Jack Chick died in late October. He was 92. As Billy Joel sang, “Only the good die young.”
Chick was the father/creator of Chick Publications of California, a worldwide distributor of bizarre anti-Catholic tracts. Chick Publications claims to have distributed over 900 million of the little 3-by-5-inch tracts that he modeled after a common pornographic format of the 1930s and ’40s. Which is the reason that the Chick tracts, along with their art of gruesome torture and curvaceous temptresses, have been called “religious pornography.”
While obits on Chick painted him as an equal opportunity bigot — he castigated gays, Islam, Dungeons & Dragons, Harry Potter, mainstream Protestants, Halloween and Christmas — Bill Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights showed that his focus was really on Catholics and Catholicism.
“The fact is that Jack Chick concentrated most of his time and resources attacking Catholics, not Muslims and homosexuals,” Donohue noted in a statement on Chick’s death. “Indeed, on the website of Chick Publications there are 680 stories on Muslims, 260 on homosexuals and 2,460 on Catholics.”
Chick came to widespread Catholic attention with the publication of his “Alberto” comic books in the 1970s and early 1980s. These described the alleged revelations of Alberto Rivera, who claimed to be a former Jesuit priest and bishop. He painted a portrait of a Catholic Church that is a “political monster with a religious front.” It was Christianity Today Magazine, founded by Billy Graham, that published the investigative reports showing Rivera was neither a priest or a bishop, but a fraud and a con man.
That was Chick’s style. He made the most bizarre anti-Catholic charges and gussied them up in his unique, over-the-top illustrating. Among his fantasies: the Vatican has a computer with the name of every single living Protestant, ready for the launch of the Inquisition; and that Pope St. John Paul II faked his own assassination attempt and was a determined Communist.
He charged that the Holocaust was created by the Catholic Church under the specific direction of Pope Pius XII, who gave Hitler his marching orders. The Church created Communism, the Ku Klux Klan and the Russian Revolution.
The Jesuits worried him because they assassinated Abraham Lincoln. The Order also had John F. Kennedy killed when he wouldn’t cooperate in the papal takeover of America and poisoned Pope Pius XI and John Paul I as slackers.
We don’t know too much about Chick. He was born in California. He had been a World War II veteran, then became an artist.
After his marriage, he converted to a fundamentalist brand focusing on the end-is-near. He described himself as an independent Baptist. He had his first big success with a tract called “This Was Your Life” where a guy more interested in baseball that the minister’s preaching is tossed into a lake of fire after he dies. A lot of people in the Chick tracts end up in that lake of fire.
After that, Chick began his publishing house, but he also became more and more of a recluse. So much so that the rumor mill had it that he really didn’t exist — his name was attached to the tracts but they were really put together by an in-house staff.
But Chick was real, though he hadn’t given an interview since 1975. In his final years, he sat in the back of a neighborhood church in Alhambra, California. They left him pretty much alone. After all, he acted as if in hiding, fearing that the Jesuits had taken out a shoot-to-kill bounty on him.
So it goes.
Robert P. Lockwood writes from Indiana.