Thursday, October 18, 2012

What's wrong with Christian Comic Books?

The very statement "I write and draw Christian Comic Books" garners me some strange looks.  The fact that I'm a Christian who works in the comic book field isn't strange in and of itself, but when I say that I work on religious fiction people begin to back away.........slowly.......as though I was about to preach at them ad naseum.

I think that this particular mindset about "Christian" comic books is a problem that we all face.  (We all being those who work on books that are Christians, and that have a bit of a Christian message to them.)  People are afraid that our work will preach at them.  Or that it'll be sub-par (as so many are).  What I'm trying to say is that what's wrong with Christian Comic Books is that they ARE Christian Comic Books.

Before you start making the hangman's noose, let's talk about this a bit.

To be a Christian Comic Book too many believe that it has to be blatant from start to finish.  You have to give your message over and over and over again, no matter how irrelevant it may be to the story itself.  Let's look at the opposite end of the spectrum, a comic book called SPAWN.  Written and created by Todd McFarlane, this particular book is about a resurrected assassin.  Or at least it used to be until he blew his own head off.  He was a soldier of hell.  Yet it was entertaining because even though he was a soldier of hell, he kept on trying to break out of that mold.  At the end he committed suicide.  RIP Al Simmons.  Now Toddy boy is an admitted atheist.  But he doesn't preach that in his book.  He has angels, demons, lords of hell and angels of heaven.  And even God him (her?) self at times.

So what can we learn from this?

#1)  Our first job, unless we are working on religious tracts such as the infamous Chick Tracts, is to ENTERTAIN.  So many of us forget this.  I've read Christian comics even as far back as my pagan days, when I was trying to move in two different circles.  Most Christian Comic books suffer from taking themselves too seriously.  If you want a comic to sell, be a CHRISTIAN CREATOR, one who has morals and their beliefs, but can still be relevant and entertain.  Which moves me on to #2.

#2)  If we're tackling a subject, we must be RELEVANT.  We can preach salvation until the cows come home and our readership uses our books as toilet paper while out hunting, or we can be relevant as we entertain.  Show Christians struggling.  Show the change in the life.  But do it in an entertaining fashion.  If you stop the story to do this huge preachy thing, people will be like:  "If I wanted to be preached at, I'd have gone to Church last Sunday."  Let's use our abilities to entertain, and if we need to make a statement, be relevant and............

#3)  Don't overdo it.  Work it into the storyline.  Make it an integral part of the plot.  If it takes you out of the story, the escapism that is our entertainment medium, then you're not doing your job.  Entertaining, Relevant, and knowing that people are reading these for a form of escapism.  Green Arrow dealt with Heroin.  Spider-Man had three drug relevant issues.  But they didn't take you OUT of the story.  They kept you in it, making it integral and moving.  It was part of the story, and in some issues THE story, but it still entertained, was relevant to that timeframe, and didn't remove you from that "escape from reality" that people plunk down their hard earned money for.

And finally........

#4)  Make sure it's as professional a package as you can make it.  If it won't stand up next to the titles that are out there from the secular companies, put it online as a web comic.  A hobby that people can surf to.  If you can compete, go for it.  But keep all this in mind.  Most distributors won't touch Christian comics because:  THEY DO NOT SELL.  Not as they are.  The artwork and writing is sub-par in probably 90% of the books I see advertised.  The storylines are fanboy dreams that these people have had since they were kids.  In fact some of the character designs are from when they were kids.  It won't work man!  You gotta see what's going on our there, and COMPETE.  Just because God said do it doesn't mean to do it crappily.  If God said for you to do it, and you've tested the spirits to make sure it is God.  (Something the Bible tells us to do.)  Then make the best danged book you can.  Hire an awesome artist, don't expect us Christian artists to work for free just because it's for God's Kingdom.  The Bible itself states "A workman is worth his wages."  If you can't afford to pay the artist, save up then do your project when you can.  Or work out a satisfactory payment arrangement.  If you think you have a concept, but can't write it.  See above.  Save up, pay the writer, then save up, pay the artist.  Then save up and print.  Or do it online.

Look, I'm not trying to bring you all down who are doing comic books from a Christian perspective.  God knows even I'm gearing up for another go at it.  These are thoughts and feelings that I have prayed on for quite a while now.  These are things that I've seen wrong since I was 16 buying Archangels:  The Saga. I want Christian perspective comics to sell, and for us to bring this to the world at large.  But we gotta be realistic in our views as well.


4 comments:

  1. Wow, it would seem I'm doing everything wrong. On some projects. On others, I seem to be following everything you are saying. Why the disparity? Because you forgot the most important part: know your audience. Some of the best comics you can find are web comics. Why? Because they know their audience. Their audience won't go in a specialty store. Some comics preach. Why? Because the people who are going to read it want that. Some comics are only meant to entertain. Why? Because that's what the reader wants and the author intends.

    So I agree with you one hundred percent. In some cases. And disagree with you one hundred percent. In some cases.

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  2. Hi Martin,

    I just found your blog and was drawn to it as I have been pondering the same subjects addressed above. Having been saved as an adult, I am truly grateful that God meets us where we are at and draws us to Himself. God's call to me is to the lost that read comic books. The books we produce through our company Beyond Time are girded by a Christian worldview. In that regard on June 12th we are releasing Magna: the Last Pantheon #1. This first issue of the six-issue mini-series is set in 1942, where Kari Skogsholm quickly discovers purpose beyond farm life when she finds herself fighting for her life against a deadly creature set on pursuing and destroying her. This issue features covers from Elizabeth Torque (Superman Annual Vol 3 1), pencils from Marcio Abreu (Red Sonja) and colors from Omi Remalante Jr (Iron Man Assault).

    If God puts it on your heart to do so, I would greatly appreciate your Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/beyondtimecomics?ref=tn_tnmn) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/BeyondTimeInc) support.

    Be encouraged and keep creating comics for God's glory!!

    God bless,

    John


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  3. If someone asks me which article is very nice to you, I will definitely refer to this site. I was very interested to read like this article. I hope you will agree with me.

    Religious Comics

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment Faruk! Glad to link to your site even in the comments section. The work I saw there looked awesome! Exactly what I've been talking about!

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