Religion, Graphic Novels, and Chad Michael Murray

I got two books for Christmas – Well, I guess I need to start back a bit. I do this thing where I find an actor/actress I like and watch everything available by that person. It’s a cool way of doing things, in my opinion, because I often wind up stepping outside my comfort zone and learning new things. For instance, I spent a week studying the Texas Revolution because of the docudrama, Texas Rising. I mean, how often can you say you know that Mirabeau Lamar was promoted from private to colonel on April 20, 1836, the day before the 18 minute battle of San Jacinto, because you think Chad Michael Murray is hot. No, I didn’t have to look up any of that information to write this paragraph. Yes, I realize that is a completely ridiculous reason to know specific dates of military accomplishment by the second president of Texas. 

So far I’ve completed Johnny Depp, Robert Pattinson, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Chad Michael Murray. I’m onto Hilarie Burton now, but November and December of 2021 were the Chad Michael Murray months. I’m a sucker for teen dramas. I love them. Which is funny, because as a teenager, I generally watched adult shows like Nash Bridges. However, now, I’m all about the teen dramas. Well – and Bruce Willis movies, which I never realized I’d get watching CMM. 

So, anyway, back to Christmas. I was surprised to find that Chad Michael Murray, in addition to being Lucas Scott and Austin Ames, wrote a couple of books. I got both books for Christmas. The first is American Drifter, published in 2017, and the second is Everlast, a graphic novel published in 2011.

my beautiful books

I read American Drifter in a handful of hours, broken by sleep when my eyelids got heavy. I read Everlast yesterday. I’m not usually so profoundly affected by fiction, but both of these books touched my soul. However, Everlast started an interesting discussion with my best friend, Jen Ownbey, that carried over from her lunch break yesterday to our discussion on her drive to work this morning. 

From the Goodreads page:

A pre-apocalyptic tale, Everlast follows Derek Everlast, a man whose destiny in life is guiding others to a place of rebirth for mankind called Haven. Following an instinct called the Nudge, bestowed on him by a higher power, Derek is guided to the next chosen human destined to survive, a little girl named Melissa. In a harrowing adventure, he must deliver her safely to Haven before the End of Days. Everlast tells a story of choice, love, friendship, and, most of all, survival. Will you be chosen?”

I went into this book with relatively high expectations after reading American Drifter. Not gonna lie, I balled through the last two chapters of that one. Granted, Chad Michael Murray co-wrote Drifter with Heather Graham, a NYT bestselling author, so I expected the writing to be different (especially considering the difference in format) but given that Drifter was a story he dreamed, I figured Everlast had to be an epic tale. It was not what I expected. 

Yes, Everlast is a pre-apocalyptic tale about a man who follows the Nudge and finds the girl. Yes, he fights supernatural creatures along the way. But what the write-up doesn’t mention is the underlying story of faith and the struggle with belief that colors the words. Words that were much more beautifully written than I had imagined he could accomplish. I am guilty of seeing the Hollywood heartthrob instead of a man with a brain. A mistake I won’t make again when it comes to this particular actor. 

I’ve had a complicated relationship with church and religion for many years. As a youth, we went to church every Sunday, often attending both services since my brother and I were involved in the youth program, as well as the music program, and performed in some capacity most weeks. Even as we aged, we stayed active and involved. We both joined the praise band after switching congregations, and took every volunteer opportunity that we could fit into busy college/work schedules. When my son was young, and the church needed someone to run Sunday school, I even volunteered to do that so he would have a program like I had growing up. 

After a while, though, the church changed. The focus changed. I couldn’t see the words I’d grown up learning in the congregation any longer. “Love thy neighbor” became a catch-phrase, but only as it pertained to certain types of people. And children weren’t the focus. Through a series of unfortunate events that definitely did not embody Christ’s words, my family was kicked out of the church. We haven’t really had a congregation since. 

My own belief system is a complicated mixture of Catholicism and Wicca. While the two don’t sound synonymous when initially brought together, they actually can work hand in hand. After a few years, we moved. My brother landed here in Colorado and the rest of us travelled before settling here as well. We looked for a church, never finding one that had the solid youth program we were searching for as well as a belief system with which we could agree. While Sunday services (the way they were when I was young) are something I miss, the past few years have helped me examine my own beliefs further and I’ve come to some conclusions that have helped me define myself better. 

Back to the book. Mr. Murray writes an introduction at the beginning of Everlast explaining how it came about after having someone knock on his door to tell him about the End of Days. While he didn’t buy what the man was selling (his words) the story stuck with him and characters began to form. As an author myself, I completely understand the need to tell a story that keeps knocking at you and I’m glad he did.  I’ve never been an End of Days type person either, but the story that Mr. Murray wrote made me think. In a short story titled “Phoenix” that was included at the end of the book, he writes a paragraph where Everlast (the main character) is wondering if humanity can’t be saved by the kindness in people. Right there. That’s the part that grabbed me. The kindness in people. The idea that the world, a broken, sad world that has been going down the wrong road for so long, can be saved by a shift in attitude. By loving thy neighbor. 

As I was discussing the novel, and reading the short story to Jen, I realized that it was not my faith in God or the words of Christ that was lacking recently. It’s not that I quit believing in the things that I believed in when I was little. It’s my faith in the church. Honestly, I have none. Somewhere along the way the words that meant so much to me when I was young, the words that guide my own actions, “Love thy neighbor”, became a catchphrase and not a guidepost. The idea that the End of Days is upon us, and that humanity can be saved, by humans treating each other with kindness is what drove the story. It’s what captivated my attention and it’s why this random graphic novel written by an actor known mostly for just being hot, affected me so profoundly. 

I went into Everlast thinking it would be a supernatural fantasy. I came out with a better understanding of myself. After reading the comments on Goodreads, I can tell I’m in the minority here (which… seems about par for the course as far as what I like in the realm of literature), but, honestly, if you look beyond the main story, there is so much to contemplate with this book and I’m grateful to have read the words and learned a little more about myself in the process. 

My school’s motto is “be kind”. I have shirts and masks and a hoodie proudly proclaiming the words, but until recently, I never really thought about it. So I guess my word for 2022 is kindness. I’ll be focused on kindness and I hope that some of you might be, too.