The publisher behind “The Walking Dead” will soon release its latest graphic novel, “Jesusfreak,” which characterizes Jesus Christ as a savage killer who beheads his enemies with a whirling sword.
Hitting shelves March 20 — mid-way through Lent — the controversial comic is described as “a bloody, two-fisted tale of historical heroic fiction featuring a young Nazarene carpenter who is having some trouble finding his place within the violent world around him.”
From writer Joe Casey and artist Benjamin Marra, one scene in the comic depicts the Son of God slicing his enemies’ heads off, which are discarded in a blood-soaked pile on the floor, according to a Deadline preview of the book.
Casey told SyFy.com that the project “doesn’t spring from any religious background or any personal experiences,” adding: “Honestly if I worship anything, it’s the comic books that I read as a kid that inspired me to do this for a living. Those are what hold a lot of magic for me."
When writing the novel, Casey said he “never went to the Bible for any kind of reference material.”
“I didn’t have to,” he said. “For one thing, the period we’re dealing with concerns the years of Jesus’ life that aren’t really covered in the Bible, the pre-ministry Jesus. So we’re not retelling or even referencing the gospels in any way, shape or form. Besides, the gospels are basically campfire stories. And where the gospels are meant to illustrate a certain religious ethos, what we’re doing in JesusFreak is much more visceral, while at the same time more historically accurate. We’re dealing with myth and metaphor in a very different way.”
Casey further explained in a statement that "Jesusfreak” is “less inspired by any strict religious traditions and is instead more concerned with exploring the unique tension that exists between depicting a mythical figure and a historical figure – a tension that is compounded when, for many, they're considered the same person. It’s also a chance for Marra and I to indulge in a specific style of hard pulp storytelling that we think perfectly fits this material."
“Jesusfreak” comes after the satirical series “Second Coming” was canned by DC Vertigo following criticism over the graphic novel’s “blasphemous” storyline.
“Second Coming” depicted Christ making a modern-day return as a superhero-in-training who “learn[s] what it takes to be the true messiah of mankind by becoming roommates with the world’s favorite savior: the all-powerful superhero Sun-Man, the Last Son of Krispex.”
The comic sparked an intense backlash, with 200,000 people signing a petition against its release: “Can you imagine the media and political uproar if DC Comics was altering and poking fun at the story of Muhammad… or Buddha?” the petition asked.
“This blasphemous content should not be tolerated,” the petition stated. “Jesus Christ is the Son of God. His story should not be ridiculed for the sake of selling comic books.”
On Feb.13, creator Mark Russell confirmed via Twitter that the series had been canceled: ‘The: DC/Vertigo’s cancellation of the orders for Second Coming, just so you know, DC did not do anything untoward to me,” Russell wrote. “I asked for the rights back and they gracefully agreed. They’ve been a pleasure to work with and it will still be released, albeit with a different publisher.”