Sunday, May 28, 2006

Christian Comic Books: Why we do it?

The article posted this week in the Fort Wayne News Sentinel webpage, (, “Comic Books Increasingly Making Reference to Faith,” made me think quite a bit about why the comic book industry in the U.S. has not embraced what I would think a potentially lucrative genre for them, (since Spiritual based works are constantly at the top of USA best seller book lists).

The article quotes noted comic book writer, Fabian Nicieza* , saying, “I don’t know of any mainstream publisher who would bite ‘that’ bullet too hard, not in fear, but concern of not wanting to divide their audience.” In one sentence I think Nicieza does a pretty good job of summing up the dichotomy facing those who create Christian based comic books and graphic novel properties. On one hand, we (the editorial we) wish there would be more industry wide acceptance and therefore more publishers open to publishing our stories. But on the other hand we realize, (if only subconsciously), that if a larger publisher, say a Marvel or DC, created a Christian or Spiritual publishing arm, in all likelihood they would not be publishing those works for the right reasons….those being of course, to share their love for their creator, spread his word or worship him, but for the profit potential. And there lies the problem!

While there is certainly nothing wrong with being in business for profit, (earning money, creating profit and having success are not a sin…but using God for profit, like a modern-day false prophet is ). But if what Nicieza speculates is true, than the only reason a Marvel or DC would publish these kind of works would be if their bean-counters could show them that the amount of profit they could earn would offset the amount of audience that they stood to lose. And if that were the case, than what would be their motivation to create Christian, or God inspired stories, other than to raise the bottom line for the stockholders?

What makes our “growing sub-genre of Christian comics” so potentially exciting is that we (the editorial we) are not working under this type of pressure. For most of us, this is something we are either doing in our spare time outside our ol’ 9 to 5, or our publishing efforts are self-funded or privately funded by a small circle of investors, (who usually see eye to eye with us spiritually speaking). This gives us the freedom to really let the Holy Spirit work on us and in us, to produce works, (whether auto-biographical, allegories, Christian fiction-fantasy or Biblical adaptation), that let us express our love for God, or what he means to us, or the underlying fabric of all that God represents to us.

Due to our financial constraints, this also means Christian creators are mainly unfettered by the editorial bureaucracies that can both make sure a work is presented in it’s grammatical, technical and continuity level best, but also can potentially strip a writer or artist of their original vision, to fall in line more with the editorial or corporate position. While this can lead to works that can appear raw and unpolished compared to the corporate publishers, it also means the reader is getting to view the original unfettered vision of what the artist/writer are attempting to put down on the page. And isn’t that what ART is all about…the interpretation of the artist, not the level at which he can mimic the skill or perfection of works churned out by corporate hired artists whose only goal is to please the vision of their editor, rather than their creator?

Though I’m sure there some who will scoff that this is just an excuse for why many Christian created comics are not as professional in appearance as their corporate cousins, and I will not deny that there are many comic books created in this genre that are far from professional, (as there are in ALL comic genres….don’t believe me, visit the small press areas of any comic convention this summer, or revisit some of the books put out by Marvel mid to late 70’s). But to those people I say…you are missing the point for most of us (the editorial us)! I am not doing the Eye Witness Trilogy, for any reason other than it is answering a divine calling I had on one December day in 2002, to use what talents God has granted me, to create a series of books in the comic style format, that could reach people with the story of the beginnings of the Christian Faith, which might not be reached in any other way. And if you spoke to a cross-section of those working in this genre, I’d venture a guess you’d hear something very similar on their motivations. In fact, I have yet to meet someone working in this genre that has told me they are doing it for the money! Does that mean that we are all altruistic artists/writers who are just expressing our love of God, or that there is little money to be made working in this genre? Probably both at the moment, because like the Christian Rockers of ten years ago, the Christian establishment does not really know what to make of us, or see a value in what we are producing. But through God’s grace, I have faith that too will change.

We do not care about dividing any audience out there. We already know them. There are the believers, there are those who are not sure and there are those who choose not to believe. I personally am writing for all three! If I earn enough money from publishing Eye Witness to have it pay for itself…that’s a blessing and means I can keep going. But if along the way my work inspires those who do not know or choose not to beliveve, to seek out God in a more personal way, than I have succeeded in my God given mission!

What editor could offer me that kind of commission?

*As a side-bar I thought it kind of ironic that Nicieza, would make these kind of statements while being front man for a company that is bringing Islamic based comic properties to the U.S. and around the world. He says, "The 99 (his comic under the Teshkeel imprint) is based on underlying Islamic values, which in truth are universal...but, it is not a religious comic book." Ha!...anyone out there who does not believe that the underlying basis of this company is to help spread the word of Allah, call me, I've got some swampland to sell down in south Florida!

Copyright 2006, Robert James Luedke