Forgive me, Father, for I have worn spandex.
A controversial new comic series hits shelves Wednesday, imagining Jesus returning to Earth as a superhero sidekick, and The Post has an exclusive first look.
The satirical work is written by Mark Russell and illustrated by Richard Pace, and if you think some among the faithful might find the premise blasphemous, you’d be right.
The series was set to be published in March by an adult-oriented imprint of DC Comics — home to Superman and Batman — but public outcry forced the work to head to a boutique publisher instead.
“I woke up one morning and had an email from the editor saying, ‘You’re on the front page of Fox News,’ ” Russell tells The Post. “Then the petitions started and media started picking up on it, and then I realized it was bigger than I first anticipated.”
Headlines aside, if you read the book, what you actually find is not a takedown of religion, but, as Russell describes it, an attempt to spread the Gospel.
In the present day, God is impressed by the good deeds of Sunstar, a Superman-like hero. Feeling that his son needs toughening up, God asks Sunstar to take Jesus under his wing “to show him how a real hero handles his chili,” as God says in the book.
But after Jesus arrives on Earth, he soon discovers he’s not on the same page as Sunstar when it comes to improving the world.
Russell, who’s written two other Bible-themed works, says a superhero comic was the perfect genre for telling his story about Jesus.
“Superhero comics suggest that physical violence is the solution to any problem, whereas I wanted a comic that meditated on the nature of power itself and suggested that there might be other solutions that don’t involve drop-kicking someone into a volcano,” he says.
In one scene, for example, Jesus promptly heals the criminals that Sunstar beats up.
“Why would you do that?” the superhero asks.
“Because they needed it,” Jesus says.
Russell was raised Pentecostal but says he no longer subscribes to organized religion. He does hope, though, that readers will discover a Jesus that’s faithful to the New Testament.
“There are a lot of things Christ said that I think are fantastic, and his mission was radical and brilliant,” Russell says.
But Christ’s message, the writer says, has been hijacked.
“Somehow Christianity became a tool of the empires that it was originally designed to help people escape,” he says.
Jesus was the original rebel, an enemy of the powerful, preaching against the two things that empires use to subjugate their citizens: greed and fear.
“If you can avoid being afraid to step out of line, and you can avoid caring about the things that you can be bribed with, then you are an empire’s worst enemy,” Russell says.
The initial arc of “Second Coming” is scheduled for six issues, though Russell says he has plans for as many as 18.
And all the controversy?
“It’s been counterproductive for the people who were trying to sink the series,” Russell says.
Orders went up.