Chick Productions announced Monday that their founder Jack Chick has died at 92, which is big news for anyone who’s ever been fascinated, horrified, and occasionally delighted by his comic books. Chick was the creator of Chick Tracts, a long-running series of evangelical mini comics designed to bring people to Jesus through a combination of insane, bizarre, fairly campy storylines and extremely middling art. You’ve accidentally sat on one at a bus stop, or had one thrust into your Halloween bag by your worst neighbor.
David W. Daniels, an author for Chick Publications, wrote on Facebook that Chick died in his sleep Sunday night; we saw the news via our friends at Christian Nightmares.
Chick was a bit of a mysterious figure, and gave almost no interviews throughout his career. The most complete biography we have comes from his own website, which talks about his early years as a bad boy artist that no Christians wanted to try to save:
From early childhood, it was obvious that Jack Chick had an ability to draw. He even failed the first grade because he was so busy drawing airplanes in battle. As he grew, Jack was constantly drawing, and honing skills that God would later use in a great way.
While in high school, none of the Christians would have anything to do with him because of his bad language. They all agreed not to witness to him, convinced that he was the last guy on earth who would ever accept Jesus Christ.
All that changed when he met his wife Lynn Priddle, who Chick’s official bio says was “instrumental in his salvation.” A radio program he heard on his honeymoon sealed the deal:
While visiting Lynn’s parents in Canada on their honeymoon, Jack’s mother-in-law insisted that he sit and listen to Charles E. Fuller’s Old Fashioned Revival Hour radio program. Jack recalls, “God was already working on my heart, but when Fuller said the words, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” I fell on my knees and my life was changed forever.”
It was a big win for Jesus Christ and for the world, because Chick soon got the idea to make illustrated gospel tracts, which he began drawing and self-publishing in 1974. They reflected his conviction that hellworthy offenses are all around us. He inveighed against homosexuality, of course, but also Dungeons and Dragons, Halloween, Islam, Roman Catholics, abortion, evolution, drugs, and a very broad and generous definition of “the occult.” One tract shows how Ouija boards, astrology books, “hallucinatory drugs” and fortunetellers are all tools of literal demons, who sit around a conference table in Hell, talking about how all those things advance their plans for “One World Government.” (Many evangelical groups teach that in the latter days, a hellish, cruelly dominating one world government will take over the globe, part of the rule of the Antichrist in the last days before Jesus returns to battle him and Satan on earth.)
Twitter is marking Chick’s passing by celebrating some of his most eyebrow-raising works. They are truly extraordinary:
It is, in a way, extraordinary to consider what an immense influence Chick and his kooky tracts had on American culture. The Southern Poverty Center designated Chick Publications as a hate group, accusing them of waging a “militaristic, vitriolic propaganda war,” while influential comics artists like Daniel Clowes parodied the tracts. An independent 2008 documentary on Chick, God’s Cartoonist, calls him “the best-selling underground artist and publisher in the world.”
While much of Jack Chick’s life is still a mystery, and may remain that way with his death, we’re fortunate that his bizarre, unique, utterly wacky thoughts on witchcraft and Masonry will endure.