No one can deny the commercial appeal of comic book characters in today’s world. For many years now, the biggest grossing summer blockbusters have all been superhero films. Likewise, shows like Arrow, The Flash, and Gotham dominate the television landscape. People buy t-shirts, keychains, video games, and hundreds of other things with superhero images emblazoned upon them. And all of these characters got their start in what used to be derisively referred to as the funny papers.
Clearly, superhero stories are not just for children anymore. Yet the medium that has given birth to all of these incredibly popular franchises is still very much a niche market. The top selling monthly comic books sell an average of one hundred thousand to one hundred and fifty thousand copies, as opposed to the millions of people who bought tickets to see The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy. While there was a time when comics were sold in every book store and every grocery store magazine rack, today they are largely limited to small, independent retailers. Writers and artists only tend to be well known within the industry. The big comic book conventions are now as much, if not more, about Hollywood than they are about comics.
As anyone knows who read my last post on Covenant, I am passionate about comics. The reason for that is because I am passionate about storytelling and I believe that comic books provide a medium for storytelling that uniquely combines many wonderful creative elements. The writing in some of the best comics is every bit as good as the writing in some of the best novels, while the art is as compelling as anything you might find in a museum.
Moreover, the types of stories that comics can tell are endless. Superhero stories tend to dominate the medium, and they can be used to do really wonderful things that people might not expect, but there are also other genres as well, from family drama, to history, to westerns, to fantasy and science fiction. A book like Saga, for instance, is a space opera that is every bit as epic as Star Wars and every bit as funny and creative as Firefly. I firmly believe that there is a comic for everyone. One of my favorite things to do is to find comics for people to read that match their interests. It is amazing how often people say to me afterwards, “I’ve never thought of myself as a comic book person, but this is really good!”
That is why I am so pleased to be a part of a new podcast called God and Comics. Starting in February, we will be putting out a new episode every two weeks. My colleagues and fellow comic book lovers Fr. Kyle Tomlin and Fr. Matt Stromberg will join me for discussions on a whole range of topics that relate back to comics, from the elements of good storytelling to romance, mystery, ethics, love, sacrifice, and everything in between. Plus, we plan to goof around, tell a lot of corny priest/dad type jokes, and generally enjoy ourselves. And, of course, since we are a group of priests, we will inevitably discuss the parallels between the great narrative arcs in comics and the greatest story ever told. The truth of the Gospel lives somewhere in every great piece of art, if we only have eyes to see it.
We hope that many of you will listen, whether you are someone who loves comics or not. Our greatest joy would be to have a show that all people enjoy hearing and that makes non-comic book reading Christians think differently about comic books even as it makes non-Christian comic book readers think differently about Christianity. The first episode will be released on iTunes some time in early February, but in the mean time you can check out our website, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.
The featured image is taken from an issue of “The Scarlet Nemesis” (1943) and will be the new logo of God and Comics. It is in the public domain.