Who was Jack T. Chick, publisher of the best-selling comics in history

Originally published at: Who was Jack T. Chick, publisher of the best-selling comics in history | Boing Boing

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“Best-selling” gave me pause…did anyone (besides the evangelizers who distributed them) actually buy them? Agree on the aesthetic though, they are very well-made. Impossible not to read, tbh.

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Every one that ever came into my possession was either thrust into my hand while walking through campus, deposited unrequested in my mailbox, or slipped under my windshield wipers. Their market base is likely very small despite their distribution being broad.

ETA: I’m sure that discrepancy is part of the Devil’s plans. HAW HAW HAW!

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It’s a weird market–the people who pass them out are the ones who buy them. I’m sure some portion of the total are just given away, but certainly not all of them.

They do read like satire, though. Although I have to confess that I ran into the Westboro Baptist Church web site in the wild many years ago and thought the same. I mean, nobody could really believe that shit, right?

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For me anyway, reading Chick tracts is what revealed the idiocy of religion at a young age. If he only knew
his comics had the opposite effect than intended for some of us.

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I’ve often wondered if there was a single person who saw a Chick comic and thought, “Oh no, I’m all wrong, this is what I need to believe!” I can’t imagine it. It seems far more likely that their sole purpose was to preach to the choir and make evangelicals feel smug.

Not “best selling” but “most successful.” That’s quite different because, yes, the point was that they were to be given away*. But people kept putting up the money to keep on printing them, so…

*And a certain number were purchased by non-believers for ironic purposes, of course.

I think the main purpose, even if it wasn’t the ostensible one, was to make evangelicals feel righteous. I think the frequent appearance of the devil with his braying laugh was, to some degree, a stand-in for Chick and the people handing these out - "Haw, haw! You’re going to hell, and we’re not!" Whether it actually influenced anyone was a secondary concern.

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I found a few tracts in high school in the same way. They were always good for some laughs (Haw! Haw!) with my friends. I wish I’d kept them, since they’re a real insight into a profoundly damaged and hateful psyche.

The RPG-loving Happy Mutant sinners will enjoy this video.

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I mean, they may also be best-selling when taken on the aggregate whole. Until very late in his life / career when they experimented with letting people print and reproduce these on their own, every single chick tract you saw was purchased from Jack Chick’s company. They may have been cheap, or in bundles, but he NEVER gave them out for free or even cost. He made money on every single one that went out the door no matter who bought them.

Now you and I might have not paid for them as church members slid them wherever, but that church most definitely did pay for them.

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My first exposure to Jack Chick Tracts (“Jack Chick Tracts Get Read!”) was as a surly teen working a deli cash register one Sunday morning.

This guy saw my Metallica shirt and said with an odd sarcastic sneer “You like metal, huh? Here’s something you should read.” And slapped down this amazing tract about Christian Rock titled “Angels?”

The masterpiece of self-owning propaganda chronicled the rise and fall to Hell of a Christian Rock band who falls afoul of a rock manager named “Louis Siffer”. As he brings them along, he leads them further and further inside his decades-long plan to corrupt Western civilization through popularizing the “demonic rock beat”.

I read other tracts after that, half for laughs and half to just have my mind blown. Stepping into those worldviews even a little was practically a high. The intellectual equivalent of huffing paint. An alternate-dimension experience. I was also stretching my young wits on the tracts’ incredible rationalizations and lack of grounded understandings of relatively mainstream culture.

As I grew up in life I began to get that these tracts were not just harmless. I don’t know how much effect they had by themselves, but there were certainly part of a real worldview that was harming a lot of people. As one very direct example, harming gay people who had the misfortune to be born into families with similar beliefs. A very twisted, patriarchal, homophobic outlook that leads directly to violence, as well as harm like “gay conversion therapies”, shunning, denial of rights. In addition to the misogyny, covert racism, bigotry, and many other issues.

It’s a bit complicated too by Jack Chick being something of an entrepreneur, as one of the first really successful independent comics publishers. As well as producing art that is genuinely interesting, even for its trainwreck quality. It has the vitality of pulp novels of the 30s.

All such a shame that his art was bolted to such a wagon of bullshit.

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Here’s the first tract I came across, that so blew my mind.

https://www.chick.com/products/tract?stk=0034

“They started as a “Christian” rock group, and became slaves to rock. But Tom found that Jesus could set him free!”

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I agree but the headline says “best-selling…”

I suppose this is just a variation on the Eagle Publishing/Regnery grift where the publisher sells pallets of book-shaped ordure to conservative orgs to use as premiums and then tries to count those as one-to-one sales.

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Right, but “best selling” at least implies that the people eagerly buying them up are the actual readers, which wasn’t the case with Chick’s comics, and while Chick made money off them, it was also propped up by donations (directly to Chick and to organizations and individuals who bulk-bought the comics).

Yeah, I was thinking of Don Jr. and his book being snapped up in bulk by the Republican party, too… the people buying them aren’t going to read them, and the recipients don’t necessarily want them, and a lot will end up in the trash.

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I feel like any discussion about Jack Chick should point out the rampant homophobia, anti-semitism, paranoid satanic panic peddling, and Q-style conspiracy mongering. Like, there’s definitely entertainment value in how insane they are, but they’re also far right propaganda

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I thought that went without saying, but it can’t hurt to say it again…

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i used to collect them, and i still have a stack around somewhere. i used to find them all over the place, mostly randomly in phone booths or left at bus stops or on busses. they are still so great. it’s fascinating how the perspective is so tweaked by the crazy christian thing.

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It gets worse - Jack Chick also published full color comic books under his Crusader Comics label. They were available at your local Christian Book Store alongside his tracts. Lots of religious moms and dads bought these for their little tikes without ever cracking the cover. After all, they were on the rack right next to the Christian Archie comics, so they must be fine, right?

Imagine being 8 years old and given this to read because it had a good ‘wholesome’ message. (Ron Howard Narrator Voice: It did not) Jack Chick was truly twisted.

Caution: comic book contains satanic blood sacrifice, kidnapping, ritual murder, cannibalism, occult conspiracy, etc.

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I have a collection of Chick tracts (all free) and while I dont have this one I do have a parody version of it some local band made by inserting all their own dialogue, with the story line about their own rise to fame.

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Catholics and Muslims don’t fare too well either.

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You missed hatred of Muslims.

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chick evolution

Twenty years ago it seemed dated, but today his work is ‘torn-from-the-headlines’ fresh. Says a lot, doesn’t it?

Enshrined in “Camel’s in the Tent!”. That one reads like a racist militia manifesto.

I refuse to even link the site, but all the tracts are available to be read online, even the racist and homophobic stuff. I guess their internet host hasn’t risen to modern standards.

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