After being pulled from DC/Vertigo and subsequently picked up by a new publisher, Mark Russell’s new series Second Coming is now available.
The series depicts Jesus as disappointed with modern Christianity in his return to earth. Written by Mark Russell, with art from Richard Pace, it has debuted to promising sales and reviews.
Mr Russell told Insights that his fascination with the topic of faith stems from his own upbringing in American Christianity.
“I grew up with a very specific brand of Christianity I was never quite comfortable with and, as writers, we tend to write about the things that wound us,” he said.
“Writing my previous books about the Bible (God Is Disappointed in You and Apocrypha Now) was therapeutic in a sense, though, because it immediately became apparent to me just how wrong my church had gotten the book.”
“How much of it was twisted, misinterpreted, or simply ignored. I wanted to write a story about Christ coming back to Earth and experiencing the same incredulity I felt at how errant evangelical Christianity has become.”
It was Second Coming’s depiction of God as a cranky father feeling disappointed with humanity (and sending Jesus back to learn from the Superman-esque Sunstar) that jarred conservative Christians in the US, leading to a petition to see the comic pulled. While the petition authors had never read the work, the backlash appears to have had some resonance with DC Comics, who postponed the book pending a review of its content.
DC later granted the creators the rights to the book back, leading to them shopping it around and eventually finding a new home at the upstart AHOY comics.
For his part, Mr Russell had no ill will towards DC for the decision. The publisher has since shuttered the Vertigo imprint, a line for mature readers that was previously slated to carry Second Coming. Mr Russell says that the closure is a shame.
“I’m sorry to see Vertigo go,” he said.
“So many of my favourite comics have come out of Vertigo, from Sandman in the 90s to American Carnage today.”
“It’s just a shame to see it go. To me, seeing Vertigo and MAD Magazine shuttered underscores how important publishers like AHOY are. Somebody’s got to pick up the flag for irreverent and challenging comics, or we’re just surrendering the medium as something to sell lunchboxes and streaming content TV fodder.”
His own irreverent comic has ruffled feathers, but he insists his intention is not to offend.
“I would say to give it a chance. I’m not trying to rewrite the Bible. I’m not saying that this is what the Bible says or intends to say, just that this interpretation of Christianity and Christ’s dynamic with his father resonates with me and makes sense of why Christ’s approach to human problems in the New Testament is so different than God’s approach in the Old Testament. Someone who created human beings might be forgiven for thinking institutions like law and civilisation might be used to fix the human race.”
“But to someone like Christ, who comes to a world dominated by the Roman Empire, those institutions would look like the things the human race needed rescuing from. So I think God and Jesus wanted the same thing, to keep the human race from devouring itself, they just came up with very different solutions, which I think would create some strife in any family.”
The controversy appears to have helped Second Coming’s sales. AHOY has ordered a second printing of the first issue due to demand.This, Mr Russell says, is a reflection of a wider groundswell of sentiment that the book has tapped into: frustration with US evangelicalism.
“I’ve already heard from a lot of people thanking me for writing this comic and telling me how much it means to them. When the controversy broke on the FOX News website and the petition was created to stop Second Coming, I heard from all the outraged people who hadn’t even read the comic.
“Now I’m hearing from all the people who’ve read the comic and had spent their lives harbouring the same misgivings I had. So the reception has been very gratifying because I feel like we’re all finally being heard and it gives us the chance to take over the narrative of our own experience with churches and the modern gatekeepers of Christianity.”
“This project has and remains, ultimately, a labour of love for me. And I hope it’s that love that people take away from reading this comic. This is not the work of a vandal trying to hurl bricks at something just because it’s sacred to others, but the internal struggle of somebody who cares deeply about these subjects.”
Second Coming is recommended for mature readers and is available now in comic book stores. Insights’ review is available here.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor