|Original review author:||The Luigiian|
|Webcomic name:||After Eden|
|Start Date:||January 2000|
|Defining Flaw:||A little corny, sometimes too preachy, often a little over-the-top.|
There are two types of religious people I can't stand. The first is the fundamentalist. "Boo hoo!" they whine. "The world is changing, and I don't like it! Everyone wants gay marriage and marijuana and are turning atheist! Christians are becoming tolerant of others! The church is losing its way! Therefore I must go out of my way to tell everybody how they're going to hell if they do any of the things it says in Leviticus, excepting shellfish and haircuts because I like my lobster and hairdo. Oh yeah, and even though I say the teachings of Jesus override the laws of Leviticus that talk about shellfish and haircuts, let's use the book to persecute gays. And let's keep circumcising our children because the Bible says so. And let's go on a holy war against the Arabs because they don't believe like us. And let's protect the Israelis at the expense of the Palestinians, even when they commit atrocities, and keep destroying the environment because the Bible says it'll be the end of the world anyway, and go buy some more assault rifles at the gun show, and beat the shit out of that gay fellow over there, and that brown fellow over there and that Arab fellow over there, and..." As it goes further you realize that there's only one way the fundie mindset can go and it is an evil, terrible place where they twist the good the Bible can do into evil, which is quite convenient because let's be honest, it makes it easier to compare them with the crusaders and the conquistadors and the Ku Klux Klan and, yes, the Nazis. Y'know, those people that murdered scores of people in the name of a God they invented in their own minds which is about as far removed from the actual Jesus in the Bible as you can get without getting directly to Satan. Or, in many ways, the Old Testament God, who is such a dickhead bastard at times I sometimes have trouble telling the difference.
Anyway, the second type of religious person I can't stand is the fundamentalist atheist. You may know one of these people. Fundie atheists are the people who are so atheist, so unrelentingly believing that there cannot be a God in those seven or so universes scientists think there may be, that they attack all Christians of all stripes regardless of what they do, never mind Sir Isaac Newton or any of those other religious people who did important sciencey things you may know about. So they go forth, attacking all the Christians equally and spreading the message that CHRISTIANITY IS OF THE DEVIL so everyone can hate Christians and compare them to Nazis and Klansmen and conquistadors and crusaders.
After Eden is definitely the former, but it's much less so than Jack Chick. This preachy, soapbox-y, bland little comic is sort of a small-town preacher of fundamentalism, versus Jack Chick's Pope-like countenance. It's inoffensively fundamentalist, if that were not such a glaring oxymoron. Its smell lingers like the smell of a small child that shits itself, whereas Jack Chick's is more like the smell of a rotting cow carcass which has been left in the middle of a slaughterhouse which is next to an oil refinery located in the middle of a sewage plant. Also, the cow has shit itself.
As you can see, what I am trying to say is that After Eden is so mildly smelly, so lightly smelling of shit, that you would be tempted to just stroll on by without even a passing glance. It is just sort of a sad little comic, like Ziggy without any humor whatsoever, or, more appropriately, Family Circle with no humor whatsoever, if that is indeed possible. So why am I reviewing it? To keep this page from devolving into a snippy snitfight between the aforementioned fundie atheist and fundie Christian armies. Let us rest, o ye Internet crusaders, and shut the fuck up and let sleeping shit linger.
Christians, especially fundamentalist Christians can be very boring, what with their obsessions with golf and temperance and anti-drug legislation, and lack of entertaining sexual experiences of any kind; therefore, the only time they have any actual fun in their otherwise staid pathetic little conservative lives is when they go out and lynch gays and blacks and bomb abortion clinics. For those liberals in the audience, it is important to note that this is precisely why Christians do these things so much in the first place; not out of hatred, but, as the Bible once famously put it, "idle hands are the Devil's workshop".
The reason I point this out is that it is quite clear that After Eden was created by a man who may have seen humor, perhaps even read a comic strip, but he is incapable of actually understanding it, feeling it, or producing it, and so when he tries to write anything involving humor it quickly puts his audience to sleep. To put it another way, The Lord possessed Dan Lietha to move his hand to a sheet of Bristol board, and Lietha saw fit to bore his atheist audience into accepting Christ. "In the name of the Lord, mayest I do thy bidding; let us create the boringest fucking comic ever placed upon thy Internet, so that thy lost herd can sleep, and in this state thou may find them." I believe that those are the first words of the book of Lietha.
Now let us, oh webcomics disciples, turn to the book of Lietha, chapter two, that we may see the next in his prophecy. And so spake the Lord: "Let thy hands do my bidding: Use the most bland and cliche metaphors thou canst use, so that only parents with children under the age of four could find them funny." And so it was. Next week, we shall read Chapter Three, and find out Lietha's experiences trotting through the Valley of Ridiculous Fundamentalist Horseshit Analogies. Oh wait, we'll just cover that in the Story and Plot section of this review.
Story and Plot
Yep, here comes the Ridiculous Fundamentalist Horseshit Analogies. In spite of its blandness, After Eden is still capable of being utterly retarded, bigoted, and sometimes even offensive at many moments, and we see that in many of the vignettes that are arranged, quilt-like, into something which attempts to be a thematically-coherent comic. Its jabs at atheists and especially liberal Christians are quite odious, toothless as many of them are. The truth is that most of these jabs are offensive specifically because they make so little sense. For example, in one strip, entitled "Bad Bedtime Story," a (presumably liberal Christian) mother reads a book entitled "Evolution and God" to her child. She reads "And after millions of years of mutations, mass murders, devastating diseases and violent death, God saw that he [Adam?] had evolved, and behold it was very good." Below, the strip reads, "On this night, little Shelly didn't sleep 'very good'".
The implicit message of "Bad Bedtime Story" is that trying to blend evolution with God leads to a bad message to teach children. And yet there is a deeply disquieting, undercurrent to this train of thought, one which undermines and destroys the message of the strip, and the strip seems to hope that this will skip by unnoticed. Let's think about this for just a second: The reason liberal Christians must mangle together the Bible and evolution in the first place is to attempt to find some kind of truth which conforms both to modern scientific thought and the Bronze Age books of the Bible, many of which contain parts which do not work seamlessly with evolution. For example, there is the point about all humanity coming from two people only six thousand years ago, which leads to problems when combined with evolutionary thought - it's difficult to derive thousands of races and ethnicities, each with special hair colors and unique diseases and even particular skull structures, from two people just six thousand years ago. Therefore, liberal Christians often say "the Bible used the creation story as a metaphor, as a way to help people with no knowledge of evolution or how the world actually works, so they would not have to understand complex ideas in order to spread the word of God." Or, more succinctly: "People are like children, and must be taught as such." Often this is regarded by most other groups looking on as pure desperation, for good reason: It completely ignores the more plausible possibility, "People who wrote the bible just didn't fucking know any better."
Ironically, this strip ends up telling liberal Christians the latter: That people who wrote the bible should not be listened to if you're going to teach your children evolution. Clearly, on the surface, it is trying to say that people shouldn't teach evolution to their children because it's sad and depressing and let's be all lovey-dovey why don't we, but in spite of that veneer it's got a sneering jibe at liberal Christians in there, and ironically enough that little bit of bile is enough to break down the comic.
Let's compute this from the beginning, shall we? Here's (roughly) how it goes: Liberal Christians are attempting to meld the teachings both of Darwin and the Bible, and not just the how-to-live-your-life Jesus parts of the New Testament, but the creation stories of the old, as a simplistic thing God used to teach simple-minded sheepherders His word. Fair enough. Strip, as a whole, says: "But then there's that evolution thing. Darwin and evolution is depressing, isn't it? It certainly isn't something you'd want to teach your children, after all. It's scary and hard to understand. So why would you want to believe like that?"
But, aha! There's the problem. If evolution isn't something to teach your children, because it's scary and hard to understand, then we're left with what, exactly? Well, we know that Bible stories are good to teach children. (Or at least Dan Lietha thinks they are, apparently because they don't contain violence, mass murder, diseases and death, which leads me to believe he's got a different Bible than mine.) And the "other" belief - the "bad" one, evolution - is the scary, depressing belief that is hard to understand - the thing only adults can comprehend and live with. In other words, the strip inadvertently says that the Bible is for children and small-minded adults whereas evolution is the difficult belief that children can't understand. Even more astonishingly, it suggests that evolution and the Bible can never co-exist with one another - or, to put it more clearly, you can't have it both ways and if you choose Christianity you are a child.
Not what the author intended? Bah. The point is that the strip as a whole is retarded and senseless. (And, considering that a typical Christian belief is that one must "believe like a child" to accept Christ, the author may very well take my analysis of his comic as a compliment. If you did not take my analysis as being complimentary of the cartoonist who wrote it, and do not want to think of your religion as "believing like a child", then you may want to reconsider your religious affiliations.)
If the comic is genuinely trying to call people to Christ with ideological inconsistencies like, well, the above, then it certainly isn't helping itself do so with its oftentimes-offensive, misogynistic, and sexist stories. For example, there is the comic "Body Versus Mind", which you may already be inclined to guess about. In it, Adam begins the comic by saying, "Eve is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." Eve is in the background, sniffing a flower with a slightly-stoned look to her face. In the next panel he also begins the dialogue. "It's the mind part that I wonder about sometimes!" The apparent "punchline" continues with Eve saying to a cringing Adam, "don't you think daisies are the friendliest flowers?"
It is shocking that parents would give such a comic to their children. It is shocking that they themselves would find it funny. But more than anything else it is shocking that such a comic even exists in this age. The sexism isn't just fifties-style misogyny, it's downright, and quite appropriately, Paleolithic. Yes, those stupid bitches, they are hilarious when they go on about flowers and shit, aren't they? Ha ha! Friendliest flowers! Just like something my dingbat wife would say. Gee, let's go for a rape party later tonight, huh, Zog?
I am not saying for a moment that this Eve character is not the stupidest bitch I've ever seen. If Adam actually fucked a woman as stupid as this depiction of Eve, I would be offended by the fact that my genealogical heritage owed partly to a woman this brain-dead. What I am saying is that women are not this stupid, and neither was Eve, who was at least smart enough to figure out how to cocktease her moronic husband into eating an evil fruit. (Insert your own homoerotic humor here.) What I am saying is that this is an unrealistic depiction of a woman, and, more important, an incredibly unfunny, cliche, passe, ridiculously offensive portrayal of a woman. This strip would be passe and cliche in the 1950s, when the Conelrad radio alerts this site derives its logo from were still in use. Today, it reads like a comic strip you might see in a museum of comic history, with the pictures replaced by Photoshopped generic drivel art.
Speaking of which...
Yes, the art is Photoshopped generic drivel. For analysis, I will post the above two strips below.
First off, I would like to laud the author for in fact including brown people, something which I have found is often absent in Christians' depictions of paradise. I am not sure, of course why he would - is he doing it because he wants to depict diversity, or is he depicting Adam and Eve as "stained by sin", thusly creating another overtly racist strip I can viciously critique? - but I will pretend he is doing it in order to depict diversity, because I feel like being charitable and kindly today.
Now, let's look at the Garfield strip, er, "After Eden" strip. And it does look like Garfield. I'm sorry, it isn't that hard to see the similarities, such as the garish colors and frequent usage of gradient-fill backgrounds. The thing is, it's actually a well-drawn version of Garfield, because unlike Jim Davis Mr. Lietha actually draws things like backgrounds sometimes. Bravo, Mr. Lietha, for taking the time.
Lietha says he loved Charles Schulz and Johnny Hart as a kid, which invites comparisons to Peanuts and BC. Now, I'm going to opine here and say that one is fantastically drawn and the other is not so fantastically drawn. After Eden, for its part, looks quite all right, with a reasonably well-drawn style and characters that sometimes exude some sense of interest.
Backgrounds, though, are rarely particularly interesting. Even when he is attempting to draw something really amazingly beautiful to illustrate a point, Lietha just can't muster what it takes.
For example, look at the below, the most popular strip Lietha has drawn till now:
The point of this strip is that God's power is exuded through His world, in other words the surroundings. The comic suggests that we are supposed to look at the depicted landscape and go "Oooh! Ahhh!" and marvel at God's works, like in one of those emails you may have gotten from your grandmother which show all these beautiful places that you would go if you could only go on one vacation in your entire life.
This strip doesn't look like that. Oh sure, you could defend the artist in saying that you get the message, therefore the art is unnecessary. But this approach excuses lazy art. Surely when a strip is supposed to depict something that could inspire belief that there must be an omnipotent God it should, well, be pretty amazing looking, right?
But I guess comic artists couldn't draw something like that, I dunno. Could a good comic artist draw a really, truly beautiful, inspiring landscape? Well, gosh darnit,
But, in case Lietha would ever like to try to improve, he may derive some ideas from this video here.
OK, so the strip is boring, bland, stupidly written, bigoted, sexist, misogynistic, and blatantly hackneyed and artistically bankrupt in every way, shape, and form. Usually, it's preachy, as with a few of the above strips. Other times, it's condescending.
Interestingly, the writing in this comic goes through periods. One period I noted was the "extremely cutesy-poo" period, wherein it was filled with "cute humor" that is actually quite tolerable.
Then there was the "sexist" period, which includes "Body Versus Mind" as well as two other works which alternately depict Eve as a conniving bitch and subtly suggest that women should be thankful that Adam gave his rib to the ungrateful whores:
But then there are the condescending ones, which are the worst. The comic suggests that people believe in what nature TV says because they spend so much on it, nevermind that it's actually logical and works with what we currently know about biology and science (and yes, there are things we know, fundies, based on actual observation; things that are so obvious, such as dog breeding creating multiple types of dogs and the presence of atoms and molecules, that you aren't capable of training pretend scientists at your pretend colleges to challenge them.) Then there's another one that takes issue with non-fundamentalist Christians. One that states that kids that try to be "open minded" are doing it because their college teachers told them to do it. One that suggests that there is some kind of Bible-like book atheists use to suggest Man's "new truth", his old truth, ironically enough, being the Bible. And, finally, there's this one:
Yes, who gives a shit about pollution or the environment, downtrodden baldheaded fundamentalist Christian man? It's already a "broken and sin-cursed world", a phrase I've heard only about a billion times in your comic, and therefore we should just give up and prepare for Armageddon. Fuck the water, the air, the trees, the animals, or the forest fires, our concern should be about the apocalypse, which we are going to create because we pollute the air, overfish all the seas, cut down all the trees, and kill every single fucking animal we don't like, like wolves and mountain lions, and breed millions of fat fucking cows and pigs that fill the air with methane farts and inject them full of steroids so they can get even bigger and fatter and gassier. Let's worship at the altar of Conagra and the fundamentalist Christian interpretation of Christ, and if anyone dares suggests that our worldview is utterly fucking retarded we'll just say that the college professors and liberals on TV have brainwashed their tiny liberal brains. Let's think only about the Bible, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, let fundamentalist Christians run America, and then when the world finally collapses because we destroy its resources with our short-sighted apocalyptic policies we'll blame it on the liberals and atheists and liberal Christians who just encouraged them by trying to be open-minded and bring our religion into the 21st century. In short, let's be brain damaged short-sighted closed-minded self-centered little doom-and-gloom shits .
At which point I say to this comic, "Fuck. You."
Reading through this comic I noted my own experiences with a liberal Christian church, the one I grew up with. This church had several pastors, one of them a lesbian. It was a church that attacked the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which told children to be tolerant of other faiths, and taught that there was nothing wrong with being a Mormon Christian, or a Catholic, or a Baptist. This church was one of those which taught the Bible as a set of ideas which one could use to better their lives.
That church has lost much of its patronage as time has went on. I am not sure why the fire-and-brimstone churches thrive while the mainstream, decent, respectable churches founder. Perhaps it is because those who belong to the more moderate Christian churches, those which tolerate belief in things like evolution and modern science, realize that it isn't necessary to go to church every day, and choose instead to stay home. Perhaps it is because moderates eventually give up on the Reverend Lovejoy mystique, the Marge Simpson-Beaver Cleaver-Good Ol' Fashioned belief that you must go to church every single day or you will go to hell when you die.
But I think, in reality, moderate churches die because of men like Dan Lietha.
As fundies have gradually taken the cultural microphone in our nation, they have taken control of our perception of Christians. Due to the likes of Lietha, Jack Chick, Fred Phelps, televangelists, Focus on the Family, and many more pastors and reverends, the new perception of a Christian individual is a backward, racist, misogynistic, homophobic hypocrite, who condemns gays and calls AIDS a punishment for sin while receiving oral sex from male prostitutes. These people paint a very stark, black-and-white picture for moderate Christians. In their comics like this one, they tell moderate Christians, quite clearly and loudly, that they are either on the evil liberal team or the good Christian team. And, for more and more, they don't want to be associated with God Hates Fags, George W. Bush, Fred Phelps, or fundamentalists.
This is not just an issue of fair-weatherness on the part of moderate Christians. I recall going to church every morning in the hopes of being a better person as a teenager. And, every morning, I would end up listening to the Albuquerque Christian radio station M-88, with pastor Skip Heitzig, who today has taken command of a much larger church in California, having found Albuquerque too small for his ambitions.
At first, I would listen with rapt attention to these broadcasts, wondering if my own church could give such a broadcast to assert a more balanced Christian viewpoint. And yet, as I went on, I began to realize that M-88 and Christian broadcasters, local Christians, and pastors like Heitzig would not respect a church such as my own. My first clue was seeing the sheer number of churches where a female pastor - let alone a lesbian - would be considered heresy. Seeing an aunt's church - where it was quite clearly noted that women were not allowed to be pastors - solidified this in my mind. And, as I listened, I began to notice something unsettling about the prevailing Christian conversation. "Women, you must remember that your man is your authority", Heitzig would say. Broadcasts would admonish children that condoms would do nothing to prevent diseases like AIDS. Is that true? I thought. Does it mean that kids just shouldn't even bother putting on a condom if they have sex? Is that reasonable? Is it intelligent?
One day, I noticed a church sign I passed by daily on the way home from school read, "FIGHT GAY MARRIAGE, PROTECT OUR FAMILIES." Sure, in addition to not wearing a condom, putting the woman BACK IN HER PLACE and apparently voting for NOM and Republicans. I started to tune out church.
As Christianity has become more political, it has revealed weaknesses. It is unbending, unchanging in the face of a changing world. In what ways it can change, it is thwarted by fundamentalism - the belief that, with evidence to the contrary, one must fight every battle for their religion, even as they begin to see quite clearly that they have already lost the fight. There is no sense in fighting gay marriage in a courthouse, nor any sense in fighting evolution or feminism or abortion laws in a nation which lists separation of church and state as one of its defining principles. As a moral compass the Bible can function properly; yet as science or law, it fails miserably.
I have not visited my church in years. I wouldn't know what to think of it. I have seen Christianity in America devolve so far that today I cannot separate in my mind the image of Christ with the image of Pat Robertson or Fred Phelps, so deeply have these things permeated the American consciousness. What I can say, without a doubt, is that in attacking moderate Christians, liberals and atheists, After Eden is setting up a niche audience for itself and what it preaches. It is telling those moderate and liberal Christians that they can either accept fundamentalism or join the ranks of the "other" - the "dirty" liberals, the college professors, the scientists, and the atheists. It believes that through doing so it will solidify liberal Christians against the changing tides of society. And it may sway some. But, for the vast majority, it yells out, "You're either with us or against us!" To which more and more are packing their things, giving up their Bibles and walking away from what is becoming a dwindling, but admittedly more obsessively committed, flock.
Or, to put it more succinctly: Congratulations Dan Lietha, for helping to destroy Christianity.
Dan Lietha, born 1964 in Marquette, Michigan, first accepted Christ as a "very young child of five or six years." Lietha attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey, from 1984 to 1987. Shortly after marrying his wife, Marcia Mackintosh, he joined the Christian organization Answers in Genesis in early 1995. His first paid for work for AIG: A children's book entitled A is for Adam. He created numerous comics and illustrations for AIG, and currently works on three comics, CreationWise, After Eden and Let There Be Truth.
He sees Charles Schulz of Peanuts and Johnny Hart of BC as influences to his style of art, which has become well-known in Christian circles and is often polarizing, regarded negatively by some atheists. His work shows a variety of styles and has changed somewhat over the years, but his core work in conservative Christian evangelicalism has remained constant.
- Circle 2 On cracked.com's "The 5 Circles Baffling Webcomic Hell".