On DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, a science fiction series about a ragtag team of superheroes traveling through time, the spear that pierced Jesus Christ during his crucifixion — known by many names, including the Spear of Destiny — is a plot device. A few bad guys called the Legion of Doom are after it for its powers, and the noble “Legends” are racing to stop them. Legends of Tomorrow, which shares continuity with other shows like Arrow and The Flash, isn’t unique in its appropriation of historical relics as MacGuffins. But in its sprawling multi-genre sandbox universe, the implications are more significant. Is Legends of Tomorrow establishing Christ as a meta-human?
The term “metahuman” was coined by Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin in 1986 but was introduced into the DC Universe by Bill Mantlo in his crossover mini-series Invasion. “Metahuman” (sometimes stylized as meta-human) specifically refers to any individual with abilities no matter their origins; Superman is a meta-human, as is Wonder Woman, the Flash, Poison Ivy, Doctor Fate, and more. (Batman isn’t a meta-human, but his unlimited capacity for knowledge, warfare, and preparation in his overwritten canon leaves this status up for debate.) With Christ, who famously performed miracles in the New Testament, there’s room to classify him as a meta-human in the DC Comics universe, and perhaps the television series is implying as much.
Superheroes were born in American comic books during the Great Depression, but mankind has been obsessed with people who defy nature for millennia. A common, overused notion is that the ancient Greek gods, whose epic adventures were intertwined with personal drama, were the earliest forerunners to superheroes. But it always seemed sacrilege, if not plain absurd, to equate Christ an equal to Superman. But no other figure in religious history has their iconography endlessly recycled in the genre; homages appear all the time in comics — like Frank Miller’s Daredevil: Born Again — to films like Spider-Man 2, Man of Steel, and Batman v Superman, which went haywire with a medieval aesthetic and loaded “god versus men” metaphors.
But that’s all interpretation. What about canonical acknowledgment? What if Jesus Christ is not only in the DC Universe — which the Spear of Destiny’s existence confirms — but was actually a meta-human?
Jesus is no stranger to comic books. While Christian comics are its own niche market, Jesus has also had official presence in DC canon. Christ first appeared in a flashback in Tomahawk #138 in 1972, a comic about Christmas (which for some reason released in February). Years later, in 2012, The Judas Coin by Walter Simonson showed Jesus in the DCU in Simonson’s graphic novel about one of the 30 silvers paid to Judas. The coin is passed down through history, making its way to Two-Face while fighting Batman.
And the coin, like the Spear of Destiny, isn’t the only Christian artifact that’s been included in the canon: the Shroud of Turin, a cloth believed to be Jesus’s burial shroud bearing his face, was also a plot device in Fabian Nicieza’s Azrael #13. And while it’s purely a comic book invention, the healing waters of the Lazarus Pit — a key plot device in seasons three and four of Arrow — is itself a Biblical reference through its namesake. So DC writers appear at ease using Bible relics as superpowered MacGuffins, but the logical next step has to be affirming the known powers of Christ himself.
Chasing after Jesus’s eBay wares is attractive to storytellers for obvious reasons. That there could be answers to questions surrounding the most celebrated and controversial individual in history makes for a good time in pulpy, action-adventure stories. There are roots in the real world for this, too; Adolf Hitler, like a real supervillain, was rumored to be obsessed with finding the Spear of Destiny (but it’s a crap shoot to believe it’s true). That myth is one of the reasons — mechanization of genocide and legitimate evil aside — that makes Nazis easy fodder for being an occult force in popular fiction.
It’s doubtful if Legends of Tomorrow will go as far as calling Jesus Christ “meta-human.” Even if a throwaway explainer of Christ’s miracles by Jax — a young mechanic and one-half of Firestorm — reciting old Sunday school wisdom could be picked apart and extrapolated upon, it’s still a stretch. But classifying Christ wouldn’t necessarily change his origin story, nor would it reboot his ancestry. Really, calling Jesus a meta-human would simply be about getting answers.