Nerding Day: The Crusaders 🌭

They’re found in church bathrooms and AA meeting garbage cans. They’re more disappointing to get on Halloween than a Bit O’Honey around a razor blade. They’ve done more to humiliate Jesus than Pontious Pilate. They’re Chick tracts:

Today we’ll recreate the disappointment of youth with The Crusaders #1. If Chick tracts are fun-size boredom, The Crusaders is king-size banality with a Jesus-butter center. 

If you’re religious, get your Offense Punchcard ready for its 11th freebie, because we will be making fun of Jack Chick’s most cherished beliefs and possibly some of my mom’s. I don’t do this because religion is the term for the opinions people agree to be unreasonable about, but because blasphemy might win me enough Edgy Points to get verified on MySpace.

Personally, I’m an apatheist—I don’t care which version of God tells you to have less fun, provided you’re cool to hang out with. But Chick says humanity implicitly deserves eternal suffering, and boy does this adventure swing on some weird hinges because of it. 

For example, meet Romania’s dumbest Soviet citizens, more worried about the availability of the Bible than which camp their children will die in: 

Cold War America wasn’t perfect. We handed out MANPADs to brutal dictators like they were Chick tracts at an All Hallow’s Eve Abstinence Party. But we also let you say grace at the McDonald’s we built atop your family’s unmarked graves. That’s why these doomed souls rest their hopes in Dr. Koslov, who’s in Chicago soliciting Christian Nick Fury’s help.

Our Trump lookalike pulls up G.I. Joe file-cards for two agents astoundingly hazardous to this mission. Meet Timothy Emerson Clark: Green Beret. He speaks eight languages, though six of them are just different dialects of flying knee attack. He will use none of them on this operation.

A missionary saved his life when he was definitely not leading illegal incursions into Laos:

The mafia asked him to be a hitman—twice! He refused, because he’d become a radiant Christian and a dull man. Look at yourself, Tim. A year ago you were drinking scorpion vodka and answerable only to a CIA spook codenamed Tartarus. Now you get a worried expression when the neighborhood kids play a prog rock 78 about wizards. 

Tim’s brother in Christ is Jimmy Carter. (No relation. So what if there was? Family comes in many forms. Examine your precepts!) Jim’s a badass black belt, but an even more badasssss “Black militant” and drug-slinger. Those two callings seem at cross-purposes, but who am I to tell a teenager in Urban City his business? A dealer is just a leader slightly mixed up. Anyway, he quit both when a brave preacher clued him in to God’s troubling ideas about bodily autonomy:

How embarrassing to reach drinking age in America without hearing the full deal on this Jesus guy! Now that he’s One of the Good Ones™ our friend Jim abandons the Black Liberation Army to cheer “Right on, brother!” whenever Tim quotes scripture. I think “Submit meekly to state-sponsored violence by European imperialists” is the wrong message to take from Jesus’s life, but I haven’t read Colossians.

Is this what college-age men looked like in 1974? It was a very hairy era, and our best scientists can only guess at what maturity looked like back then, based on the reconstructed frieze of David Cassidy’s sarcophagus. 

Timmy and Jimmy are ablaze with the chance to die for their Lor—

Oop, well, never mind. They need “one week to pray* about it!” But eventually they say yes. Maybe they were distracted by that thumbnail, which looks like it just got back from a two-week vacation up a witch’s butthole.

Back then vaccinations weren’t considered unchristian, so the two men line up for shots and then head to the Chicago Immigration Building(?) to get passports. Jim provides a nervous level of detail:

Impossibly, that’s when everything gets weird.

When you’ve read as many Chick tracts as I have, you can recognize his poker tells. So I’ll bet everything right now this lady’s toothless smile belies her sinister intent. And looking closer at her, I’ll buy insurance (shut up, it’s blackjack now) that she embodies Chick’s complicated relationship with Judaism. 

For eight panels and two pages, this Soviet mole makes copies of passport photos, when—

Didn’t I call it? Even though several major characters go nameless, Chick pointedly tags Gertrude Levits, a fairly common Latvian-Jewish name meaning…uh, ”Latvian.” I can smell an anti-Semite at 20 cubits. 

Middleman Max burns an entire page delivering the photos to Moscow, and cripes, we’re already halfway through this issue. The photos delight K.G.B. spymaster Col. Cherkov. You see… 

This is probably some allegory for 2 Timothy, but nobody cares about allusions to the Rattle & Hum of Paul’s epistles. Onward, Christian soldiers! 

It’s adorable that at disco’s dawn, Chick thought a Green Beret and Purple Heart recipient nailing a beautiful local—from a place of love!—on his vacation would create a scandal. And that’s the most reliable step in this scheme. 

It’s a dumb enough plot for worldly types, but Chick is plotting for The Lord, so he has to make it celestially gooftacular.

Wait, is “dishonor” code for something darker? Are they going to frame this guy for—for… you know, you take a job writing comedy, and you never think you’ll be compelled to write the word “rape” so frequently. 

This is an international conspiracy to get a diplomat fired over a personal vendetta that hinges on a young woman having sex under duress at best, and these dumb Russkies don’t even know there’s a microfiche Bible being smuggled. Tim is innately the worst possible person to undertake this mission. This plot inspired 2002’s The Bourne Identity, in which Matt Damon’s library fines are used to discredit Worcester, MA First Selectman Jason Born. 

Anyway, not to be outdumbed by Satan’s atheists, Koslov’s Crusaders formulate their plan to loll around Romania for days without taking action.

Any idiot would use a dead-drop for info that has no confidential value; it takes a special idiot to bring children to a handoff hotspot:

Elsewhere and in lieu of story, Cherkov the Jerk-Off bitchfits for pages and pages about needing more info, and boy, can readers relate. Meanwhile, Tim and his new coiffure are still preparing to visit Bucharest and wondering who stole all the photos of his exes that every man keeps on display so visitors see how heterosexually active he is.

Those photos aid Moscow in recruiting Sofia Toffsky, a Black Widow minus everything cool about that job, and chosen from a harem of women known as “swallows” (woo!) because she’s Tim’s type.

Cherkov doesn’t specify the punishment for having an unfuckable daughter, but it can’t be worse than traveling with Tim & Jim.

A conspicuously large and Christian crowd sends The Crusaders off on their covert mission. Gang, we’re 24 pages in, and these guys are just now boarding the plane to the town of Persecutiongrad. God wants these characters to enlighten Romania, but He’s no match for Jack Chick’s delaying tactics.

That’s a whole page! The next one is the Russians complaining to each other how expensive it is to place 40 freaking agents on the trail, which—just to iterate, is about tricking a 21-year-old into making love to his dream girl. I honestly think if a better project manager were in charge, Russia could have made a few hundred bucks on this op.

Ugh. Being a swallow sounds like Soviet Russia’s sixth-worst job, right behind Baba Yaga’s gynecologist, but just ahead of whoever has to clean and gut the wild matryoshka dolls.

Oh lord, they’re only in Paris and Tim is already on his third haircut. Now the Russians enact their scheme to introduce Sofia and beat up Jim—I guess to get her alone with Tim? I don’t know how sex works in a fundamentalist Christian’s version of realpolitik, but the Imaginary Soviet Union’s college parties must be quieter than Chick’s wife during their obligatory monthly intercourse—a.k.a. Operation Ovulation Infiltration.

Anyway, Jim feeds his assailant to the pavement. Soviet spycraft is no match for Black Militant Karate.

Finally the trio arrives in Romania, and Big Jim Carter makes it weird—

—though not as weird as Tim whitesplaining bigotry because nobody’s ever seen a Romanian smile:

See, folks? Everywhere is just as racist as America. So there’s no need to examine our national conscience. That’s in the Bible (Projections 2:11).

Cherkov is in Bucharest now? Ambassador Clark must be awesome to have enemies so personally invested in his tangential inconvenience. I bet his shadow smells like spring rain. 

So at this point the K.G.B. are blatantly stalking the Crusaders for the wrong reasons, while the boys are shrugging off all signs their mission might be compromised. This is like watching Wile E. Coyote chase OJ Simpson’s Bronco because the Road Runner’s real name is also Al Cowlings. If the Soviets are right and God isn’t real, then who squared up these two perfectly matched sets of idiots to make the world laugh? Checkmate, Communism.

I like to think every Romanian woman has one (K.G.B.) aunt to dish her the real facts of life: Boys will say they love you just to get incriminated between your thighs, good girls save sex-blackmail for marriage, and heavy spotting is just your body’s way of advertising its Red pride in the glorious people’s menses.

Rippling with passion, Sofia takes Tim on a moonlit walk. Jim stays behind, because the (K.G.B.) aunt wants to hear about growing up in a country that has done everything it can to disenfranchise him.

God, look at the passion radiating from Tim. His desire for a Christian union burns with the heat of one-thousandth brown dwarf stars. Thankfully Jim rescues him from kissing a woman out of wedlock.

On the penultimate page, Jim hands over the microfiche smoothly. Sofia’s handler shows up too late to intercept microfiche he’s unaware of, and Jim bribes him with most of a pack of stale cigarettes: a fortune in Soviet Romania! Unless that guy’s carrying a jar of pickled herring to make change, Jim might have accidentally purchased the man’s hometown.  

Having dragged us through 31 pages of preparations for espionage, Chick walks out on his own climax, just like he does when Mrs. Chick starts enjoying their reproductive skeet-shoot too much. Oh hey, speaking of avoiding sex, let’s watch Sofia’s last-ditch effort to save her parents’ lives.

The Crusaders came here to decline ass and hand out cancer sticks…and Jim’s all out of cancer sticks. Cherkov is not pleased to learn that Tim (fourth hairstyle) showed Sofia the long, hard Word of the Lord. But look:

This entire time they’ve been smuggling the Bible on microfiche, Tim has also been carrying a Bible, knowing his luggage is being searched. His next contraband is Sofia herself. She defects with his special forces skills, so they can squimp out a quiverful of Christian American yeehaw marriage babies.

I LIED. This book’s idea of a happy ending is two bros riding into the sunset in the Soviet Union’s only VW Bug, abandoning Sofia to her fate. They cheerfully wish their would-be seductress a happy death even as doom closes its claws around her. The comic ends thusly:

Prison camp must be so confusing for her unsaved parents. All they know is that their entire bloodline dies here, and then they’re on fire forever. Still, Sofia gets an awesome deal. The back cover enumerates her new superpowers and card-member benefits:

The book is very clear that freezing in Siberia is the best thing that can happen to this beautiful woman whose life just found meaning. And also that they use money in heaven.

Tim, revealing a hidden psychosis that lures young women to their deaths, starts dishing serial killer talk. Get a load of this religious kook! Here’s what he thinks is going to happen to the world:

Uh…actually. Gee. Wow. Let me see that prayer again.

Brendan prays for rain and death, but is all out of death. 

This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme: Ken Paisley, who has generously sent countless young women to Siberian prison camps.

9 replies on “Nerding Day: The Crusaders 🌭”

I had no clue that Chick did actual, full-sized comic books. When I was growing up, my dad was an ironic post-hippie, so he had a bunch of Spire Christian comics, the company that put out religious Archie comics. I remember one called HANSI, THE GIRL WHO LOVED THE SWASTIKA, about a German peasant girl in WWII who falls for the Nazis, then the Soviets, then the Capitalists, one after the other, and of course ends up a good Christian girl in the end.

I’ve seen a number of Chick tracts, including a copy of “Doom Town” a fervently Christian colleague left in my office to demonstrate how comfortable she was with working alongside a sodomite.

It was mildly amusing when she shortly afterward wound up in a locked ward due to delusions of persecution.

I’ve never seen this before. It hits most of the Chick notes, despite a lack of demonic HAW-HAWs. I suppose Cherkov represented that trope.

I have a bunch of these. Like, maybe a dozen? I don’t remember. One of them is about how the Catholic Church cooperated with the Nazis iirc. I’ll have to dig those out, if I still have them…

I’m gonna call bullshit on a badass former special forces dude fluent in 8 languages being 21. Totally took me out of this otherwise very grounded story

The funny thing is, this is still a more gentle ending than your average Chick tract. In a tract a… I dunno, fucking plane or bus carrying TNT or whatever would have crashed into the Sofia and Cherkov, killing both of them immediately. Sofia would have went to Heaven immediately, and we’d have to watch an angel toss a naked Cherkov into the lake of fire. Because God’s love and all that.

For this article I had to google both “Chick tracts” and “MANPADS”

…now I have to wonder which is responsible for more misery.

My eternal thanks for “This is probably some allegory for 2 Timothy, but nobody cares about allusions to the Rattle & Hum of Paul’s epistles. Onward, Christian soldiers!” I’ve reread that with joy six times already.

With all of the stupid in this comic, it seems almost petty to point out that Romania was an extremely, and officially, Christian place even at the height of communism. Their primary mission was as dangerous as “sneaking” bibles into Omaha, Nebraska.

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