beloved Betty Ross in a church and a Catholic priest presided at the ceremony. […] There are other indications dispersed among the hundreds of comic strips dedicated to him that are said to unequivocally reveal his faith.

Kevin Melrose, covering the story for CBR‘s Robot 6 column, notes that Adherents.com‘s listing of superhero religious affiliations has the Hulk as “a lapsed Catholic.” The greater question here might be whether the religion of one’s alter ego or monstrous other self carries over across manifestations; if Dr. Jekyll was a Christian, does that also make Mr. Hyde one?

Oddly enough (or tellingly), the full-page examination of superheroes is neither available at nor catalogued by L’Osservatore Romano‘s website — at least, not yet. All the site offers when searched for “Superman” or “comics” is a 2011 excerpt in praise of Tin Tin in advance of Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson motion-capture movie The Adventures of Tin Tin based on the comics of Herge. Josephine McKenna of The Telegraph notes that the 2013 Vatican piece was published in the wake of Man of Steel‘s impressive global box office draw.