'The Sissy?' (1978), Chick tract drawn by Fred Carter.

Fred Carter was an African-American reverend, illustrator and comic artist, best known for his work at Chick Publications. He started out as Jack Chick's assistant, and later became his main illustrator. Carter drew dozens of the Christian comics that followed Chick's eccentric, controversial viewpoints and bizarre storylines. Together, Carter and Chick worked on the religious spy adventure series 'Crusader Comics' (1974-1985), new tracts and redrawn versions of Chick's older comic tracts "for African-American audiences". Compared to his taskmaster, Carter applied a more realistic drawing style. Outside his work for Chick Publications, he also created illustrations for the Urban Ministries in Chicago, Illinois.

Early life
Frederick E. Carter was born in 1938 in Danville, Illinois. He was inspired to take up a pencil by his older brother, who died at a young age. Carter showed a gift for drawing. Encouraged by a high school teacher, he participated in a contest run by the American Academy of Art in Chicago. Carter ended at the 2nd place, whereupon he was given a scholarship to attend the school. After only one year, he dropped out. Carter made a living as a busboy in a restaurant, followed by work at a decal factory.

The Deceived by Fred Carter
'The Deceived' (1990).

Chick tracts
Fred Carter's career as a cartoonist has been inextricably bound up with Jack Chick. Since 1961, Chick had been creating a long-running series of Christian comics intended to convert readers to his particular brand of fundamentalist Protestantism. The comics gained notoriety through their often outrageous claims and unintentionally funny storylines. Chick's ultraconservative viewpoints often went into wild directions. For instance: Catholicism and Satan form an alliance. Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, Communists, Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan are all front organizations for the Vatican. And rock music, Halloween, Wicca, New Age, 'Harry Potter', Seth MacFarlane's 'Family Guy', 'Dungeons & Dragons' and sports are all the Devil's tools. The zaniness gave Chick a cult following, comprised of people who adore the camp appeal and laughably strange but imaginative storylines.

The Letter by Fred Carter
'The Letter' (1982).

One day, Carter found a Chick tract at his church. Since he aspired to reflect his Christian beliefs in art, he wrote Chick a letter and added some samples of his own artwork. Instantly hired, Carter moved to Southern California that same month, where he joined Chick Publications. At the time, he was their only black employee. While Chick drew in a cartoony style, Carter was more graphically skilled. His drawings are very detailed, with specific emphasis on expressive emotions and muscular bodies. Carter's realistic art rose Chick's strange stories to a more professional, serious-looking level. Fit for the dramatic purpose of these conversion stories, but it also – as Chick's ironic cult following might add – makes the unintentional comedy far funnier.

'The Outsider' (1991), Chick tract adapting the story of Ruth.

Sources differ on what Carter's first illustrated tract was. Some claim it was 'Frame-Up' (1972), others cite 'The Last Generation' (1972). In 1972, Chick drew 'Big Daddy', a comic targeting the evolution theory (albeit with little understanding of what it is actually about). While the actual story was done in his own style, the pamphlet came with a centerfold, illustrated by Carter. This centerfold drawing depicts the evolution of ape to man, but in the context of a satanic hoax. In 1973, Carter's anti-evolution centerfold was distributed as a full-color poster.

For decades, Chick and Carter alternated on the art of new stories. Chick remained the main scriptwriter, from 2000 aided by David W. Daniels. Carter focused solely on the artwork and on how to visualize the ideas. After 2006, older Chick comics with white protagonists were systematically redrawn for African-American readers. Carter changed white characters into black people and added more detailed illustrations and dynamic use of action and perspective. Otherwise, the plots and dialogue remained mostly the same.

'This Was Your Life' (1964), drawn by Jack Chick.

'It's Your Life' (2006), redrawn version for an African-American audience by Fred Carter.

Crusader Comics
In 1974, Jack Chick and Fred Carter launched the 'Crusader Comics' (1974-1985) series. While most of Chick's comics were published as small, black-and-white pamphlets, the 'Crusader Comics' were full-color comic books. Chick provided the scripts, while Carter offered lavish artwork. Originally, the series was intended to give young readers heroic Christian characters to look up to. The two protagonists are Timothy Emerson Clark, a white American soldier who served with the Green Berets, and James Carter, an African-American karate expert and head of an anti-drugs squad. His last name was likely a nod to Fred Carter himself. On their adventures, the two comic heroes fight evil and convert people to Chick's brand of Christianity. In their first story, 'Operation Bucharest' (1974), the duo travels to Romania to fight Communists. In the sequels, they advocate missionary work and combat Satanists, Devil-possessed people in need of exorcism and even more Communists.

From 1979 on, 'Crusader Comics' changed in tone. The comics became adaptations of the life and teachings of controversial anti-Catholic activists Charles Chiniquy and Alberto Rivera. Chiniquy was a 19th-century former Roman Catholic priest who later converted to Protestantism. He developed daft conspiracy theories on how the Catholic Church planned for world domination and was basically pagan and anti-Christian in nature. Chiniquy also believed that the Catholic Church was behind the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Rivera was a 20th-century author who claimed to be a former Jesuit. His conspiracy theories blamed the Catholic Church for the creation of Communism, Nazism, Islam, World War I & II and other events and organizations Rivera just so happened to hate. In Rivera's case, his supposed Jesuit background was later proven to be a lie. Needless to say that Chinquy and Rivera's theories have never been confirmed by any reliable source.

The six-volume series containing the stories 'Alberto', 'Double-Cross', 'The Godfathers', 'The Force', 'Four Horsemen' and 'The Prophet' are based on Alberto Rivera's theories. 'The Big Betrayal' (1981) adapts Charles Chiniquy's memoir '50 Years in the Church of Rome' (1884). Once the 'Crusader Comics' evolved from corny adventure comics to paranoid propaganda tales, their sales quickly went downhill. Chick Publications was widely criticized for these hate-mongering books and in 1981 the 'Crusader Comics' series was discontinued.

Crusader Comic by Fred Carter
'Crusader Comics'.

Some of the Chick tracts illustrated by Carter have been subject of controversy. 'Wounded Children' (1983) deals with a young boy, David, who becomes a homosexual after Satan shows him his father's heterosexual porn collection. This motivates David to adopt a gay lifestyle, because he thinks "he's a girl in a man's body". Apart from the usual plot holes and lack of research, Satan unintentionally comes across as a nice, elderly mentor who defends the boy against prejudiced people (like David's own parents) and helps him accept himself for who he is. Many images in the story also feature unintentional homo-erotic content, which all might explain why Chick eventually withdrew this particular installment from his back catalogue.

In 1994, Chick and Carter made 'Allah Had No Son' (1994), in which a Muslim converts to Christianity after having been "proven" that everything he believed in is a lie. This story caused controversy in 2016, when Dutch pastor Stan Kamps was approached by two policemen and strongly discouraged from publishing a translated edition.

'A Solution to... The Marriage Mess' (1978).

Other work
In addition to the comics, Carter illustrated the interiors and front covers of Jack Chick's written books and pamphlets, among them 'A Solution to... The Marriage Mess' (1978), a "graphic novel" about a dysfunctional family saved by a man who shows them the way to Jesus.

In 1985, Carter wanted to create a comic based on the biblical tale of Jonah and the Whale, to tie in with the upcoming 'Jaws' sequel, 'Jaws: The Revenge' (1987). Carter took a more ambitious approach and made full-color oil paintings. Unfortunately, the art didn't look good when printed on a cheap, small, black-and-white pamphlet. Meanwhile, 'Jaws: The Revenge' flopped at the box office and effectively killed the franchise. Chick and Carter decided to disassociate the 'Jonah' project from 'Jaws' and release it as a glossy full-color comic book instead. 'Jonah' (Chick Publications, 1994) was eventually released, but didn't sell well because of its high sales prize. The title quickly went out of print, making it one of the company's rarest publications.

From: 'Light of the World'.

The Light of the World
In 2003, Jack Chick released a slideshow film, 'The Light of the World' (2003). The picture was originally intended as an adaptation of Fred Carter's 'Jonah' comic book, based on the biblical tale of the same name. However, since Carter had made over 358 oil paintings about biblical themes, it seemed more fitting to expand the project to a slideshow about the entire Bible. Chick personally provided the narration to accompany the images. The soundtrack was composed by John Campbell. The 78-minute film was also released on DVD.

Final years and death
For a long time, the Chick tracts featured only two notable cartoonists: Jack Chick and Fred Carter. Though since most of the comics were unsigned, Carter's identity remained unknown for eight years. Followers of Chick's tracts quickly noticed that some stories were superior in art style. In 1980, Chick finally revealed Fred Carter's name to the public in an issue of the newsletter Battle Cry. He explained that he hadn't given his employee much publicity at his own request, since Carter "was very media shy". Indeed, just like his taskmaster, Carter only granted one interview during his career: in 2003, by The Los Angeles Times.

Throughout his life, Carter was additionally active as a reverend in a small congregation in Southern California, named The Gathering Place. After Chick's death in 2016, Carter and scriptwriter David W. Daniels kept producing new 'Chick tracts'. In 2022, Carter passed away from heart failure at age 83.

Fred Carter joined Chick Publications in 1972.


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