Deathstroke Meets Jesus

Deathstroke teaches a bible lesson to his son, Jericho.

Deathstroke teaches a bible lesson to his son, Jericho.

This next issue of Deathstroke, #20, is unique in that it breaks several longstanding comics taboos against (a) religion (Satanism is fine, can’t talk in any genuine way about God or, heaven forbid, Christ), (b) same-gender relationships (the super-villain is both a follower of Christ, a villain, and gay), and most absurdly (c) women’s feminine health issues (we are not allowed to mention or depict women going through their monthly cycle).

Next issue, the “Lazarus Contract” epilogue, includes all of the above. I have _no_ idea why I’m not fired.

Deathstroke attempts to mend fences with Tanya (Power Girl) Spears.

Deathstroke attempts to mend fences with Tanya (Power Girl) Spears.

I am genuinely impressed with how progressive DC has become. The last time I mentioned a woman’s menstrual cycle was Black Canary #8, circa 1988(?) where I gave Dinah Lance her period. There were meetings and memos and editor Denny O’Neil fretted over the decision and had to get permission. And we could not refer to it directly but obliquely as Dinah’s “bad mood.”

So, with Deathstroke #20, I am left to presume either DC has become much more progressive, or, nobody noticed. Which means maybe I *am* about to get fired.

Conservative Christians will likely love and hate next issue at the same time. Our theme is redemption and closure as we wrap up most Year One storylines. But the messaging is imperfect as are the relationships, both of which present complex inquiries into our existence and purpose as well as confronting the question and relevance of God, however each of us see or interpret God.

I really did expect a phone call telling me they burned the script and I’d have to start over. But, not a word changed and out the door it went.

I’ve asked DC Comics to send a preview copy to Christianity Today. No word yet on if they’ve done so πŸ™‚ But I’d really like comics to take more and greater chances and to expand our audience beyond the traditional market. There are *billions* of dollars– with a “B” –to be made in the evangelical market. It mystifies me as to why neither DC nor Marvel are in it.

I doubt any Christian bookstore would carry Deathstroke #20, mainly because it questions religion as much as embraces it. With traditional Christian bookstore chains, there’s a certain quantity of Kool Aid that must be consumed, which misses the mark of Christ’s message by about a mile.

Great art, great books and great music are typically banned from these chains which insist on a kind of inoffensive rounding off of reality and adherence to an evangelical message. In my experience, questioning my faith has only strengthened it.

Deathstroke #20 is surely not an evangelical tool, it is just another issue of a comic book about an itinerant murderer. The Christian theme is just that–the theme of this issue, just as gun violence was the theme of #11.

As with all good writing, the point is not to tell you what to think or even what to do, but to get the conversation started. Deathstroke #20 will most certainly accomplish that.

Really grateful to DC, seriously, for confounding my expectations of censorship.


  1. Dave Van Domelen says:

    I expect they figure Marvel’s chaffing the controversy radar sufficiently at this point.

  2. Sam says:

    As some one who is also a Christian who rarely discusses faith much due to 1) The conservatives mentioned not considering me a true one because I seem more “liberal” in interpretations and 2) the “intellectual” non religious (or at least non- Christian) also judging me I am looking very much to this issue. Comics in general have been coming more open to these topics over time, religion especially such as Ms. Marvel and Islam. Christianity in recent times is usually brought up to be mocked or to be the antagonist which understandable given how the religion’s been utilized in the past and today. However, that doesn’t stop us from entering embarrassing strawman territory and seeing non religious people claiming to “get” the faith anymore than Westboro. More nuanced and sympathetic approaches to Christians seem trickier to find however I was pleasantly surprised with Marv Wolfman’s recent Raven mini series that introduced her very religious and kind aunt. Your critique about the Christian chains of bookstores reminds me of similar discussion between the Christian Music and Movie industries versus similar religion based works done by secular companies (Dreamworks’ Prince of Egypt movie) or at least an artist who may be religious but don’t simplify, sugar coat or even that explicit about religion in their works. One comes off hallow and lacking while the other is more real and memorable.

    Between that and countless people who think religion and science can’t both be appreciated I’m very looking forward to this. Especially when you’ve had religious characters already be a super genius, a bisexual man, and a gay man (who apparently will be a villain).

    • Priest Priest says:

      “…a bisexual man, and a gay man (who apparently will be a villain)”

      Oh, man, I really spoiled that, didn’t I? Wow… didn’t even notice.

      Sam: thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I’m really hoping other will as well, even those who disagree. My goal is never to impose my view or start a fight but start a discussion. The main problem with our society, as I see it, is our tribal penchant for zero-sum solutions, a chronic immaturity and unwillingness to compromise or even coexist. I hope, as I always do, to get the discussion going.

      • Sam says:


        I am very happy to discus this too with people who are willing to listen. And Since I need to catch up with the book I also forgot to mention the Rebirth version of Azrael in Detective Comics being a positive religious character so far especially being friends with the more science oriented Batwing.

      • Sam says:

        It’s been a busy few weeks but I did want to say this was a good read, both on its own and a fitting, emotional closer for the Wilsons after Lazarus Contract. Whether Slade really has changed or not he’s still manipulating, no surprise there old habits die hard. I’m also concerned where Joey and Rose’s relationship will go after that fight.I do hope Joey gets to be the Good Wilson some more instead of the “Good” Wilson….plus how they’ll interact with poor Tanya who has only had a small taste of Slade’s parenting skills…poor Roscoe. What we’ve seen of Ikon was interesting turn as well; coming to terms what he’s done and what happened, and his done excision for what he believes is “right.” I admit the age gap and history he had with Joey prior to them being a couple (as well whether it was an affair or what)….didn’t sit well with me and him being condescending to Joey about Etienne didn’t help either. It looked like a parallel of Slade and his affairs with women Joey’s age that still going on today which are still uncomfortable. Still his and other’s part in the story ahead is going to be exciting. There’s also how Addie and Wintergreen think of Slade’s idea and where a certain Geomancer fits in that I’m looking forward to. It’s a shame this book is a monthly now!

        (I’m also almost upset I missed the Lazarus Discourse yet not surprised it was mainly about Damian and Wally… I will say something that doesn’t involve those two: while it was and shame to learn Joey didn’t know any Titans in this universe it was great seeing him hell a great deal like in JC. And I don’t know if this was intended but I was giddily happy about the two very brief interactions with non-Wally Titans where Dick and Raven, two of his closest NTT friends that writers have forgotten their relationships for so long. Really, Raven be another interesting choice for “Dark Titans” giving her character and history with so many other members but between her empathy abilities getting in the way of Slade’s plan and DC probably wanting her firmly on TEEN Titans.)

  3. Devon B says:

    Priest, first and foremost, I’ve been a Deathstroke fan through every run, some more than others, and YOU are by far doing Slade the justice he deserves as a character. So thank you for giving me reason to stay up at 3AM on Tuesday nights to download the comic. And I just have to say, I’ve been telling my friends ever since issue #17 that I hope Slade and Tanya work things out. And that SPECIFICALLY I hope he comes to her house and hands her a new puppy. I can’t BELIEVE my wish has just been fulfilled and I’m in absolute awe at where these stories and relationships are going. Thank you for your work, and I can’t wait to see what else you have in store.

  4. Salama 12 says:

    mister Priest My name is Salama and I am 12 years old : i love you Damian πŸ™‚ He is so cool and self-confident.
    What do you like about him?

    I and damian Wayne are both arab.Many of my arabian friends are proud that batmans son is arab.
    DC Gives something so big..I think DC does not know how grateful we are .

    Batman is one of the greatest heroes of white people…And DC gives it a arab son .
    DC Is brave and shows that every human being is equal.
    I hope you will write one the batman comics in the future…
    sorry english is bad.

    • Priest Priest says:

      Hi Salama:

      “What do you like about him?”

      I like that he earns me a lot of angry emails every time I write him πŸ™‚

      “I hope you will write one the batman comics in the future…”

      I haven’t been invited to write Batman since 1988. I stopped holding my breath a LONG time ago. πŸ™‚

      “sorry english is bad.”

      Mine too πŸ™‚ Thanks for writing! –cjp

  5. Ian Miller says:

    I really appreciated that Deathstroke is quoting the Bible, but since he thinks actually becoming a Christian is stupid, his use of it is wrong. I do appreciate Tanya’s attempts to live out her faith, though. And I’m very curious to see where Isherwood’s story goes – though I found the images of him fighting Deathstroke a bit confusing. I’ll have to reread to see what I think is going on there. I really like Carlo Pagulayan’s art – it’s very detailed and expressive – Tanya’s depiction particularly is very appealing with her expressions.

    • Priest Priest says:

      “…since he thinks actually becoming a Christian is stupid, his use of it is wrong.”

      As are most uses of quoted scripture, especially in commercial entertainment where it is routinely distorted and taken out of context. Here Slade is conducting a different kind of warfare, using his opponent’s strengths and values to manipulate her. Which is consistent for Slade. Reformed or not, Slade is still Slade.

      Isherwood/Ikon killing Deathstroke is a fantasy/hallucination on his part. I should have made that clearer. And, yes, Carlo is amazing. Unfortunately, his availability is fairly limited as well.

      • Dave Van Domelen says:

        Yeah, that hallucination sequence really did need to be made more clearly a hallucination. Given how “jump around in time and space” is the usual mode of scene transition in this series, the abrupt transition alone did not make it clear this was a daydream.

  6. Vortal says:

    I enjoyed this week issue, altough It felt weirder than usual with the captions. Regarding the taboo in comics – wow, if scenes like that with Tanya were considered taboo in the past, then it really was absurd. I found it absolutely normal thing to implement/show in comics.

    Slade’s still Slade, he was using Bible quotes to manipulate people, even got a new German Shephard for Tanya. He is still an ass, wolf in sheep’s clothing. Right now I’m very curious of his motives. What’s his goal? What does he hopes to accomplish with the Dark Titans aka Defiance? Unfortunately now we have to wait another month to find the answers. Slade from now will be wearing a cape… it still makes me laugh. I just hope he won’t call himself Lifestroke, that would be too much πŸ™‚

    • Ian Miller says:

      Lifestroke is hilarious – well done.

      I’d say Slade wants to try to get closer to his children with the Defiance scheme, just like the rest of the book.

  7. Evan Narcisse says:

    FWIW, I loved this story and have tweeted to that effect:

    (that’s a multi-tweet thread)

  8. The DeathSkeleton says:

    I enjoyed the read.
    Adding religion was quite interesting, I have never really been a religious person although I know somewhat about Christianity. The way Deathstroke used a belief as a weapon was amazing, I love Deathstroke being written like this.

    Also Tanya and her cramps was surprising, it actually reminded me of my girl, she even used birth control too, it was wild and hit home.

    Lastly the gay and religious thing was interesting to contemplate as I am neither yet I know people are either one or the other and not both.

    Anyway thanks for the reading and I can’t wait to see The Ultimate Manipulator (Deathstroke) unleashing his plan.

  9. Tevin Johnson says:

    Thank you for your art! I hope all is well! -tevin

  10. As an addendum to your inquiry on what comics fans “would like to see”, I would like for mainstream comics, I would like to see more people of faith depicted in multicultural, philosophically diverse, more nuanced ways: For primary characters, villains, and supporting characters, depict more religions- Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Confucianism, paganism, etc. There are various philosophical/ideological sects within all of the major known religions. Not everyone belongs to the “Jerry Falwell” team of Christianity, even if they are protestant/evangelical. You can depict people having conservative objections to XYZ without automatically delving into sweeping generalizations about ‘fundmentalist’ culture. Show adults and teens having mature discussions about faith and one’s behavior relating to career/vocation, justice, relationships, marriage, etc.

    Kudos, Mr. Priest!

  11. Elijah_ says:

    Uhh, hey, science question: is Deathstroke’s sword amped at all when it absorbs energy, or is it naturally able to cut through race cars and even Superman?
    As an aside, I’m also very interested in seeing where Deathstroke playing government pawn goes in the next week’s issue. Keep up the good work!

  12. Ian Miller says:

    Today’s issue was awesome and hilarious – “Hello, Rose. Still a virgin?”

    But I was curious – some of the 4channers were speculating that Slade is deliberately undercharging for his work to viciously undercut his competition. Since you’ve been so careful about the amount of money Slade normally charges, and what he does with that money, I think it would make sense for him to still be such a jerk, even as a so called hero, in this subtle way – are we crazy nerds reading it right?

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