It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s… Captain Salvation?

Who cares about all those boring superheros that have spider powers or x-ray vision and super strength? What comic books need is a superhero with real power, from God!

Meet CAPTAIN SALVATION:

Disguised as a mild-mannered vitamin salesman, the character who will become Captain Salvation is the son and grandson of superheroes. Like them, he relies on his own strength to do good works. But after he survives a mishap in which villains strap a bomb to his chest, he accepts Christ and is born again as Captain Salvation – dedicated to doing God’s will and relying on God’s power.

“Victory!! In Jesus’ name!” Captain Salvation says (in a dialogue balloon) as he vanquishes a giant robot in league with the devilish forces of the underground.

The muscular captain even has a masked sidekick: Joshua quotes the Bible and, in a takeoff on David’s defeat of Goliath, loads his slingshot with magic yams.

Their version of the Batmobile is a vintage Harley motorcycle with sidecar. “Quick, Joshua,” Captain Salvation says whenever there’s new evil to battle, “to the HOLY ROLLER!!!”

[…] At the end of the comic book, Captain Salvation urges kids to pray with him “to ACTIVATE your salvation.”

Magic yams?!?! How can Batman hope to compete against the utter coolness of MAGIC YAMS??? All other superheroes will forever pale in comparison to this dynamic duo! Best of all, you can meet them in person at your local church! Or at least the creators hope you’ll be able to soon:

At Freedom House, a nondenominational church Hawn attends in Charlotte, he met 6-foot-6, 305-pound Burton. The former Panthers defensive tackle blocked a field goal in the 2004 Super Bowl. When they met in 2007, he was more interested in winning souls.

“He about squeezed my hand off,” Hawn remembers. “Then he said to me, ‘Every time I see you, I think of kids.’ And I told him, ‘Maybe God is up to something. I have a comic book.'”

Now, once a month, Burton plays Captain Salvation to groups of children. He’s joined by David Sparks Jr., a mechanic and an usher at Freedom House who dresses up as Joshua, the captain’s sidekick.

But if Hawn gets his way, many others will be portraying the superheroes he has created. Churches can order the comic books – the next three editions have been written – and get the rights (with no licensing fees) to wear the costumes in Sunday schools, mission trips and vacation Bible school.

“I want thousands of Captain Salvations. That’s the end game,” says Hawn. “We just want to spread the gospel.”

So, yeah, in the end he admits it’s just another attempt at propaganda to get ’em while they’re young. People don’t tend to read comic books because they want to be lectured to, they read them to be entertained. It’s not that I think a comic book with a Christian superhero can’t work, just the main point has to be to entertain and not to sermonize because most kids these days will see right through that tactic. The only ones who are likely to pick up such a comic are the ones who are already committed believers, which does little to actually spread the faith.

It’s not like this hasn’t been tried before. There’s The Christian Knight series that’s been around for awhile and has spawned several other characters. And we can’t forget Bibleman which is actually even more transparently propagandistic than Captain Salvation is. None of them are what you’d consider to be a huge success in either materialistic terms (read: making money) or in terms of bringing in new converts to the faith. That won’t stop someone from trying the same damn thing with the same damned intent as is the case here with Captain Salvation. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time then these guys are short a few sidekicks.

It’s not like religious faith has been ignored by the popular mainstream comics out there. Almost all of the well-known superheros have affiliation with a major religion as part of their background story. Superman, for example, is Methodist while Spider-man is more generally Protestant. Batman is either Episcopalian or a lapsed Catholic. All the big religions are represented as well as atheists. Hell, even the Scientologists have a couple heroes in their corner. Of course, the religions of the various heroes doesn’t play an overt role in most of the stories told because the point isn’t to convert the reader.

Which isn’t to say that the mainstream comic publishers haven’t had overtly religious superheroes, though most of them haven’t gone on to mainstream success. Marvel had The Illuminator which was developed in cooperation with major Christian publisher Thomas Nelson that attempted to have a religious message without it being overpowering to the story. It lasted two issues before being shut down. Marvel has had better luck with Nightcrawler from The X-Men who is devoutly Catholic. But, again, the goal isn’t conversion so even the overtly religious characters are an entertaining read.

My point is that if these people really want to put out something that might actually convince some folks to check out their religion they shouldn’t focus so much on the conversion part as much as the writing a good story part. The best superheroes are flawed in some way and if Christianity is about anything it’s about how flawed mankind is and that how faith in God can help you overcome those flaws. There’s an inherent conflict in the fact that Jesus advocated turning the other cheek while superheroes are generally about planting a boot in that cheek and that could make for an interesting moral dilemma for a man with extraordinary powers to struggle with. Show a man of faith trying his best to live by the beliefs he professes to hold dear without being preachy and you just may convince a few people to check this Christianity thing out.

But what would I know? Being an atheist and all, I’m probably trying to trick you guys into putting out a failure of a comic book. You should probably just keep trying to same thing repeatedly until you eventually succeed. If nothing else, it’ll amuse the shit out of me.

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