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brilliant writing
exceptional art
historical bonus 4
total score 10
new adventures of jesus _ jesus meets the armed services 1st _ jesus comics 3
New Advent...Jesus
Jesus...Armed Services
Jesus Comics #3
Foolbert Sturgeon's Jesus Comics
1969-1972 / Rip Off Press

Frank Stack (aka Foolbert Sturgeon) produced three of the funniest social and religious satire comic books in history during the golden age of underground comics. But the origin of these books stretches far back into the early 1960s, when the first seeds of counterculture comics were being sewn in college humor magazines (as well as fanzines). In the late '50s, Stack had edited one of the most notorious college humor magazines, The Texas Ranger, while he was a student at the University of Texas in Austin. He began drawing his satirical comics about Jesus Christ and the New Testament in 1961, but back then the comics were too controversial (read blasphemous) to be published in any college-sanctioned humor magazine.

By 1964, Stack had earned his master's degree and landed a job as an art professor at the University of Missouri. But he kept drawing the Jesus comics and would send copies of the strips to his buddy and former fellow student in Austin, Gilbert Shelton, who had also served as the editor of The Texas Ranger. After Shelton had received a dozen Jesus strips, he arranged to have about 40 sets of the comics photocopied and stapled into a booklet to share with friends on campus. Shelton drew a simple front cover for the booklet and entitled it The Adventures of Jesus, with a byline that stated "Written and Illustrated by F.S."

adventures of jesus 1st
Of course, the "F.S." in the byline stood for Frank Stack, but as a college professor with some standing in the community, Stack was not eager to associate his name with such nefarious comic strips. He devised the pseudonym Foolbert Sturgeon to obscure the identity of "F.S.", at least for a few years. In 1969, after underground comic books had flourished in the counterculture, Stack retained the nom de plume when he began his long career in cartooning, but it soon became more of an accessory than a pseudonym as public recognition and accolades engulfed him.

Rip Off Press was co-founded by Gilbert Shelton in January, 1969, and he had not forgotten The Adventures of Jesus. When Stack crafted a new series of comic strips about Jesus, Shelton and Rip Off Press published the work in The New Adventures of Jesus. The book quickly sold out its first printing (and had three more), leading to Stack producing the equally successful Jesus Meets the Armed Services, an uproarious skewering of American military culture. The series concluded (for the time being) with Jesus Comics #3, in which Jesus takes a teaching job at a university, leading to several memorable encounters with students and faculty. At the end of the book, Jesus attends a faculty party in an extended episode that provides one sharp stab at the sanctimonious academic community after another.

Stack contributed to dozens of other comic books (including some extraordinary work for American Splendor) and produced an extensive amount of fine art over the next four decades, but he has repeatedly revisited the Jesus theme with comic stories that edged further away from religious satire and closer to social commentary. The ongoing develoment of his relationship with Jesus as a character (and not as a savior, but as someone who "plays a savior in real life") is a fascinating evolution. Each of the three books in this particular series is unique in its own way and offers Stack's genius in all its splendor.