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August 31, 2010

Comics Are My Religion: Sinfest

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Written by: Jeff
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Welcome to Comics Are My Religion, a look at theology through the lens of comic books.There are some basic ground rules about engaging in respectful dialogue about religion in this column. Be warned, if you haven’t read the comics discussed below, you might want to go read it and come back, as this column may contain spoilers!

There are a ton of print comics out there that do a great job of telling the theological story, but there are also a few webcomics out there that play with religious themes, and do a pretty darn good job of it, too, I might add.

A couple of years ago, I was turned on to a webcomic called Sinfest. Lest anyone think this is a smutty porn site, take a look. Sinfest is written and drawn by Tatsuya Ishida. It is clearly a strip inspired by other daily comics like Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Doonesbury, and Peanuts, but with lines straight out of the latest manga and humor that would make the Pope cry himself to sleep. I think Sinfest was sent to me to get a rise out of me, but I found it honest, hilarious, and theologically mature, even if the jokes are immature.

Sinfest centers around an eclectic cast of characters. The main players include Slick, a wannabe womanizer who is addicted to porn and who pines for Monique. Monique is a sexually-driven female lead, who also has moments of being a bastion of feminism and social justice. Squigley is an anthropomorphic pig who smokes a lot of weed and hangs out with Slick. Criminy is a quiet, bookworm-type who captures the affection of Fuschia, a “Devil girl” who works for, you guessed it, the Devil. The Devil walks around and nonchalantly¬†brings evil and temptation into the world of Sinfest, while God sits upon a cloud and uses a hand puppet to taunt Slick, the Devil, and anyone else he might want to antagonize. Jesus and the Buddha show up quite a bit, with ol’ JC usually in some epic kung-fu battle with the Devil, or Death personified. There are many other characters that pop up in Sinfest, too, and Ishida is great at balancing narrative strips over the course of a week, and one-off strips that catch you off-guard with their randomness.

The first thing I like about Sinfest is the art. I like smooth lines, and manga-inspired art. Add a dash of cute, round characters, akin to something like Bone, and you have Ishida’s style. But Ishida also includes a tremendous amount of social commentary, pop culture references, and religious critique in his strip.

All of the characters have obvious vices: pornography, alcohol, drugs, and lust. Ishida puts in religious figures to foil the main characters. God is portrayed as the ever-manipulating father. Seymour, the angelic fundamentalist Christian, usually goes around and besmirches the name of the good Lord by trying to force Slick or Squigley to repent and be saved. Seymour is judgmental and pharisaical, and while I guess that should offend me as a Christian, I actually think that Ishida’s portrayal is pretty accurate.

We’ve all been confronted by holier-than-thou religious people who care more about being right than loving. We’ve all felt like God is picking on us. We all know what it’s like to engage in unhealthy behaviors even when we know they’re unhealthy. Sinfest plays with religion in an honest way, not settling for easy answers or warm and fuzzy solutions to faith’s questions.

I guess why I really like Sinfest is that it’s fun to laugh at ourselves once in a while. Once we stop taking our religions and start taking ourselves too seriously, we’re usually in for a world of pain. Sinfest allows everyone from the diehard Christian to the slackest unbeliever to laugh at themselves and see that life isn’t really all that bad when we approach things with humor.

But Ishida even depicts Jesus having a sense of humor. Allowing ourselves to laugh at our own faith once in a while, opens us up to live life a little bit nicer. Those folks who look at strips like Sinfest and think they’re irreverent and blasphemous are missing the point.

I read that Sinfest has been rejected eleven times by newspaper syndicates. While this may be due to the occasional curse word, I think it has more to do with the fact that Americans are losing their sense of humor over things like politics and religion. Maybe we never had a sense of humor over such things. But laughing at ourselves doesn’t mean that what we believe or don’t believe isn’t important. It’s just relaxing a bit and seeing that every part of life has humor surrounding it. We just have to look for it. And that’s a sign of a healthy world view on faith, politics, or whatever else might have us arguing.

I’ve always thought that peace cannot be won through war and argument, but with laughter. Thank God Sinfest gives us the breathing room to step away from the hot button issues, and look at them through clean, slick lines, and adorable angels and devils.

You can check out Sinfest daily at Sinfest.net, or you can pick up Dark Horse Comics’ collected editions at Amazon.com.

Jeff Jackson



  1. Capekiller

    The panels you posted are great. Made me laugh a lot! Thanks for reviewing this Jeff. I am going to check out the collected edition.

  2. This. was. hilarious. Nice one Jeff and you’re most likely right as to why Sinfest has been rejected. I’m glad Dark Horse collected them for everyone’s reading pleasure!

  3. Great article on Sinfest, jeff. The strip suits my sense of humor, I’ll check out their website.

  4. The Ineffable one is my favorite. Ishida does a perfect job of bridging the sacred with the profane.

  5. Sinfest looks pretty hilarious. I will have to check it out. Jeff i agree that people can’t seem to find the humor in these topics anymore and that’s just sad.

  6. Billy

    Looks rather amusing, but I think I might be wound a little too tight for some of the more edgier humor in it.

  7. Jeff Jackson

    You? Wound tight? No way!

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