The Golden Compass and the Golden Rule, by John Ostrander

John Ostrander

John Ostrander started his career as a professional writer as a playwright. His best known effort, Bloody Bess, was directed by Stuart Gordon, and starred Dennis Franz, Joe Mantegna, William J. Norris, Meshach Taylor and Joe Mantegna. He has written some of the most important influential comic books of the past 25 years, including Batman, The Spectre, Manhunter, Firestorm, Hawkman, Suicide Squad, Wasteland, X-Men, and The Punisher, as well as Star Wars comics for Dark Horse. New episodes of his creator-owned series, GrimJack, which was first published by First Comics in the 1980s, appear every week on ComicMix.

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30 Responses

  1. MARK WHEATLEY says:

    John, I think you skipped one important factor here. Pullman is an exceptional author. And just based on how good his books are I would hope a LOT of kids start reading them. Not because of an agenda – but because they make up an exceptional story. On the other hand – one reason they are making the movie is that the books are already very popular on an international basis. So I think the cat is out of the bag.

  2. Rick Taylor says:

    Mark – I hope you're right.John – I hear you. God forbid we actually EXPLAIN everything to kids so they can make their own choices as apposed to just pushing our opinions onto them. Donohue's one-sided opinions scare me on many levels but the most frightening thought is that we only see one side of ANY story and then form an opinion.

  3. Luigi Novi says:

    Good essay, John. It was great to read some of your stuff again.Um, by the way, I still haven't gotten my grade for that Spider-Man story I did for my final project in your class in 1994……..

    • John Ostrander says:

      We'll assume teacher error and retro assign you an A since i have no idea what I did with it at this point. And I trust that SINCE 1994 you've discovered just HOW important a grade is in the real world.Nice hearing from you, Luigi.

  4. Rick Oliver says:

    I'm going to get those Jews in Hollywood to back my big-budget remake of The Devils, starring a CGI version of Oliver Reed!

  5. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    Movie companies PRAY for controversy. The natural human response when you are told not to look at look at something is to look. Banned things become twice as desirable. Heck, it's the plot point of the first main story in the bible.

  6. Allyn Gibson says:

    John, one correction.C.S. Lewis was an Anglican, not a Roman Catholic, much to his friend Tolkien's disappointment. (Tolkien was a Roman Catholic.)

    • John Ostrander says:

      My mistake — although I used to say that High Anglianism was RC Lite — all the ritual, none of the guilt.

      • Dan says:

        I've used the same line, except substitute Lutherans for High Anglicanism. Still works.

      • mike weber says:

        Really high High Church Anglican often seems more Catholic than Catholic chuirches.Incense, asperges, the whole nine yards.My Dad told a story of when he was a senior acolyte in the High Church Episcopal church his family attended – duirng the Eucharist, it was the duty of the senior aoclyte who was not serving the priest in the consecration to press a button by the altar where he was kneeling to ring a chime to symbolise the miracle of transubstantiation. Thedre was a button next to where the acolyte was supposed to kneel.One day, during an ordinary Morning Prayer service, as the priest was reading the Gospel, Dad's knees were a bit sore, and he shifted some – and didn't look where he was going.Ding Dong…

    • Scavenger says:

      Oh, like you'd know!Oh, you would?(Hi Allyn…everyone one else was saying hi to old friends, so I thought I should too:)

  7. mike weber says:

    I don't believe that C.S.Lewis was Roman Catholic; he was what is described as an "Anglo-Catholic" – probably pretty much what the Church of England was immediately after Henry nationalised the monasteries (thank you, Flanders & Swann) and granted himself a do-it-yourself divorce…

  8. mike weber says:

    Something else i meant to say:My wife Kate, who is almost aggressively non- (not exactly anti-) Christian, refused to read the next two books after "Golden Compass" because she didn't care for the overall negativity she perceived.I also felt that they were pretty well non-positive, shall we say, but persevered.I wonder how Donohue is going to react to the two rebellious angels with the … unconventional … relationship in the final book if it gets filmed.

  9. John Ostrander says:

    One of the points of my essay is how folks like Donohue often have an agenda separate from what their stated concerns are. I saw a fascinating documentary on Nova this week called "Judgement Day" that was about the effort to force the Dover school system in PA to teach "intelligent design" aka "creationism" side by side with Darwin's theory of evolution in the science class. One of those interviewed was Phillip E. Johnson, an early proponent of "intelligent design" in his book "Darwin On Trial". What underlines his rejection of evolution is that he sees it, essentially, as a sign of moral decay. In an interview that can read on the Nova site about the documentary (, he links "evolution" with what he calls "naturalism". In the interview he defines that as "Naturalism says nature is all there is, and nature is made of those particles.. . .A philosophy of naturalism or materialism is what generates the Darwinian theory." He says there is a good and bad side to this and adds, "The negative side is that the naturalistic viewpoint leaves the way open for a kind of freedom from divine authority, a kind of moral anarchy." As revealed in the special, in a later book on "The Wedge", he states that when evolution is overturned, there will be a return to morality, as he sees it. That, I think, is the underlying agenda and it works with Donohue as well. Whatever they SAY, what they're after is a society that conforms to THEIR beliefs and that is, to my mind, fundamentally and inherently anti-American. It's why there is a separation between church and state. It is black and white thinking — if you don't share their views on God (like the very existence of the same), then you are WRONG. Their beliefs are absolute. To my mind, there is no essential difference between them and the fundamentalists Islamic mullahs. There is their way or there is HELL. That's why there can be no compromise on abortion or homosexuality among others.Films/books like THE GOLDEN COMPASS are excuses to advance the underlying philosophy. Stated concerns about "the children" are simply excuses. It's a culture war and has been for some time.

  10. Rick Taylor says:

    Ah, Mr. Oliver, politically correct as ever. How's it going Pliver?

  11. Dan says:

    I've used the same line, except I substitute Lutherans for High Anglicanism. Still works.

    • Rick Taylor says:

      I was raised Lutheran and was told during my entire experience in the church that we 'weren't Catholic'.Years later I went to a Catholic funeral and really couldn't see any difference between the two.From that point on I referred to the Lutheran religion as "Catholic Lite'.

  12. Marilee J. Layman says:

    Years ago, when I did the day-to-day management of OMNI magazine's forum on AOL, I checked the SFF library and found a file waiting for check and to be released. It was the first chapter of The Golden Compass. I read it to check for Terms of Service violations and thought it was well-written, but boring. I have a strong preference for SF rather than fantasy. I emailed Pullman to tell him I was releasing the file he'd uploaded and forgot about it until a bit later when it suddenly became popular. So I'm not going to the movie.I understand why some religious people are insistent about protecting their beliefs. After all, even though I was an atheist starting at age six, I pretended to be an evangelical fundamentalist Christian until I left home because my father already hurt me every day and I was pretty sure he'd kill me if I embarrassed him at church.It taught me to evaluate what people tell you is true. We, as people in general, tend to be led by persuasive, beguiling people. The most important thing we need to teach kids is critical thinking. If they blindly believe people, they will become those people. All I have to do is look at my brother for evidence.

  13. Rick Oliver says:

    IMHO, those who view Pullman's work as an anti-Christian or anti-religious screed are somewhat myopic. The true target of Pullman's ire is dogma, and dogma is not restricted to any particular faith or religion in general. The various scientific fields are crippled by their own forms of dogma that discourage the free flow of new ideas. Religion may be the most visible offender, but it doesn't have a monopoly on dogma.

  14. Marilee J. Layman says:

    A new study shows that it isn't "influentials" that make trends, it's "easily-influenced" people:

  15. Matthew Ceplina says:

    Interesting link. I agree with the statement. But then again, its easy to influence me.John, you provided another reason to see the movie in theaters. Probably won't see it opening weekend though.

  16. Steve Atkins says:

    There was a similar "pre-emptive strike" in the Bible Belt when it became obvious that the Harry Potter phenomenon was catching on in the region. These kinds of people remind me of all the accounts of Wertham and his unnecessary tolling of the alarm bells that I have heard and read about.What a load of you-know-what.

  17. Elayne Riggs says:

    Donohue was also the idiot whose wacko minions succeeded in getting two prominent bloggers, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, fired from John Edwards' presidential campaign. He's about as unAmerican as they come.

  18. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    We need to do one of those online questionnaires like the which hobbit are you things, except it's "which Christian are you?" Ask questions about beliefs on certain touchy issues and have the program suggest the best sect and schism for you. Any takers?

  19. John Tebbel says:

    It's great to see Bill Donohue begin to get some of the roasting he deserves.As bad as he is, cheifly as the assistant to Daily News reporters who need a controversy on deadline, Donohue is a cat's-paw. He does the work his bosses in the uniformed clergy know is impolitic. The bosses can pretend to care only about angels' choreography and immortal souls while Bill Donohue, Inquisitor, can wallow in the trenches to lie and snort and bleat and humiliate good artists and the good audiences that support them. So all join in to counter-smear Bill Donohue but reserve your old-school American, tyranny-hating hate for his masters.

  20. Jeff Barrett says:

    You know, part of me has been waiting for the controversy to start over The Golden Compass. I heard about the books quite a while ago, but never got around to reading them until I found out a movie was being made based on the first one, so I made sure to read through before the controversy hit so I had enough perspective to know who to laugh at.The books speak strongly about dogma, but this is the first I heard Pullman was atheist himself. I never particularly thought they were anti-Christian, at worst they sounded like they were written by a disillusioned or former Christian. One event in particular, during the climax of the series (Which I won't spoil), struck me as rather profound. It was quite simple, and what it said, to me, was that the church we see is not the church that was meant to be. The church we see has locked away the old church, and if and when find it, it may be too late to go back.

  21. mika says:

    I think your stupid for in the movie golden compass you kill my GOD and im going to protest against you now im only 12 but i love my god and you cant stop me