Jimmy was born in Texas, grew up nominally Protestant, but at age 20 experienced a profound conversion to Christ. Planning on becoming a Protestant pastor or seminary professor, he started an intensive study of the Bible. But the more he immersed himself in Scripture the more he found to support the Catholic faith. Eventually, he entered the Catholic Church. His conversion story, “A Triumph and a Tragedy,” is published in Surprised by Truth. Besides being an author, Jimmy is the Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a contributing editor to Catholic Answers Magazine, and a weekly guest on “Catholic Answers Live.”
Yesterday reports emerged that Jack T. Chick passed on Sunday at the age of 92. This has been confirmed by a post on his company’s Facebook page.
For those who may not be aware, Jack Chick was a famous creator of evangelistic comic books and comic tracts (known as “Chick tracts”).
Here are 9 things to know and share . . .
1) Chick’s Comics
According to his company’s web site, more than 750,000,000 Chick publications have been distributed.
That’s three quarters of a billion-with-a-“b” comic books.
And that would make him the single most published comic book creator in history—with far more copies of his works placed in circulation than even comic book legends like Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Jerry Siegel, and Joe Schuster.
Originally, Chick both wrote and drew all his comics, but in later years some art was done by a man named Fred Carter, who had a much more realistic style than Chick.
2) Chick’s Faith
Chick was an independent Baptist and a Fundamentalist who argued that only the King James Version of the Bible should be used.
He believed that we are living very close to the end of the world, that there are conspiracies everywhere, and that the devil is lurking behind numerous rocks.
The visual nature of Chick’s chosen medium and the nature of his Fundamentalist faith meant that he sometimes walked a delicate line.
In his comics, Chick needed to regularly depict judgment scenes in which Christ alternately commends or condemns a person based on how they lived their life.
Yet Protestant Fundamentalism has an aversion to depicting images of Christ.
Chick’s solution was to depict Jesus seated on a throne, but with a radiant, blank face—an image that some have described as a “lightbulb-headed Jesus”:
3) Chick on Catholicism
As one might expect of a Fundamental Baptist, Chick was strongly opposed to the Catholic Faith.
Among the anti-Catholic tracts he produced are Last Rites (in which a Catholic goes to hell for following the teachings of his Church), Why Is Mary Crying? (against Catholic teaching on the Virgin Mary), and The Death Cookie (against Catholic teaching on the Eucharist).
His web site summarizes the tract Mama’s Girls by saying:
The Catholic Church is mother to four great false religions. She will do anything to keep you from Jesus.
In this tract, Chick claims that Islam, Freemasonry, Communism, and Nazism were plots created by the Catholic Church to deceive people—despite the historical opposition of each of these toward the Catholic Faith.
Such, apparently, are the wiles of the Catholic Church.
4) Chick’s Popularity
The deadpan earnestness with which Chick’s publications discussed these and other conspiracies, as well as their ardent simplicity, make them weirdly compelling.
Many people who violently disagree with Chick—including atheists—have found his publications have a campy, kitschy appeal and began collecting them.
5) Chick’s Film
In 2003, Chick branched out from the comic book world to produce a film called The Light of the World. His company has posted it to YouTube, here.
Chick wrote it, and the visuals are provided by pans and zooms of paintings by Fred Carter.
The film presents Chick’s view of salvation history, including the final judgment (note Pope Pius XII marching off to hell).
Chick was not much of a theologian, and in the movie it shows. The first sentence of the film misquotes Genesis (“In the beginning, God created the heaven [singular] and the earth”), and the second sentence describes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirits as three “parts” of God (note well: God has no parts).
Still, Fred Carter’s paintings are pretty to look at.
6) Meeting Chick
Chick himself was notoriously reclusive. I was fortunate, however, to meet him at the premier of The Light of the World.
So far as I know, I am the only Catholic apologist to have met him.
You can read an account of my meeting with Jack Chick here.
7) Impressions of Chick
Although Chick was visibly uncomfortable when he learned I was a Catholic evangelist, he remained civil, and we had a pleasant conversation.
Some have wondered, given the extreme implausibility of the claims made in his comics, whether he was simply a crook who was in it for the money.
If so, he gave no sign of it in our conversation. He seemed sincerely convinced of the viewpoint his comics would lead you to believe that he held.
8) The Face Behind the Comics
Because of his reclusiveness, almost no photos of Chick exist.
Consequently, after our meeting, I drew a picture of him:
The fact that I wrote about meeting him and produced one of the few pictures of Chick available has led, over the years, to me periodically getting requests for this to be used in various forms by those producing works about him (requests I have always granted, as long as they cite me as the source).
For what it’s worth, I had hopes of being a comic book writer-artist in my youth. In fact, I practiced drawing comic book art for years, and I am pleased to say that my drawing of Chick was later confirmed when a more recent photograph of him was published to the Internet here:
9) Praying for Chick
It’s great that Chick lived to the ripe old age of 92!
Despite his opposition to the Catholic Faith, Jack Chick was a man whom Christ loved and for whom he died.
My experience of Chick’s sincerity suggests he was innocently unaware of the consequences of his actions, meaning that he would fall under Our Lord’s prayer, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Jack Chick opposed praying for the dead, and it would have meant nothing to him that he died in the Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis.
But if his understanding of the divine mystery leads him to experience the particular judgment as standing before a giant, radiant Jesus (like the one depicted in his comics), I hope you will join me in praying:
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.