With Further Ado #281: Evangeline and Back Issue Magazine

Back Issue Magazine #149 focuses on “80s Indie Heroes”. There’s a wonderful interview with Don Simpson focusing on Megaton Man (and more), Jarrod Buttery has a fantastic article on an old favorite, Aztec Ace, and there’s so much from outstanding creators like Steven Grant, Doug Moench, Chris Warner -and more.

For this issue, I contributed an article on Evangeline. It was a fascinating 80s series about, in essence, a nun with a gun. It was engaging, fresh, and then it was gone. Here’s an excerpt from my article:

A Cross to Bear

Although popular in movies and books for many years, nuns were seldom depicted in comics outside of Treasure Chest and Catholic Comics . These wholesome series routinely offered stories where nuns were important characters and sometimes even featured on the covers.

One other exception was Dell’s four issue series The Flying Nun. This was adapted from a TV show about an order of nuns in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Sister Bertrille, played by Sally Fields, was an idealistic nun who could tilt her cornette (headpiece) into the winds in such a way that she could fly.

What do the Flying Nun, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie have in common? In each of these, the female protagonist had a power or ability that needed to be kept secret from the world at large.

The theme of secrecy continued in 1984 with the story of a nun with a secret life.

Imagine how jarring it was in when Comico Primer #6 introduced the world to a nun with a gun! Set in near-future world, readers met a nun who was secretly an assassin for the Catholic church. Her name was Sister Evangeline.

Priming the Pump : Comico Primer

Today it might be called “a soft launch”, but a short feature in Comico Primer #6 introduced fans to Evangeline and to her creators, the husband-wife team of Charles Dixon and Judith Hunt.

The cover featured Evangeline and summed up the series premise with the juxtaposition of a nun praying, complete with stained glass in the background, contrasted with a full figure illustration of the character in a ready-for-action style jumpsuit, pistol in hand.

Editors Matt Wagner and Reggie Beyers proudly trumpeted the series in the text page:

The big news for this issue is, of course, Evangeline. The exciting tale of how the church handles its future is the brain-child of Charles Dixon and Judith Hunt, a husband and wife team that will be expanding their legend to premier in its own color title in February. This series is sure to be a winner, so watch out for it.

This initial short story, evocative of a Spaghetti Western movie, takes place on “The fifth and smallest planet in the Rigel system, a barren dustball, worth only a small profit to the food co-op that owns it.” Cruel men take charge and the situation is dire. The scene shifts to Rome and specifically the Vatican. After being informed of the circumstances, the Pope advises his subordinate to “Send Evangeline.”

Foreshadowing future ownership disputes, the bottom of the first page of this story has a hand-lettered note :

© Charles Dixon, Judith Hunt + Comico.

Evangeline arrives on the planet in full nun regalia and is initially subservient and docile, as is often the case for comic book heroes when they maintain in their “secret identity”,

The tension soon ratchets up and she is in full action-movie mode! At the climax of this short story, Evangeline with rifle in hand, confronts the cruel antagonist. He looks on in horror and stammers, “You were disguised as a nun!”

Evenhandedly, Evangeline replies: “No disguise. I am a nun.”

The criminal laughs at the absurdity of the situation even as Evangeline shoots him. The last panel of the page shows her praying over his corpse.

If you’re interested and want to read more – Back Issue Magazine #149 is on sale now. There are so many outstanding articles in this issue. It’s at your favorite comic shop (or they can get it for you) or can order it directly from TwoMorrows, the publisher, here.

Tell ‘em Ed sent ya!