Evangelistic approach to comic books draws attention

Photo by Victoria Stargel

By Amanda Parrish

Boom! Bang! Pop!

Speech bubbles float out of the mouths of colorfully illustrated characters. Vivid expressions of pain or surprise capture the eye. Page after page of action, suspense and thrill draw readers deeper into the recesses of a well-known story. Since the 1930s, comic books have enthralled readers of all ages.

But comic books have evolved since the early years, said Dr. Chris Blair, associate professor of communication arts, beginning with comics focusing on detectives and Batman. This “Golden Age” of comic books sparked the flame of interest that continues to the present day.

Over the years, many comic books morphed into crime, horror and zombie-themed stories. In the 1950s, the U.S. Senate investigated the effects of comic books on juvenile delinquency. This resulted in what is called the “Comics Code,” which supervises the content of comic books. Today, comic book genres stretch from one side of the spectrum to the other. One genre emerged in the early 1970s, Blair said, as Christian comic books began appearing.

“There’s always an opportunity for Christian subculture and counterculture to reach out,” Blair said.

Christian comic books, though somewhat of a niche market, are still making their way onto shelves across the country. For authors, the comic book industry is an outlet for creativity to share biblical themes and stories. For readers, it is an inspiring illustration of biblical truths.

Sergio Cariello, author and artist of “The Action Bible,” said he was inspired since his childhood by the stories of the Bible. Cariello said the stories of the Bible have not changed, but the method of communication has evolved with society.

“We can apply (God’s) creativity and wisdom to every facet of life,” Cariello said. “All that can be put into a comic storytelling format.”

Cariello said Christ used common language to communicate truth. Today, it is still important to use available tools to tell the story. He said his goal with comic books is to fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples.

Cariello said he hopes Christian comic books will illustrate realistic aspects of the Bible characters. He said the visualized stories grab readers’ attention and “generate an ever-learning desire to know more about biblical heroes with the same downfalls as our own.”

Colt Dixon, senior digital media studies major, agreed that comic books are an effective form of storytelling. Stories, he said, are not only for children, but for nearly any age group.

Quoting C.S. Lewis, Dixon said, “‘When I was 10, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so … when I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.’”

For Dixon, comic books are not merely a form of entertainment, but also an outlet for imagination and teaching.

“With any medium there is much potential for Christians to break into it and do it,” Dixon said. “It’s not just a way to evangelize, but it even teaches basic moral values.”

For readers and writers, comic books are not merely a form of storytelling, but a creative way to effectively communicate truth.

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.