Saturday, October 27, 2007

what we should all a-spire to.

Often ignored or seen as a bizarre footnote in the history of sequential art, the 'graphic autobiographies' of Christian 'personalities' published by Spire Comics in the 70's have fast become collectors items.

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Cash: cooler than Jesus.

Spire, better known for publishing Al Hartley's religious issues of Archie and Jack Chick's rant filled right wing Christian propaganda for kids) began this series in early 1974 and amongst the celebrities featured were Johnny Cash, concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom and Maria Hirschmann, 'the girl who loved the swastika'.

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Pigtails, librarian outfit and
jackboots: my kinda girl.

Hirschmann's story, 'Hansi' is the tale of a good Aryan girl from Sudetenland and her experiences as the Nazi party. She is given a free education and a new purpose in life, soon becoming a fully fledged party member.

Unfortunately for her she is sent to an East German labour camp upon Hitler's defeat where the evil Russian soldiers continuously rape and torture the women prisoners as evil communists are want to do.

Hansi doesn’t get raped tho' because the Ruskies find her 'too skinny' and manages to use her master race charms to bribe a ferryman to take her to West Germany.

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All that is, except Gil Gerard.

"But the Yankies are all bubble-gum chewing gangsters” her friend warns her, but she decides that that seems a better deal than the sub human red sex offenders she's having to deal with at the moment.

She finally makes it to the American camp only to be accosted by a young solider chewing bubble-gum, Hansi is scared of what he might do, but the soldier gently explains that American GI's don't rape women and he'd be happy to help her start a new life in the good ol' US of A.

Uncle Sam welcomes her with open arms and before long she's working as an elementary school teacher and married to her long lost U-Boat captain boyfriend from the Fatherland (and no, I'm not making this up, he survived his sub being torpedoed and traced her from Switzerland where he was hiding, I mean living) and, although life is good (compared to say, that of the millions of Jews she stood back at watch being exterminated) she stills feels something is missing (what? remorse?, conscience?).

She begins to notice how the evil hippie culture seems to despise this great nation that has given her sanctuary, how none of them take pride in its abundant food supplies, saving accounts and military might. Hansi is becoming more and more disillusioned till one day she leads a class of children in the pledge of allegiance.

Confused by her love for Germany and he love for her adopted home, it's only when she hears the children saying in unison "one nation under God" that her mind clears:

"Those words make all the difference! It's all right to love what God has blessed!" and at that moment Hansi commits fully to her love for Jesus and America.

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In addition to publishing these Christian memoirs, Spire also published re-imaginings of biblical stories in a modern setting as well as stories like The Crusaders. Published in 1974 it tells of a pair of Persuaders-like missionaries, one black and one white who appear to like nothing more than to strip off in front of each other in between battling Hollywood, musical theatre and evil devil worshiping peace protesters (trust me, read the panels below)..

You see the peace symbol is actually a broken cross and is a cover for their satanic rituals.

You learn something new everyday.

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Covering everything from Adam and Eve (two young lovers looking after a farm in upstate New York eat the apples from the farmers 'forbidden tree'. They are 'cast out' to downstate New York where they experience first hand the folly of their ways) and drug addiction, mainstay artist
Al Hartley did a workman-like job on these warnings to the young.

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Fuck the paperbacks, hide the porn!
It's God's Smuggler!

At 22 pages per story there was little room for
subtlety (or decent story telling) but such bizarre sights as Joseph and his brightly coloured sports jacket and the adventures of God's Smuggler will remain etched onto your brain long after the last page has been read.

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It'd be a miracle if you didn't get a kicking in that coat.

Whilst not as hard to come by as the 1943 M.C. Gaines (later of EC comics fame) published Picture Stories from The Bible: Creation to Judah Maccabee (reprinted as a softback edition by KTAV Publishing House in 1971), these titles are great reminders of the halcyon days of Christian comics.

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