CCAS Panels at CCI: San Diego-July 2008

July 2, 2008 - Leave a Response

Please join us for our two CCAS panels at Comic-Con 2008!

COMIC-CON 2008 PANELS
Spirituality in Comics
Saturday, JULY 26
10:00-11:00am
ROOM 2
Spiritual themes weave a significant pattern in the story arc of our comics’ worlds. Hear from distinguished guests Cory Edwards (writer-director Hoodwinked, Fraggle Rock: The Movie), Holly Golightly (School Bites, Sabrina the Teenage Witch), Scott Wong (co-founder Brethren Entertainment), P.C. Hamerlinck (Alter-Ego) and hosted by Leo Partible (Behind the Screen: Insiders on Faith, Film & Culture).

Christian Comic Arts Society
Sunday, JULY 27
10:30-11:30am
ROOM 24
Hear about the 2008 explosion of Christian-themed projects from major publishers and network with other Christians. Panel features Michael Davis (co-creator Static Shock), Sergio Cariello (The Lone Ranger), Jerrell Conner (Revelations: The Prophets), Clint Johnson
(Faith Walker), hosted by Leo Partible (Behind the Screen: Insiders on Faith, Film & Culture). A short sermon by Robert Luedke (Eye Witness) and worship music will precede the panel discussion.

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A Word from the Reviewers

April 18, 2008 - Leave a Response

Since September of last year we (Steve MacDonald & Don Ensign) have been bringing you a series of weekly reviews of current and recent comics with Christian themes or comics produced by professing Christians. We hope you have enjoyed and been enlightened by the sheer variety and quality of Christian comics that are being produced. We encourage you to take the time and effort to seek out some of these comics to read and enjoy. The creators of these works need your support if they are to continue. At this time we are going to take a several break from adding new reviews.

However this is not the end. In the upcoming months we will be producing the 2008 Guide to Christian Comics. The Guide is an annual review of what is happening within the realm of Christian comics. It lists important people, events, companies, web sites, projects and publications within Christian comics publishing.

We have produced Guides for 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. They can be purchased for $2.50 each (add $2 for postage and shipping). If you are interested in purchasing any of these informative publications please get in touch with Don Ensign for further details (densign8@dakotacom.net).

God bless and support Christian comics.

Riddler’s Fayre

April 2, 2008 - Leave a Response

Riddler’s Fayre

Riddler’s Fayre: The Vaults of the Mind
(2006), Usharp Comics. Written by Steve Carrol Art by Jeff Anderson
and Richard Thomas, 53 pp. Hardback

Historical fiction is something we don’t see a
lot of in current comics. Marv Wolfman said if
well in a recent Comic Con panel. “I made up all
the stuff” in a series of character studies he did
for DC comics some years ago. For the
History of Israel graphic novel Wolfman is
currently working (now published) on
he is doing a massive amount of
very time consuming research.
Sometimes it is just easier to make up your
characters and worlds out of imaginary
whole cloth. You don’t have to worry about
little things like historical facts and context.

Steve Carroll sets his story in the Summer of
1199 in medieval Europe shortly after the
Third Crusade. This story revolves around
an ambitious French nobleman, Comte Ludovic
Parvell of Clermont and his ruthless quest for
the Philosopher’s Stone that can turn lead into
gold and grant eternal life. The story involves a
mysterious knight with a young teen boy who
has no memory and arcane symbols emblazoned
on his arm, a beautiful Roma girl, a wise Muslim
scholar, a wandering Jew, kindly nuns and plenty
of action and plot twists to keep you going to the
end. The story is well plotted and visualized with
engaging characters. This book makes you want
to read more to see had the tale unfolds and how
these characters grow during the course of the
story. The story reminded one of Prince Valiant,
but unlike the saga presented by Harold Foster
or his successors, people of faith are a given (as
they were in the middle ages), not something
to be largely ignored. This is the first in a series of
Riddler’s Fayre adventures that will be continued
in the next book called “The Game of Revenge.”

Jeff Anderson provides thoroughly professional
work in supplying the pencils and inks with
Richard Thomas doing balanced and restrained
color work. This graphic novel places historical
fiction squarely within the context of current
Christian comics. Bravo for Steve Carroll, Jeff
Anderson and Usharp Comics.

(This review was written in August 2006.)

Sadhu Sundar Singh

March 25, 2008 - One Response

Sadhu Sundar Singh

Sadhu Sundar Singh, (2006), Published by Calvary Comics,

Alec Stevens, (writer & artist)48 pp, Full color, $6.95

Recently Christian artist Alec Stevens’ published a graphic novel
on the life of Sadhu Sundar Singh.
Stevens is a professional illustrator who
has worked for the several of major comic book companies.
Several years ago he came out with two issues of a comic
book called Glory to God which illustrated true stories of
famous Christians (with art by himself and others). The
graphic novel (perhaps more accurately a graphic
biography) is Steven’s most ambitious work so far
and he did an excellent job. Singh was an early 20th
century Indian evangelist who preached widely in
India, Burma, China, Japan and made trips through
Europe, Great Britain and the United States.

Singh led an extraordinary life. I found his Christian
conversion experience (he was born into a Sikh family)
similar to what a number of Muslim seekers encounter
today in closed Islamic societies. Also it is similar to the
apostle Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus.
This book is filled with fascinating accounts of the suffering
and persecution Singh experienced for his faith. Once
while traveling to Tibet he was rescued by a 300 year old
hermit who gently challenged the young evangelist’s
thinking on Christian believers being imbedded in
Roman Catholic and Hindu societies. Later in America
Singh preached sermons much to the discomfort of his
listeners rebuking rich American Christians in the early
1920s for their materialistic lifestyle. He would probably
be physically ill if he came back and saw the American
Christian church in the early 21st Century. Singh had
opportunities to meet and witness to Gandhi and
encouraged a young Corrie Ten Boom (of The Hiding Place)
in her walk with God.

Alec Stevens has done a fine service in illustrating
the life of this remarkable Christian evangelist.
This book is inspirational in the best sense of the
word.

www.calvarycomics.com

Originally written in July 2006

Time Flyz

March 19, 2008 - Leave a Response

 Time Flyz

TimeFlyz volumes 1 and 2, 2007, Zondervan, Ben Avery (writer) Adi Darda Guadiamo (artist), black-and-white, digest-sized manga-style book, 152 pages (volume one)/150 pages (volume two), $9.99 each.

This is a cute little series that I had trouble getting into, maybe because the protagonist is a ten-year-old girl, and I have very little in common with ten-year-old girls, for some reason. The concept is intriguing, with cybernetic time-traveling flies and a neat little mystery of a plot that has really got me thinking. Adi Darda’s art is a great fit for this book, and the flies each have their own look, although similar enough to cause confusion until they all get sorted out. The plot, however, might be difficult for the target audience to follow, as it delves into history, physics, and time paradoxes, among other things, but could be a fun ride for kids who don’t take all that too seriously as well as those who can invest the mental energy and actually figure it all out. I was also reading the other five ZGN series1 first two issues when I was reading this title, so the subtleties were lost.

Ben Avery (fill in your favorite Ben Avery title here “_______________”) is in top form (is he ever NOT in top form? This guy could write the hump of a camel!) with a complex plot, fully realized characters, and a big-bad setup that gives a face to the present threat but leaves the puppet-master in the shadows at least through the second volume. Adi Darda1s artwork is fantastic, rendering the multiple unique cyber-insects, drawing from extreme perspectives, and populating the story with both real historical people (Ben Franklin, Imhotep) and fictional characters, blending the two believably. His cartoony style doesn1t get old, and his mastery of the craft is evident

The historical characters play major parts in the story, as someone or something is kidnapping the great inventors throughout time, and we get to meet them as the characters do. It would do the book well to add a page in the back with more information about the actual personalities and lives of these great men (and, I presume eventually women, although the first two books feature only male inventors), as it is vague whether the events actually happened (with the TimeFlyz playing an incidental part) or if these are entirely fictional events. Even something urging the deeper study of the inventors would be a nice resource, but since we are already two issue deep that is perhaps wishful thinking, unless Zondervan can add more content like that to their website for these books which would be nice.

Teamwork, a sense of belonging, personality clashes ­ these are issues that a 10-year old could relate to, as we all could to some extent. Two issues into the series and we get all this and more, but the Christian content is spotty at best. Of course, Avery is most likely working up to something, and we do experience Jewish slave life in their Egyptian captivity period, and one of the incidental characters does mention taking comfort from reading Bible verses, but the reader is given nothing overtly evangelical, which may not be on the menu for this particular ZGN at all(or any, so far the three based on Bible characters are all set in the Old Testament and the three modern books each contain some Christian themes but with very little proselytizing, at least at this point in each series). But in the final reckoning, TimeFlyz is a fun, well-written, nicely illustrated book with the promise of a very entertaining climax.

Review by Steve MacDonald

(Steve wrote a summary review of Time Flyz earlier. Here he expands on this graphic novel from Zondervan.)

What About the Trinity?

March 11, 2008 - Leave a Response

 trinity_pinkoski.gif

What About the Trinity?, (2007), Amazing Facts, Inc., Jim Pinkoski (writer & artist),
56 pp., b & w., $3.95.

In 1999  Intervaristy Press published Dr Doctrine’s Christian Comix #3: On the Trinity
written and drawn by seminary professor Fred Sanders. This book was an educational comic whose cartoon sheep host, Dr Doctrine, does a historical survey of how the doctrine of the Trinity was elucidated from scripture. Sanders format is somewhat similar to that used by Scott McCloud in his Understanding Comics and Making Comics volumes. Sanders includes one page shorts on how different theologians have spoken about the Trinity, sections on how the Trinity has been represented in Western art and Trinity Math–examining the paradox of the Trinity.

Christian artist and cartoonist Jim Pinkoski working with two pastors has produced another educational comic book on the Trinity. The pastors are Doug Bachelor (the head of Amazing Fact, Inc. ministries) and the late Harry Anderson. Pinkoski uses these two men as co-lecturers/teachers to guide the reader through the numerous points of theology contained in this publication. This book is more of an illustrated lecture than a true comic book. It is very text heavy and while Pinkoski strives valiantly to make the text as visually interesting as possible one wonders if straight prose would have been more effective and efficient. The view of the Trinity presented here is orthodox and our two lecturers take great pains to show how the Trinity is supported from scripture. They also discussion how the doctrine of the Trinity was formalized by the early church (Nicaean Creed). Pastor Batchelor gives some analogies from the physical universe on how the Trinity might be understood (p. 45a). He also deals with early heresies and certain unbiblical doctrines concerning the nature of God( p. 43, 53). Only rarely does the Seventh Day Adventist orientation of this publication come into play as it did with Pastor Anderson’s criticism of pre-tribulation teaching (p. 17-18). To this reviewer this seemed a doctrinal rabbit trail better examined at length in another publication.

Jim Pinkoski is to be commended for dealing with this very important and vital Christian doctrine and presenting it in visual form. For those who do not want to tackle this formidable and often difficult to understand teaching in a strict prose format this illustrated lecture “comic” would be a good place to start.

Amazing Facts, Inc

Holy Scrolls: The Origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls

March 4, 2008 - 2 Responses

Holy Scrolls: The Origin of the Dead Sea Scrolls, (November 2007), Lamp Post, Inc, Brett Burner (writer), Diego Candia (artist), B & W, 35 pp. (free download from wowio.com)

Let me tell you a secret. Educational comics don’t have to be boring. The story of the Holy Scrolls starts off with a young boy peering through a museum display case exclaiming, “This is so completely lame! I can’t believe I’m stuck here looking at scraps of old paper!”

He is then confronted by a friendly old man who proceeds to tell him about those “lame” —” scraps of old paper. The elder gentleman weaves a spell binding tale that begins with the conquests of Alexander the Great, the desecration of the Jerusalem Temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the rise of the Maccabees and their successful revolt against foreign rulers. He goes on to describe the Essene sect who established the community of Qumran near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea. The Essenes were diligent scribes who kept and copies of numerous scrolls of the Torah (the Hebrew Bible) and other important writings. These paper and leather scrolls were later placed and sealed in clay jars. When the Roman General Titus and his armies conquered Jerusalem in 70 AD crushing the Jewish revolt, the Essenes hid these clay jars with they precious contents in obscure caves near Qumran. There they remained until 1947 when a bedouin boy threw a stone in one of the caves and heard a smashing sound. He later investigated and found the ancient jars. The story then plays out like a modern spy novel with mystery and intrigue as the scrolls finally come to the attention of the international scholarly community.

This story is filled with great action scenes, drama, danger and excitement. This is not a dull talking heads comic book lecture but an dynamic true story that makes dusty history come alive. The mysterious old man suddenly vanishes leaving the stunned boy and the reader wondering who he actually was. As the young boy proclaims at the end while again looking into the glass display case to his parent’s pleasant surprise, “…this is so cool.”

Brett Burner with the help of Biblical scholars Dr David Noel Friedman and Dr. Pam Fox Kuhlken has turned in a script that should be used in coming years as a primer showing how to do educational comic books right. Artist Diego Candia does a very professional job using varied panel layouts, dramatic drawing and historical research to make this a convincing story visually. This comic is a great page turning read for any age but especially for young people who think Biblical history is “lame.”

www.wowio.com

Goofyfoot Gurl #1

February 26, 2008 - Leave a Response

Goofyfoot Gurl #1

Goofyfoot Gurl #1 (Let There Be Lighten Up), 2007, Drigz Abrot (Writer), Allison Barrows (artist), Thomas Nelson/RealBuzz Studios, FC, 90 pp., $10.99

Have you ever been caught reading other people’s mail? As a middle age male reviewer I had that feeling while reading through this mangaish graphic novel. The title character is a fuzzy haired teen age girl named Suki (she’s “half Japanese–but always one hundred percent listener.”) Suki has a group of teen friends who hang out at the beach (apparently Orange County, California) waited for the surf so they can ride the waves on their boards. Most of her friends are from very well-to-do families. There’s the willowy blonde, Char whose father has just re-married a younger woman (“Miss Bimbo”) named Randi. Char is naturally having a difficult time with this woman who is maybe three of four years her senior. Then there is the East Indian girl Pooja whose family is trying to arrange a marriage between her and an unattractive engineer named Sanjeev. She obviously resisting this setup relationship. Next is a young African American named Joplin who lives alone in a high tech mansion and is starved for attention from his absentee parents. Scott is the anglo boy and the only non-rich kid who has several entry level jobs just to keep his nose above water. But he is an excellent surfer who can give lessons to the other kids. Suki herself has a dolphin friend named Delphine who comes to her rescue as she is being pulled under by a rip tide.

My friend and Christian cartoonist Monte Wilson would call this a “quiet” story. There isn’t anything earth shattering or even particularly exciting about this graphic novel. It reads like listening in on a conversation among several contemporary  teenage girls and boys. The accent here is on relationships and the various difficulties young people have especially with their parents or others in authority. This is the first book in a four part series. One gets the feeling that this is the set up and the resolution to the conflicts will be developed in subsequent books. So far there is little in this book to distinguish it as a Christian graphic novel (“But I see you in church on Sunday–aren’t you a Christian?”) I suspect the Christian emphasis will become more explicit in up coming books.

The artwork is loose, sketchy with nuanced, muted pastel-like coloring. The art looks almost like preliminary roughs or story boards. The visual panel to panel story telling is quite good with emphasis on real world backgrounds (convenience stores, airports, ritzy homes, teen fashions, night street scenes). The drawings works well with the overall relaxed (even somewhat depressive) mood of the story.

While I found this story boring (especially with any real resolution being put off to future issues)–I’m not the intended audience. Goofyfoot Gurl needs to connect with the tween and young teen girls for it to be successful.

www.RealBuzzStudios.com

The Guardian Line

February 19, 2008 - Leave a Response

Genesis 5

(This review was written in August 2007. Please note Steve MacDonald’s qualifications in this review. Urban Ministries, Inc has since announced that they are revamping the entire Guardian Line.)

The Guardian Line (2006-2007). Urban Ministries, Inc, [ Individual series; Code; Genesis 5; Joe & Max; Seekers- each series has four issues], 32 pp., $2.99

Individually these comics are varied.—Code is a stand alone hero like Batman, Genesis 5 has more of a New Mutants feel to it, and the other two feature younger kids thrust into larger worlds— and all are gear to an inner city audience. The ethnic makeup of the individuals more closely resembles what you’d find in a typical inner city. Thus giving a truer cultural feel than most mainstream attempts. While none of the individuals are traditional costumed superheroes (indeed, many off the primary characters are simply human, and some are teens and late pre-teens!). Some have powers derived from ‘high powers’ with at least six angelic beings among their ranks. The art in each title is well done, and very consistent throughout each issue. However, the characters, although they seem fully realized, feel as if they have been fed to the creative teams instead of flowing from them.

In Genesis 5, the story is confusing… the main character is apparently a non-Christian, but he is given the care of five teenage angels (who appear naked, in issue one anyway, with carefully placed wings making for ridiculously posed panels. I showed the panels to my wife and she immediately pointed out that they were indeed naked)- not much else is given for reference. Then the human character enrolls them in school. It just seems very silly, and nothing you’d expect after you’d reading about angelic visitations in the Bible. They each seem to have a superpower (air, water, cold, telekinesis, a sword…stuff like that), but first issue has a gruesome scene with a message literally burned into a corpse. The second has the younger main character lying to his Mom at the beginning of the issue. Lots of little faux pas makes it not very good…characters names and powers are not made clear, their actual purpose is unknown, he angels fill up on junk food and TV, a typo by the artist shows poor editorial control. This isn’t one that I’ll be showing my kids any time soon or encouraging others to buy.

Code (I’ve only seen issue #2) features a characer actually taking the Lord’s name in vain, irreverent references to God by main characters, sloppy writing andd editing, along with a faulty concept of hell- as if people (or a whole city) can be forced into it. All this gives Christians and non-Christians alike wrong information about spiritual things. This is one of the worst plotted and written comics I’ve read, and coming from an industry pro like Mike Baron (from his website: Nominated for best writer in the Kirby, Harvey and Eisner awards, and has won two Eisners for his work on Nexus) I was extremely surprised. Code isn’t listed among Mike’s works on his site, so I might be off on that one.

Joe & Max features another angel, this one a bodyguard/friend for the main character. The angel can only speak in scripture, so some of his lines are horribly out of context, and seem to strip the actual scripture of the massive spiritual weight that they should carry. A nice concept (the Guardian Angel) fused with a ridiculous concept (why would an angel be forced to speak in scripture?) makes it hard to get into. Similarly, the Seekers features younger characters, but this time they have the ability to travel through time. The first issue is all set-up, and it’s the only one I’ve seen so far, so I can’t comment too much on that one.

I’m going to have to advise readers to stay away from this comic line. I’d like to have a hard interview with the creator/writers and get some tough questions answered. But until then, these comics are just too flawed spiritually to recommend to non-Christians (no real gospel message), too convoluted to recommend to Christians (focusing on fantasy spiritual warfare and not on true spiritual things) and poorly written and plotted, for the most part (blasphemy in Code, scripture quoted out of context in Joe & Max in either laughable or cringe-worthy ways, and implied nudity in Genesis 5–are naked angels the best visual subject matter for comics ostensibly geared toward adolescent males?), to recommend to people who just want a good read. I had high hopes for this line, but its too problematic for me to share with anyone else.

Review by Steve MacDonald

Thieves

February 13, 2008 - Leave a Response

Thieves (November 2007), Community Comics, Ben Avery (writer), Pauolo Libunao), B & W, (free download from http://www.wowio.com)

Barabbas was the name of 1962 Biblical epic movie starring Anthony Quinn and Ernest Borginine. The story followed the fate of a First century insurrectionist/murderer who intersected the life of Christ (Matthew 23:18-19) after His trial. The movie is powerful portrayal what might have happened to Barabbas after the frenzied mob demanded his release and the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazereth. Thieves takes a similar tack in telling the story of what might have happened before in the lives of the two thieves who were crucified with Christ (Matthew 23:32-42 ).

This is arguably the best script the profilic Christian comics writer Ben Avery has produced so far. It is full of drama, strong characterization, taut emotions, sympathetic and conflicting motivations and a unexpected twist ending. This is a story that can stand toe to toe with anything the secular comics media can present and top it. Avery crafts believable sub stories that present the “why” these thieves ended up being nailed to crosses beside Jesus. There is Zev, the hot headed strong man whose only thought apparently concerns his next victim. Then there is Arion who has fallen into a life of crime to provide for his wife and two young sons. And lastly is the weak Lemuel who does not make it to the cross. Avery does a superb job in weaving the lives of these despited individuals into a dynamic, fast paced and exciting tale showing how historical fiction can make truly compelling comics.

The artist Pauolo Libunao  turns in an excellent penciled drawings with varied layouts and cinematic pacing that fits Avery’s script perfectly. Emotive close ups, dramatic  pan shots, superbly timed action sequences, well researched backgrounds are some of the visual magic Libunao injects into this story. Even without inking and color this is a very impressive body of work.

With Thieves Ben Avery and Pauolo Libunao have raised the bar high—very high. This is what Christian comics can be when an excellent story concept, script, and art come together. Stories like Thieves show that Christian comics can be trendsetters not just followers. Highly recommended.

www.wowio.com