The Fashion of the ChristTM
written by Jason A. Quest
The Greatest Story Ever Re-Told!
Not just a modern allegory, or a present-day sequel,
Cooler! Sexier! More miracles! Fewer sermons!
JAQ: Jason Answers Questions
Q: Why did you create "Jesús"?
JAQ: Same reason God created the Universe: I thought it'd be fun.
Q: But where did you get the idea?
JAQ: The Bible! I grew up in the Christian Reformed Church, worshiped twice a week, went to the Christian schools, and all that. The characters and stories of the Bible are some of my earliest memories, and I've always had warm spot in my heart for them. Kind of like Spider-Man, Bilbo Baggins, Superman, Peter Pan, and the other great characters of olden days.
Q: I understand the character was originally going to be called "Ultimate Jesus". Did you pitch the idea to Marvel Comics for their updated "Ultimate" line?
JAQ: As a matter of fact, I offered them a chance at it, but they wouldn't buy it. Go figure. So Jesus remains Creator-owned. Anyway I had to change the name so Marvel wouldn't sue me for everything I'm worth (which is about $700, plus my motorscooter and my iMac and my comics). But Marvel inspired me to create him. See, when Marvel launched the "Ultimate" books, overhauling and re-doing Spidey and the X-dudes, I was kinda shocked that they were messing with those classic stories. I mean, you wouldn't see someone doing "Ultimate Romeo and Juliet" or "Ultimate Moby Dick" or "Ultimate Sherlock Holmes", would you? Then I was like, hello... *yes* you would! "West Side Story" "The Wrath of Khan" "Sherlock Holmes in the Freakin' 22nd Century"! I was like a kid at Disneyland who'd just seen Mickey take his head off. "Is no book sacred?" I asked... actually out loud. It hit me immediately. I whispered two words, almost not daring: "Ultimate Jesus". Lightning didn't strike. So I started making notes.
Q: So is this a parody of Marvel's Ultimate books?
JAQ: Not those exact books (I've only read a few of them, to be honest, and they were... unremarkably good), but some of it's a piss-take on the whole thing of reboots and revamps in the superhero industry. So actually making this book is like part of the satire, with me in the role of the publishers who do desperate things to appeal to new readers, and humorless Christians in the role of the old comics fans who get so seriously upset over it. It's post-modern performance art! [giggles] But what the book *itself* is really about is the ideas I had once I got over the hurdle of deciding to rewrite the Bible. The target is way bigger than just superhero comics.
Q: You mean religion.
JAQ: That, and society. There's just *so* much to say about that stuff, so much to look at and laugh at and even cry over. Especially since people tend to take religion even more seriously than super-heroes. It's literally begging to be made fun of. So yeah, there are a bunch of cheap shots in this story, totally sacrilegious gags that I thought were funny simply because they gored some sacred cows... so to speak. (I mean how can you *not* poke fun of the madonna's virginity?) There's also some dead serious stuff in the story, including - like I said - a genuine appreciation for the original Jesus. I mean, I want the crucifixion to *hurt* when people read it. Not just turn people's stomachs, like Mel Gibson tried to do. Like any good superhero revamp, this is your "back to basics" Jesus, trying to get at the essence of him and his teachings and what he represents, and to get rid of the layers of whitewash the church has painted him with over the last couple millennia. It's like "What Would Jesus *Really* Do?" Here's a hint: the Republicans would totally hate him. And not just because he has a sex life.
Q: Other people have done satires using Jesus in modern times. How is this different from other versions of the Second Coming?
JAQ: Well first of all this isn't the *second* coming I'm writing. People get confused about that a lot. I'm *rewriting* the *original* gospel story here with all its grace and glory. And warts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did the first draft; I'm fixing it. In the new version, Jesus was never born to Mary in Bethlehem in the Hebrew year 3760 (he was aborted). Instead he was born to a teenage girl named Donna in Bethlehem PA, two thousand years later. But this isn't a hippy musical like Godspell or Superstar that just gives a new soundtrack to the same old story. In some way it's a superhero comic. Jesus has amazing powers, a costume with a symbol on his chest, and human foibles like any post-modern superhero. Taking that whole man/god duality, and save-the-world superhero metaphor full circle. I kept a lot from the original story - the disciples are all there, for example - but do my own all-new thing with it - like the disciples being a contemporary multiethnic girls-n-boys... gang.
Q: But if Jesus wasn't ever born 2000 years ago, how can you set it in a present society like our own? For example, would there be a city in Pennsylvania called Bethlehem... or even a Pennsylvania for that matter?
JAQ: Why not? You're assuming that Mary's little boy changed the whole course of human history. In my version of the story, history went on pretty much like it did here. The Roman Empire fell, for all the same reasons it did in ours... which had nothing to do with Christianity, of course. Mohammed came along and started Islam, and he really didn't miss the Prophet Jesus. There was still a multicultural version of Judaism that formed into something resembling the Roman Catholic Church (but still waiting for a Messiah). Religious persecution in Europe and economic opportunity in America still brought immigrants and smallpox here. A bunch of middle-class Deists in the colonies still led a rebellion against King George. Hitler still went after the Hebrews, the Gypsies, and the fags. After all, if God had a plan for history, all that shit still *had* to happen. Or you can look at the other way, and assume that Jesus was just a man, so why should anything be different without him? Either way it makes sense.
Q: I suppose so. Are you a Christian?
JAQ: One letter off. I'm a ChristFan. I agree with most of the things Jesus reportedly said about how we should live our lives. I grew up with that stuff, you know? And I still agree with it. But as I struggled with Christian *theology* (which in all modesty I probably know better than most card-carrying Christians), I had to admit that it didn't fit what I knew about myself and the world I live in. And the more I studied early Christian history, the more evidence I saw that the life of Jesus was a true story that became an incredible legend which became a unbelievable myth. You've got Protestants who worship an obviously flawed book, Catholics who follow a mythology that's not even in that book, and Spiritualists who just believe whatever feels right. Not for me. Anyway, after that, I used to consider myself a Humanist, but I'm no longer that thrilled with Humanity either, so that sent me searching again. I kinda like the idea of Existentialism: there's no Meaning of Life, so it's up to us to make our own. It sounds depressing at first, but it can be really liberating. At this point I hope there *isn't* a God, because if there is, He's gotta be a sadistic bastard to create a world like this.
Q: So how do you expect Christians to react to this book?
JAQ: I *expect* a lot of them to get out the torches and pitchforks, try to ban it, and use it for their self-serving fund-raising purposes. Especially after what I just said about their God. Oops. I *hope* they'll actually read the whole thing, chuckle where it's funny, and maybe think about what I'm saying with it. Sure, it's blasphemous, but I tried to be... "faithful" isn't the right word, maybe "true"... to the material I was working with. I made up a few things because they fit my agenda or they were funny, but nearly all of it's based directly on the source material. There are also some inside jokes that only Bible-reading Christians will get, so I hope at least some of them give it a read.
Q: What about non-Christians?
JAQ: I hope they do the same thing. I've got stuff for them too. Especially the superhero fans. And most of the jokes and commentary are equal-opportunity things that anyone with a functioning brain will get.
Q: What's the biggest challenge of this project?
JAQ: Building a readable storyline out of the source material. Matthew and Luke cribbed a lot from Mark (and from another gospel scholars call "Q" which has since been lost), but they still don't agree on what happened and when. (They even give two different geneologies for Joseph, which fortunately wasn't my problem to solve). Then there's the book of John, who almost seems to be talking about a different person with a different story and a whole different theology; he even tells different versions of the events the other writers tell about. Even the direct quotes of Jesus - which are supposed to be the inerrant literal Words of God, after all - are inconsistent. And then there are the gospels and passages the editors of the Bible cut or left out, dealing with his childhood or certain miracles or his sayings. (I ignored the obvious hoaxes.) So I had to try to reconcile all that and build a single storyline out of it all, and one that didn't read like a sermon or a travelog or a franchise superhero comic book. And for my version to hold up as a story, I needed a solid plot and characters, not just a string of obvious Superman jokes and "Jesus is cuming" gags. So I had to make some tough choices about what to update and how. I had lots of ideas even before I sat down and started working on the outline, but they were all over the place and I needed to focus, walking a tightrope between homage, parody, and gratuitous blasphemy. There's some of all three. :) I kept the things that seemed central to the character as I saw him, and anything that didn't fit that, got dropped, no matter how funny or how profound or even how canonical it was. But anything that didn't contradict that core, was fair game to include. Which fortunately included a *lot*.
Q: So what sorts of things did you change?
JAQ: Most of the changes were dictated by the different timeframe, or just flowed naturally from it. I couldn't set it in the modern Middle East without it turning into a WAY different story. So I set it in the modern center of the universe which - sorry, Europeans and Asians and whatnot - is the US. I put Christ in a Latino/Hebrew home because that was the only way to make him a descendent of David and give him the name "Jesús" which nobody except Hispanics use today. For the disciples to be all Hebrews (or *any* one ethnic group), or for them all to be guys, wouldn't make sense anymore, so it's a mixed group. And I gave each of them at least one line of dialog, which the Bible didn't. Kids grow up a lot faster today, so I started Jesus's ministry earlier. Leprosy isn't all that common anymore and doesn't have the social stigma anyways, so I updated the diseases Jesus heals, which I guess is connected to the more modern attitude about sex in my version. Surprisingly, most of the same public-morality issues are still here, so my Jesus could preach about the same hypocritical crap the old one did.
Q: Any plans to rewrite the Old Testament?
JAQ: I've toyed with doing Genesis and Exodus. YHWH, Eve & Adam, Noah, Moses, and so on could be fun to play with. Leviticus would be like, "A man shall not lie with a man as he would with a woman. The parts won't fit, so you'll have to figure out some other way to do it!" Song of Solomon is already risque, so I'd have to do an adults-only version of it. But rewriting Revelations would require the use of drugs I'm unwilling to take. Maybe I could do an "Official History of the JAQ Universe" to satisfy the history geeks who want to know whatever happened in Northern Ireland without Jesus of Nazareth around to play both sides off each other or who was persecuting whom in the Inquisition. But to make a long answer short: Probably not. :)
All Holy Comics publications are intended for mature readers.
The characters of Captain Miracle, Fetus Christ, and Jesús and their supporting casts are Creator-owned.