Chester Brown's Gospel adaptations
Chester Brown adapted Gospel of Mark and part of the Gospel of Matthew to comics; installments appeared in his comic books Yummy Fur and Underwater. Brown ran the first installment of the Gospel of Mark in Yummy Fur #4 in 1987, and left Matthew unfinished after cancelling Underwater in 1997. Brown had planned to do all four of the canonical gospels, but in 2011 stated that it's unlikely he will finish even Matthew.
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The Gospel of Mark
|Appearances of The Gospel of Mark|
|Yummy Fur # 4||April 1987||Mark 1:01-39|
|Yummy Fur # 5||June 1987||Mark 1:40–3:12|
|Yummy Fur # 6||August 1987||Mark 3:13–4:14|
|Yummy Fur # 7||1987||Mark 5:1–6:6|
|Yummy Fur # 8||November 1987||Mark 6:6–7:23|
|Yummy Fur # 9||March 1988||Mark 7:24–8:21|
|Yummy Fur #10||May 1988||Mark 8:22–9:13|
|Yummy Fur #11||July 1988||Mark 9:14–10:34|
|Yummy Fur #12||September 1988||Mark 10:35–12:27|
|Yummy Fur #13||November 1988||Mark 12:28–14:52|
|Yummy Fur #14||January 1989||Mark 14:53–16:20|
Begun in issue #4 of Yummy Fur in 1987, Mark started as a more-or-less straight, abridged illustration of the Gospel of Mark. The adaptation became more idiosyncratic as it developed, however. On pages 55 and 56 Brown wove into the story a passage from the Secret Gospel of Mark, a highly contentious and disputed document said to have been written by Clement of Alexandria that Professor Morton Smith claimed to have discovered in 1958.
When asked, Brown wrote in Yummy Fur #15 that he had a large number of sources for his adaptation of Mark. The most books he referred to most frequently were:
- Green, Jay P., Sr. (editor), The Pocket Interlinear New Testament, Baker Book House (1979)
- The New International Version of the Bible
- The King James Version of the Bible
- Gaus, A. (translator), The Unvarnished Gospels, Threshold Books (1988), ISBN 978-0-939660-25-4
- Nineham, D.E., Saint Mark: The Pelican New Testament Commentaries The Gospel of St. Mark, Pelican (1972)
- Laymon, Charles M. (editor), The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible, Abingdon Press (1971)
- Smith, Morton, The Secret Gospel, Dawn Horse Press (1973), about the Secret Gospel of Mark
- Smith, Morton, Jesus the Magician: Charlatan or Son of God?, Harper & Row (1978)
The Gospel of Matthew
Brown's gospels gained a reputation for being "ingeniously blasphemous" mainly from his Matthew retellings. In contrast to Mark's Jesus, who is "serene and always in control," in Matthew he is a scowling, balding figure, and "there is a more radicalized disbelief and a greater focus on the fleshy and earthly aspects of the story." Brown's depiction of the Matthew's version of the Saviour is "a Jesus that shouts. He's a Jesus that screams", his face "haggard and worn, his dark hair matted and stringy".
As Brown has pointed out, starting with the full-issue installment of Matthew in Yummy Fur #32, he deliberately changed Jesus' third-person references to himself to first-person references in the dialogue.
Amongst the books Brown cited for his Matthew adaptation are:
- Shaberg, Jane. The Illegitimacy of Jesus: A Feminist Theological Interpretation of the Infancy Narratives. Harper & Row (1987)
- Maccoby, Hyam. The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity. Harper & Row (1986)
- Barnstone, Willis (editor). The Other Bible: Jewish Pseudepigrapha, Christian Apocrypha, Gnostic Scriptures, Kabbalah, Dead Sea Scrolls. Harper & Row (1984)
- Schonfield, Hugh. The Original New Testament. Harper & Row (1985)
Matthew has been on hiatus since 1997, with the story left with Jesus about to enter Jerusalem. Brown had long said he planned on coming back to the story, but in an interview at The Comics Journal in 2011, he said he would not likely finish it, as his heart was no longer in it.
|This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (April 2011)|
The Gospel adaptations have generally been well-accepted by fans and critics. John Bell calls them Brown's most important uncollected work.
Relation to Brown's other work
- "The Twin", a story of young Jesus adapted from a story from the Gnostic text Pistis Sophia, which appears in The Little Man
- Various religious imagery in Ed the Happy Clown, especially Jesus' quote, "If thy hand offend thee cut it off", and the character Chet's religious remorse over having sex with Josie the vampire that leads to him murdering her
- his thinking about buying an issue of Playboy while sitting in church that opens The Playboy
- his battles with his mother over wearing his Sunday clothes in I Never Liked You
- Louis Riel's talking with God in the graphic novel of the same name.
- Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus, which features adaptation of various biblical episodes
- Juno, pg 143
- Rogers, part 3
- Hwang, Francis (1998-12-23). "Graven Images". City Pages. Retrieved 2011-04-26.
- Seth Interviews Chester Brown, hosted at sequential.spiltink.org. Retrieved 2011-05-15.
- Walker, Benjamin; Chester Brown (2011-05-17). The Difference Between Giving and Taking (a conversation with Chester Brown) (Audio). (Interview). Retrieved 2011-05-23.
- Epp, Darell (2002-01-29). "Two-Handed Man interviews cartoonist Chester Brown". twohandedman.com. Archived from the original on May 9, 2008. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- Underwater #7. pages 26–27
- The indicia for this issue doesn't state the month
- Ng Sat Tong (July 2004). "Old Wine in New Wineskins: The Gospel According to Chester Brown". The Comics Journal. Fantagraphics Books (261): 31–37. Retrieved 2011-04-07.
Brown's Mark does not read like the work of someone who is challenging received wisdom but an exercise in illustration.
- Yummy Fur #15, page 24
- Ng Sat Tong (July 2004). "Old Wine in New Wineskins: The Gospel According to Chester Brown". The Comics Journal. Fantagraphics Books (261): 31–37. Retrieved 2011-04-07hosted at The Hooded Utilitarian
NB: the online version is slightly different from the print version—most notably, the 2004 article includes an image from Robert Crumb's Book of Genesis, which wasn't published until 2009
- Underwater #7. page 26
- Underwater #9. page 26
- Bell, page 160
- The Little Man, page 163
- Brown, Chester. Yummy Fur #15. Vortex Comics, March 1989
- Brown, Chester. Underwater #7. Drawn and Quarterly, August 1996
- Brown, Chester. Underwater #9. Drawn and Quarterly, April 1997
- Juno, Andrea. Dangerous Drawings. Interview with Chester Brown. Juno Books, LLC (1997). pp 130–147. ISBN 0-9651042-8-1
- Brown, Chester. The Little Man: Short Stories 1980–1995. Drawn and Quarterly, 1998. ISBN 1-896597-13-0
- Bell, John. "Invaders from the North: how Canada conquered the comic book universe". Dundurn Press, Ltd., 2006. ISBN 978-1-55002-659-7
- Rogers, Sean. A John’s Gospel: The Chester Brown Interview part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. The Comics Journal. 2011-05-09. Retrieved 2011-05-17.