OPINION: Jack Chick strikes again

Shelby Niehaus, Columnist

A few days ago, my coworker came back from the bathroom of our gas station with a tiny booklet in hand. It was a multi-page comic book, colored in retro-inspired black ink pictures and garnished with Bible passages. Folded into the book was a yellow pamphlet advertising a story of a man who allegedly ventured to Hell and back. It was clear; our bathroom had been peppered with gospel tracts.

Over the course of several hours, we found gospel tracts scattered throughout the store: nestled in Snickers boxes, resting on cans of nacho cheese and tucked behind gum packets. There must have been at least 13 throughout our small store.

We left the tracts in a pile behind the counter. The next day, my manager looked at them with confusion, wondering why her assistant manager and oldest cashier were so thrilled to see unwarranted fire-and-brimstone comics. She laughed, bemused, when I offered one to a friend of mine visiting the store, through his eager acceptance of the comic confused her even more.

My friend, my coworker and I tried to explain to the manager how thrilling the comics were. They were, after all, written by Jack Chick.

Jack Chick’s evangelical comics, often called Chick Tracts by comic enthusiasts, evangelists and Chick’s own estate, are mass-produced gospel comics illustrating the various sins of man. The comic that was left in my store, titled “This is your Life,” spoke about general ungodly living, though some of his other famous comics tackle pressing spiritual issues such as homosexuality, Halloween, Catholicism and tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons and Dragons.

Entire internet circles revolve around Chick Tracts. Strangely, though, many of these circles are comprised of casual Christians, atheists and undecideds. These less-religious fans see what I see in the tracts: fun.

Chick Tracts are over-the-top and extreme in their messages. The most famous pick at social ills that most mainline Christians would agree are non-issues. For instance, Chick’s “Dark Dungeons” tract depicts a young woman who commits suicide after her Dungeons and Dragons character dies; a little-known film dramatizes this plot in true bad-movie style.

Gospel tracts are a part of my daily life at the gas station, but a little thrill hits me when I find a Chick Tract instead of a run-of-the-mill pamphlet. Their ubiquity in the world of evangelical comics, hilarious extremism and always inappropriate context (gas station restrooms are not an ideal come-to-Jesus venue) make me very happy.

The next time you step into a public restroom, do yourself a favor and look for a free comic to read. You might not find the salvation you were looking for, but you might find a little entertainment, or a collectible item at the very least.

Shelby Niehaus is a senior English language arts major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].