[disinfo ed.’s note: Russ Kick, the first disinformation author has, gasp, written not one but three books for another publisher (it’s okay, we like them), the first of which is coming out on May 22nd: The Graphic Canon, Vol. 1: From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons. Russ and Seven Stories Press have kindly given us a sneak preview.]
The final book of the New Testament, and thus the Christian Bible as a whole, the Book of Revelation just might be the strangest work in the entire literary canon. Populated by the Whore of Babylon, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Beast, a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, locusts with human faces, a seven-headed dragon, a false prophet, Satan, angels blowing trumpets of destruction, and other bizarre characters, this series of four visions has been interpreted as a literal guide to the fiery, blood-soaked end of the world as we know it and the establishment of Christ’s 1,000-year kingdom on Earth, as a coded guide to spiritual development, and as an intense mushroom trip.
In his book on Revelation, Jonathan Kirsch writes:
For anyone who reads the book of Revelation from beginning to end, the experience resembles a fever-dream or a nightmare: strange figures and objects appear and disappear and reappear, and the author himself flashes back and forth in time and place, sometimes finding himself in heaven and sometimes on earth, sometimes in the here and now and sometimes in the end-times, sometimes watching from afar and sometimes caught up in the events he describes. The author refers to the same characters by different names and titles, and he describes the same incidents from different vantage points. All the while, the characters and incidents, the words and phrases, even the letters and numbers of Revelation seem to shimmer with symbolic meanings that always float just out of reach.
Believers say the book was written by the Apostle John, but most scholars contend that it was written around 92–96 CE by an otherwise unknown early Christian prophet named John. Kirsch notes that the Book of Revelation is
deeply woven into the fabric of Western civilization, both in high culture and in pop culture, starting in distant biblical antiquity and continuing into our own age. The Battle of Armageddon, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Seventh Seal, the Great Whore of Babylon, and, more obliquely, the Antichrist, the Grim Reaper, and the Grapes of Wrath have migrated from the pages of Revelation to some of our most exalted works of literature, art, and music as well as the sports pages, the movie screen, and the paperback best seller.
. . . The conquest of Jerusalem by medieval crusaders, the Bonfire of the Vanities in Florence during the Renaissance, the naming of the newly discovered Americas as the New World, and the thousand-year Reich promised by Adolf Hitler are all examples of the unlikely and unsettling ways that the book of Revelation has resonated through history.
Revelation has been called “the one great poem which the first Christian age produced.” Thomas Jefferson said that it’s “merely the ravings of a maniac.”
When I approached Rick Geary—for many years, a regular contributor to National Lampoon and MAD magazine—about doing an adaptation for this anthology, I expected that he would choose a work of Victorian literature. He had already done the eight-volume, nonfiction graphic-novel series A Treasury of Victorian Murder (Jack the Ripper, Lizzie Borden, Abraham Lincoln . . .) and had adapted works from Dickens, Twain, Poe, and others from the 1800s. I was surprised and excited that he chose Revelation, managing to condense the chaotic work into twelve dense pages and delivering one extraordinary visual after another.
Source: Kirsch, Jonathan. A History of the End of the World: How the Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed the Course of Western Civilization. HarperOne, 2007
Check out some more of the Graphic Canon in this video flip-through: