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In Memorium–Jack Chick

A long time ago I used to hang out a café in downtown Buffalo. It was right on the edge of the bar district and my friends would go every Thursday night. Typically it was me and one or two other people, but it was a routine. The café is still open but it’s greatly changed. I’m probably dating my self but I remember when the larger seating area was the smoking section. The front patio was a raised thing that the café had to construct every spring and tear down every fall. They had very nice reclining wood chairs. Now, the patio is the sidewalk with metal chairs and small tables that can easily be put in the back. The former smoking room has removed all of the various second hand chairs replacing them with standard wood chairs and tables. It’s also the place where I met Ani DiFranco, but I didn’t know who she was at the time (the story of that meeting is apparently a big deal, but I was just chatting up the person in line behind me) It’s a different place now. This post is not about that place.

One summer night I went there on my own and I saw a little tiny comic looking thing sitting on one of those wooden chairs. The city’s free paper (it used to be two) was usually lying about and I figured someone had clipped out the comic. As I sat down with my coffee drink I realized that it was not that. It was something called “Dark Dungeons” and it wasn’t just a slip it was a comic. It detailed the trials of a young girl caught up in the horrid cult of Dungeons and Dragons, and how that was going to lead her to…something, it’s not really that clear. It begins with a character named “Black Leaf” getting killed in the game and the person, Marcie, eventually kills herself because and in her words she, “can’t face life alone.”

Debbie, our hero, then begins to question her own faith. This is apparently Satanism because in her words the law of the faith was that they could do whatever they wanted as long as they didn’t harm anyone else. This is so similar to their creed of “do what thou wilt that is the whole of the law” that must be on purpose. Eventually some creeper named “Mike” convinces her to go to a meeting where a former Occultist convinces her to Jesus more.

It’s much more ridiculous than what I’ve said, trust me, and if you don’t here’s the link.

The art in the strip is pretty good. It’s not great, but it’s certainly better than what I would have expected had someone described it to me. This was not the first “tract” that I had encountered, but it was the most well done. Usually on the city sidewalks you’d find what looked like a five dollar bill folded up and then when you grabbed it, you were doubly disappointed in finding out that not only was it not five dollars but also that it was full of bible verses. I never understood this method, the person who threw it down must think that “oh they just haven’t heard the correct order of bible verses and that’s why they aren’t into Jesus.” It’s like a douchebag who honks at a pretty woman, does he think that it will work? She hears the horn and says to herself, “If he stops and comes over I’ll surely blow him?”

The tract itself was written by an individual named Jack Chick, and last week he died. Chick was strange for even fundamentalists, but no one can doubt his commitment to the cause. It’s just that he’s the exact type of crazy Christian zealot that the 80s produced. He would be right at home with Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, and Jerry Falwell if he wasn’t so reclusive. He was their exact type of paranoid religious individual, and if he was any other religion (or any other sect) they would be decrying him as a threat to their religious freedom as much as they do the president or anyone else, displaying a cognitive dissonance in not recognizing their own fervent lunacy. Chick is most famous for the Dark Dungeon tract, simply because of how insane; and I daresay, heretical it actually is.

As I’ve stated, I was raised Catholic, so in his eyes I might as well be sacrificing goats to Melkor. While Catholicism has it’s loony bits, the type of Christianity espoused by Chick is flat out insanity. He devotes tracts to denouncing Catholics and Mormons as being deceived by Satan (as well as Muslims). However this one tract, that was even made into an ultra low budget movie, is what sets him apart.

Reading the story carefully we realize one thing: Chick believes that Dungeons and Dragons is real. Panel 5 has Debbie bragging about how she cast a real spell and forced her father to buy more D&D merchandise for her. In other words, she cast a magic spell that works. Just think about that, Chick believes that a book which retailed for about twenty bucks (I used to play) contains real magic spells. In other words, D&D players have control over not only the minds of other people but also nature itself. Magic is real…apparently. I played as a wizard for years, and I could barely get my character’s spells to work because I never had the right material components (except for magic missile, you always carry enough for magic missile).

What saves Debbie? A different magic spell. Because that’s all that happens, she’s upset about her friend’s suicide and Mike, like a ghoul, preys upon her emotional state to introduce her to a different kind of magic. Only this one can’t deliver the same kind of results or can’t it? Debbie is instantly healed of all her grief and guilt stemming from her friend’s suicide and suddenly she’s going to become one of those insufferable people that condemn their old life in such a way that it seems like they are bragging about the way they used to be. Debbie burns all of her works as sort of commanded by Acts 19:19 (Christian book burning is an old tradition apparently).

This type of religiosity is one that believes that Satan is real, and grants occult powers to his followers. Why do they believe this? Who knows, because it’s nowhere in their book that this is a thing that happens. Yet this belief was so widespread in the 80s that even in my Catholic upbringing it was brought up numerous times to me, though I was never forbidden from playing it, and my school had a meeting with so-called experts about Satanism and the Occult. For some reason their thinking was that I would play a game, and then…I don’t know, have power over nature? Why is this bad?

I encountered numerous other Chick tracts in my life. Yet none stand out to my memory as much as Dark Dungeons does. Perhaps it’s the sheer lunacy, perhaps it’s because I used to play the game (by the time I found the tract I didn’t play anymore), or perhaps because of the contradiction in the horrible story with the artwork. Chick, you will always live in my memory as a crazy paranoid religious zealot who produced one of the most unintentionally funny things I had ever read.

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