Tract Star: Jack Chick’s Most Unhinged Religious Comics

The temptations of Satan and his demons surround us on all sides. He and his dark legions are waiting around every corner, ready to seduce us with tabletop RPGs, parties, and Mormonism. The only thing standing between our tender souls and utter damnation is the dearly departed, hyper-Christian cartoonist Jack Chick and his infamous Chick tracts. They’re roughly the size and format of a Tijuana Bible, only instead of containing drawings of Olive Oyl getting spit-roasted by Popeye and Bluto, they’re filled with shrill evangelism and tangible paranoia. Because we love you, dear reader, we have assembled some of Jack Chick’s greatest triumphs to share with you. I’ve also chosen to excerpt some of Jack’s choicest immortal dialogue for you, complete with his idiosyncratic punctuation and formatting. You don’t have to thank us; just save us the last death cookie.

Dark Dungeons

This is the story of Debbie, also known as Elfstar (lol). She’s so good at battling boardgame monsters that her DM, Ms. Frost (who is a fox) decides to promote her to actual witch. She hooks up with a local coven, which teaches her mind-control spells that she uses to net $200 in D&D supplies. I never really got into the game until I was an adult, but then I was never promised literal super powers by a foxy goth dungeon mistress.

Dark Dungeons is legendary among gamers for being the most visible example of the first wave of D&D hysteria, part of the larger wave of Satanic Panic in the 1970s and 80s. All the classics are here: Being good at math and die-rolling can lead to literal reality-warping power! RPGs are so engrossing that players will kill themselves if their characters die! Somewhere, the ghost of non-paranoid Christian and D&D creator Gary Gygax is pinching the bridge of his nose and sighing deeply.

Immortal Dialogue: “You, who are involved in the occult, think you have achieved power. But you have been trapped in a dungeon of bondage!”

Party Girl

I’d rather sit naked in a tub full of rusty scissors than attend a raucous party, but I’m meant to understand that many humans enjoy such activities. I may not get the appeal, but you crazy kids go on and enjoy yourselves. You do you. Just remember that, when you go to a party, there’s a significant chance that Satan is definitely going to slip poison into your drink and murder you.

Luckily, there’s hope for all of us in Jesus Christ through his anointed representatives on Earth: fussy grandmas. Yes, grandmas, moving with a speed and agility that only a combination of heavenly grace and a rigorous chair-dancing regimen can produce, will barge into raves to keep the actual devil from personally spiking your drinks.

Immortal Dialogue: “Your warehouses are PACKED with low-grade condoms. And hundreds of volunteers are ready to give them away.”

Big Daddy?

As an advocate for science education, I can’t help but include this spectacularly wrongheaded attack on evolutionary theory. Our two main characters in this tract are an atheist college professor and a Christian student, who have fundamental disagreements about everything from biology to plate tectonics. If you can’t tell who you’re supposed to support already, Jack Chick helpfully draws the lad like a Ken doll while the professor looks like Danny DeVito’s character in Space Jam (1996).

Jack Chick knows even less about science than he knows about gaming. He thinks that theoretical astrophysics, chemistry, and biology are taught in the same college classes, and that Darwinian evolution is used to explain them all. He thinks that “missing links” are a real thing, as though real-life animals evolve in distinct stages like fucking Pokémon. He thinks that flash-in-the-pan anthropological hoaxes like Piltdown Man are still being taught in modern universities. And, most bizarrely, he believes that scientists believe that it is illegal to believe in God on a college campus. Also, all scientists have gigantic framed portraits of chimps in their offices, because of course they do.

Immortal Dialogue:FACTS –FACTS FACTS! Huxley — G. Gaylord Simpson — Darwin — even NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and TIME magazines know it…”

The Visitors

Oooooh, The Visitors! Super spooky, right? The title makes it sound like they’re Men in Black or something, but they’re actually the least-threatening visitors you can imagine: Mormon missionaries. They’re even wearing pocket protectors. Bar the door, Henry, those horrible brutes are back again with their pamphlets and freshly-starched shirts!

I’m not writing this article to get into a Biblical scholarship pissing contest with a hundred year-old cartoonist, but Jack Chick doesn’t seem to be great at comparative theology. He faults Mormonism for positing a society of godlike beings working under a supreme deity, apparently blanking on passages like Genesis 1:26, 3:22, and 6:4, all of which imply or directly posit that multiple godlike beings were once part of the Abrahamic tradition. I should also point out that, although the thing about black folks being fallen angels was a real Mormon tenet once upon a time, it was officially revoked by the church in 1978, six years before Jack Chick wrote this tract; stellar research as always, Jack.

Immortal Dialogue: “If I were black and found out about this . . . I’d be outraged!”

The Death Cookie

You might think that Jack Chick has enough to be scared of, what with all the Utahan missionaries and dungeon masters currently gangbanging America’s soul, but you’d be wrong. Jack Chick is also terrified of other Christians, specifically Catholics. His position is that, while Catholics may believe that they are worshipping Jesus, they’re actually being tricked into worshipping baked goods.

In Death Cookie, Jack imagines the birth of Catholicism as a clumsy attempt at social control getting steeped in ritual and becoming an organized religion. To be fair to Jack, that’s a fairly accurate view of how organized religions tend to evolve, but I doubt a cartoon devil with hair horns was involved.

Immortal Dialogue: “Speak things that no one understands and burn a lot of candles.”

The Gay Blade

Jack Chick wrote this, the Moby-Dick of shrieking homophobia, way back in 1984. In 1984, the gay community was being wracked by AIDS while governments did nothing and sodomy laws were still on the books and being enforced in a third of the United States, but sure, Jack. The Gay Revolution was definitely about to reach critical mass and transform a nation of Tom Sellecks into Rip Taylors.

Jack Chick was like 100 when he died, and I can’t help but wonder how he held up in latter years. He lost his shit 30 years ago over Three’s Company or whatever, so a world where the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the legality of same-sex marriage must have been like the sky crashing in on his head. He thought that literal armies of gays were rioting in the streets because of Paul Lynde, how was he coping with the ubiquity of Ellen Degeneres? Dude had probably been cowering in a Blast From the Past-style bunker since Philadelphia came out.

Immortal Dialogue: “. . . the despair of unsatisfied longing — desiring — endless lusting . . .”

Matt is a writer, pop culture historian and aspiring two-fisted adventurer. He has a degree in ancient Mediterranean history with a focus on Roman ritual violence, which is why he writes about monster movies and pro wrestling on the internet. He is the host of the I Hate Wrestling podcast, and he resides with his two cats and hot wife in the happiest place on Earth (Hoboken, NJ).