Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What would Scooby Doo?

What do Batman, the Hulk, Nightcrawler, Lois Lane, Hell Boy, and Blue Devil all have in common?

Aside from being in comic books, that is?

They are all Catholics...from devout to lapsed.

Check out all your favorite super heros on the Comic Book Religion database.

Even Phil Donohue, Ted Kennedy, Frank Sinatra and Dante were on the list. Seems they all had been in a comic book at one point. In the case of the first three, that seems only fitting.

The Comic Book religion site has a breakdown by religion, by publisher, nation, occupation, character type and team (like Justice League). They list Jewish super heros, LDS super heros, and even some religions I've never even heard of! Found out that Invisible Girl is an Episcopalian.

Below is their pick for the best Catholic super hero.

Greatest Catholic Super Hero
The title of "greatest Catholic super-hero" is also a highly contested one, and there may be some disagreement with our choice. But, Kurt Wagner, the blue-skinned mutant member of the X-Men known as Nightcrawler would certainly be at the top or near the top of most everybody's list.

Nightcrawler has become one of the best-known overtly Catholic comic book characters ever. When the religious affiliation of super-heroes is discussed, Nightcrawler is usually one of the first characters mentioned. His devout Catholicism was even on display in the second X-Men movie: X2 (2003) (i.e,. "X-Men United"). In published comics, Nightcrawler spent a long time training to become a priest. Depending on how one reads the applicable tales, he actually did become a Catholic priest or only seemingly became a priest. Numerous stories show him wearing a Catholic priest's collar.

Nightcrawler was raised in Germany by a Gypsy circus family. His adoptive mother was a Roma sorceress and his biological mother was the villainous and decidedly non-religious mutant named Mystique. Nightcrawler appears to actually be a convert to Catholicism, or at least somebody raised with little connection to the church who embraced it as an adult. In any case, Nightcrawler's Catholic faith is entirely of his own choosing: it has nothing to do with his powers or family or culture. The always-likable, ever-hopeful "fuzzy elf" is famous for his many deep religious discussions with more "skeptical" characters such as his teammate, Wolverine.

Nightcrawler has also emerged as a leader among the mutant super-hero community, having led the British team Excalibur as well as various squads of X-Men.

Nightcrawler is not be a perfect example of Catholic faith and ethical teachings, but he is probably one of the best examples of fictional Catholics that you can find in popular fiction.

Runners-Up: There are far too many Catholic super-heroes to mention in passing here, many of which are quite well known and/or quite devout. DC's Blue Devil (who has had his own series and now stars in Shadowpact) is a particularly faithful Catholic superhero. Bonita Juarez, the Avenger and Ranger known as Firebird is also particularly devout. Batman's ally the Huntress, with her love/hate relationship to the Catholic Church could also be mentioned. Some Catholic super-heroes (such as Batman and the Hulk are considerably more famous than these, but they're very poor examples of Catholics, and their Catholic religious affiliation is less widely known.

Perhaps the top runner-up is Matt Murdock, the blind hero of Hell's Kitchen known as Daredevil. Murdock is well known, he has starred in his own series almost non-stop since the founding years of Marvel, and he has been portrayed on the big screen. It is arguable whether Daredevil is as well known as Nightcrawler has become. Although the character has been around longer, Nightcrawler has been featured as a regular character in various X-Men animated series, something that can't be said about Daredevil. And the X-Men are certainly one of the world's best-known and top-selling comic book teams. Murdock is also famously Catholic. We have seen him in confession and church. His mother even became a Catholic nun! What tips the scale in Nightcrawler's favor is his adherence to Catholic teachings. Matt Murdock may have a strong Catholic identity and Catholicism has sometimes been central to stories about him, but he's often a really bad Catholic! Daredevil is a stalwart super-hero, but Catholic teachings about sexual morality seem to have largely been lost on him. He can also be brutally violent in ways that Nightcrawler never approaches. Nightcrawler isn't portrayed as an angelic "choir boy" (we're not sure what goes on behind closed doors between him and Amanda Sefton), but he is consistently and intentionally portrayed as a devout Catholic, while Daredevil is consistently portrayed as a Catholic who is less than devout.

*Comic Book Religion site

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