Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Family of Love Promo Comic

Spiritual Love Goes Physical

In the early 1980s I found this exceedingly odd comic-style pamphlet on the ground at a street fair. I will read anything in comics format (even Jack Chick comics!), so I studied this strange mingling of soft-core porn and Christian proselytizing with increasing disbelief. The comic came from the Family of Love, a cult which began in the 1960s as the famous (one might say notorious) Children of God.

The history of the Family, which continues today as The Family International, may be found in this Wikipedia article. Suffice it to say that the cult was started by one David Berg (who was not working for Mad magazine). Its members lived communally, studied Scripture, and apparently enjoyed considerable sexual liberty.

In 1974, Berg (aka "Father David") conceived a proselytizing tool for the new age, "flirty fishing." Female Family members were encouraged to find love-starved males through escort services and share God's love with them physically. By chance many of these liaisons involved money passing from saved to savior; this point led to later accusations that the Family ran a prostitution ring. Read the details in the Wiki article.

It's interesting to note that the Family shared a trait with many other sexualized cults through the years. Some old guy, touched by God, suddenly found himself surrounded by available young (allegedly sometimes very young) women. Given my advancing years, I've concluded this might be a good time for me to consider starting my own cult.

"Is Love Against the Law" justifies and promotes flirty fishing without naming it. Perhaps the Family figured men would read the comic, then join the cult in hopes of finding busty girls taking notes while wearing transparent shirts. The 8-page strip was offset-printed on both sides of a 6-1/2 by 11-1/2 inch sheet of paper. The paper was folded into four segments in an arcane manner that made it easy to read the story out of sequence. Art was credited to "Zebulon Geppetto." The only reference I found to ZG on Google was in the Family's archived correspondence. Someone had chastized him for illustrating a "false" story criticizing Berg and the cult. ZG credited the cover layout to a co-worker, "Eman Artist."

All things considered the artwork is pretty good for an amateur comic. It surely beats the clunky stuff in Jack Chick mini-comics. But Jack Chick would consider the Family allies of the Devil, and the Devil always seems to get the best artists.


Paul Chadwick said...

It would be cool if Joe Staton was the "Eman Artist" mentioned, but it's nothing like his style.

A great oddball find, context nicely explained. I wonder why the California cult phenomenon seems to have faded away. It's not like there's a dearth of naive young lost souls.

Maybe it was a epiphenomenon of a large, prosperous middle class.

Best panel surely must be "I am God's Love!".

Smurfswacker said...

You may be on to something. Certainly most 1960s hippies (from which movement the Family seems to have sprung) were rejecting prosperous middle-class lifestyles in favor of something that seemed to them simpler and more truthful.

Perhaps there are just as many people today whose emotional makeups incline them toward escaping into a cult. The difference is the type of cult they join. During good economic times, love-peace-sex cults. During bad times, apocalyptic cults, religious fundamentalism, militias, etc.

And the Internet has changed so many aspects of human (non)interaction. Today you can join a cult anywhere in the world without leaving the comfort of your room.

Kip W said...

I remember a Children of God flyer from the 70s (I might still have the damn thing) and wondering if "Eman Artist" had anything to do with Staton. It was some take on Don Quixote, equating the CoG with the noble, silly quest. There wasn't enough art to judge from, and Staton was able to do different styles (parody) as required, so I was never sure.

It came down to this: Why on earth would he sign that way? It made no sense. I wondered if "Eman" was supposed to be name spelled backwards, which was also cryptic and bizarre, but which didn't have to drag Mr. Staton into it! (A Google search indicates that one Hugo Westphal used the pseudonym.)

Anyway, it's good to have another sample to evaluate. (In other news, Staton has illustrated a comic version of Ayn Rand's hideously boring little "Anthem." For money, I hope.)

Smurfswacker said...

Back in the day I also wondered if "Eman Artist" meant E-Man Artist Joe Staton. But even though Staton is versatile, I never found any signs of him in Eman's work. I suspect it was just a variation on "Name." Name Artist, maybe?

The Don Quixote strip you describe may explain why some CoG followers called him a traitor.

I haven't heard Hugo Westphal's name before. I'll have to look him up. Now how about Gepetto?

The world would have done just fine without a comics adaptation of Ayn Rand.

Dave Schroeder said...

Apparently Rose McGowan's father, Daniel McGowan, illustrated many of these CoG pamphlets:


Dave Schroeder said...

This site states that Hugo Westphal was a primary illustrator:


"Hugo Albert Westphal, Jr. (U.S. citizen; born January 9, 1950; pseudonyms include Eman Artist, Snowy, and Al Eastman) grew up in Texas and was a longtime Mo Letter artist, especially known for illustrating the Flirty Fishing Mo Letters."