(RNS) Jack Chick, the cartoonist behind the sin and salvation Christian Chick Tracts, died Sunday (Oct. 23) at age 92.
In a post on the Chick Publication’s Facebook page, author David W. Daniels confirmed Chick died “peacefully in his sleep.”
The post was accompanied by a faceless cartoon image of God, seated on a heavenly throne with Scripture appearing in a speech bubble above his head — the same image that appeared for so many years in the illustrated gospel tracts Chick pioneered that now have become synonymous with his name.
Chick printed and distributed 800 million copies of more than 250 different tracts, according to ComicsAlliance. Each illustrated fundamentalist Christian beliefs about the way to heaven, as well as what he believed were stumbling blocks: Harry Potter books, homosexuality, even Catholicism.
With titles such as “The Death Cookie,” depicting Catholicism as a plan of the devil, and “Dark Dungeons,” about Dungeons and Dragons, they’re campy and controversial – and widely known, distributed on street corners, at churches, sometimes even in place of Halloween candy.
The idea for those tracts came to Chick in the early 1960s after he read the book “Power From On High” by 19th-century revivalist Charles Finney, according to the Chick Publications website.
“That book pushed my button,” he said. “I went to church and saw all the deadness and hypocrisy, and I thought, ‘that’s why there’s no revival.’ So I started making these little sketches. My burden was so heavy to wake Christians up to pray for revival.”
Chick, then working for AstroScience Corp. in El Monte, Calif., borrowed $800 to print his first tract, “Why No Revival?”
Chick had become a Christian shortly after marrying Lynn Priddle, according to the website. He turned to faith after his mother-in-law insisted he listen to Charles E. Fuller’s “Old Fashioned Revival Hour” radio program while the young couple was visiting her parents in Canada on their honeymoon.
He was born April 13, 1924, in Los Angeles and always had loved to draw, the website said. He met his wife while studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse after he spent three years in the U.S. Army.
Both the tracts and their creator received mixed reviews from both inside and outside Protestant Christianity: In response to Chick’s death, Christian author Matthew Paul Turner called the cartoonist “one of God’s most infamous trolls,” and the feminist website Jezebel called his tracts “bigoted yet weirdly enjoyable.”
Jack Chick, one of God’s most infamous trolls, has died. With his passing, the world became a tiny bit kinder.
— Matthew Paul Turner (@HeyMPT) October 24, 2016
But the tracts’ impact on pop culture is undeniable.
“To some, Chick tracts are American folk art, or even a form of religious pornography, titillating and somewhat dangerous,” according to media watchdog Brill’s Content.
“Chick is the ultimate underground artist: single-minded and self-published, passionately committed to his message without regard for external social forces.”