Season 4, Episode 7

Religion & Comics

Throughout history, comic books have occupied many roles for religious communities. They continue to do so today. Comics have been mediums for both the positive and negative portrayal of religious belonging. They have served as objects of devotion as well as of controversy and censorship. Some comics are, themselves, religious artifacts. One might approach comics from a literary analytical perspective, identifying and analyzing the theological and otherwise religious themes and characters that appear therein. Join us for a conversation, however, that will discuss comics as sources for the study, teaching, and publication of American religious studies.

Host: Matthew J. Cressler

Matthew J. Cressler, Ph.D. is Chief of Staff at the Corporation for Public Interest Technology and an independent scholar of religion, race, and culture. He is the author of Authentically Black and Truly Catholic: The Rise of Black Catholicism in the Great Migrations (NYU, 2017) and numerous peer-reviewed articles on Catholic and African American religious histories, clerical sexual abuse, horror movies, comic books, and more. He has written for America, The Atlantic, National Catholic Reporter, Religion News Service, The Revealer, Slate, U.S. Catholic, and Zocalo Public Square. Together with Adelle M. Banks, he co-reported the Religion News Service series “Beyond the Most Segregated Hour,” which won a Wilbur Award from the Religion Communicators Council. He is the creator of Bad Catholics, Good Trouble (badcatholics-comics.org), an educational webcomic series that brings to vivid life true stories of Catholic injustice and the ordinary people of faith who did extraordinary things to confront white supremacy and colonial violence in their communities.

Matthew's full bio

Panelist: Jenny Caplan

Jenny Caplan is a scholar of American religion and popular culture at the University of Cincinnati. She specializes in American Judaism and work extensively with film, television, internet media, humor, graphic novels, video games, board games, and other sites of pop culture engagement. She has been studying religion and religious history since 1997 and has published extensively on media portrayals of Jews and Judaism. Jenny’s book, Funny, You Don’t Look Funny: Judaism and Humor from the Silent Generation to Millennials was published in 2023.

Jenny's full bio

Panelist: Yvonne Chireau

Yvonne Chireau is professor in the department of religion at Swarthmore College, where she teaches courses on theories of religion, Africana religions, and American religious history. She is the author of Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition (2003) and the co-editor of Black Zion: African American Religions and Judaism (1999). Her varied thoughts on the historical intersections between magic, Africana religions, comics, and popular culture tropes of black spirituality can be found at the research blog The Academic Hoodoo (academichoodoo.com). She is currently co-producing a documentary film about contemporary reclamations of the African American ancestral traditions known as ConjureHoodoo, and Rootworking by millennial practitioners, artists, educators, and entrepreneurs.

Yvonne's full bio

Panelist: Hussein Rashid

Hussein Rashid and independent scholar and is founder of islamicate, L3C, a consultancy focusing on religious literacy and cultural competency. He works with a variety of NGOs, foundations, non-profits, and governmental agencies for content expertise on religion broadly, with a specialization on Islam. His research focuses on Muslims and American popular culture. He writes and speaks about music, comics, movies, and the blogistan. He has published academic works on Muslims and American Popular Culture, Malcolm X, qawwali, intra-Muslim racism, teaching Shi’ism, Islam and comics, free speech, Sikhs and Islamophobia, Muslims in film, American Muslim spaces of worship, and the role of technology in teaching religion. He co-edited a book on Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel with Jessica Baldzani called Ms. Marvel’s America: No Normal. He also co-edited The Bloomsbury Handbook of Muslims and Popular Culture with Kristian Petersen, and another volume Islam in North America with Huma Mohibullah. His most recent publication is Teaching Critical Religious Studies co-edited with Jenna Gray-Hildenbrand and Beverley McGuire. He is currently working on a cultural history of Muslims in America. Hussein is on the editorial board of book series Religion and Comics at Claremont Press and is a Cultural Co-Editor for CrossCurrentsThe Bloomsbury Studies in Popular Fiction and Religious Dynamics, the Journal of Interreligious Studies. He was on the editorial boards of Religion DispatchesThe Islamic Monthly, and Cyber Orient, in addition to being an emeritus scholar at State of Formation.

Hussein's full bio

This event took place on April 18, 2024.

Additional Resources

Check out additional resources for learning, teaching and watching.

Religion & Comics Resources from Panelists

Religion & Comics Teaching Resources

“Religion &”: Center Conversations on the State of Religion and the Current Moment

“Religion &” is a series of monthly conversations between leading academics and thinkers in multiple fields hosted by the Center to continue these critically important interventions.  Every Third Thursday at 3p ET we discuss a topic that looks at the relationship between religion, the pressing issues of our day, and their impact on the fields we study.

Previous episodes of “Religion &” can be viewed on our YouTube channel.

A JOURNAL OF INTERPRETATION: This semiannual publication explores the interplay between religion and other spheres of American culture.

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