Howard Kent of Ahwahnee has written a graphic novel with a Christian theme.
Powered by God
Lakewood looks like a nice enough place to live. A dog cavorts on a lawn, balloons float up from the Dayspring Church carnival and two people greet a stranger and invite him to join the fun.
But despite the bright colors and sunny skies, there is something sinister happening in the idyllic town.
In "The Overcomers," a graphic novel by writer Howard Kent of Ahwahnee and artist Christina Cheek of the Ozarks, four twentysomethings become the Christian soldiers battling the the forces of evil in the guise of a group called Americans for Religious Freedom (ARF).
"The story is all about overcoming life's hardships," Kent said.
Each of the "good" characters has a strength and a corresponding flaw. Steve has wisdom but a sharp tongue, Marlene has love but little discretion, Marc has great strength but a temper and Eve has spiritual discernment but reluctance to use it.
Then there is Doug of ARF, Eve's ex. He is demon-possessed and wants to possess Eve again -- not for himself but for his masters.
Graphic novels are not comic books. And "The Overcomers" is certainly not a comic. Book 1 comes out in September, published by Living Word Publications of Michigan. Kent said it will have a full-color cover with black and white interior pages. That helps keep the cost down to $6.99, but it may be available in a full-color version for a higher price. For a preview, go to www.livingwordpublications.info
The drawings are in a heroic style typical of the genre. The men are muscular, the women are beautiful and Doug, the bad guy, wears a dark overcoat and fedora that hides most of his features.
Kent said the story, which he has been working on and revising since 1988, is a jumping-off place for discussion and is aimed at people in the 13+ age group. The dilemmas the characters face are bigger than any the typical teen will ever confront.
"The characters all have pasts they have to deal with," Kent said, "just like us. I want readers to think about choices. I want to give people ideas, tools to use."
Kent, 38, is concierge at the Apple Tree Inn. He also is ordained, with a specialty in family ministry. He said he is a big sci-fi fan and loved comics as a kid.
"This ('The Overcomers') is sort of a combination of "Touched by an Angel," "The X Files" and superheroes," Kent said.
But the heroes of Lakewood get their power from God.
Each of the four has the same dream one night.
God speaks to them, saying "My child, I have found you to be trustworthy and true. You and others have been made worthy of being Overcomers. My missions for you will come as walks of faith. ... Be bold, be strong and be courageous. Have no fear and do not compromise, for the weapons of your warfare are mighty. You are a warrior of light and a soldier of the cross. ... I am with you always."
The four consult with their pastor, who advises them to pray over their direction.
Kent said while the story is told through a Christian paradigm, it is not preachy.
"It doesn't force God or the Bible on people," he said. "It urges you to live your life the best you can."
Kent said in the real world, heroism isn't all about physically overcoming a demon-possessed bad guy. Heroism can be walking up to someone you see crying in the supermarket and offering comfort or a kind word.
"That's God tapping you on the shoulder," he said.
The characters all get their strengths through faith, Kent said, and that's where he believes his strength comes from.
"You're stronger when you ask for help," he said.
"I have always been a defender. I always prayed to be big and strong. I said, 'God, here I am, use me.'"
And that seems to be the central message of "The Overcomers." The heroes are good on their own, but when they give themselves over, they become great.
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