WE SHALL NOT LIVE BY SATANIC CHICK TRACT ALONE
Working on the Kickstarter for our Satanic Chick Tract got me looking into the old Chick archive again. Because I apparently hate myself just enough for that, but not enough for any other form of self-harm.
When Chick died in 2016 his Washington Post obituary declared, “His cartoons combined evangelism with conspiracy-minded attacks.” That’s less a combination so much as the same thing with two different lampshades, but as you will.
Still, Vox noted that Chick’s barely coherent art “became a cult hit with comics collectors” and that “almost everybody has a Jack Chick story.”
Case in point, my favorite Chick Tract is the high-grade Satanic Panic delirium “The Poor Little Witch.” Partly because it’s flickeringly amusing, but also because it exposes the cracks in some of his usual Chickanery.
“Poor Little Witch” is not as ignominiously inspired as “Dark Dungeons,” “The Last Generation,” or other more infamous Chick traumas.
Rather, it’s a simple story about Mandy, an everyday American girl who just wants to fit in. So she does what any of us would do and drinks the blood of infants at black magic ritual sleepovers. The Internet didn’t exist yet, kids had to do something.
See, noticing that she’s unpopular, Mandy’s vaguely predatory teacher invites her to join a witch cult. If this were a Satanic Chick Tract Mandy would just hook up with a couple of the other witch girls, come out of the closet, found a Satanic Student Union, and go on to attend Mills.
(She also wouldn’t be wearing a bow the size of a fruit bat in her hair all the time, but I digress.)
At first black magic is fun, but then Mandy’s teacher forces her to kill a baby and drink its blood, because Jack Chick didn’t want his characters to have nice things. (This was published in 1987, but I still can’t kick the hunch Common Core will end up taking the blame anyway…)
Here’s what’s instructive about “Poor Little Witch”: The conceit is that witchcraft is bad because it’s heretical. When Mandy is having fun with Satanism, this is already meant to be horrifying. Think of the peril her soul is in.
But evidently that’s not enough, because Chick escalates the conflict with a physical threat. You get the feeling that if the Satanists didn’t threaten Mandy’s life and play Operation with a newborn, her predicament just wouldn’t seem that bad.
Mainstream religions are supposed to eschew material concerns. “The world, the flesh, and the devil” are all the substance of “deceits,” as the old Anglican Book of Common Prayer has it.
But material terms are still the ones people really respond to. Preachers tell us “Hell is the absence of god,” but that’s now how anyone thinks about it. We think about Dante’s burning deserts and rivers of blood. Because those are stakes that count.
A 2017 survey in the peer-reviewed journal Religion, Brain & Behavior found that religious and irreligious people are more or less equally fearful of death. On paper, supernatural faith should insulate you from mortality concerns; after all, eternity awaits. But it doesn’t work out that way.
Even “The Poor Little Witch” gives the game away: In the version first published in 1987, the Satanists kill Mandy. But it’s still a happy ending because she goes to heaven, right?
Well, Chick later excised the final two pages and ends Mandy’s story sans murder. I can only speculate why, but I’d guess no matter how hard you push the heaven schtick, death is still a tough sell. Martyrdom ain’t exactly a growth industry, ya know?
And I think this is the right idea. We SHOULD worry about material things. Hazy supernatural promises might sound nice, but they’re a poor substitute for pragmatism.
Even old Anton LaVey wrote, “Satan has been given an evil role because he represents the earthly and mundane.”
So from a certain point of view, everyone—even Jack Chick—prioritizes Satanic affairs. What the hell else are they gonna do?
On that note, we’re already hard at work on our next Satanic Chick Tract. After all, since old Jack isn’t with us anymore, someone’s got to keep spreading that Satanic materialist gospel.