Editor: Martin Lund
Between 1961 and his death in October 2016, controversial evangelical cartoonist Jack T. Chick built a publishing empire that bridged cultures and left deep marks in the fields of American religion, American comics, and beyond. In more than 260 of his so-called “Chick tracts,” his signature comics pamphlets produced for evangelizing purposes, as well as over a dozen comic books and numerous books and other printed materials, he and his publishing house promoted a particular brand of evangelical Protestantism that has found increasing purchase in recent decades, in American culture, society, and politics. Indeed, although less of a publicly known profile than some of his contemporaries, Chick was one of the most widely disseminated ideologues of the conservative evangelical movement from the mid-twentieth century into the twenty-first. By the time of Chick’s death, over 950 million Chick tracts had been distributed worldwide, and his influence had crossed over from the realm of believers and evangelists to stimulate underground and alternative comics creators, to inspire a tract collector culture, and to spawn innumerable parodies.
Yet, when Chick and his work are discussed, they are often written off as hate literature from the lunatic fringe, an anomalous phenomenon grown in a stew of intolerance and conspiracy theory. Although his work is undoubtedly offensive and oppressive, the common view might be too simplistic a reading; created as a form of “love literature,” what they advocate is not always beyond the evangelical pale. This volume does not seek to redeem Chick – who, after all, was a conspiracy theorist and disseminator of emotionally and psychologically violent material – but dismissing him obscures important historical nuance, and none more important than the fact that Chick and his work was, and to this day remains, popular.
Despite the length of Chick’s career and the significance and reach of his work, Chick tracts remain a largely unstudied phenomenon. In an attempt to rectify this situation, Witnessing Made Easy tracts is envisioned with a threefold purpose. First, in order to fill the gaps left in our understanding of Chick tracts, the collection will collect thoroughly historicized and contextualized close readings of tracts on a wide variety of topics, as well as studies of the tracts’ position within the larger cultural spheres of American evangelicalism, American comicdom, American culture, and in the global religious field and marketplace. Second, in order to better understand Chick tracts as a cultural phenomenon, and to truly appreciate their influence and reach, the collection will argue that they have to be positioned within their own culture and regarded not as something special, but to a great extent as something ordinary. Third, it aims to reflect on the extent of the impact Chick tracts have had and will continue to have on both American evangelical culture and on the cultural spheres surrounding it.
Possible topics for proposals include, but are not limited to:
- Chick tract representations of other religious traditions;
- Chick’s views on gender and sexuality as they relate to the religious environment in which he operated and to the culture into which they were disseminated;
- Chick’s treatments of race and ethnicity;
- Chick’s critics and their uses of his work;
- Chick tract parodies and their uses, the Chick tract collector culture, and non-religious cultural producers’ uses of his work;
- The tension between the productive conception of Chick tracts as “love literature” and their reception as hate literature, and other religious and non-religious reception of Chick tracts.
Please send an abstract of 200–250 words as well as contact information, affiliation, and a short CV with publication list to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 1, 2018. Mark the email with the subject line “Last Name Reading Chick tracts Submission.” Selections will be made and notifications emailed by June 1, 2018. Full chapters of 6,000–8,000 words will be due by September 1, 2018.
If you have questions about the fit of any particular topic for the collection, please do not hesitate to contact the editor.
About the Editor
Martin Lund is a senior lecturer in religion at Malmö University, in Malmö, Sweden. He is co-editor (with A. David Lewis) of Muslim Superheroes: Comics, Islam, and Representation (ILEX Foundation/Harvard University Press, 2017) and author of Re-Constructing the Man of Steel: Superman 1938, Jewish American History, and the Invention of the Jewish-Comics Connection (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016). He has written several articles about comics, their history, and their politics, and has a particular interest in the intersections between religions and comics.