National Catholic Register


Holy Comics, Batman!

Christians are Using Comics to Evangelize

BY Tim Drake

| Posted 5/13/10 at 11:16 AM


A friend in the film industry once told me that if you want to predict the direction the culture is heading, take a look at comic books and graphic novels. They, in many ways, not only drive much of the content we see on film and television, but they also push the culturally-accepted messages of atheism, tolerance, and nihilism.

The graphic novels and comic books that are all the rage at this year’s ComicCon – San Diego’s annual ode to everything comic – will most assuredly be the same titles that are turned into future major motion pictures.

Take for example the ultraviolent graphic novels-turned films, 300 and Sin City; the nihilistic sex-ridden Watchmen; or the film Legion, which turned eschatology on its head, and made good into evil.

For that reason, and the fact that I’m a former comic book reader and share my name with the alias of a comic book hero (note that I had the name first), I have taken great interest in efforts to utilize graphic novels to advance Christian messages. Believe it or not, there have been quite a few in recent years.

John Paul the Great University graduate Matthew Salisbury’s “Paul: Tarsus to Redemption.” Salisbury, who graduated in December as part of the university’s inaugural graduating class, teamed with illustrator Sean Lam to tell the story of Paul, manga-style. The three-part series is geared for readers age 12 and older. The first volume tells the story of the young Paul. The second volume will be released this summer, and the third volume in the fall.

The Catholic publishing company Atiqtuq is releasing the series. They’re also publishing a series on the Biblical female hero, Judith. You can learn more about both, or order them, here.

“We need to introduce our children to the Gospel in ways that can compete with modern entertainment; really show how exciting our faith can be,” said Jonathan Lin, founder of Atiqtuq. “Once they’ve had that first exposure, kids are more willing to pay attention and start taking a personal interest in their faith.”

There’s also “Orange Peel,” a new comic by DC comic artist Dan Lawlis. In the online comic, Paul Roman – a futuristic, superhero evangelizer confronts the Red Menace on the planet Godderth. Lewis’ intention is to present a superhero who is not only Christian, but pro-life as well. Roman’s orange jumpsuit features the number “3” on the front, in reference to the Trinity.

Many recent comic books have focused on the lives of the saints. Pauline Books and Media has published several. They’ve also published Catholic comic book artist Gene Yang’s “The Rosary Comic Book.”

“I’ve always struggled with how to incorporate my faith into my comics in an authentic way,” said Yang. “One Lent, I decided to do a comic adaptation of the Rosary Prayer, rather than giving up chocolate or soda. It was eventually published by the good sisters at Pauline Books during the Year of the Rosary.”

A couple of years ago Arcadius Press published a variety of saint comic books, including St. Joan of Arc, St. Patrick, St. Jerome, St. Henry, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. My children thoroughly enjoyed them.

I still remember Marvel Comics’ excellent publication of “The Life of Pope John Paul II” in comic book form back in 1982. They released a similar one on St. Maximilian Kolbe.

I wrote about a more recent Pope John Paul II effort here and here.

On the graphic novel side of things, and for more of an adult audience, there are Christian-themed books as well.

There’s Matthew Lickona’s “Alphonse,” a dark, graphic novel that explores the horror of abortion, through the character of “Alphonse,” a monster-baby that escapes abortion.

There’s also John Zmirak’s disturbing “The Grand Inquisitor”, an updated version of Dostoevsky’s fable written in Miltonic blank verse, that tells the story of a deceased Pope, a divided Church, and the fight over the new Pope.

It’s great to know there are writers and artists doing their part to influence the culture for Christ.