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So there I was, one of the many God showed a need for Christian comics to. Like many of you I assumed that since I alone (silly assumption, yes?) was inspired by the need for Christian comics, that I must do it myself.

 

Preachy or Subtle?

How to avoid 'Christian Talking Heads?'

How to show action when murder is against God's will.

What level of realism to depict sin with? Too superficial and non-believers will think you don't know what you are talking about. Too graphic and the temptation to sin is great.

Am I being subtle about Christianity or just hiding my light under a wicker basket so that a little light shines through the holes, but not enough to blind the non-believers?

 

Did you ask yourselves these questions? I did.

 

On the question of action/conflict: To avoid Christian Talking Head, what were some solutions to show fighting? Fighting for what is right is a good thing. But the whole argument against whether the nature of War has changed since the New Testament comes up. Some people believe Christians shouldn't even be soldiers or police officers.

One solution is to show Biblical battles. There is no question that God supported many of those battles, hence there is no error in showing them.

Another solution is to show Angels battling Demons. Very visually exciting, and allowed, as Angels and Demons war and will continue to war until God ends the reign of Satan.

Another solution is to have humans fighting undead, robots, demons, so no murder transpires.

 

Over the years I have seen a few books with these themes. There was a time when I wondered whether there were too many books like this, but in time I decided that I feel every creator brings a different twist to these stories. For Angelic Warfare for example, Mark Melton's Angel Dreams is different than Melchizidek Todd's Allegories of the Way, both are wonderful series. Lisa Hutchison's The Shelter of Wings is another story of the supernatural that is also very different, and also uniquely lovely. Slightly different as it has humans battling demons is Shandra Koger's magnificent Lightning Prophetess. So I no longer shy away from these sort of books.

 

Christian super heroes are another popular solution to putting action into your Christian book. Again, there are many approaches that can be taken to Christian Superheroes, they need not all be the same.

 

The Christian spiritual armor in Ephesians is another recurring concept in comics as it is a goldmine of visual imagery and suggests action packed spiritual warfare, whether the armor is physical or the battles take place in a spiritual realm. Exciting stuff.

I personally decided I would go with the Christian talking heads, encouraged by some manga that were primarily about romance or friendships, with little or no physical conflict, as well as the "Adventures in Odyssey" radio program that I listened to for many years. I chose teens for my characters because we are all at some point, teenagers, and it remains a vivid memory, an exhilarating, exciting time of discovery, hope, love, loneliness, pain... the struggles the average non-combatant deals with and empathizes with. Even here, we see this is a recurring theme. David Duarte's fabulous 'Modern Christians' is one of my favorites, and it's nothing like my own amateur attempt 'The Edge of the Flock'. Justin Martin's 'Light Weightz' is a fusion of super powers/gifts of the Spirit and the teenager theme that looks like it's going to be astounding. And of course, the landmark rightly praised 'Serenity' series by Buzz Dixon is probably the first Christian teen comic that comes to mind for most people.

 

It's rare that I see two very similar stories.

Anyway, I will end now and open the floor to anyone who wants to share what their own thoughts for their stories were, how they decided on the genre and audience, and other inspirations the Lord gave them. Thank you for reading:)

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I think I asked myself all those questions after i began Allegories. Once I placed it on the web for people to see and critque did I begin to think more about why and what I was doing. I didn't get many responses at first, the typical you're angels look like demons comment would show up. I actually would worry and think too much about what people would say or think about my stuff at first. To be honest I'm happy I didn't get many response at first because I may have been swayed to change things while I was maturing with the comic and God. At this point I get more feedback, mostly positive, but either way I have matured enough to know I need to be true with what I want to "preach" to the audience and feel in my heart what makes a good story.

One example of something I use to ponder about is action or violence you can say. I will depict some graphic stuff if it warrants the character and story. I don't try to show blood very often, because i think in my opinion that blood can be too graphic at times(plus i have seen real dead people in pools of blood and it's not something I like to recall). But  i have drawn a dead person in a pool of blood to show the brutality of a murder. I have drawn decapitation and brutal fighting by an angel to show how her torment as a POW effected her mentally. I feel violence just to show violence as "cool" isn't right or good storytelling. It should serve a purpose in a story not just to entertain and shock for fun. But that's just my thought about that.

I personally enjoy how we all depict our creativity with Christian comics. It's amazing to see how as different people we come up with different ideas about the kingdom of God.

To be honest, I never really asked myself any other those questions until recently, when I was honing my age base. personally I just let God write himself however He wanted to and just went with it. And here I am. I found myself going with a lot of symbolism, which is what drives a lot of my story... color based angels and sins as actual beings... to more illustrate common concepts in a different way. Seems to work out well :)

Thank you Melchizidek and Amanda, it's interesting you both seem to have analyzed your stories after the Holy Spirit inspired you. I do wonder if doing the reverse, working from formulas has the danger of creating something you don't really want to be doing, or missing God's will by leaning on one's human understanding.  I can't help but think careful pre-planning before constructing a story works for some, but probably not all people. Everyone here is so different...

 

Buzz, I am looking forward very much to hearing your thoughts about this and related topics! When I used my formulas to come up with my own idea for a Christian comic way back when, I wanted a Christian manga about teens that took characters from unsaved to saved, and I wanted it to be funny because I felt that was the best way to disarm knee jerk rejection of the Gospel. Some years later(God's timing, manga was now well known in the West and growing in popularity.), your 'Serenity' series achieved all of these things in a very big way! So naturally I'm very interested in your creative processes!

 

Well I've been working on my novel series for 12 years now, and I think there is a balance... you should plan WITH God... in prayer... and see where He takes it. There was somethings that God told me to take out for reasons unknown to me. Its fun to watch it develop where God wants it to go.


On the other hand, I'm also working on a spin-off from my main story called Penumbra. Its one of the main story character's childhood story. It is a web story that I just wanted to have freedom with to see where it goes. Just to try a different style and something with no planning at all. We will see how it goes :D

That is wise Amanda, it probably isn't necessary to take an 'either/or' attitude like I did, that Comic Creation must be all intellect or all intuitive, but that both go together with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Let us know how Penumbra goes, I suspect it will be good as you have the experience and wisdom to 'make it up as you go along' (for lack of a better phrase, ha ha )

Cool thread.

I think the questions you ask are questions that believer-creators SHOULD be asking for the primary reason that WE are God's ambassadors in our chosen creative endeavors.

I think one of the biggest struggles I had initially (after I found Christ) was thinking that SOMEONE should be "saved" in every one of my stories. You know, the idea that God changes lives SHOULD change someone who reads it--right? Ultimately I came to the conclusion that that was one thing I didn't like about "Christian fiction," and made it seem too predictable and unrealistic. If I didn't like it about prose work, why should comics be any different.

Another thing I struggled with was thinking that my protagonist HAD to be a Christian.

Ultimately (and this is my conclusion, not suggesting it MUST be yours as well), I decided that a)I didn't have to have a conversion in every story b)my protagonist didn't have to be a believer c)yet, God's love and grace HAD to be shown someway, somehow.

My approach has since become what I call the Little House approach. I view shows like Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons as "Christian" shows. They aren't promoted as such, certainly, but what they are is a series of stories about families with incredible faith in Christ. We follow their trials--SOME of which is specifically about faith, some of which is not, but it always viewed through their faith-lens. Thus, though my protagonist may not be a believer, he's friends with one or one is otherwise prominent in the story so that readers can see the fruits of a believer. Additionally, there MAY be a conversion, but it's not a certainty--after all, how many times do "I" share that the person drops to their knees to accept Christ? Maybe 10%? MAYBE. (likely not even that high, I'm just trying to keep the math easy for me) I feel it is my responsibility as a believer to go about the business of sharing the Good News. I feel it is my responsibility as a believer who is a writer to go about the business of writing good stories that somehow contain the Good News and point people in the direction of the Cross. I can't ignore the mechanics of storytelling any more than Peter could avoid the mechanics of fishing.

my 2c

Thank you Buzz, your insights and observations are exciting to me. Like, your Johnny Cash/ Elvis Presley illustration I -finally- understood what people meant when they said 'not doing Christian comics, Christians doing comics'. All this time I will confess it seemed to me like it was somehow a compromise to get work in an unsaved world, without violating ones own Christianity...but not being aggressively evangelical enough to drive employers away. But your illustration makes a -lot- of sense to me. Your reply is full of gems, I will be rereading it a lot in the days to come.

 

Roland, I loved your observation about the temptation of 'a salvation in every story', because I still think that way. Funny, I seem to have forgotten that in the New Testament, a lot of people looked Jesus right in the eyes, spoke with him, some experienced miracles, and some of these guys still didn't get saved... Yet nothing is more convicting than the Bible itself. I have been guilty of thinking that the more scripture I cram into my stories, the more life changing power my stories, however flawed they may be, will have.

But reading your post I'm reminded of something I heard on the radio once. The Maranatha Singers were accused of antinomianism, and I was thinking 'Praise songs can't possibly contain the whole Bible, you can't expect them to! They can only point the way to the whole Word of God...' They were being judged by unrealistic standards.

Thank you Melchizedek, Amanda, Buzz, and Roland, great perspectives from all of you.

Melchizedek, I understand what you mean about the value of violence being portrayed in a negative way. When I saw 'Excalibur', the sheer shock of the opening of the movie, the gore and the rape and violence was so repellant that when Arthur creates Camelot, you want to cheer. You understand what he was trying to save people from. 'Saving Private Ryan' took the glamor of decades of watching war movies for me. Even fighting for what's right can have a tragic side to it....

 

Amanda, thank you also for sharing your approach to creating your stories and worlds. I think you were very wise when you said do 'plan with God, in prayer'. I believe God can inspire each creator with a unique vision. Even if we all did basically the same story concept, none would be absolutely identical. Each would have a different 'appeal' range. But by planning with God, taking counsel with other Christian creators, and praying, perhaps even bigger and better things can be done..!

May God bless us all,

(And everyone, don't forget to pray for the CCAS at San Diego Con!)

 

 

 

Lots of great points, what Buzz said reminded me of a couple of things that I see a lot when it comes to Christians writing stories and comics. They become so scared of putting anything in their stories that the story itself becomes flat, predictable and boring. While we are supposed to 'turn the other cheek' and whatnot, people forget that God sent many armies out to conquer nations. God Himself did a lot of destruction and showed His wrath as well. While we are to show the love of Christ, sometimes it doesn't hurt to show that while we do so, we are not push overs either.


While regulating what goes into your story IS important, I know there are a lot of christian artist and writing groups that go overboard (in my opinion) with regulations on what can and can't be in your works in order to be a part of it. You get 'stuck in the weeds' of trying to make sure you can please everyone and in the process lose the power of your story.

To me, its all about what you are trying to say. Like Gerard says, everyone has their own voice. Some write for those who are already christians (because face it we need motivation, inspiration and encouragement too) and those stories can be as 'christian' as they want, while others write for the unbelievers. Then we all have a different message. Are you wanting to show God's power? His Grace? The deepness of His love? How miracles can happen? There are so many different aspects and avenues that depending on what you want to show, will dictate how you go about it, and what you include in it. You can't please everyone, you will always have critics (christian and otherwise), but as long as you and God see Eye to Eye on what you are doing...it will reach it's intended target.

<my own testimony> Me, I don't believe my stories are really to convert anyone, though it may, because that isn't my message. It's more of recognizing the SIN in this world and learning how to deal with it. And showing others that the choices that they make DO matter. One person can make a difference. God is prominent within it and one person does get saved (which actually came naturally and wasn't part of the original plan) but its not the central theme. The testimony is that one girl that came across it and I would say is my biggest fan, is not religious (or rather wasn't) but now she talks about God and plans on reading my novel to her daughter. My manager is letting his daughter read it and he knows its Christian based, even though he and his family are of Indian beliefs. Both shocked me. </end testimony>


Main point is, whatever your story is, Tell it. And tell it with the freedom you need to make it powerful. God gave it to you, your message and your way of telling it. No one can do it but you. And you never know just who you will reach in doing so.

   Great stuff here...

   You know, I think about this quite a lot- the first facet of the nature of God we discover in the very first verse in the Scriptures is that God is a Creator. God creates. And looking around at His creation I see such freedom.

   The variety in form, color, texture, size, sound, temperature, flavor, etc., etc., etc is utterly mind-boggling. I don't know if it is possible for God to have fun, or that that idea/feeling even applies to Him, but I cannot help but see that God enjoyed making the universe. 

   I see- as far as I am capable of seeing, anyway- no restrictions in the utter creative imagination of the Lord. The same Lord who made the oak tree made the desert, and He who made the Bengal tiger made the vampire squid. God created to satisfy Himself... which is why He called everything "good".

   So we as Christians- the image bearers of God- ought to follow His example. We should have creative freedom to explore. Not with the idea of challenging norms, or saving souls driving our pens and brushes, but just with the joy of creating. And if we are lovers of Christ that will show itself naturally, because that is what and who we are.

   But Christians can be a strange breed. They are just as liable to put Christians in a creative box as the world is. "Doesn't say 'Jesus' enough" is a criticism I have heard a number of times. How is this different from the worldly criticism of "says 'Jesus' too much"?

   But that's the human heart, I suppose, so there's no use in trying to please it.

   I enjoyed this thread, folks. 

AWESOME and well said. I agree totally :)

Steve Crespo said:

   Great stuff here...

   You know, I think about this quite a lot- the first facet of the nature of God we discover in the very first verse in the Scriptures is that God is a Creator. God creates. And looking around at His creation I see such freedom.

   The variety in form, color, texture, size, sound, temperature, flavor, etc., etc., etc is utterly mind-boggling. I don't know if it is possible for God to have fun, or that that idea/feeling even applies to Him, but I cannot help but see that God enjoyed making the universe. 

   I see- as far as I am capable of seeing, anyway- no restrictions in the utter creative imagination of the Lord. The same Lord who made the oak tree made the desert, and He who made the Bengal tiger made the vampire squid. God created to satisfy Himself... which is why He called everything "good".

   So we as Christians- the image bearers of God- ought to follow His example. We should have creative freedom to explore. Not with the idea of challenging norms, or saving souls driving our pens and brushes, but just with the joy of creating. And if we are lovers of Christ that will show itself naturally, because that is what and who we are.

   But Christians can be a strange breed. They are just as liable to put Christians in a creative box as the world is. "Doesn't say 'Jesus' enough" is a criticism I have heard a number of times. How is this different from the worldly criticism of "says 'Jesus' too much"?

   But that's the human heart, I suppose, so there's no use in trying to please it.

   I enjoyed this thread, folks. 

Gerry, 

Awesome thread! I believe that this is the stuff great Christian comic creators should contemplate. I like most of the forum, have tackled the same issues. I started (and was lead in doing) a Biblical styled story as I prayed over it, God allowed for me to see that the Biblical story was a spring board for Him to inspire in  me to create other works. Thus "Evil Deeds" was conceived. I see my current project as a tackling the questions what happens when someone starts out "good" wants to do whats righteous and holy but finds that he is left with options that only seem "evil" or result in the hurting/killing/destroying of others for the greater good of the righteous or innocent. Also when does a Christian turn the other cheek and when does he/she not leading to-- is it ever right to not to? What is justifiable or righteous anger? How can one be angry and sin not? these are topics that I am trying to explore in the story line.

but...I am still reading the replies so, I will stop here so I don't cover anything that has already been said.

Wow now I want to read your story!!! hehe i'm intrigued because I don't know many who are brave enough to tackle that particular topic and I am very curious to see how you do it. I remember my pastor telling us that there is a difference between turning the other cheek and letting someone intentionally use you. But I never truly thought about where that line is drawn. That is so awesome!!!!!

D.L. Maffett said:

Gerry, 

Awesome thread! I believe that this is the stuff great Christian comic creators should contemplate. I like most of the forum, have tackled the same issues. I started (and was lead in doing) a Biblical styled story as I prayed over it, God allowed for me to see that the Biblical story was a spring board for Him to inspire in  me to create other works. Thus "Evil Deeds" was conceived. I see my current project as a tackling the questions what happens when someone starts out "good" wants to do whats righteous and holy but finds that he is left with options that only seem "evil" or result in the hurting/killing/destroying of others for the greater good of the righteous or innocent. Also when does a Christian turn the other cheek and when does he/she not leading to-- is it ever right to not to? What is justifiable or righteous anger? How can one be angry and sin not? these are topics that I am trying to explore in the story line.

but...I am still reading the replies so, I will stop here so I don't cover anything that has already been said.

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