Sunday, March 15, 2020

Limited Collectors' Edition #C-36: The Bible (1975)


Limited Collectors' Edition #C-36 - The Bible (June-July, 1975)
"Stories From the Bible... Book One"
Writer - Sheldon Mayer
Art - Nestor Redondo
Editor, Some Interiors & Cover - Joe Kubert
Cover Price: $1.00

Hello Gang... today, we're going to be looking at a piece that, to be completely honest, I felt kind of conflicted in even considering.  It's potentially controversial... and, depending on your point of view, the subject matter might just ruffle some feathers.  Today, friends, we are going to be taking a look at DC Comics' take on The Bible.

Now, before we proceed... some things I wanna put out in the open.  If you're looking for an article that will a) extol the virtues of the Bible, or b) mock and dismiss the Bible... this probably isn't the post for you.  As a wannabe comics historian, I am looking at this simply as a piece of comic book history, and will proceed without much in the way of editorializing.  These stories will be presented as stories... I'll leave how they're received and/or believed to each individual reader.

I'm no Theologian, but I feel as though faith is a complicated concept and a very personal part of a person's life.  I, personally, don't see it as being completely "black and white", but more existing on a sort of continuum.  That said, I wish to present this issue respecting of all forms of belief (and non-belief).  As such, the "analysis" portion of this post will be pretty sparse.

If you have any comments, please feel free to engage in the comments or at any of my socials.

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Our story begins with a brother and sister (David and Hannah) running over to their Gran'pa's little house for a visit.  David repeatedly mocks Hannah and calls her "dumb", which Gran'pa suggests isn't very nice.  Why is David being such a little jerk?  Well, ya see... Hannah actually believes all the stories they're told in Sunday School.  Taking attention-retention and short-term memory of kids into consideration, we can probably assume that today is Sunday.  Gran'pa asks David how he can be so sure that those stories aren't true... to which, he hems and haws, before referring to the Bible as being full'a "fairy tales".  Interestingly enough, he even pulls some Science into the debate!



Gran'pa tells David that Scientists don't have all the answers.  As a student of science myself, I suppose I can agree with that.  He flips the script on David and asks about how everything "came to be", and how everything "remains balanced".  Rather than giving David the opportunity to rebut, Gran'pa goes right into story mode... beginning with: The Beginning! (The Creation - Genesis 1:1-2:7)



After we Let There Be Light, we go through the rest of God's busiest week.  On the Second Day, he split the waters from the... waters?  Third Day: Flora... Fourth Day: Day and Night Cycles... Fifth Day: Creatures... Sixth Day: Man... in this case, one we're all familiar with: Adam.  On the Seventh Day, God rested.



This brings us right into The Garden of Eden - Genesis 2:8-3:24.  Adam lives in Eden, surrounded by flora and fauna.  Life in abundance!  Among the land stands the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil... from it, grows fruit that Adam mustn't ever indulge in, otherwise he will surely die.



Adam looks around, and notes that all of the local animals have mates... and yet, he's all alone.  He would eventually fall asleep... at which time, God took one of his ribs... and from it, made Adam's mate: Eve.  He wakes up, and she introduces herself as his "wife".  Wow, just how long was he asleep?!



Anyhoo, Adam and Eve lived in their lush and rich paradise... and everything was cool.  That, however, was all about to change.  Ya see, a crafty and malicious serpent is about to enter our story.



That snake lay in wait until, one day it finds Eve all by her lonesome... and proceeds to kinda mess with her head, taunting her with the fact that there's a certain nearby fruit that God's keeping her from indulging in.  And so, she decides "What the heck?" and plucks a few... very odd-shaped fruits from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Adam is initially shocked at her brazen act... but eventually comes around to taking a bite.



This is viewed as the First Sin... and no sooner do they indulge, than the sky goes black, and they have the strange revelation that they are completely nude!  Ya see, they never had "shame" before... but now, after eatin' that fruit... they do!  They do what they can to cover up their nakedness... before being addressed by God himself!



God ain't pleased... I mean, he only laid down one rule, and these two broke it!  He curses the serpent (who up to this point, had legs) to slithering on its belly... and exiles Adam and Eve out of Paradise forever more.



Before hopping into our next story, we get a special Bible Feature (we'll get a few more of these before we're done).  This one's called "Digging into the Past", and gives us a look at some ancient artifacts.



Next stop... the story of Cain and Abel from Genesis 4:1-15.  After their exile from Eden, Adam and Eve had to learn to live off the land.  In the months and years that followed, they had a pair of very different sons.  Cain exhibited strength, wile Abel was far more gentile.  They grew up and took to tending to the land themselves.  Abel acted as a shepherd while Cain was an absolute farming machine!



After a harvest, the young men decided to make offerings to God.  Abel humbly offered a single lamb, while Cain gave of his mass bounty of produce.  God only seemed pleased with Abel... giving from what little he had.



This led to Cain giving in to his jealousy... and, committing the first-ever murder!  Wow, even with a world population of four we've got a killer on our hands!



Well, God ain't happy with any of this... and so, he tells Cain that he'll never give him another harvest.  He furthers the punishment by declaring him a "fugitive" doomed to wander the Earth.  Cain is terrified that he himself will be killed by anyone he happens across.  So... I guess the world population isn't just four people?  Where did they all come from?



Maybe we'll find out in our next chapter: The Generations of Adam, from Genesis 4:16-6:5.  Here, Cain's wandering brings him to the Land of Nod, where he takes a wife and doth multiplied, his first son was named Enoch... as was the land he settled.  As time progressed, so too did prehistoric technology... tools, instruments, yadda yadda yadda.



We learn here that Cain's father, Adam lived to be 930 years old... and in all those years, he and Eve just kept makin'da babies.  When he was 130 years old, they had a son named Seth.  Seth would eventually have kids... and those kids would have kids, one of whom was named... well, Enoch.  Enoch lived to be 365 years old before being... "taken" by God.  It's explicitly stated here that Enoch did not die.



Continuing down the bloodline, we meet Methuselah... a son of Enoch, who would live to be 969 years old, older than any man before or after.



This chapter wraps up with the revelation that nine generations have passed since Adam and Eve... at which point "cruelty and wickedness" began invading the hearts of man.  God was not pleased... but, could he do anything to salvage this?



Well, yeah.  Turns out he could... and it ain't gonna be pretty!  Our next chapter is Noah and the Flood from Genesis 6:6-9:17.  Enter Noah, a grandson of Methuselah... at this point, apparently the only fella God kinda dug.  God spoke to Noah, warning that he was about to "cleanse the Earth".



I think most of us are at least passively familiar with what comes next.  Noah spends the better part of the next 600 years building a great ark, and gathering animals two-by-two in preparation of the "cleansing".



And, well... when it rains, it pours!  The Earth became absolutely overcome with waters, that covered even the tallest peaks.  In a very sobering image, we see a family panicking atop a mountain... as the waters continue to rise!  Yeesh, I wasn't expecting anything like this!



The deluge continued for forty days before the skies started to clear.  After being thrashed about, the Ark eventually settled on Mount Ararat, which is actually a place that exists today in Turkey.  Noah releases some birds to see if they can find any dry land.



Eventually... it does!  Noah and his menagerie de-board the Ark and, with the Earth "washed clean"... set to restarting civilization from scratch.



God promises that there will never again be such a "cleansing"... and we see, perhaps the first ever rainbow?



Next up, another Bible Feature... this one's called "School Days in Bible Times", and it's basically exactly as it says on the tin.



Then... well, another Bible Feature.  This one looks at the "first skyscraper", The Ziggurat.



Next... The Tower of Babel from Genesis 11:1-9.  So, we had the great flood... leaving Noah to repopulate the Earth... and, he did.  These earliest generations lived as nomads... not settling anywhere, and more or less living out of tents.  They would eventually decide to build a city in the land of Shinar.  The city would be of Brick and Mortar... and would have a great tower in the middle that would reach to the very Heavens.  Guess what?  God wasn't happy with none'a this.



God figured, if these nomads were to be allowed to build such a tower, then "no idea... good or bad... will be beyond their reach".  And so, to halt their progress, God decided to sorta-kinda scramble up their languages... meaning, that the workers could no longer understand one another.  The nomads would abandon their project, and leave in groups of those who spoke the same-language.



Then, another Bible Feature!  "Soldiers in the Time of Abraham".  Who's Abraham?  Well, we'll meet him in a bit.  This page just shows off some weapons and vehicles used back in the long ago.



Okay, with that out of the way... let's meet Abraham in: The Story of Abraham, from Genesis 11:26-13:18.  Abraham (Abram) was a descendant of Shem... who, I don't think we've met... was born and raised in Ur, and lived with his father, Terah.  In Ur, the people worshiped Idols... which didn't quite sit well with Abe.



And so, ten years later, Terah decided to uproot his family and head across the plains of Mesopotamia toward Canaan.  They would make it as far as a place called Haran, where they would live for several years.



One night, following the passing of Terah, Abraham was visited in a dream by the voice of God.  He is told to leave Haran, and that he will eventually father a great nation.



Abraham gathered up his family and belongings that very night... and they headed toward Canaan.  Upon arrival, Abraham built an altar, and set up camp.  Unfortunately, the land wasn't very giving... in fact, this was a land of famine.



Having no other choice, they eventually leave the barren land and head toward Egypt.  They find themselves at a lake, where they stop to water the herd.  Across the water... are Egyptian Soldiers, who get a good look at Abraham's wife, Sarai... and decide that she'd make a fine addition to the Pharaoh's harem.



Before we know it, Abraham and Sarai are stood before the Pharaoh himself!  Sarai lies to the Pharaoh, telling him that Abraham is, not her husband... but, her brother, thus sparing his life.  Ya see, the Pharaoh would've been fine making her a widow before taking her as his own.



Abraham prays for a miracle... and, whattayaknow, he gets one!  The Pharaoh is struck with illness!  He learns that Sarai is actually Abraham's wife... and decrees that she be returned to her husband, and even allows them to keep the gifts he'd offered in trade... just so long as they get the heck out of Egypt!  And so, they do.



As the travels continue, some squabbling begins.  Let's hope that doesn't escalate!  Abraham decides to divide the group, allowing his nephew, Lot the choice of where he'd like to settle.  He chooses the Jordan Valley near the City of Sodom.  Abraham remains in Canaan... for a little while, anyway.  He'd eventually move to Mamre and finally, to Hebron.



Our next, and final chapter is Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis 14:1-19:26.  It's here we catch up with Abraham's nephew, Lot.  He lived in Sodom, where life was pretty rough.  War was constant, and destruction ruled.  Upon one of the numerous raids on the city, Lot himself was taken prisoner.  As luck would have it, however, a Sodom Citizen was able to escape the city and make his way to Abraham's camp in Mamre, where he explained the dire situation to the man himself.



And so, Abraham and his men secretly followed the Invaders of Sodom, and discovered their encampment... and that night, set to rescuing Lot and the Gang.  They managed to take out many of the invaders, however, some were able to escape... taking the prisoners with them!



Abraham and his Herdsmen gave chase, were able to overcome the Invaders... and rescue Lot and the rest of Prisoners.



The King of Sodom was so pleased, he offered Abraham many riches for his people's safe return.  Abe declines the generous overture... knowing that his rewards would come later.  Much later, it would seem.  Years pass, and we arrive to the point where Sarai is too old to bear him a child.  And so, as custom allows... she suggests he take a second, younger wife!  She offers up her handmaiden, Hagar for the job.  Finally, Abraham would have an heir... who he'd name Ishmael.



One day, three strangers arrived in Mamre on their way to Sodom... and Abraham showed them kindness.  In return, the Strangers inform him that Sarai will give him a son.  Turns out, these strangers were Angels.



Abraham escorted the Angels toward Sodom, and parted ways with them once the city was in sight.  At this point, God spoke to him... proclaiming that there is a "great wickedness" in Sodom... and, as such, he (he being God) would "destroy the place".  Abraham takes exception to this, claiming that if God destroyed the entire city, he would be harming both good and bad people.  The pair bargain for a bit, with God finally agreeing to spare the city if Abraham could find Ten "Godly people" living within its walls.  Meanwhile the Angels had arrived... though, for some reason, it's only two of the three.



The Angels are greeted by Lot, who invites them to stay with him that night... after all, it's not safe on the streets of Sodom at night.  At Lot's home, they share a meal... and more warnings of the dangerous city.  Dinner is interrupted, however, by... a battering ram!  The thieves and drunkards are trying to get inside in order to steal the Angels' silver!



The Angels ain't about to sweat none'a this... and so, they strike all of the roustabouts blind!  They certainly don't mess around.



The Angels turn to Lot and proclaim that, if they wanna get while the getting is good... the time to leave is now!  Sodom and Gomorrah are going to be destroyed.  Lot b-lines it out of his home, and rushes toward the houses of his elder daughters to deliver the warning.  They just laugh at him, dismissing him of having had a bad dream.  The Angels tell him he has until dawn to convince them otherwise.



Dawn comes... and still, Lot's elder daughters decide to remain.  The Angels tell him it's "now or never"... and so, Lot and his family run for it as the city begins to burn.  The Angels warn them not to look back.



And burn, it does!  Buildings topple, people burn... it's a pretty heavy scene.



This story ends with the revelation that Lot's wife did not heed the Angel's warning... and, "looked back" at the burning city.  As a result, she was rendered into a Pillar of Salt!



The Treasury Edition wraps up with David and Hannah asking Gran'pa to tell them more stories... but, Gran'pa's tired, he'll share more stories some other time.



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So... this is the part of the article where I usually (over)analyze the story/stories we'd just read.  I'm... not really gonna do that today, I hope you all understand.  As mentioned in the pre-ramble, this issue is being presented as an artifact more than anything... a DC Comics take on the Bible can certainly be looked at as something of a curiosity... and I hope, with this piece, I've shared something new, novel, and unique with my wonderful readers.

Now, what am I comfortable talking about here?  Oddly enough, it's the one thing I'm usually rather trepidatious about discussing: the art!  Normally, I try not to discuss art... as it's generally the most subjective part of a comic book.  Well, that might not be the case today.  I found the art here, by Nestor Redondo and Joe Kubert to be... pretty wonderful.  I might be projecting, but this truly feels like a passion-project.  Well, maybe I'm not projecting... the inside front-cover (as included below) refers to this issue as being a "Dream Come True".

As far as the stories are concerned... my only nitpicky comics reviewer complaints are: there were several references to people we never get to meet in the issue.  If we look at this through that "comics reviewer" lens, if a person is mentioned... we expect to meet them, right?  So, there's something.  Also, the Sodom and Gomorrah story kind of baffled me when we lost an Angel along the way.  Did I miss something?  Did Mayer just forget to include a explanatory caption?  I dunno.

Overall though... and, again... I apologize for this "analysis" section being much leaner than usual... this was a very interesting issue to look at, and I'm happy I had the opportunity to share it here.  It's not something I ever expected to come across... and, if I'm being honest, I wasn't completely sure it actually existed!  I know I've seen ads for it in some Bronze Age DC Comics... but, had never seen it in real life.

I hope this was, at the very least, an interesting aside... and, again... if you have any comments, please, don't be a stranger!

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Inside Covers:





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A Page from TASCHEN's Bronze Age of DC Comics:


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Wraparound Cover (by Joe Kubert):


4 comments:

  1. I was raised as a Christian Baptist in a small southern town where the idea of religious diversity extended to whether or not you were Baptist or Methodist. I have long since learned a more expansive view of the world. Yes, that now includes Presbyterians as well. (Rim shot!)

    I remember as a kid seeing the ads in DC Comics with the Joe Kubert wraparound cover and being intrigued about this project. Not enough to buy it. I had to apply my limited funds for comics more judiciously. I'm a little surprised that one of my more religious relatives who knew I liked comics didn't buy this for me for my birthday or Christmas. Probably because my more religious relatives may have thought a comic book version of the Bible was heresy and I was already on my way to hell for reading Batman instead of the good ol' King James.

    I've always liked Nestor Redondo's art but his layouts could be a bit stiff. I think Joe Kubert's breakdowns add a fluidity that enhances Redondo's already considerable talent.

    Regarding the critique of "references to people we never get to meet in the issue", I wonder if the writer's life long familiarity with the material might be a factor, perhaps forgetting not everyone is as familiar with these stories. Still, I think Sheldon Mayer did a very well presenting these stories without being preachy. Grandpa's job is to get David to see these Bible stories in a new light so he'll stop making fun of Hannah.

    Chris, I understand your trepidation going into this. Discussing anything even remotely connecting to religion and faith can be a veritable mine field. But I found this post to be comprehensive and done with respect. Good work, Chris!

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    1. It's funny you mention not getting this as a gift from relatives... this totally seems like it would lend itself to being that gift that an Aunt, Uncle, or Grandparent would pick up for "that kid who likes comics"... sort of like those odd Bible-based Wisdom Tree games for the Nintendo! Fella I grew up with would get those at every birthday and Christmas... and, boy were they awful!

      I grew up in New York City, and for a good portion of my childhood, I was the only Catholic kid living in a Jewish neighborhood. It was to the point that on Jewish holidays (before they actually closed the school for 'em), my class would consist of me... and a substitute teacher!

      I bet you're right re: Mayer's familiarity with the material. It was likely second-nature, and it's easy to assume that the readers have just as intimate a knowledge of what's being covered. I also agree that these were very well presented... easy to digest, not soap-boxy, just "stories" Gran'pa was telling the tots!

      Finally, thanks so much for your comments regarding my coverage! I'm happy (and relieved) to hear you found my look at this issue to be respectful... it's always sort of a wonky line to walk when covering something like this, and I wanted to do so evenhandedly, without editorializing, and with respect for all beliefs and non-beliefs on the "spectrum of belief"!

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  2. I remember reading an interview with former DC publisher Carmine Infantino and he talked about how Shelly Mayer did his scripts in picture form. He specifically mentioned THE BIBLE.

    I've always been fascinated by writers who work this way. Mike Baron did it on NEXUS. Alan Moore, believe it or not, abandoned his phone book size scripts in favor of sketches and word balloons for his early work with Image Comics.

    Mayer is a special case, though, because he really was an incredibly talented cartoonist. It's just hard to imagine the man who created SCRIBBLY and SUGAR AND SPIKE drawing this material. His style was pretty much the opposite of Redondo and Kubert.
    I'd love to see an example, but doubt if any copies survived.

    Oh, and I could be totally off base -- sometimes a cigar, etc. -- but that sure is some phallic shaped fruit Eve and Adam are snacking on!

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    Replies
    1. That's pretty wild stuff, re: Mayer scripting with sketches. I hadn't heard that before. I did a quick check around the ol' internet and found an old Heritage Auction with some of Mayer-Ephemera... you don't get a good look, and it isn't THE BIBLE, but it's still cool to see his conceptual work.

      https://comics.ha.com/itm/memorabilia/comic-related/sheldon-mayer-large-story-note-rough-sketch-doodle-script-letter-and-photocopy-group-undated-/a/17093-16072.s?ic16=ViewItem-BrowseTabs-Auction-Archive-ThisAuction-120115

      Hopefully one'a these days THE BIBLE script/sketches will surface!

      And yeah... that fruit that Adam and Eve were partaking in was, uh... certainly suspect, wasn't it?

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