Jack Chick couldn't possibly be more famous, particularly in the world of comic book aficionados, despite never having developed a beloved character. The version of Satan who's really into role-playing games doesn't count.
It's not that he didn't try, though. The creator of countless little evangelical tracts with names like "Apes, Lies and Miss Hen," "The Poor Little Witch," "There Go The Dinosaurs" and so on -- basically titles that seem to imply that you're watching an off-brand animated short from 1965 -- focused primarily on anti-everyone polemics at the expense of character. Except ... The Crusaders!
|Their boss looks like Donald Trump.|
The Crusaders are assembled by some almost incriminatingly typical fat cat power brokers, both of whom would have been the villains in pretty much any other comic ever published. Rather, these fellas love God and hate Communism -- again, I don't see why they're not the villains here -- and they're putting together a team to fight the godlessness of Godlessness!
As mentioned before, Tim Clark is an ex-Green Beret. He'd barely survived am abush which wiped out the entirety of his ... platoon? Division? I don't know what Green Berets travel in. Possibly a "pod." Anyway, he's rescued by a "Christian native" and nursed back to health by missionaries, and then is offered a job by the mafia as a hit man. This last piece of information is a big positive for his employers. They love that their Christian troubleshooter was also on the mob's short list for paid murderer. Religion is weird.
James Carter is described as a pusher, black militant and black belt. He's the king of a drug empire, but he's also one of those guys in a Chick comic who has simply never heard of anything related to the Bible before, so he can be stunned into amazement by the simplest and most unlikely bits of information. "Jesus cast bread and fishes into the water and had it returned to him a thousandfold!" "WHOA, REALLY? NO ONE EVER MENTIONED THAT TO ME!" and, boom, they're converted.
|Those little asterix-laden asides make it seem like the Bible is a collection of important back issues.|
(As an aside, I've met folks who seem to think that this tactic works, and I always wonder what they must think when they find out that their target has already heard of the biblical event, quote or concept and didn't convert immediately. If it didn't blow their mind into abject faith the first time, is the second gonna do it? I dunno. I'm a Cargo Cultist, myself)
In any case, whatever the peculiarities of their backstory, the duo are assembled and being sent behind the Iron Curtain to deliver bibles to beleaguered Christians. They do not have Amazon Prime in the Soviet Bloc or, for that matter, anywhere because this book came out like fifty years ago. I'm just making a rhetorical point.
|To be fair, he doesn't not sound crazy.|
On the story's most entertaining note, the Crusader's immediate boss expresses his delight that the prosletyzing pair should be able to slip into Romania with no one noticing. They both enter using traditional channels, one of them is an enormous inner city drugord, and the other one turns out to be the nephew of the French Ambassador whom the head of the KGB hates with a passion. Sli-i-i-i-i-ide right on into Bucharest, those two do...
A femme fatale is set onto Tim, so as to catch him in a compromising position which can be captured on camera and used to discredit the ambassador. By the end of the story, Tim naturally converts his affectionate spy to Christianity but, in my favorite moment in any Chick tract or comic, inadverdantly also converts the cameraman who's hiding behind a pane of one-way glass. There's a blast radius for evangelicism, I never knew!
|He'll need to file a form for that.|
As for James, his primary role in the comic is to not do anything except go "Right On!" whenever Tim quotes something from the Bible. Glad he's here.
The weird thing about Chick's tracts in general is that they're meant to be excoriations of the grimy, carnal world of sin and excess which makes up secular society. However, they themselves are gritty, greasy and unpleasant as hell. That is to say, not only are the books themselves drawn and written in a skeevy, unpleasant patois of sermon and sensationalism (Fred Carter's art has its charms, though), but the heroes of these stories always express themselves in the awkward, claustrophobic inanity of the genuine zealot.
The villains in this world are almost always ethnic (a Jewish double agent, also a "typical bureaucrat," serves the double purpose of implying that all government employees are traitorous scum), the punishment for exercising faith is always gruesome, and there's no happy ending for anyone but the very handsome, clean cut Christian in these books. At the end of the story, having been converted to Christianity, Tim's temptress Sofia is imprisoned for her faith, a victim of the KGB director whom she derided as a pig, a beast and an animal, and whom she betrayed for Tim's sake. That was her reward for letting herself be swayed by his faith -- punishment for the rest of her life, while Tim and James get to fly back to America without a hassle. Oh, but Tim reminds us that her suffering will be over when she dies and comes back when the Rapture happens, so that's good. That's actually good now.
The Crusaders! They're literally awful human beings, except not literally because they're made up! But they would be!*
|John 14:1 And sayeth the Lord, you're all under arrest. |
And also with you.