Marvel and DC have used Hell and Heaven in their own way in the comics and movies. However, bringing these metaphysical concepts on-page and using them to tell comic suitable stories was never easy and straight.
When you see Marvel and DC comics, and you try to find what influence Gods and Demons had on these comic-based stories, what do you see? Some diluted version of God who carries a Hammer and travels through space, or a bike rider who represents a demon while having his helmet on fire.
All these portrayals are fun yet nowhere justifies real potential of their respective worlds in both the comics. The use of inspiration from Hell and Heaven in Marvel and DC comics was never this feeble from the beginning. However, there’s an entire history behind it.
- Inspiration from Hell and Heaven in Marvel and DC in the beginning.
- What changed the interpretation of Hell and Heaven in Marvel and DC?
- The codes imposed by the Comics Code Authority.
- Return of power in the hands of creators.
Inspiration from Hell and Heaven in Marvel and DC in the beginning.
It was really the peak age for comics during the 40s of the 19th century when Marvel and DC started using inspiration from Hell and Heaven. In the beginning, everything that related to these realms was kept very true to their nature. If in the case of Hell, it was dark and grim, and for the Heaven, it was all light and God.
The character that used the name “Black Widow” for the very first time, was truly an agent of Devil. She was recruited by Devil after her murder to deal with sinners on earth. Similarly, Shazam in DC literally received his powers from the deities of Pagan pantheons and Solomon, a Jewish figure.
What changed the interpretation of Hell and Heaven in Marvel and DC?
Followed by World War-II, the opinion of natives regarding the manipulation or portrayal of religious beliefs in terms of telling fantasy stories changed a lot. It was believed by the US society that the beliefs of people of the US were turning feeble. Thus, it became necessary to have control over narrative media.
It was in 1954 when the Comics Code Authority was created. The authority was less of restrictor or executer, but more of a defamer and opinion maker, thus no published took the risk of getting defamed. The authority monitored each comic before it reached the masses.
The codes imposed by the Comics Code Authority
The authority mainly controlled how the evil aspect was portrayed, and it pretended to be the caretaker of impression a comic would have on the readers. The Code was not to glamourize, sympathize, or worship any demon, evil, or criminal character. Also, no comic should defame or throw bad light over any Govt. organizations.
However, it wasn’t always about remaining true to the Code. Most of the times, justice was served based on individual beliefs of who remained the in-charge of particular monitoring.
As a result of these codes, the inspiration of Hell and Heaven in Marvel and DC comic was reduced to very few choices. Most of the evil characters turned stupid, the Gods were then always who served true justice, and most of the comics had to cut corners to not relate directly to any belief system.
The gods, or the ones with mystic power, in Marvel such as Thor, and Dr Stranger were the result of same. As they didn’t validate a particular belief system, and rather had their very own mixed magic and science formula.
Return of power in the hands of creators
Finally, in 1971, the Comics Code gave a little freedom to the creators stating,
“vampires, ghouls and werewolves shall be permitted to be used when handled in the classic tradition such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and other high calibre literary works written by Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, Conan Doyle and other respected authors whose works are read in schools around the world.”
This meant that comics not only could now use devils to a larger controlled extent but could also refer directly to the realms. While Marvel waited, DC begin bringing its Judo-Christian references in comics again. The demon Etrigan who came from hell was a clear representation of it. In the same year, Marvel also brought Ghost Rider, who truly was a devil in himself. However, the Comics were still bound with some norms and thus had to play safe.
It was in the early 90s when things truly changed. The Code didn’t have power more than tagging a comic suitable for adults and another for kids. This opened the gates for DC and Marvel to bring in Hell and Heaven in their comics in true sense.
Many attempts from DC, including the ones like “The Spectre” were made that directly dealt with religious mythology. Marvel too brought a few characters directly inspired from the mythology. However, a long duration of control shaped public opinion towards liking a certain type of comics.
Thus, even today, what we see is the result of the Code and corrupted references of Hell and Heaven from Mythologies in Marvel and DC. As corrupt as the Mythologies themselves are.