I don’t watch reality shows, because they’re not reality. They start off with an opening shot, someone telling what the episode is about, a second character coming in and then you hear the premise. Follow with a cutaway shot of their reaction of how crazy/great the idea is. Blah, blah, blah. But the graphic novel “Punk Rock Jesus” takes reality shows to a heavenly level. (See what I did there?)
In the film, Rick Slate, who works for Ophis, introduces his company’s next reality show.
With the permission of the Catholic Church and DNA from the Shroud of Turin, Rick Slate on Christmas Day will present their new show, J2, the second coming of Jesus Christ. With the advancement of cloning technology, geneticist Dr. Sara Epstein is able to retrieve DNA samples from the Shroud and create the first human clone. From the premiere episode and the live birth, J2 is a hit. Half the world watches the show with Gwen, the virgin mother and her son Chris (Because it’s close to Christ). Set on a self-contained, heavily guarded island, Rick Slate brings all the comfort of home/prison. But there’s not a lot of “real” in this show. Before birth, Chris’ eyes are adjusted to a more favorable color of blue. His mother Gwen, can’t breastfeed, because they gave her breast implants so she would be more appealing to the male viewers. And every reference to Jerusalem or the Middle East are removed.
Other pivotal characters include head of security and bodyguard Thomas, a former IRA member who desperately wants Chris to be Jesus; Dr. Epstein, who as a scientist is completely against everything Rick Slate and J2 are doing, but stays on because it funds her clean air project; Dr. Epstein’s daughter Rebekka, Chris’ playmate and friend; Tim, the computer guy and Daisy Milton, the leader of the New American Christian, whose only goal is to shut down J2.
The constant attention and spotlight cause Gwen to slowly break down until she finally snaps. And then the story goes in a completely different direction. As the story progresses, Chris begins to rebel against everyone and everything. He no longer wants “this” life and gives the world a new vision of Jesus. He joins the last punk rock band, the Flak Jackets. He begins to preach the message of anti-religion and anti-government, shutting the show J2 down.
The story’s message is centered on the concept that anything can become propaganda. It has a few twists that will keep the audience engaged and ends on a cornball note.
I’d prefer that Rick Slate were a “good intentions” villain and not an “I do bad things, I’m a bad guy” villain—but “Punk Rock Jesus” does indeed rock. It gives characters time to be introduced and gives the reader the opportunity to understand each character’s place in J2. My favorite is Thomas, who wants to make up for past sins after he realizes his previous life was a lie.
Sidenote: Ophis is Greek for serpent. Take that hidden meaning.
As a card-carrying Christian, I found the story intriguing and wondered, “How would I feel with a manufactured savior?” Then I remembered I don’t like reality shows.
With story and art by Sean Murphy, “Punk Rock Jesus” was published under DC Comics imprint Vertigo, and won an IGN Award for Best Comic Mini-Series in 2012.