Jack Chick, the creator of the widely circulated and satirized “Chick Tracts,” passed away on Sunday, according to a post from his publication’s official Facebook page. Since his first publication in the late ’60s and the founding of Chick Publications in 1970, the cartoonist’s company has printed over 900 million tracts that have been translated in more than 100 languages. The cartoonist originally conceived the tract format after he heard that the Chinese government would circulate small comic books to spread propaganda. He believed he could utilize a similar style to spread his Evangelical message to wayward souls, for the purposes of ultimately leading them to salvation.
Little was known about the cartoonist’s personal life. For years, many speculated the creator’s name was a pseudonym, given how controversial he was. Some even speculated it was cartoonist Robert Crumb, who parodied Chick in the past, along with other noted cartoonists like Dan Clowes and Jim Woodring.
While Chick had notable success in Evangelical circles, the creator eventually found a different following — the comics eventually became famous on the internet and among other cartoonists. Many lampooned the tracts due to the heavy handed approach of its subject matter and their idiosyncratic format. Bible verses were cited in nearly every panel of the tracts over the course of the morality tales, where any deviation from a strict adherence to the word of the Bible would result in moral degeneration, and ultimately, eternal damnation. Kids who didn’t believe in a higher power would deem themselves gods, while unbaptized children would be denied salvation. Only the word of God could have the power to redeem society’s worst examples, and anything outside the protestant tradition was a part of a grander conspiracy to undermine the virtuous. This moral absolutism naturally applied to criminals, but also to the LGBT community, Muslims, and oddly enough, Catholics. Chick’s extremist views on these groups ultimately lead to the Southern Poverty Law Center labeling Chick Publications a hate group. However, one of the strangest targets for the cartoonist were fans of the table top game Dungeons & Dragons.
One of the most popular comics for Chick’s ironic fanbase was of course the “Dark Dungeons” tract, which detailed the way in which D&D was a tool to convert teenagers to Satanism. It depicted an underworld revolving around the table top game, where teens would kill themselves if their character was slain during a game session. In fact, this tract was so popular, it even spawned a film adaptation made by “fans” after it was successfully crowdfunded via Kickstarter.
Chick’s work will inevitably carry on his strange and myopic world view, especially given that, at this time of year, many religious organizations tend to give out “Chick Tracts” on Halloween — which is more than appropriate, given that Chick’s world is scarier than any horror movie.
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