Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Gospel According To Tony Pony

I'm currently reading The Gospel According To Peanuts by Robert L. Short. Short makes the point that the Christian Church has made a grave error in its stark, in-your-face, at times accusatory manner. It's like hitting somebody over the head with a hammer. He looks instead to Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts, which contains many Christian messages but presents them in a radically palatable (subliminal?) way.

Now granted, The Gospel According To Peanuts was written in the early 1960s. But, I think the idea still holds true to an extent.

I really like Jamie Cosley's work because he does much what Schulz did. In works like the classic More Than Sparrows and his latest comic Nobody Likes Tony Pony, Cosley's primary mission is not to preach, but to entertain. But, just as his faith is a part of his life, it's part of the world he puts down on paper as well.

Nobody Likes Tony Pony is made up of a series of one-page comic strips surrounding a dysfunctional office dynamic along the lines of The Office and Dilbert. Tony Pony is, to an extent, a bit of a boob -- he's shat upon by birds, accidentally farts in his customer's faces, and is in generally a mediocre salesman. But, much like Charlie Brown, he tries to be a good person.

Tony also tries to be a good Christian, but Cosley carefully examines his motives and shines a spotlight when they're less than 100% sincere or smart. Cosley keeps Tony honest. When Tony piously reads a Bible verse about being "saved" from riches, his wife resignedly asks if he will not be getting his commission check this week. And when he reads with tears in his eyes to his son a story about a preacher rejecting a Batman toy as an false idol, his son says, "If he tried to take my Batman, I'd kick him in his nuggets!"

Nobody Likes Tony Pony is a one-shot available online for $2.50.


  1. That sounds pretty nice. I'm with you about the Peanuts theology. It is so much more palatable coming from such a... I don't know... reasonable, intellectual, non-confrontational way. I guess that's the way I absorbed it, versus the "fire and brimstone" stuff my father was subjected to as a child.

    I'm in favor of creators drawing on their belief systems, as long as it doesn't get in the way of the fictional functionality of the storytelling... or, to be honest, it's not something I find indefensible; i.e., outright hate speech or something I know to be actually factually incorrect.

    Whereas many artists actually do this in ways I appreciate. Pedro the Lion, Bono (well, maybe he actaully does preach a bit much), Mike Allred, Andy Partridge (to kinda didactic too, but a great songwriter and I wanted to include a non-believer) just to name 4.

    Most if not all the people in my family are Christians, and this would be just the kind of thing they'd really enjoy and I'd feel good about getting for them.

    Also I hated the idea you would give something like this some blog notice and people would just seemingly ignore it in favor of controversy or something.

    Not me!

  2. Richard Beck did a series of short essays
    on the theology of Peanuts
    over at his blog Experimental Theology.
    He's a pretty insightful guy, even when (sometimes especially when) I disagree with what he has to say.

  3. Nobody Likes Tony Pony is indeed an excellent book. I also highly recommend Colsey's "More Than Sparrows", "Nippy Wallaboosh" and, if you can find it anywhere, "Big Honkin Bugnut."

  4. Thanks for the great comments!

    I'm not really familiar with Tony Pony. But I have friends that dig the comic....perhaps it's time to give it a look.

  5. I really liked MORE THAN SPARROWS, because it had a lot of heart. You know, it wasn't trying to push any beliefs on its audience, it just presented them as important to the characters. This is what the protagonist believed, and he was trying his hardest to live up to it and do the right thing, save somebody who was self-destructive. It makes far more case for Christian ethics by being a work (and character) worth emulating than 1000 wags of Jack Chick's finger.