Divine inspiration — with speech balloons
Comic-book Bibles vary in style and content, but they always stick to the source
Missonaries are always proud to say the Bible has been transcribed into hundreds of different languages and dialects. If you’re looking to get a Bible in Icelandic, it’s available. If you want to teach the people of Zaire about Jesus, you can find a Bible to do it.
All these translations into new languages help bring the Christian message to the various people of the world. And one language — that of comic-book art — helps deliver the message in a whole new way.
Rather than presenting the Bible as a thick volume of a thousand-plus pages of text, comic-book versions of the Bible are meant to appeal to those who favor visuals — namely children.
But that hasn’t stopped me — a 30-year-old comic-book fan — from picking up as many varations as I can find.
Right now, I own three versions of the bible in comic-book form: “The Lion Graphic Bible,” “The Comic Book Bible” and “The Picture Bible.” But that’s not all that’s available, there are other comic books that tell Bible stories, including a series from DC Comics in the 1970s, and another from EC Comics, first published in the 1940s.
Now I can imagine some people might fear that a comic-book version of the Bible might be a little too comic booky — a format that stretches the story beyond the “official” Word. But don’t worry, Jesus isn’t wearing a superhero costume. Noah can’t control the minds of animals. And Mary isn’t an alien. Instead, every panel is a direct transcription from the original source material. There’s nothing added to make it more readable, kind of like how back in the 1930s Robin was added to the Batman comics to make them more appealing to kids.
Lion’s Pride: The “Lion Graphic Bible” (ISBN 0-7459-4598-8), first published in hardcover in 1998 and then as a softcover in 2001, is a beautifully painted work that covers 31 Bible stories.
Old Testament entries focus mostly on key personalities such as Daniel, Noah and David. In the New Testament, it covers the life of Jesus, the early church and “visions of the future,” which tells the story of the Book of Revelation.
Illustrator Jeff Anderson paints each panel with care, going to great lengths to give every character a distinct look and personality.
Noah, for example, has a warm, calm look about him. Moses is a strong, powerful man with a bushy head of hair and beard. Jesus is confident, charistmatic and stern.
With its intensely realistic painting style, the “Lion Graphic Bible” is perfect for a teenage or even an adult comic-book fan.
Quality for kids: On the opposite end of the spectrum is the kid-friendly “Comic Book Bible” (ISBN 1-57748-143-7), drawn by cartoonist Rob Suggs.
This Bible, first published in 1995, features bug-eyed figures that look a little like characters from the “The Simpsons.” Suggs uses this style to explore dozens of Bible tales and stories in a gentle and colorful way. Additionally, each tale is accompanied by the corresponding verse from which Sugg’s story is adapted, so kids and parents can also explore the text-version of the story if they wish.
The “Comic Book Bible” devotes some of its 264 pages to maps and facts (“Soldiers in Bible Times” and “Family Life in Israel” are both interesting) that will especially appeal to youngsters.
Picture perfect: “The Picture Bible” from 1978 is the most impressive of my three comic-book Bibles. At 750-plus pages, it’s the best of the bunch simply because of its scope and coverage of the original source material.
As drawn by Andre Le Blanc, a veteran animation, comic strip and comic-book artist, the wonderful illustrations in “The Picture Bible” most resemble the style used in “Prince Valiant” comics. Each character and scene is rendered in old-fashioned comic-book style.
Unlike my other comic-book Bibles, “The Picture Bible” (ISBN 0-89191-224-X) is considered the definitive comic book Bible and has sold more than 3 million copies. With those kinds of numbers, it’s quite easy to find new and used copies on the Internet.
Getting the message across: The key thing to remember with comic-book Bibles is they are never complete versions of the Bible, but mainly focus on delivering the message of the Bible to the reader. After all, it would be next to impossible for an artist to illustrate a good deal of the Bible. The lengthy passages in the Scriptures that focus on family trees, you know the ones that say “x begot y and y begot z” probably test even the most devout Biblical scholar’s attention span. And just imagine an artist sitting at his drawing board trying to figure out the best way to make a family tree seem lively. Not easy, I can assure you.
On top of that, if an artist were actually able to illustrate every passage in the Bible, that version would fill tens of thousands of pages simply because comic-book story illustrations take up a lot of space.
So even in the lengthy “Picture Bible” there is some stuff missing. And while some of the Word isn’t there, the narrative itself is never misrepresented.
So don’t worry if you’re thinking of picking up a comic-book Bible for someone this Christmas, because every comic-book Bible I’ve seen has all Ten Commandments, and Jesus isn’t battling crime with a teenaged sidekick in the gritty underbelly of Jerusalem.