You read about the campus lunacy, but I don’t think it ever really hits home until your experience it personally.
Recently California State University Northridge held an exhibition of comic book art by the greatest master of the form, Jack Kirby. While not the best such exhibition I have ever seen, it far surpassed my expectations given its humble venue – or it did until I got my belated (it was so popular they sold out) copy of the exhibition catalog.
One of the articles in the catalog featured a discussion of a page in which Ben Grimm, the rock-skinned “Thing” of the Fantastic Four, is told for the first time the name of Reed and Sue Richard’s son, Franklin Benjamin Richards. It is a comic page that I have seen and read many times, but when I viewed that page at the exhibition raw from the artist’s hand and not the printer’s press it moved me in new ways. I looked at it for a very long time. The monstrous appearing Grimm, that struggles so mightily to fit into humanity, is deeply moved and I was moved with him.
The Ben Grimm character has almost universal appeal – not unlike Charlie Brown in the recent Peanuts movie. We all feel like we do not fit in. We all struggle to be good in the midst of our perceived oddity. So when a klutz like Charlie Brown or a seeming monster like Grimm are recognized for their goodness – as when (spoiler alert) the little red-haired girl speaks to Charlie Brown at the end of the movie or Grimm’s closest friends name their child for him – we all feel the same amazement, joy and affirmation that the character does.
That is unless you are someone related to a university somewhere commenting on art created before you were born and you feel the need to appropriate that almost universal appeal for your own private crusade.
The individual that wrote the catalog piece concerning that comic page felt a need to make it about, are you ready for this because I am deadly serious, homosexuality. This person felt that by including the monster in the perfect white family the comic book was “…exploding the concept of the heterosexual family.” So as I understand this commentator, a comic book drawn by a man married and with children, one of the creators of Captain America in World War II, in 1970, for an audience of young boys roughly 8-14, under the Comics Code Authority is intended to deal with questions of sexuality?!
What bothered me far more than the morality of such a writing was the clear lack of intellectual rigor. The commentator offered no evidence whatsoever that might corroborate their contention that this page had anything to do with sexuality. Was Kirby closeted? And if so, what evidence exists for that conclusion? Was this theme evident in his other work? These are just a few pieces of information that might have made the piece seem scholarly in some fashion instead of the pure imposition of an agenda. Next thing you know my geology professor friend is going to be showing me papers where some student contends that igneous rock is really just symbolic of ejaculation.
G.K. Chesterton is widely purported to have said, “When Man ceases to worship God he does not worship nothing but worships everything.” But that does not appear to be the case. What he really said was:
It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense.
That rings self-evidently true after reading that exhibition catalog. Simple common sense tells us that a deeply personal and moving page in a comic book about people that stretch, catch on fire, and turn invisible to battle enemies from “The Negative Zone,” isn’t about sexuality. At base it is about story pacing, narrative arc and creating a connection between the reader and the character so the reader will purchase the comic book you produce next month.
We have, for several decades now, laughed a bemused laugh when things very silly and unconnected from reality like that catalog piece came into our view. We have said to ourselves things like “Kids will be kids” and “Those that can’t teach,” and assumed that life would knock some common sense into these people at some point. But Chesterton had it right, life does not knock common sense into people; God does. Unfortunately, God can be very hard to find in the world today.
The reason God is hard to find is not because the schools and popular culture have crowded Him out, but because we have. We have settled for good enough, when God wants us to be sincerely and passionately good. God’s light is hard to find because we are lousy lamps.
Today begins Advent. Advent is the season when we wait expectantly for the arrival of our Savior. I feel the need for His arrival more this year than I have in many an Advent season. But in reality while we await His coming, He is already here. It is high time we started acting like it.