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10,000 pictures paint the Word March 23, 2023

Posted by Pete B in Uncategorized.
exploring a few Bible comics

DC Comics launched their first Bible comic in 1942. Since then there have been a lot of attempts to retell some or even all of the Bible in multiple linked panels. Why bother?

The primary motivation is simple: to engage people (young and old) with the Bible. Bible comics aren’t meant to replace the Bible, but they may be the first way that some people actively choose to read the stories for themselves.

There are a lot of children in the world and they do seem to like comics and picture books. Adults of all ages seem to like them too but as the stories and artwork get more complex the term Graphic Novels is used to define what scholars apparently like to call “sequential art”.

Chapter 23 of the Oxford Handbook on the Bible in America is called “The Bible and Graphic Novels and Comic Books“. Written by Dr Andrew T Coates it is freely available on Academia and has much to inform (but contains no pictures).

Meanwhile you can take a look at some of the comics and graphic novels that have been produced over the years.

DC Comics produced just a two issues of Picture Stories from the Bible before comic book pioneer Maxwell Gaines left to form EC Comics. You can read more about Max on Wikipedia or browse through the comics themselves via the internet archive (free loan for an hour at a time)

Also pictured above is cover from Jesus as depicted by Al Hartley and published by Spire Christian Comics in 1979. I plan to add to my growing list of titles below and in some future posts.

Somewhat more contemporary is the 2019, Lion Kids Bible Comic, billed as “The Beano meets the Bible. Over 60 stories in comic strip style, from artists who brought us the Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep cartoon strips”, and now accompanied by the all new Lion Kids Bible Comic Activity Book.

For an older target market the Action Bible is still quite popular and other new contenders include Kingstone Bible bringing a total of “2,000 pages in three volumes with over 10,000 full-color art panels”. Kingstone has a vision for seeing their work translated widely. So far they have content available in about 60 languages and counting.

As far as I can tell the most widely translated Bible comic is the Jesus Messiah Picturebook, first published in 1993 and now available in over 230 languages.

A friend gave his own son the Czech version of Iva Hoth and André LeBlanc’s 1978, Picture Bible when he was eight, and he read it until the cover fell off.

There are many of other Bible comics from different decades and different continents in many different styles, and also a wide range of children’s picture Bibles (not that pictures are just for children).

UK Christian Book store Eden.co.uk lists over 430 Children’s Bibles, of which almost 70 are “storybook Bibles“. Not all will appeal to every audience and despite the skill and enthusiasm of the artists it’s not quite true that pictures will be understood by everyone.

Anyone considering translating a comic or picture Bible, or using any artwork cross culturally would do well to check what read my colleague Michelle Petersen’s paper on avoiding visual miscommunication.

Perhaps the risks of miscommunication should be balanced with the risks of missed communication. It may be the pictures that grabbing the attention that allows the text to be read or heard. To adapt a well known phrase, “every picture sells a story”.


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