He is said to have distributed more than 750 million tracts, nicknamed “chicklets,” over five decades
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA (ANS – October 26, 2016) — Jack Chick, the controversial cartoonist who became the biggest name in tract evangelism, died on Sunday at the age 92.
According to a friend, he had been suffering from diabetes and heart problems.
A Facebook posting on the Chick Publications page, which is based in Rancho Cucamonga, California, Chick died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday evening.
The posting added: “He will be interred in a small private ceremony. Condolences can be sent to Chick Publications (email@example.com), and they will be taken to his widow. God bless you all.”
The posting also promised that the company would continue Chick’s method, vision and purpose.
Jack Chick was born in Los Angeles on April 13, 1924, and came to faith shortly after the end of World War II. Reports say that it was while he was on his honeymoon and was listening to Charles E. Fuller’s radio show, “Old Fashioned Revival Hour.”
Unable to find a publisher, Chick published his first cartoon revival book in 1961 using $800 he borrowed from a credit union. He founded Chick Publications in 1970.
Chick wanted his tracts to be handed out in bulk and were available cheaply. Chick’s company claimed it had sold about 750 million of them, translated into more than 100 languages.
“His burden has always been to get the Gospel into the hands of millions of lost people around the world,” said his website — http://www.chick.com/.
In a story on his death, the Associated Press (AP) said, “Chick’s pulpy, lurid cartoons combined traditional evangelism with frankly conspiracy-minded attacks. He and later other illustrators produced several hundred tracts over the decades. Latching onto the issues of the day, the tracts took aim at abortion, occultism, ecumenism and other perceived evils.
“They portrayed everything from rock music to Dungeons & Dragons and Harry Potter as literal traps of the Devil.
“One tract, ‘The Walking Dead,’ tapped into the hit zombie TV show but argued: ‘We’re all like zombies. The spirits inside our souls are dead.’”
Christianity Today (CT) called Chick, “The biggest name in tract evangelism,” adding that that his signature black-and-white panel comics warned against the dangers of everything from the occult to Family Guy.
CT went on to say, “Chick’s messages were controversial — including among evangelicals — but his work enjoyed a global reach. His most popular tract — This Was Your Life! — was translated into more than 60 languages.
“The former technical illustrator began drawing and funding his first comic books and pocket-sized tracks in the early 1960s, according to Christian Comics International. Chick Publications grew to start its own print shop, and took off in the ‘70s.”
The CT story went on to say, “His evangelistic furor was inspired by sermons from revivalist Charles Finney, whose theology continues to underline Chick’s tracks, according to researcher Daniel Silliman. He quotes Chick as saying, ‘When everything is caving in, and when the world laughs at the church, that’s when we need revival…. Christians are self-satisfied and complacent. God’s got a handful of people out there who really mean business, but the rest are playing games.’”
Among comic artists, Jack Chick rose to a level of fascination as one of the bestselling underground publishers in the world, said media reports. Early news of his death on the site Boing Boing launched Chick’s name as a national trending topic on Twitter on Monday afternoon.
Among the many provocative tracts Chick produced were two attacking the Catholic Church, namely, “Last Rites” and another which asked, “Are Roman Catholics Christians?”
Despite his death, his iconic style lives on. This summer, a parody tract came out targeting Donald Trump. (See http://boingboing.net/2016/07/19/trump-tracts-subgenius-inflec.html).
Although he had many critics, Chick also had a loyal band of followers, one of whom is veteran broadcaster, Tim Berends, who hosts the “Jesus and Tim in Las Vegas” show which is aired each Saturday at 1:30 PM (Pacific Time), on KKVV (1060 am and 101.5 FM).
Berends told the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), that Chick was “one of the greatest influences on my life.”
He went on to say, “For years I spoke to Jack practically every day around 5:00 pm and would give him a report on the 300 Chick tracts that I would hand out on the Las Vegas Strip. He was instrumental in introducing me to Pilot Mike Cahill. Since he did that, Mike and I have been on over 40 trips including, including nine trips to Israel and 18 trips to Mexican border towns and many capitals in Central and South American countries handing out Chick Tracts.
“I can only imagine what it was like when he arrived in Heaven. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Lord asked believers to stand in line to meet the Apostle Paul because the line for Jack Chick was just too long.”
Christianity Today said that in the late 1990s, a media watchdog site described the secular fascination with Chick, saying: “To some, Chick tracts are American folk art, or even a form of religious pornography, titillating and somewhat dangerous. Chick is the ultimate underground artist: single-minded and self-published, passionately committed to his message without regard for external social forces.”
It added, “Chick’s 150-plus tracts center around distinguishing the ‘saved’ from the ‘lost,’ the latter represented by various culture war targets over the years.”
Scholar Martin Lund in the book Comics and Power, said, “Despite claims to eternal truths, tract subjects are frequently chosen in response to contemporary trends and ideas, references to communism have vanished from Chick’s post-Cold War output, and eight of the twelve ‘Islam’ tracts were published after 2001.”
One of the frequently asked questions on Chick’s site is, “Why preach against false religions? Why not just preach Jesus?” His site’s response, in part said: “Here is why: God said, ‘When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.’ (Ezekiel 3:18). It’s not hard to see that God requires us to speak up, even if it is unpopular.”
Photo captions: 1) Jack Chick at the 2007 Alternative Press Expo (Scott Beale / Laughing Squid). 2) Cartoon on the Chick website following his death. 3) One of his Anti-Catholic tracts. 4) Jack Chick (center) seen here with Tim Berends (left) and pilot, Mike Cahill. 5) The Anti-Trump tract. 6) Dan Wooding.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is the author of some 45 books, and has been a full-time journalist since 1968. While still based in London, Dan Wooding was a senior reporter for two of Great Britain’s largest-circulation newspapers, and was an interviewer for BBC Radio One and for LBC, the capital city’s main commercial talk station. Dan now has a weekly radio show and two TV shows all based in Southern California.
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