Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them Behold the Man.—Gospel of John
Ireread Michael Moorcock’s Behold the Man last weekend. Apart from size—it is a slim novella—it was the plot and the brilliance of Moorcock’s writing that encouraged me to read the book again (the same reasons ensure that I have a well-thumbed copy of James Cain’s Double Indemnity).
Moorcock’s book was written in 1969 and would have probably been banned had it been written in India and about an Indian god. It’s a deviant little story, of a marginally dysfunctional individual, Karl Glogauer, who travels through time and crashes in Israel around the time of Jesus. Except, he finds out that Mary is a foul-mouthed slattern and her son, mentally disabled. Glogauer has a bit of a messiah complex and soon finds himself in Jesus’ role. He dies on the cross and his last words are: “It’s a lie….”
Jesus’ pal: Danny is a cable TV executive
There isn’t a comic book version of Moorcock’s book—not to my knowledge, at least; there are comic book versions of other Moorcock books though—but this rather lengthy preamble is relevant because of the comic book that’s the subject of this fortnight’s column.
Like most good science fiction, Behold the Man left me feeling a bit grey. So, as a sort of pick-me-up, I reread a relatively old comic (it came out four years ago, and was reissued in 2009) which is also about Jesus. I am sure it too would have been banned in India had it been set in an Indian context; we’re big on banning, you see.
The comic book in question is Chronicles of Wormwood. Its protagonist is Danny Wormwood, the Antichrist (son of Satan); he lives in New York and is a cable TV executive. His best friend is Jesus (called Jay), a black man with Rasta locks who lost some of his logical faculties after a run-in with LAPD. Neither Wormwood nor Jay want Armageddon although their fathers do. The rest is a wild, wicked, filthily hilarious or hilariously filthy story (Chronicles of Wormwood also features a talking rabbit and a deviant Australian pope).
Garth Ennis clearly has an issue with religion; he is the author of the wildly successful Preacher comic book series that I must have written about in a previous edition of this column (it’s been so long, I’ve forgotten). Chronicles of Wormwood is far smaller in scope than Preacher; it is also a lot less violent and a lot more funny.
I read somewhere that Avatar Press, the publisher, tried to revive the comic book series in 2009, but haven’t come across that comic book yet. That said, Chronicles of Wormwood is a nifty miniseries. And the perfect pick-me-up after Behold the Man.
R. Sukumar is editor, Mint, and rapidly running out of new comic books to write about.
Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org