Daniel 7: The Beast with Ten Horns by Basil Wolverton

Basil Wolverton

Daniel 7: The Beast with Ten Horns, 2009, Print, Wolverton Bible, Published 2009; Fangraphic books, Image created by Basil Wolverton; Courtesy of Fantagraphics Books (http://www.fantagraphics.com)

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The Grotesquery of Literalism

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Basil Wolverton (1909–78) was an influential twentieth-century cartoonist. He created some of the most iconic images in the early issues of MAD magazine by rendering the human body in outlandish, bizarre, and warped visual forms.

In the 1940s, Wolverton became active in Herbert W. Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God. Started as a radio ministry in Oregon and eventually establishing congregations around the world, the denomination became popular for its apocalyptic teachings and ‘plain sense’ approach to the Bible. Armstrong said Jesus would return after a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Wolverton’s creative approach to rendering the human form proved a perfect fit for a form of Christianity convinced of an imminent nuclear apocalypse. His Bible illustrations revel in the melting, twisting, chomping, and other destructive effects that he thought the nuclear end times would have on the human body.

This image of the Beast was first published in the Worldwide Church of God’s denominational journal Tomorrow’s World. It was part of a series of illustrations that accompanied Bible stories for children. The image originally appeared as an illustration of Daniel 7, but in the Worldwide Church of God’s interpretation this was thought to be the same Beast described in Revelation 13 (Armstrong 1952: 6–7). 

This image of the Beast permits no abstractions or metaphors. In Wolverton’s reckoning, the prophet travelled to the future and saw a horrible Beast. This image depicts that Beast as a hulking, grotesque lizard-monster. Unconventionally, its ten enormous horns protrude from its back instead of its head. It has four legs on one side of its body, a heavy tail, huge nostrils, and threatening teeth.

This image of the Beast is meant to terrify the viewer. The Beast devours those who are not prepared for the end times. Body parts protrude from the Beast’s teeth. People run away from it with pained, anguished faces. These victims were assumed to be people who had not undergone Christian conversion—those who had not ‘accepted Jesus’ as their personal saviour in an emotional conversion experience. The image suggests that to avoid becoming the Beast’s next victim, a person must accept Jesus right away.

 

References

Armstrong, Herbert W. 1952. ‘Who is the Beast’, Plain Truth, 17.1: 5–7, 11

Coates, Andrew T. 2018. ‘The Bible and Graphic Novels and Comic Books’, in The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America, ed. by Paul Gutjahr (New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 451–67


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