Over at Comics Alliance, ToyFare editor, Twisted ToyFare Theater head writer and Hero House author Justin Aclin is talking up his upcoming story for MySpace Dark Horse Presents, "S.H.O.O.T. First." It's a paranormal/superhero book in the vein of B.P.R.D., but with a twist: The titular team's acronym stands for the Secular Humanist Occult Obliteration Taskforce, and their mission is to wipe out any and all supernatural entities in the name of atheism. Says Aclin:
S.H.O.O.T. are basically militant atheists, tasked with hunting down supernatural creatures, especially those of religious significance, that they don't even believe in....every time you read a comic about someone fighting the supernatural, they're really doing it on the supernatural's own terms. If you're fighting a vampire, you bring stakes and holy water - that kind of thing. I don't think there's ever been a team like "S.H.O.O.T." that basically thinks it's all bunk, and just goes after any threat with science and bullets, and scientific bullets.
Besides giving the world the phrase "scientific bullets," a mitzvah if ever there was one, Aclin raises an interesting question. In a universe filled with magical beings, ghosts, and even deities, where people know there's an afterlife, know there are higher beings, know there are forces of good and evil duking it out on higher and lower planes of existence -- in a universe like that, what becomes of atheism and religion as we know them?
It's always seemed to me that the presence of Thor and Hercules and Mephisto and so on in the Marvel Universe, or the Spectre and the Demon and Zauriel and so forth in the DC Universe, ought to have altered the social fabric of those worlds in far more fundamental ways -- ways their respective creators really couldn't get away with depicting, lest they lose the "real world plus superpowers" feel that fans are accustomed to. Would each different deity inspire a new religion? Would the world's major faiths adapt to incorporate such entities, fight against them, or ignore them entirely? Would atheists write them off as simply a different form of perfectly natural life, or abandon their Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens books en masse?
Some other franchises, like Mike Mignola's Hellboy and B.P.R.D. universe, dodged the question by keeping the knowledge of the supernatural limited to a select few; now that that's becoming harder for those characters to do, you're seeing some major changes in how the world at large operates. But in a story like "S.H.O.O.T First," how do secular humanists preserve their unbelief when they're duking it out with demons? It certainly gives that phrase "there are no atheists in foxholes" a workout, that's for sure...
So tell us, dear readers: If Asgard was floating above your rural Oklahoma hamlet or the Wrath of God was trotting his green bikini briefs all around your hometown, would you become a believer? Or would you support a super-squad with gods in their crosshairs?