As the story goes, somewhere in the desert of Wadi, a group of disaffected monks with Liberal Arts degrees, but an immense distaste for literature, recorded their nightmares and preserved them in jars. Probably Mason jars. They were intellectuals. Like those guys wearing Hawaiian shirts behind the counter at Dave’s Comix, or those artist-types with the really cool haircuts who work at video stores and like to talk about Jarmusch’s oeuvre but roll their eyes anytime anybody asks for The Sound of Music.
This is all pertinent because, basically, the Gnostic scriptures are Coptic comic books, texts peopled by denizens of other worlds: beings with superhuman powers, bearing outlandish names, bent on battling evil geniuses in order to reveal the conspiracy that is is.
And love? Forget love. This stuff is for people who want to know. (Hence its appeal for academics). But, wait! If the Gnostic gospels are comic books, then wouldn’t that make comics midrash? Which, in turn, would make graphic novels (from Gr. graphein, “writing,” and Latin. novum, “new”) mystical-philosophical tractates designed to awaken sleeping humanity to the reality behind creation’s degraded veil.
Neotech hieroglyphics! Hold it! Stan Lee, founder of superhero conglomerate Marvel Comics (from Latin mirari, “to wonder at”), even calls his readers “true believers”! On the Web, graphic novel wunderkind Neil Gaiman Examines What It Takes to Be a God—just like it says in The Apocryphon of John: “Man came forth because of the shadow of the light which is in him.
And his thinking was superior to all those who had made him.” This is cutting edge theology. Yet so simple.
Spero columnist Michael Martin teaches English literature at Marygrove College.