Marvel Gods

Or “gods,” actually. Seeing as I rarely mention the Jesus of this blog’s title, here goes….CBR have just uploaded their latest interview with Marvel’s head honcho Joe Quesada in which he answers fan questions as part of his regular Cup O’ Joe feature. Most comic publishers have various gods, demi-gods, and supreme beings all mixed up in a giant blender, so it won’t be any surprise to see how Joe mentions Marvel’s approach of religion in their comics. It’s an interesting discussion nonetheless. Read the highlights below.

Mad_Man_Moon asked a question a while ago that I’ve wanted to get to, which was, “I’m interminably curious about this subject and how it’s addressed at Marvel…Gods, and Christianity, Muslim, Judaism (etc, etc) in particular. The many different pantheons and beliefs are played out multiple times, and yet the Christian God and Devil are never seen (unless I’m mistaken*) in modern times. It seems odd that we acknowledge many gods and see depictions of them (more often than not), but the Christian, Muslim, Jewish (etc, etc) gods never come in to play. Why is this?”

I think there are probably multiple layers to this, Mad_Man_Moon. First of all, the gods of mythology lend themselves more to the superhero genre. They’re much more colorful, they are imperfect and their exploits were really more akin to the exploits we’ve seen done by heroes like those within the Marvel U. All the classic heroes we see in many ways share many traits with the gods of mythology, so it’s an easier transition. Also, in most monotheistic religions, you’re dealing with an all powerful and infallible deity, which, from a dramatic storytelling point of view, really handcuffs you because of their perfection and ability to solve problems as they desire.

And there is the sensitivity issue. These are religions that are practiced by the majority of the planet, regardless of where you fall, whereas the gods of mythology are not. I think it’s a sensitive issue, but more than anything, it’s just that the construct of the mythological gods makes for better dramatic storytelling within the pages of a comic book.

That said, from time to time, some aspects of today’s modern religions do find themselves into modern comics. I created the Santerians which are characters based upon the Orisha from the religion of Santeria. The Orisha lend themselves beautifully to the comic genre, as does the idea that priests who practice Santeria can become possessed by Orishas. Still, knowing that, I had to be very careful in creating them, because I wanted to be sensitive to those who follow the religion and I wanted to portray the characters in a way that wouldn’t be found offensive, but more aspirational. And, while we aren’t publishing them, I do know that there are comics out there that use aspects of Islam and Hinduism.

It does seem that there’s a little bit of crossover, particularly with characters based on the devil. Something like “One More Day” is built on the folklore aspect of monotheistic religions in stories like “The Devil And Daniel Webster.”

Yes it is. In OMD, it’s built around the classic Faustian pact.

However, Mephisto is an interesting character within Marvel, I remember reading Stan’s account of creating Mephisto. And while he had some of the trappings of Lucifer or Beelzebub, he is not meant to be Satan or have any religious implications. Stan built Mephisto as a super villain, but used the archetypes of the traditional iconography of the devil from classical literature and illustration. He always stopped short of making or naming him Lucifer, Satan or Mephistopheles or saying he was the devil. I get why he would create a character like this; it’s low hanging fruit. The devil, or the idea of a devil, has been one of the greatest villains and mischief makers in literature for centuries. But, Stan most likely didn’t want to start digging in and entrenching this super villain character that would interact inside a superhero universe within Christianity or any other religion. Also, there were probably greater sensitivities to doing this during the ‘60s than there would be later, as we created characters in the ‘70s like Daimon Hellstrom: Son of Satan – who incidentally is not Mephisto’s kid. So, while some may look at a character like Mephisto and say, “Hey, he’s Lucifer,” I would venture to say that he is something else.