Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Reformed Perspective on Doc Frankenstein

If there is one medium in our culture which we in the Young Reformed crowd have neglected, it would have to be comic books. I know, I know. Comic books are for kids with acne and no girlfriends. Well, I am 26 years old, and I just got a zit right in the middle of my forehead the other day. As such, I felt it only appropriate to talk about one of the few comics that I actually do read.

Doc Frankenstein was created and written by the Wachowski Brothers (yes, the same guys who directed The Matrix Trilogy and the upcoming family-friendly (supposedly) Speed Racer). The concept for the comic is most intriguing: Frankenstein's monster has taken his creator's name and lives a virtually immortal life. Not only is he gifted with long life, but over time his knowledge has grown in such a way that he is now a PhD who works for the betterment of the world. He has had many adventures, including serving President Lincoln, fighting outlaws in the old west, inventing a cure for lycanthropy (werewolves), and a bunch of other cool stuff that I can't remember.

Anyway, the curveball for the series is that Frankenstein is a hardcore liberal who is a strict empiricist, a believer in man-made global warming, an advocate for abortion and birth control, and something of a socialist/communist. As such, Frankenstein's enemies are people who disagree with his viewpoints and want him killed. These super-enemies are conservatives, and especially the (apparently Roman Catholic) Church.

Things come full-bore when Frankenstein creates a great city where everyone who believes in liberal values can live without intervention from the rest of society. It is depicted in the comic as a type of utopia which is short-lived. This is because The Church (complete with jet fighters and bombs bearing the image of a cross and sword) attacks Frankenstein's city for the purpose of apprehending him and devastating this little piece of "heaven on earth."

They succed, and in issue 3, he is captured by the Pope who intends to kill him if he will not repent. While in captivity, Frankenstein quips, "Kinda symbolic, ain't it? The only hope Religion has for keeping a thinking man on his knees is a length of chain."

Anyone who is somewhat familiar with The Matrix will know doubt be aware of the penchant the Wachowskis have for philosophical banter, and this is my primary reason for being so interested in Doc Frankenstein (other than that it is just a cool comic book with lots of action).

In issue 4 (there have been 6 issues printed since 2004, so they're taking their time) things take a disturbing religious turn when a fairy tells the story of who yahweh (sorry, I have to lower-case the name) and Jesus really are. The fairy explains that yahweh is one of many gods (part of the Greek pantheon), and that Yahweh was first a hill god named "el shaddai" with a physical body who is depicted as looking like a giant. The fairy goes on to explain that this version of yahweh is an arrogant, dishonest, foul-mouthed (in the flashbacks he is constantly using the f-word) profligate who is only interested in dominating the rest of the world. The Wachowskis depict the virgin birth as being a real physical act between this god and Mary. Anyway, their version of Jesus is that he was not a carpenter (the fairy explains that "carpenter" is a mistranslation) but rather a man of the trees who nurtured them to grow because he was in touch with his chi and able to manipulate nature because he had some kind of Buddhist philosophy underlying everything he did.

At the end of issue six, while the fairy has been telling another character this mythological reconstruction underlying the series, Frankenstein has been preparing for a new showdown as he gets ready to invade Rome and kill the Pope in what he hopes will be a final showdown.

So, what do I take away from Doc Frankenstein? Is it edifying? Hardly. But it does reflect certain segments of society. Of primary interest to me is that there will be some who read this comic and in the religious discussions will find their own justification for unbelief. They will see this intentionally fictitious portrayal of the "origin of god" and live with this caricature of Judeo-Christian theism in their minds, doing nothing to correct it or find out if there is any historical basis for what the Wachowskis are saying in this comic. Now, it is a comic, so if people are getting their theology from a comic I do pity them.

On the grounds of blasphemy and profanity, I wouldn't recommend this comic to a wide Christian audience, but I don't see the problem with reading it for the purposes of entertainment or intellectual interaction if you are discerning and can spot a bad argument when you hear it. The Christians (and unlike in The Golden Compass, these people really are depicted as worshipping Jesus, and so they are definitely supposed to be Christians) in this series are clearly a caricature, and their blind rage towards whose who are different than them exists only in the farthest wings of "christendom" (ahem, Rev. Phelps!). I could definitely say that I enjoy reading the comic because it deals with bigger metaphysical issues than your average comic, but I would be troubled if this was fed to the unthinking masses (say, in the form of a film adaptation).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Before posting please read our Comment Policy here.

Think hard about this: the world is watching!