What are some long-form comics (including webcomics) that explore religion?
November 3, 2009 9:18 AM   Subscribe

What are some long-form comics (including webcomics) that explore religion and/or religious issues?

I'm trying to educate myself about comics in general, but am especially interested in religious studies. Any religion is welcome. Skepticism or atheism as a theme is OK too. I can read only English and Spanish reliably, but would still like to know if you know of comics of this type in other languages. I'm less interested in explicitly "propaganda"-type cartoons--such as Jack Chick's for his brand of evangelical Christianity, or similar ones for Messianic Judaism or Richard Dawkins-style "New Atheism"--than in ones that tell a complex story. But propaganda is interesting too.

Already on my to-read list: Preacher; R. Crumb's "Genesis"; and maybe "Mystery Play" by Grant Morrison and Jon Muth. I've read Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Art Spiegelman's Maus and loved both. There must be a lot more I'm missing...right?

(I will also peruse the comics listed here, the list of Jewish comics characters here, and maybe "The Truth for Youth".)
posted by homelystar to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Well, Sandman is fantastic and completely rife with religious imagery (Lucifer is a major character), though Gaiman very much treats all religions as just so many more literary traditions to be mined for allusion and allegory. So, if you're looking for actual theological philosophizing, you'll likely have to look elsewhere.

One book that might be up your alley but which I haven't checked out myself is R. Crumb's take on the book of Genesis.

I'm sure I'll think of some more as soon as I hit post.
posted by 256 at 9:27 AM on November 3, 2009

Drop whatever you're doing right now and read Therefore Repent! (pdf).
posted by EarBucket at 9:34 AM on November 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Craig Thompson's Blankets is the memoir of the author coming of age in a fundamentalist Christian household.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 9:36 AM on November 3, 2009

Ring of Roses is a murder mystery set in an alternate history London that's still controlled by the Catholic Church.

Dave Sim's Cerebus also deals extensively with religious issues, including what is basically a feminist theocracy, but writer and artist Dave Sim got crazier and crazier throughout the 300-issue run of the series. I'd recommend trying the first volume of Church and State to see if you want to read more, then the second volume, and kind of move on from there. On the other hand, if you'd rather just jump straight to the lunacy, Latter Days and The Last Day detail Sim's own religion, a blend of conservative Judaism, Christianity and Islam with extreme anti-feminism and Gnostic elements (in brief, he believes that there are two Gods, one good and one evil, and that the Bible and Koran are to be read as a single dialogue between them). Latter Days features, among other things, his exegesis on the Torah and how he came to this conclusion; The Last Days includes Sim's retelling of the creation story.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:43 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's mentioned in the earlier thread, but Blankets is largely about growing up in an Evangelical Christian environment. The plot is a coming-of-age love story, but the subtext is the author's relationship with Christianity and Christian culture as a young adult. Worth reading for the story alone; worth reading for art alone.
posted by serathen at 9:43 AM on November 3, 2009

Spire Christian Comics were published in the 70s-80s and often featured Archie Comics characters. Here's an excellent article on the history of Spire that is an absolute must-read.
posted by turaho at 10:03 AM on November 3, 2009

Vimanarama is like science fiction manga by way of Bollywood, complete with figures from Hindu scripture depicted as giant space monsters, and features Grant Morrison's signature craziness. Peter Milligan's Rogan Gosh, if you can find it, is a different take on Hindu-inspired science fiction psychedelia.

Joe Sacco's Palestine and Footnotes in Gaza are both about the Israel/Palestine conflict, and are less like novels than long-form journalism done in comic book format. They might be a little more topical and a little less theological than what you're looking for, but they do definitely deal with religious conflict, and they're very good.

The Rabbi's Cat is about a cat who gains the power to speak, and asks his owner, an Algerian Rabbi, to teach him the Torah. I haven't read it yet, but it's supposed to be quite good.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:13 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I see it is already recommended on one of the threads you have linked to, but let me second it: Buddha by Osamu Tezuka. A bit long, but so worth it (and very funny at times).
posted by natalinha at 10:18 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you're interested in Qabalah, Western mysticism, the occult and all that kind of stuff, Alan Moore's Promethea is basically an introduction to that that happens to double as a superhero story.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:19 AM on November 3, 2009

Orion, by Masamune Shirow (of Ghost in the Shell fame) is a science fiction story drawing on elements of Shinto and esoteric Buddhism. It also features a giant machine that's supposed to destroy all of the universe's negative karma and is wicked crazy awesome.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:25 AM on November 3, 2009

Larry Gonick's cartoon history of the universe books have large sections adapted from the Bible, but not really from a believer's point of view (especially the section on Jesus).

Apocamon is a crazy Flash Book of Revelation as video game comic strip.
posted by phoenixy at 10:50 AM on November 3, 2009

Eisner's A Contract With God [at least the first story].
posted by chazlarson at 11:22 AM on November 3, 2009

Buddha on the Road by Colin Upton
posted by matildaben at 11:22 AM on November 3, 2009

sinfest - it's a little more humor filled and a little less cerebral, but the themes are there all the same.
posted by nadawi at 11:25 AM on November 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

OK, I just finished Therefore Repent! and it was good.
posted by RussHy at 11:29 AM on November 3, 2009

Seconding Craig Thompson's Blankets.

Also Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis deals with a mostly-secular teenaged girl's coming of age during Iran's Islamic Revolution.
posted by twistofrhyme at 11:34 AM on November 3, 2009

Seconding Promethea - it is absolutely amazing. Also Testament by Douglas rushkoff
posted by joe defroster at 11:58 AM on November 3, 2009

Response by poster: I knew y'all would be excellent at this! Thanks for all suggestions so far and any still to come. I forgot to include Neil Gaiman because I'm more familiar with his non-comic writing, but yes, Sandman and the Death series have some of what I'm looking for I think.

Orion is a little mystifying but looks really intriguing too.
posted by homelystar at 12:53 PM on November 3, 2009

Hereville is the story of an Orthodox Jewish girl who fights a troll.

Nothing Better is about first-years at a Lutheran college.

If you can stand the interface, check out some of Amar Chitra Katha's online offerings (religions considered are mostly Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism).
posted by brainwane at 1:23 PM on November 3, 2009

Halo and Sprocket may be up your alley.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:54 PM on November 3, 2009

Rob Walton's Ragmop should count at least as much as Preacher. Such a smart, funny book and I feel like nobody's heard of it.

Seconding The Rabbi's Cat. Joann Sfar also did a comic called Klezmer, Tales of the Wild East. There's one translated volume out so far (from First Second).
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 5:02 PM on November 3, 2009

The Holy Bibble is satirical, blasphemous and utterly hilarious.

Also the Cartoon History of the Universe series is not about religion specifically but it has a lot of religious themes (being about history) and is both entertaining and educational.
posted by NoraReed at 5:22 PM on November 3, 2009

Seconding Alan Moore's Promethea.

I wouldn't suggest Grant Morrison's Vimanarama for a take on religion. It's a fun, albeit light take on Bollywood, and any religion is really set dressing. If you want a discussion on big ideas, including some religious ones, I'd go with his The Invisibles. Teenage reincarnation of the buddha, intersection universes, plus a lot of explosions and a creepy mind control dwarf.

I might be wrong (since I've never read it), but Dave Sim's Cerebus is supposed to deal with a lot of religion, before descending into awful misogyny and outright crackpottery.

Will Eisner did a lot of good work on the Jewish experience in his Tenement Trilogy, of which Contract With God is a part. I'm not sure it's religious, more about what it means to be a Jew.
posted by X-Himy at 7:25 AM on November 4, 2009

Response by poster: @EarBucket:

Drop whatever you're doing right now and read Therefore Repent!

Hey, it really is that good! Thank you!
posted by homelystar at 10:49 PM on November 5, 2009

Glad you liked it! He's doing a sequel called "Sword Of My Mouth," but I don't think it's available online, just in hardcover format. I haven't read it yet, but it might be worth checking out if you can find it.
posted by EarBucket at 8:18 AM on November 6, 2009

(Hardcopy, that is, not hardcover.)
posted by EarBucket at 8:21 AM on November 6, 2009

Crimson is an older series about a teenage vampire that deals with the Old Testament, angels, the apocalypse, the Knights Templar, etc. It includes a lot of obscure ideas and themes from scripture that had me looking things up while reading it.

Full disclosure: I read this back in high school and it may not be as awesome as I remember it.
posted by nbSean at 1:41 PM on November 6, 2009

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