Monday, January 6, 2014

Wednesday Theology Condensed: Intro

I did not post a lot in 2013. For that I am sorry. In my mind I can make up plenty of excuses about work and other engagements taking up too much of my time. But those are just excuses. Really it comes down to laziness, a lack of drive, and a lack of passion. Man, that is depressing.

So now it's 2014 and I need to combat those detrimental mentalities. So how do I reclaim some of that passion and reinvigorate both myself and this blog? Well, let's do what any good comic book property does when it desires a new start: retell the origin. And that's what the first few posts of Wednesday Theology in 2014 will be about. I am embarking in an exercise of true narcissism and reading through my own thesis once again and will summarize each section in a (hopefully) easily digestible blog post. My thesis launched this site, so lets go back to the beginning examine the ground floor of this ridiculous enterprise that is my theological passion.

  I titled my thesis Wednesday Theology: Theology and Language in Graphic Literature. The format consists of four chapters enclosed by an introduction and a conclusion. The introduction offers a brief synopsis of the ensuing chapters (so really I could just post the introduction and be done with this), and also includes some rationale for why I chose this topic.

Essentially, as I wrote at the beginning of the scholarly work, I grew up liking superheroes, particularly Batman. While I may have grown out of playing with action figures in the sandbox (for the most part) I never really escaped that fascination with these characters of modern mythology. My interest and participation as a consumer in the comic book industry certainly waned after junior high, but mysteriously, and perhaps miraculously, I experienced a resurgence of fascination shortly before enrolling in seminary.

That tidbit is actually bittersweet as I write this. Just this past week word was officially announced that the Star Wars license is moving from Dark Horse to Marvel in 2015. Why does this matter? Because Dark Horse's Star Wars comics were rather instrumental for enticing me back into the world of comic books at that time. I had heard somewhere about the Legacy series which focused on a drug addict descendant of Luke Skywalker living some one hundred years after the original movie trilogy.
It was a new, fresh, and crazy idea to play with in the Star Wars universe that will never be depicted in the cinema. That right there gives an example of one of the strengths of the comic book medium. You can explore absurd and novel ideas at length that will never be accepted as a movie pitch.

Anyway, Legacy led me to Knights of the Old Republic which led me to explore other titles and getting back into Batman and the popular continuities of DC and Marvel. So, by the time I was attending classes at seminary I was making regular trips to a comic book shop every Wednesday. However, they were two distinct interests that did not overlap that much. I saw a possibility that the combination of the two might produce something interesting, but that was too far in the future for me to ponder too much about.

Over the course of my seminary education, I took some classes that touched on postmodernism, deconstruction, and the textual criticism of Jacques Derrida. Synapses started firing. Discussing the meaning of the representation of the text on the page connected clearly to the comic book format. At least, in my mind it did. So why others would be discussing the theological significance of a topic, I would interrupt the class and point out how this is already being done regularly in comic books.

The idea was born and for the next several months I cultivated it and wrote about it at length. The following chapters were the result. In the first chapter I explore the origins of the format, it's content, what it's called, and why the name matters. The second chapter focuses on the mechanics of the medium. This is where we get to the Derrida connection and see how this unique way of transmitting information might be used for theological discourse. With the third chapter I get to the expected meat of the paper and provide an overview of several theological themes prevalent in mainstream comic books. This experience scouring comic book issues looking for instances of theological insight obviously birthed the Daily Quote section, which is the staple of this Wednesday Theology blog. The fourth chapter is admittedly the weakest where I touch on "Christian" comic books and how I find them deficient. I make an attempt to propose an alternative, where comic books are not used to merely evangelize or indoctrinate, but used to discuss, question, and investigate theological themes.

Okay, I lied. The conclusion is by far the weakest portion of this paper. It is a very concise recap of everything I had just written and really doesn't add much. I'm bad at writing conclusions.

So that is an incredibly brief overview of Wednesday Theology. In the next couple of days We will explore each chapter more closely, attempting to reignite the fire that drives this blog. I will also presumably criticize my writing quite a bit and express woe at my inability to go back in time and rewrite it. Or, maybe I will express even more woe at how much worse my writing has become since then. Either way it will be fun. Or incredibly boring. I mean, it is a Master's thesis about theology, so I am not sure how interested you might be. But then you are reading a blog about theology and comic books, so you are a bit of an oddity right there.

Happy New Year!

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