Here at Wetmachine we have a tradition of posting what the New Critics called “close readings” of arcane texts. Usually these close readings are done by Harold Feld in Tales of the Sausage Factory or by Greg Rose in Econoklastic, and most often the closely-read documents are obscure legal decrees, rulings, opinions, pronouncements, etc, originating from the Oracle at Federal Communications Commission, or they’re drafts of some lobbyist-written telecommunications bill lurking in the shadows of some state legislature or congressional committee, hoping to become law while nobody’s looking –although occasionally Harold treats us to a scholarly exegesis of a biblical or Talmudic text.
Over at Enter the Jabberwock, my erstwhile OpenLaszlo colleague Josh Crowley has a long-running series of close readings of illustrated tracts by the crackpot so-called “Christian” fundamentalist Jack Chick. Crowley calls these analyses “Chick Dissections”. In them he mercilessly skewers the artwork, logic and theology of individual Chick tracts. He does this in a direct, unironic voice, taking each frame of the comic book under review at face value. In other words, he does not come at them with a knowing, jaded air of sophistication and superiority. He engages them on their own terms.
When I first saw these Chick Dissections I wondered what the point was, since the comics themselves are so ineptly drawn and poorly reasoned that they basically are self-refuting; they are their own parody.
But, you know, Jack Chick is not some lone nut promulgating his paranoid ravings in photocopied pamphlets on a streetcorner to an indifferent audience of dozens. He’s a lone nut promulgating his paranoid ravings to an audience of millions, some of them quite credulous, through his website and publishing empire. The fundamentalist meme, in Christian, Islamic, Hindu, or whatever form, is a present danger to civilization. Therefore Jabberwock/Crowley is right to resist it. The Chick Dissections are not to everybody’s taste, but Jabberwock is providing a valuable service. And he’s often quite funny.
I wonder, however, what Jack Chick and his supporters would make of Jabberwock himself.
Here’s how Jabberwock describes himself on his website:
– I can perform fusion through sheer will.
– Neutrinos cannot permeate my flesh.
– God once stopped the flow of time to ask me for a stick of gum.
– Monsters have their parents check under the bed at night for me.
– The most dangerous form of me is the bicycle.
– The James Bond film series is based on a version of myself who went back in time thirty years from now to prevent the USSR from launching a nuclear bomb against the United States during the Cold War.
– Dogs suffer from colorblindness, except for when they look at me. Then, not only can they see in color, but they can see exactly how they will die.
– I once killed a dozen terrorists by stomping my foot in anger. The vibrations underwent a butterfly effect and were amplified in a particular cave in Afghanistan, which collapsed.
– Giraffes can speak English, but only if I let them.
– There’s an underground race of an offshoot of mankind that uses my discarded condoms as currency.
– I can read compact discs directly into my brain by sliding them under my armpit.
– If I kiss a bullet before it is fired, it can never be stopped.
– The only sure way to avoid a mummy’s curse is to drink my tears.
– I have “Screech” from Saved By the Bell in a cage under my bed. I use him to polish my shoes.
And of course, one wonders about the name. He calls himself “Josh”, but some have speculated whether Josh be not in fact some other Crowley, preserved from death, or perhaps brought back from it, by some occult, satanic art, for the express purpose of derailing Jack Chick, cartoonist for God!