Goodreads isn’t the only booklover’s website, but it is one that publishers pay attention to. Having a following on Goodreads helps for making marketing manageable. Or so the thinking goes. In any case, I recently had a message on Goodreads about Holy Horror. It seems someone has, against all odds, found the book and is reading it. This particular reader asked me in a comment about Chick tracts. I’ve written about Jack Chick before. He was a veritable one-man evangelical force of super-nature. He is responsible for many of my personal nightmares with the Bible. His cartoon tracts were designed to scare the Hell out of kids, literally. I read them religiously. My Goodreads reader pointed out that I could’ve made use of them in Holy Horror.
This made me ponder the reticence of academics to address religion as a cultural force. Chick tracts are extremely common, even today. As I posted last year, we were handed one while walking between venues at the first annual Easton Book Festival (an event forced virtual this year by, well, you know). Not that Chick’s intellectual ability deserves study, but his influence is undeniable. How many of us fundamentalist kids were set on our life trajectories by tracts that looked like mini-comic books but which had an unwavering, uninformed viewpoint held as gospel? Chick tracts broached no dissent. The Bible alone, and the Bible as interpreted by fundamentalists alone, was the only possible way of avoiding everlasting hellfire. Nightmares indeed.
Chick died in 2016 after half-a-century of terror (his first tract was published in 1960). Apparently Chick was a shy evangelical and his prolific cartooning was a way of assuaging his own fears of not evangelizing. Ironically, in his tracts he offloaded that burden onto others—kids were made to feel inferior if they didn’t talk about Jesus to their friends, no matter how shy they might have been. There’s not much information easily available on this influential man. A motivated scholar, I’m sure, could dig up information—nearly any life can be illuminated to some degree—but I’m not sure the will is there. If it ever happens, I suspect the study will be done by someone like me, raised on Chick and fed steady doses of childhood Bible reading. My Goodreads interlocutor was perhaps onto something by suggesting my watching horror has something to do with Chick tracts. Stranger things have, I’m sure, happened.