The Twitter feed of Chick Publications is reporting that Jack Chick, the religious cartoonist famous for his pocket-sezed "Chick tracts", has died. His comics were incredibly hateful — they insisted that basically anyone who is not straight, white, and Evangelical is a failure of a human being who deserves to burn in hell — but they were also hugely influential.

An army of artoonists, ranging from Dan Clowes to Steve Ellis and Fred Van Lente, have parodied Chick tracts. And for generations of kids from a Christian background, Chick tracts were their first exposure to comics. Lots of interviews with comics pros start with them picking up a strip by Jack Chick as a child and then moving over to Robert Crumb and Phoebe Gloeckner as soon as they're out on their own. I'm not going to say anything nice about Chick as a human being or an artist — he was about as bigoted as they come — but I am going to say that, through no fault of his own, he's had a small role in the creation of a lot of good comics. Which just goes to show that great art can come from the worst, most hateful places.

If you'd like to read more about Chick, this comic, The Imp by Daniel Raeburn, is by far the best resource out there.

And comics Twitter is going to have a lot to say about this over the next few days: