Comics: Supergirl and The Fall
Supergirl #25 (1996)
God is a ten year old boy wearing a bow tie and calls himself Wally. You didn’t know that? You have obviously never read Peter David’s run on Supergirl from the 90s. Oh, and Supergirl is an angel. What has all this got to do with Genesis 2-3? Good question.
Superhero comics and religion have had a long (yet uneasy) relationship. One of the “heroes” of the Golden Age of comics in the 1940s was the Spectre – God’s Wrath personified as a white skinned guy in a green cloak with matching speedos and booties. He’d go around dishing out the ironic punishments and generally being all other-wordly. More on him another time.
Many comics have dealt with the topic of religion ever since. One of them is Peter David’s run on Supergirl in the 90s. David used the Supergirl title to explore issues of religion and morality. At one point, I think Supergirl became some kind of ancient Fire Angel. I’m not too sure. Supergirl sure got confusing at that point. In Supergirl #25. Wally (who may or may not be God) is talking with Sylvia (Supergirl’s mum. Sort of. Kinda. Why don’t we just move along…) Sylvia is having a moment of doubt. She’s asking the question “If God exists, why do bad things happen?” That question sound familiar? It should, as it’s one that people everywhere have asked for what feels like forever.
Wally makes this statement – “Omniscient means that God knows all there is right now… But not all there is to know.” The argument is that God didn’t know that Adam and Eve would eat the fruit in the Garden of Eden. That he was ignorant of what would happen and that it was all a big experiment. He can’t see into the future and is ultimately as clueless as the rest of us what would happen next. Mankind acts as some big experiment where man and God learn from each other and become better beings because of it.
It’s nice in theory, however I believe this is inconsistent with the Bible. In Genesis chapter 3, the same chapter where Adam and Eve eat the fruit, God punishes the two first humans and the snake. As he punishes them he says to the snake “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) From the very start, God is showing that he knows how all this will end. From day one, he knew that he would be sending Jesus.
In 2 Samuel 7, God promises King David that one of his decendants would reign forever. Again, promising the coming of Jesus. God has a plan. He is not ignorant of events. He is not taking things one day at a time and seeing how he goes. He is acting deliberately and purposefully. In the Gospels, we see the arival of Jesus into this world. This arrival is part of the plan. And it is only the first stages of the plan – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)
Jesus is the rescue plan. Jesus is the answer to the problem of evil in this world. God is aware that there is a problem. God is aware that bad things happen in this world. And God is aware that the reason for this evil, the cause of all these bad things, is sin. It is our rebellion that is the cause of all that is wrong. And through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God puts it right.
We have to wait until Jesus returns before we will see the full plan in action. When that day comes, evil will be wiped out for good. This is the promise God makes to us. This is what we see in the Book of Revelation. God is not ignorant of the future. He’s got it all mapped out. God is in complete control. Nothing can force him to deviate from his plan. There can be no spanners in the works, or last minute hiccups. God knows what he is doing, God loves us, and God has a plan to save us.
In Supergirl’s world, God may be a 10 year old boy with some clever sayings and mysterious nature. In my world, the world of the Bible, God is a real and powerful force who knows what he is doing and is doing it out of love for us.
I was wondering if you read all of Peter David’s Supergirl run? If you did, there are a few clues as to who Wally is, and isn’t. (IMO? He’s God, but not really. He’s the “reformed” image of the Carnivore, who became God but then lost his Godhood. But then, could God, who is omnipresent at all places and times, become one entity one moment, and then NOT that entity a moment later? Can the finite that has achieved infinity become finite again?)
My head hurts now. I’m gonna lie down.
Hi Chance, thanks for dropping in and commenting. Yes I have read the full run of PAD’s Supergirl. I’ve been a fan of his since I started collecting comics. One of the first series I read was Young Justice.
I didn’t want to dwell too much on the nature of Wally in Supergirl. Yes, it is a tad complicated. I rewrote my introduction to this post several times before just giving in and just running with it. What I did want to look at were the two pages of Wally explaining original sin. I thought it would be a good exercise in theological thinking.
While I love PAD’s work (X-Force and She-Hulk are great reads at the moment), I don’t always agree with the beliefs he puts forward in his work. And that’s okay. In fact it’s more than okay. I like being challenged by different views. Wally isn’t my God. But I can still enjoy the comic!
Yeah, Wally was a bit hard to get a grapple on. When a character who claims to be God is introduced into any fictional medium, its like the 800-pound gorilla in the room. EVERYTHING comes into play. Good, evil, free will, destiny, chance (no, not ME…like I haven’t heard that before)…and about everything else. If done skillfully, a story can be truly epic. If done wrong, the character becomes little more than a crutch to bail out a lazy writer. Having trouble getting a character from point A to point B? Let little boy Wally come in to speed things up. Hey, he’s God…who’s gonna argue?
Actually, that was a bit flippant. PAD’s use of Wally was actually pretty good about 75% of the time. Most of the time he was Deus…but sometimes he was just Deus ex Machina.
As for your other points, you might be being a bit harsh on PAD and his explanation of the Fall in Supergirl. Remember, even if we can go with the idea that Wally was God, it is the God of the DC Universe and must be looked at in that context. and PAD had to WRITE it in that context. So to say that you don’t agree with “his beliefs” might be a little off the mark. I believe its a bit of a stretch to say that Wally’s words in #25 are a direct statement of what Peter David particularly believes and ignores a few degrees of editorial context. Of the DC Universe in general and the Supergirl series in particular.
But hey, at least PAD had the skill to write it in a thoughtful way.
You make a good point, Chance. The God of the DCU is not the God of the real world. When you have to take in to account characters like The Spectre, Eclipso and Zauriel, you’re going to have to change the rules. It would be a struggle to come up with an explanation that fits in with everything that a comic book universe creates over 70 years (this month celebrates the 70th anniversary of Superman!).
Yes, the God of PAD’s Supergirl series is different to the God of the real world. And he did write in a very thought provoking and challenging way. And hopefully I was able to take what he wrote and use it to spark thought and discussion about the Fall both in the DCU and the real world :)
What did you think about Supergirl as an Earth Angel?
What did I think of Supergirl as an Earth Angel? Well, I think it was the best incarnation of Supergirl ever….though that opinion’s coming from a guy who’s not the biggest fan of the current Supergirl at the moment.
I mean, considering what PAD had to start with, a shapeshifting blob of protoplasm, its a near miracle he made the character truly come into her own while at the same time mixing in old cast members from the past. It was both innovative and retro….which is basically PAD’s style if you look at his body of work. He’s a very creative guy who still has an appreciation for (gasp!) continuity. A rarity these day.
Now, if you’re asking if I like the CONCEPT of Supergirl as an Earth Angel, I have to say I didn’t seem to be bothered by it like some people. In fact, taken as a whole, the Earth Angel saga is much like Alan Moore’s Earth Elemental take on Swamp Thing all those years ago . (Man, I feel old.) In fact, if the public had taken to the Earth Angel saga more, I would have bet the parallels between Swamp Thing and Supergirl would have gotten a whole lot deeper…but that’s for another time.