MICHAEL DAVIS: I’m a Believer
Last week at the San Diego Comic-Con I was hosting a forum called “The Black Panel.” The panel was filled with heavy hitters from comics, film, television and animation. At one point during the Q&A a young man asked that more creators recognize and do stories about black atheists. I made a joke that the characters battle cry would be, ‘I don’t believe!’
It got a laugh and I went on to the next person with a question. I happened to look into the young man’s face who asked the atheist question and realized he was not kidding; he was very serious.
I hope that he reads this, or that someone he knows reads this and tells him that I am truly sorry for making light of his belief. I thought he was kidding but the look on his face said otherwise, so in all seriousness I apologize.
That young man has every right to believe what he wants. This brings up an interesting question: Do creators who have a voice in the industry have an obligation to recognize fan beliefs and/or pay attention to them?
My answer with all due respect to the young atheist is no.
I can only speak for myself, but what anyone else believes is not my concern. That said, I do believe that you respect people’s belief.
I’ll say that again so there is no misunderstanding and so I don’t get any nutty comments: I believe that you respect people’s belief.
My former wife had a religious belief that frankly freaked me out. She never tried to convert me and I never tried to talk her out of it. We were two people who met, fell in love and got married. We broke up not because of her beliefs but because I was stupid.
I frankly couldn’t care less what you believe or practice. It’s your right in a free society to do what you want. As long as you do not harm other people or animals you can live in the woods and eat bark for breakfast for all I care. If you want to believe that Richie Rich is the one and only true God then have at it, buddy. What you do with your life is really nobody’s business but yours. How you live, what you think and why you think it is all you, my friend.
The last comic book universe I created was The Guardian Line. A Christian publisher publishes those books and, ironically, we do have a black atheist character. I did not think to mention it at the Black Panel but, yes, we have one. The character is important to a storyline which deals with belief. That storyline makes the point that even if you do not believe in God that you respect each other. I created that character for that story line not because I think black atheists have a right to be represented in The Guardian Line.
The next comic book universe I am creating deals with health care. The characters come from my own experience, as do the characters in The Guardian Line. I create from what I know, as do many creators. For me to care about your beliefs (or you mine) is simply unrealistic on so many levels. Do we really want creators to pause and think about how they can include things because someone says to?
I respect everyone I meet, which is why I feel so bad about my response to that young man. That respect however does not mean I have to include your personal experience into my story. Having said that, it also means that the public does not have to read my story.
I mentioned once before in this column that I believe that religious wars are the stupidest things on the planet. Because I believe in Jesus, should I not respect you because you believe in Allah? Why in the year 2007 are we still killing each other over religious beliefs? Why are we still killing each other period?
I don’t care if you pray to Barney The Dinosaur; that’s fine with me. It’s only when you insist I believe what you believe that I balk.
You cannot regulate beliefs, you cannot regulate morality, you cannot regulate personal choice. You simply cannot regulate people’s feelings. Why are so many people still trying? For a group of people to try and influence another at the point of a gun will only get you so much obedience until you turn your back or relax your guard. Then they will run away or break their foot off in your ass.
One of my best friends is gay. Not my cup of tea but that’s what he is. He’s still my friend. However, if he one day decides that because I am not gay that makes me a bad person or he tries to convert me then he and I will have a problem. A great many Christian people think that being gay is an abomination and a sin. I don’t think that is something that they can decide. It seems to me that God is the only one that can decide that. He did give us free will so if you choose a gay lifestyle then that’s on you.
Now, suppose a gay person does not believe in God? Why would anyone waste their time trying to convince them that they were wrong and try to save their soul? That’s like me trying to convince you not to eat ham and you already hate ham. It makes no sense.
The joke in the whole believe in god / not believe in god thing is that somebody’s wrong. Belief is having the right to be that somebody.
The Guardian Line Books do not preach, but they do show a clear distinction between good and evil. The publisher wants to show that there is a choice and the heroes and villains of the Guardian Line reflect that. The line will not reflect anything that does not speak to that. Why should it?
Yes, I see why someone would want to share his or her belief with you in order to save you from a terrible faith, but at the point of a gun? By bombing or by condemning you because you do not believe what they do?
Belief is all subjective. If faith were something that you could see then I guess we would not have the kind of strife in the world that make people go to war over it.
But then it would not be faith, would it? It’s easy to choose what’s behind door #2 if door #2 was made of glass. Again: if you live in a free society you have the right to believe what you want. You also have the right not to include others point of views. I mean it would be really stupid for McDonalds to promote Burger King.
Why should anyone’s creative endeavor consider outside influences that do not help its cause?
If your goal is to reach as many people as you can it seems to me that you should not include anyone’s beliefs and you should stay away from all things which propose a point of view.
You should create what you want and let your work speak for its self.
I feel the role of an artist is to first be true to himself or herself. Your vision should be just that: your vision.
To the young man who was at The Black Panel I say this: You want a black atheist character? Then create one. Who knows, you may have a huge following out there just waiting for this type of work.
I do not share your beliefs but I will fight for your right to believe it. Not because it’s the right thing to do, but because I have the right not to read it if I choose. Just as you have the right not to believe in God.
Neither one of us will know for sure who’s right until that time. As I said, one of us is wrong. I believe it’s you. But I respect your right to believe it’s me.
Michael Davis is a comics creator and the founder of the Guardian Line series of comics as well as being a television producer and writer. He was a co-founder of Milestone Comics and his artwork has appeared in Wasteland, Green Arrow: Shado, Green Hornet and The Question, among others.