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Copy of warrior nun cover

Warrior Nun Sister Shannon, surrounded by supporting cast members. From the cover of Warrior Nun Areala Volume 3 #1.

Warrior Nun Areala is a manga-style American comic book character created by Ben Dunn and published by Antarctic Press. First appearing in Ninja High School #38 (1987), she has since appeared in her own comic books beginning with Warrior Nun Areala Vol. 1 #1 in December 1994. The story revolves around Sister Shannon Masters, a Joan of Arc like heroine of the Order of the Cruciform Sword, a fictional military order of Warrior Nuns and Magic Priests in service of the Catholic Church. The order was created in 1066 when a Valkyrie named Auria renounced her pagan ways and turned to Jesus Christ for salvation; ever since then, Auria, now Areala, has chosen an avatar every generation to carry on the mission. In modern times, this has grown to a world spanning organization in the service of the Catholic Church with the current Areala, Sister Shannon Masters as the best and brightest. With her friends beside her, Sister Shannon has led the forces of good against those of evil, ever serving the Lord with faith and humility. Appearing on and off for twenty years since her first appearance, Warrior Nun Areala is creator Ben Dunn's favorite character.[1]

With strong continuity telling storylines in a serialized manner, Sister Shannon Masters' cast, powers, and trappings have slowly expanded throughout the years thus creating an entire society within the Church. There has been some controversy towards the character from both religious and non-religious alike, the former for appropriating Catholic imagery and the latter for how the comic book unapologetically shows the Catholic Church as a force for good. While there have been other comic books emphasizing Christianity and superheroes utilizing Christian imagery, Warrior Nun Areala is unique in that it is a mainstream, albeit independent comic that approaches its subject matter with respect and takes its idea seriously.

Website Comicsutra states "That's what makes Warrior Nun Areala so special. At its core, it portrays people who have unshakable faith in God and their religion. .. Its affection for nuns is also evident — and sometimes returned. One real nun asked about Warrior Nun Areala noted that she and her colleagues give poor children college prep-level educations — that they are superheroes. Amen, sister."[2]

Publication history


The creation of Areala has its roots in the Fraternite Notre Dame, or the Fraternity of Our Lady, a traditionalist Catholic organization. In 1991, a chapter was established in New York City's East Harlem in order to found a soup kitchen. It was in New York that Sister Marie Chantel who had been a black belt in Judo learned Taekwondo under a Hell's Kitchen martial arts master. Her fellow nuns, including the Mother Superior, also learned self-defense hearing that the neighborhoods were dangerous, though they insist that their martial arts training is mostly for sport and that they have had no problems with the surrounding neighborhoods. Their story was ultimately picked up and reported by The New York Times.[3]

Ben Dunn, who attended Catholic schools, read that article and was inspired. He states that "Other superheroes, you never know what their faith is. Batman or Spider-Man or Superman, they do all these great things, but what do they believe in?"[4] While not a true Christian comic book as its emphasis is not on directly calling readers to repentance or propagating the faith but on superheroes utilizing Christian imagery and on Christian-based speculative fiction, Warrior Nun Areala takes its idea very seriously.

Part of this was due to the power Ben Dunn sees the Vatican as possessing. He at one point wrote that it may not speak of itself as being a world power but it is. That is because despite being the smallest country on Earth the Vatican's influence on world affairs is disproportionately immense by virtue of its moral and spiritual authority as the headquarters of Earth's largest religion. With over a billion adherents, a headquarters that is a Sovereign nation, a leader that is a world leader, it is a force in the world. Thus, it was only a small step to grant the (fictionalized) church also has a military force that would serve as Heaven's proxy if demons were to attack. In further explaining the concept, he added that "If Hell were an actual physical place with physical manifestations then they would be subject to some of the physical laws of nature would they not? Of course that would mean Heaven too would be physical place. While this may not be so in our world it certainly is so in WNA's world. Therefore, things would progress differently. To the Vatican in WNA's world 'thou shalt kick Satan's ass!'."[5] However, in creating the character, Dunn sought to distinguish Areala from scantily clad bad girl antiheroines with which she might be confused. He was also desirous of creating a true hero, not an anti-hero. "I made it a very strong point that she doesn't kill people, only demons", and that "She believes everybody – no matter how bad they've been – can be saved."[6]


The first appearance of the character Sister Shannon Masters was in Ninja High School #38 1987. She would not appear again until she received her own comic books beginning with Warrior Nun Areala Vol. 1 #1, some seven years later. Beginning in December 1994 and ending in April 1995, it was a three issue limited series that established the world of Areala, introduced several key characters, and served as her origin story. She was shown having just completed her training in a time when there had been no demonic activity for years and the Warrior Nuns were in danger of being disbanded. Even so she was assigned to New York City and saw that Satan's minions of Earth were planning an assault on Heaven. She foiled their plans of course.

This was then followed by other Warrior Nun Areala mini series some written by Ben Dunn and some not, such as Rituals (1995–1996), Scorpio Rose (1996–1997), and Warrior Nun Areala Vol. 2. Published every two months, they expanded the world and provided more information and depth concerning the characters. There were also one shots such as crossovers with heroines of other companies such as Glory and Avengelyne. At the time there were other mini-series set in the Warrior Nun Areala universe that were not directly related to Sister Shannon Masters but instead widended the scope of the fictional world. Focusing on other Nuns of her order from past, present, and future; they include but are not limited to Crimson Nun (1997), Warrior Nun Frenzy (1998), and Warrior Nun Dei (1997–1999), respectively. There was also an ongoing anthology series, Warrior Nun Black and White that focused on the whole of the Warrior Nun universe.

It was not until 1999 that Sister Shannon gained her own series. The miniseries Areala: Angel of War which detailed the original Areala and Warrior Nun Areala: Resurrection led up to it. Running from 1999 to 2001, it was simply titled Warrior Nun Areala Vol. 3. It concerned an ongoing threat by Areala's most persistent foe, Helga, as she tried to destroy the Vatican itself. In a battle that put to the test, the promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail. Though it climaxed seemingly with the death of Sister Shannon, she later returned and appeared in another ongoing series, Warrior Nun Areala Vol. 4 though this was written mostly by Craig Babiar.

The current series is Warrior Nun Lazarus.

Sister Shannon will be appearing in an upcoming War of the Independents tie-in issue, centering on her and Sean Koury's Bounty Hunter character, as well as appearing in War of the Independents itself. She can be seen on the cover of issue one, as well as in the group shot at the end of the issue.

Sister Shannon Masters

Sister Shannon Masters, the Warrior Nun Areala, given the serial nature of her adventures has developed a wide circle of heroes around her making them into a family she otherwise would not have. That is seen in her foster sister joining the Warrior Nuns and her looking at her fellow Sisters as just that, sisters. Initially uncertain of herself she has developed as a character though she has never lost her idealism or her love of God and Jesus Christ. She has formed strong bonds of affection with her surrogate sisters, Sasuki, Mary, and Sarah; her surrogate son, Jason; her parent figures, Father Gomez and Mother Superion; and with them has fought a wide variety of foes such as Demon Foster, Julius Salvius, and Helga.

Her story begins in 1066 when the original Sister Areala was met by the angel who would become her namesake. An American, Shannon Masters was born after 1959 and was orphaned at the age of four where on she was left at the steps of the Our Lady of the Virgin Mary convent.[7] She stayed there until she was adopted by the Yoma family of Japan. She lived in Japan with the Yomas until she was eleven years old but after showing exceptional academic and athletic abilities, she was chosen for the Silver Cross Program and was raised to be a Warrior Nun at upper New York State's Saint Thomas Academy. Thus her experience at the orphan school was more of a boarding school.

Growing up at the Saint Thomas Academy, she wrestled with feelings of self-worth over how she had been orphaned. However, she over came those doubts and found a purpose for her life in her service to the Church as did her adopted sister, Sasuki Yoma of Japan. It was while she trained there under a young Mother Superion, then Sister Katherine, that she first met and befriended the future Sister Sarah, her best friend; Father David Crowe, her future love interest; and Shotgun Mary. It was at this time that she visited Quagmire High School, also called Ninja High School, though at the time she yet to take her vows and was referred to simply as Shannon and not Sister Shannon. After this, received final training from Mother Superion her at Vatican City.

Though a rookie, Sister Shannon training was completed and she reported to the New York City archdiocese. There, she patrolled two sectors from her assigned parish, Saint Thomas Church in Manhattan on the grounds that she was assigned to an area where there had not been demonic activity since the Purge of 1985. Replacing Sisters Sanguine and Hannah, she soon saw a sustained surge in New York City's demonic activity after her arrival. (A stock situation in comic books wherein the supervillains can appear only after a hero shows up.) She soon received her calling from the first Sister Areala after she was nearly killed in a battle with minions of Satanist and arms dealer Julius Salvius. On recognizing her as the Chosen One of that generation, the original Sister Areala gave Sister Shannon her name and awakened her latent power. It was made official when the Areala confirmed her as her avatar after a battle against the avatar of mad valkyrie Helga.

Supporting cast

Main article: Characters in Warrior Nun Areala

Sister Shannon Masters, the Warrior Nun Areala, given the serial nature of her adventures has developed a wide circle of heroes around her making them into a family she otherwise would not have. That is seen in her foster sister joining the Warrior Nuns and her looking at her fellow Sisters as just that, sisters. Initially uncertain of herself she has developed as a character though she has never lost her idealism or her love of God and Jesus Christ. She has formed strong bonds of affection with her surrogate sisters, Sasuki, Mary, and Sarah; her surrogate son, Jason; her parent figures, Father Gomez and Mother Superion; and with them has fought a wide variety of foes such as Demon Foster, Julius Salvius, and Helga.

Heaven and Hell in Warrior Nun Areala

As might be expected, the crux of the story is the battle between good and evil. God created space-time along with all reality an indefinite time ago and created out of love for those who would be His children. Ruling from Heaven on high and "working in mysterious ways", He guides Creation to the ultimate good of His creations. All beings are His creations and He looks at them all as His children. Indeed, His Christian worshippers refer to Him as Father. However, not all wish to accept His love and even reject Him and His goodness altogether. In the beginning, one of His creations, Lucifer rejected God's wisdom and, thinking that he could be a superior leader than his omniscient Creator, sought to take the throne of Heaven. Lucifer's War of Heaven and rebellion against God and His goodness led to the creation of evil. To delilver His children whom He so loved of evil, He sent Jesus, His only begotten Son and even sacrificed His life so that whoever believes in Him should not die but have eternal life. Afterwards, God made His will known through the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church that His Son established on Saint Peter.

Catholic Corps

Thus, Areala shows a "cold war" has been fought between Heaven and Hell, with human souls of at stake. At the moment, Heaven is content to leave Hell alone as long as it does not transgress its boundaries or harm the innocent. When that does happen, the Church's Catholic Corps is the means by which Heaven fights a proxy war. While preceded by earlier miracle workers and martial saints, the Corps has its roots in 1066 with the creation of the first Areala and later in 1212 when Pope Gregory VII authorized a new order to train those blessed by God with power to either use them as miracle workers or as warriors. The Corps is the most visible sign of the Church and by extension God on Earth.


While Warrior Nun Areala in its various incarnations has had its loyal followers, there has been controversy over its use of religious imagery. Some, including comic book fans (including Areala fans) have charged Antarctic press with "nunsploitation" in the character of Areala. There were times when Ben Dunn himself considered changing the name to something more "palatable."[8]

In his review for Daisuke Moriyama's similarly themed anime/manga Chrono Crusade, manga critic Mike Toole likens such ideas to "the old standby of nuns with guns" and makes explicit comparisons between it and Dunn's comic book. Toole states that Dunn's idea of a "woman who slays monsters in a habit and... a bikini" is novel but that it "just doesn't make any goddamned sense." Quite differently, he writes that Moriyama is more restrained and while his fully clothed heroine nun Rosette Christopher may be somewhat comical that she and her fellow characters "otherwise seem vaguely authentic."[9]

Dunn made it a point to focus on escapist storytelling and after Antarctic Press' failed attempts at a "serious version" backfired this was reinforced. The man they chose for this was Barry Lyga who wrote the second series. He writes "The original three series were very tongue-in-cheek... Unfortunately, the audience for the book liked the more tongue-in-cheek approach, and by mutual agreement, I left the series after six issues." Indeed, Lyga's willful decision to reject monster attacks out of hand and focus of "realism" led to less than successful issues that were never even completed.[10]

Despite this, some people wrote in commenting on and requesting stories dealing with current issues in the Catholic Church such as the abuse cases. For example, Lyga's second series featured Sister Shannon asking herself if she should protect the Church from a man seeking revenge for alleged church involvement with the ratlines. One person noted that the characters' "complaints about the magic priests having more money — even though the warrior nuns, not the magic priests, are on the front lines against demons — ring true after seeing the stories last year [source quoted in 1997] about people "adopting" elderly nuns to help a convent stay afloat or articles about burial costs for nuns being subsidized by the state."[2] Or, when one of Sister Shannon's fellow nuns asked why they could not receive the Magic Priests' training in the supernatural, she replied that it was for the same reason the Church forbids the ordination of women,[11] something that causes controversy within the fictional Church of Warrior Nun Areala as it does in the real Church.

Catholic criticism

Such sentiments also extend to members of the real Roman Catholic Church. Real priests and nuns sent their letters in alternately praising and condemning the series. In July–August 1997, the US Catholic League stated that "it does object to the comic strip characters that appear in the Warrior Nuns comic strip, a product of Antarctic Press."[12] In another example Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a speaker for Washington, D.C.'s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that Areala's costume is "offensive. The habit is something sacred."[13] That is seen in early issues with how the upper half of the muscled, buxom Sister Shannon's ultra-low cut battle habit would show cleavage and/or show perpetually erect nipples through the cloth while the lower half consists of a loin cloth, if that much in other Warrior Nuns. It was a seeming contradiction in terms with how a nun's habit is meant to hide the body in order to discourage lust. In fact, Ben Dunn wrote that the reason he did that was that "nipples sell." Regardless, Dunn stated the loin cloth is "for mobility" and that is the official in-continuity explanation that the modest Sister Shannon herself unapologetically espoused when confronted on her seeming lack of modesty.[1] (This was resolved by having Sister Shannon's superior assign the Warrior Nuns new more modest battle habits that covered their breasts in the second series to replace the previous ones that she felt were "a bit too revealing!"[14]) Dunn himself ultimately did say that perhaps "I think I did go a little overboard" in the earlier issues.[15]

However, this was addressed in an issue that bordered on breaking the Fourth wall where Sister Shannon took her ward Jason to the Big Apple Con comics convention where he bought a copy of "Battle Nun Areola." She criticised him and he sheepishly said that it was just a comic book. Ultimately acknowledging that there were bigger problems to face and that she should not take such fantasy too seriously, she decided to let Jason keep his comic. She thought "Why I've never even read the book. .."[16] Indeed, despite such a strange portrayal of religion and Catholicism, the Church and its clergy are portrayed as a force for good and are shown in a positive heroic light, almost without exception. When Areala was accused of being a "bad girl" comic, Lyga countered that the second issue of his Areala series "had not a single punch thrown. When was the last time anyone saw a so-called 'bad girl' comic without a fight scene?"[2] In fact the same Sister Mary Ann Walsh, despite disliking Sister Shannon's battle habit, adds that the creation of Areala comes from someone with "a positive feeling toward sisters."


Main series

Series Writer Issues Dates
Warrior Nun Areala: Series 1 Ben Dunn 1-3 December 1994-April 1995
Warrior Nun Areala: Rituals Ben Dunn 1-6 August 1995-June 1996
Warrior Nun Areala: Scorpio Rose Steve Englehart 1-4 September 1996-March 1997
Warrior Nun Areala: Series 2 Barry Lyga 1-6 July 1997-May 1998
Warrior Nun Areala and Glory Ben Dunn 1 September 1997
Areala: Angel of War Jim Gelvin 1-4 September 1998-June 1999
Warrior Nun Areala: Resurrection THE EYE, Jim Gelvin, & Ben Dunn 0-3 November 1998-March 1999
Warrior Nun Areala: Series 3 Brian Farrens 1-8, Chris Allen 8-12, Nathan Lumm 13-16, Anthony Zicari 16-19 1-19 July 1999-February 2001
Warrior Nun Areala: Ghosts of the Past Anthony Zicari 1-4 March 2001-June 2001
Warrior Nun Areala: Dangerous Game Anthony Zicari 1-3 July 2001-October 2001
Warrior Nun Areala: Series 4 Anthony Zicari 1-22 November 2001-November 2003

Minor series

In other media

Warrior Nun Areala proved a success and had its franchise.

An "Introductory Video" was created by Ben Dunn as a guide to the character.

Two CD single were made, one by Pink Filth and Bad Habit's Monkeys on the Throne. Songs for Monkeys include,

  • Man Is A Threat (Beelze-Bug Theme)
  • Lillith
  • I'm Connected
  • Satans Jester
  • Eyes Of The Innocent
  • Incantation
  • Warrior Nun
  • Faith

Like other Antarctic Press characters, Action figures containing most of the chief characters in various colors and designs were made. However, in addition to the standard look, there was also an anime look based on a failed attempt by Ben Dunn and Antarctic Press to make a Warrior Nun Areala American anime in 1994. There were high hopes and would have been partially fan funded with contributors donating $125 in exchange for their names in the credits. However, that never panned out with the money necessary for Sunrise, the hoped for animation studio, to make the series being about $200,000. In 2001 another attempt was made by Darkain Arts though that too failed. The anime was never completed and only the opening credits are known to exist; they were created by the animators of the X-Men animated series.[17] The opening credits can be seen on YouTube.

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 Warrior Nun Areala Vol. 2 #6
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Cheap? Exploitive? Hypocritical? Nun of the Above". Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  3. "Black Belts and Blessings for East Harlem Nuns, New York Times, by David Gonzales. February 2, 1994
  4. "Super sister fights evil", USA Today, by Leslie Miller. May 5, 1997. Actually, according to The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters Batman is a lapsed Catholic or Episcopalian; Superman, a Christ figure, is a Methodist; and Spider-Man seems to be a Protestant of unidentified denomination. According to this "Spider-Man was one of 33 characters who were identified as the most religious superheroes in the Marvel Universe."
  5. Letter column Warrior Nun Areala: Rituals #4
  6. [1] "Super sister fights evil" USA Today May 5, 1997
  7. Since that would make Sister Shannon 48 years old as of 2007 and since the series employs a floating timeline--for example, Warrior Nun Areala Vol. 2 #6 was published in May 1998, but refers to events happening in Warrior Nun Areala Vol. 1 # 2 published in April 1995 as having happened a year ago--, her birth date will likely be retconned at a future date. Even so, there are still potential time discrepancies concerning her childhood. In one story, Warrior Nun Areala Vol. 2 #6, she said she was lived in Japan until she was eleven but later it was revealed in Warrior Nun Areala: Resurrection #3 that she stayed at the St. Thomas Academy for sixteen years which would have made her twenty seven, hardly the teenager both words and pictures portray her as.
  8. Warrior Nun Areala. Is it the title? Antarctic Press Forums. Accessed 6/01/07
  9. Anime Jump Vaguely authentic, it incorporates Marian apparitions, the Three Secrets of Fatima, the 1981 Pope John Paul II assassination attempt, the stigmata, Mary Magdalene, and other things explaining them in depth with mini-documentaries called Extra Classes. Catholic blogger and comic reviewer D.G.D. Davidson follows a similar train of thought. He acknowledges that Catholicism with its "imagination", large size, and vast hierarchy lends itself more easily to for use in such things, though he admits the overuse.
    For one thing, we've already got the monster-fighting equipment: as I write this, I have a full bottle of holy water at my elbow in case the vampires or zombies show up, I have several icons nearby, and I can lay my hands on a rosary or crucifix pretty quickly if the situation calls for it. It's also easier to imagine the Catholic Church with a supercomputer and demon-tracking satellite network than it is to imagine, say, the Conservative Baptist Association.

    However, he nonetheless criticises Areala as being mere gimmickry and for being disrespectful of women with the early costumes. He also criticises to for not having done sufficient research and on not taking advantage of Catholicism's rich history.

    The story could have been significantly cooler if Dunn did a little research. Apparently, Warrior Nuns govern certain "sectors" in which they are responsible for keeping demonic activity in check. If Dunn referred to dioceses, deaneries, and parishes instead of sectors, I might have believed he knew what he was talking about. A few references to actual Catholic practices or maybe a little use of Vatican politics might have enriched the story immensely. For example, instead of creating an oddly named order of Magic Priests, Dunn could have assigned magic powers to our exorcists, who already have less spectacular demon-fighting rituals.
    Please see Holy Heroes: Warrior Nun Areala
  10. "Other Work". Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  11. Warrior Nun Areala Vol. 2 #1
  12. [2] Catholic League-NUNOGRAPHY "NINETIES STYLE"
  13. "Super sister fights evil" USA Today May 5, 1997
  14. Warrior Nun Areala: Rituals #5
  15. "COMICS' `BAD GIRLS' BUSTIN' LOOSE PUBLISHING: The swashbuckling vixens are adding some excitement to a sluggish industry beset with dwindling sales" by Kelly Baron Orange County Register August 9, 1996
  16. Warrior Nun Areala/Glory: God and Country #1
  17. Antarctic Pres Forums accessed 6/1/07

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