That's Me in the Spotlight, Choosing My Religion

No-one lasts long in the comic-book universe, and you can't always count on springing back to life. Plan for your afterlife. Io9 rates the top six religions to affiliate yourself with before someone is kneeling over your body, shouting 'Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!'

Let's say that one day the impossible happens and you wake up in the gleaming city of Metropolis. Or perhaps you get really lucky and wake up in New York, in the arms of Mary Jane Watson, or Peter Parker, or both, if that's your bag. You leap out of bed and throw open the door, ready to explore. You are in a land of imagination, heroism, and hot people in spandex! What should you do first?

Make you peace with god, my friends. Make your peace with god. You're in a world where even super-powered people drop like flies after being horribly tortured, where fresh blood needs to be spilled every Wednesday, and where sometimes whole universes get snuffed out.

In other words, you're already deader than a smushed opossum in the middle of an eight lane highway.

The moment you realize you exist in a comic-book universe, it's time to think about what comes next. I've provided a handy guide of religions to choose from. Read it now. You won't live long enough to hit the F5 key.

1. Greek Mythology

There's a lot to be said for Greek mythology. There is both a god of booze and a god of love. There is, in fact, a god of pretty much everything, so a few well-chosen sacrifices could theoretically get you whatever you wanted. Please a god, get what you need.

Then again, displease a god and that smushed opossum on the highway starts to look really damned good compared to your situation. The Greek gods had this thing called ‘irony,' and lacked this thing called ‘a sense of humor.' It started out small. For example, they would tell a set of parents that their darling new baby boy would kill his father and marry his mother, and then set it up so that all the ways they tried to avoid having such a thing happen actually helped it come about. It all ended up with that darling, innocent boy scooping his own eyes like they were ice cream and he worked at Baskin Robbins.

Lately in comics, meddling gods have gotten a little more serious, with invading armies, forsaken populations, and sudden coups. Let's put it this way: Wonder Woman is the quintessential Greek warrior. Wise, dutiful, compassionate, honorable, and brilliant, she embodies all possible virtues. This was her last meeting with the leader of the Greek gods.

That's Me in the Spotlight, Choosing My Religion

Maybe you want to move on.

2. Norse Mythology

Want a few less Greek isles and a few more snow-covered mountains in your afterlife? More ski than sea? Well, then perhaps you're the Norse god type. Again, there are party gods and the random acts of violence gods, and on the whole, they seem less interested in consigning mortals to a horrific yet amusing fate.

On the whole.

There is, however, one god who'd do it with a smile on his or her face: Loki. I'm going to go ahead and include a link to Loki's Wikipedia page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loki_(comics) because trying to recount the stories would drive me completely mad. If you look over the sections, you will notice a theme. Loki tries to take over. Loki gets kicked out. Loki comes back. Loki tries to take over again.

That's right. Norse mythology seems to have one god who is pretty much just in charge of causing as much trouble as possible for everyone else. You know how one troll can ruin a message board? Picture that, only for eternity and all you can eat is apples (long story). You'd better love to ski, my friends.

3. Buddhism

Buddhism isn't much delved into in comics. There are a few heroes who will reference spending time in Buddhist temples, but often the most action your religion will get is being a backdrop for guys in robes kicking each other. Honestly? That's the selling point.

Not many good things happen to people in comics, a point I believe I made in the first few paragraphs. Wandering around a Buddhist monastery may be the best way to stay alive forever.

Or maybe it'll just seem that way. Religious characters, in comics, tend to be very, very religious indeed, especially if those religions are non-Christian. Connor Hawke is a Buddhist character several years out of the monastery, and he still only drinks milk. If you go Buddhist, you're not the guy who lives a normal life, slightly influenced by religious faith. You're the guy who wanders around in saffron colored robes being serene. All the time. Not that you are going to be half way as burdened as those who have chosen Islam.

4. Islam

Well, now you've done it. You've gone and picked a faith that has a lot of people saying dumb things about it. That means comics creators are either a) saying dumb things themselves, or b) being very, very careful.

This puts you in the position of being a ‘Splainy Laney. Dust, from the X-Men, who talks about her personal philosophy for wearing her abaya and niqab. You generally will have to explain how your religion works to everyone around you. Then again, you might have to do that in real life, so that might not make much difference.

You may also be made into the Innocent Person On The Street in a superhero adventure. I know, it seems like that way lies roadkillandia, but because creators are being careful, you have a decent chance of living to the end of a story. There's only one drawback. Goody-two-shoesism. Innocence has to be earned, like in the issue of Birds of Prey where Zinda hijacks a cab driver named Masoud. What follows is an entire issue of Zinda being crazy and Masoud being the voice of reason. It culminates with the guy in a railroad car, alone, with a hot blonde in a short skirt offering him a bottle of booze. His response?

"As a devout Muslim I choose never to drink, Miss."

Obviously, many Muslims don't drink, because it conflicts with the tenets of their religion. Then again, there are plenty of religions that forbid drinking but whose individual members still drink without anyone raising an eyebrow about it. Oh, Masoud. At least your long life will give you a chance to bond with the Buddhists about how nothing interesting ever happens to you.

5. Judaism

Again we find a group which has a lot in common with the Buddhists, at least in comics. Although your religion has been recently augmented by heroes such as Batwoman and Sergeant Rock, you mostly get trotted out each December to round out a Holiday Special. Rest assured though, no one dies in a holiday special.

Unfortunately, it won't be only smooth sailing. Since comic books are the place where Nazis never die, you will have deal with the fall-out from that. This, however, might be a welcome change from the real world. Generally comics need a few panels to show that Nazis, neo-Nazis, and other hate groups are really, really bad people, and the easiest way to do that is to show them hassling some Jews. Remain calm. Unlike the real world, more often than not, the heroes will swing in, beat down the punks, and swing out, happy that they have shown us folks at home that superheroes are better than skinheads.

6. Christianity

There's an important theological lesson you must learn before you decide to become Christian: comics are a visual medium. Meaning, if it doesn't have a necklace with a cross or a black collar with a little white rectangle, it isn't a Christian. Don't be walking around in civvies and expecting to go to heaven.

Here's a second lesson: if you go the collar route, you will probably end up advising a superhero or supervillain at some point. This is a good sign! It means you won't be killed randomly. But you're not out of the woods yet. Be kind, be wise, be insightful, but do not, for any reason, be anything but professional. Bonding with a cape is the surefire way to get killed messily so he or she can mourn you. You're not there to be anyone's friend. Maintain your distance.

The drawback to comics Christianity tend to twofold: the religion seems, paradoxically, both highly procedural and highly metaphysical. A good example of this coming together would be the story of Zauriel. He gets kicked out of heaven for falling in love with a mortal woman despite his years of seniority and service (technical) and then has to abandon his pursuit of her to stop an angelic coup. Asmodel, the rebellious angel, managed to take his rebellion all the way to the throne room of heaven only to find it empty, because God is everything and everywhere (metaphysical).

On the one hand, it would certainly put an end to Loki being such an ass in Norse mythology. On the other hand?

That's Me in the Spotlight, Choosing My Religion

Take away the cat, and that's what you're worshiping. Makes a big guy with a beard feel comfortingly substantial, doesn't it?