You've got to love comics to make good comics – and there's an obvious love and respect for this American art form that drives Kingstone.
The Kingstone Bible
Volume 10: The Apostle
written by Randy Alcorn / illustrated by Javier Saltares
Volume 12: The Revelation
adapted by Art A Ayris / illustrated by Kyle Hotz
As the ambitious folks at Kingstone Comics turn out original works, they continue their high quality graphic-novelization of The Bible, two volumes of which – The Apostle and The Revelation – are good representative samples. Aside from The Kingstone Bible, which numbers twelve volumes, there are smaller graphic novels that zero in on specific books (Jonah, The Christ, King David), and even light apologetics (101 Questions About The Bible and Christianity, Eternity, The Book of God). The catalog is rounded out by inspirational works, classics, and even an excellent graphic-novelization of last year's feature film about a group of post-rapture survivalists – The Remaining. Kingstone's efforts at creating a viable graphic interpretation of scripture is not the first, but is the most successful to date.
Translating ancient texts and theological issues into a popular format made famous by the likes of Spider-man and The Yellow Kid is no easy task. The temptation is to dumb-down the subject matter into insignificance or, on the opposite side of the scale, to get bogged-down by dry-as-dust King James dialog and an over-abundance of narration. Visually, Bible adaptations have tended to be rendered dynamically static and bound by an often awkwardly-drawn realism. Legendary comic book artists like Jack Kirby (who was so instrumental in creating the Marvel Comics style), created daring, dynamic pop mythology that often threw out the rule book, as far as realistic rendering was concerned – of course, interpreting 'holy writ' presents built-in boundaries that change the artistic parameters. The dynamics that make the 'comic book' form so appealing are often sacrificed on the altar of a miss-guided sense of respectability coupled with an unfamiliarity with the medium. You've got to love comics to make good comics – and there's an obvious love and respect for this American art form that drives Kingstone.
Of course there are parts of he Bible – the creation and the exodus come immediately to mind – thatsuggest great visuals. The Revelation, of course, is replete with vivid and sometimes bizarre images – in some ways the graphic story of all graphic stories. Offered to the Apostle John in living color and complete, it's a playground for the mind and hand of a comic book artist. The story of the apostle Paul, however, is about an aging Jew that writes a lot of letters. Lots of potential to be visually dynamic? Not so much....
The Apostle tells the story of Saint Paul framed in the reminiscence of Saint Luke, who also ended up writing what we accept today as part of the cannon of the New Testament. Beginning with a recounting of the stoning of Stephen, Luke takes us through the evolution of the robust, ant-christian crusader Saul, who became Paul, the defender – and often the definer – of the faith. Randy Alcorn does a good job putting the story together through the eyes of Luke, creating believable dialog and fleshing out some of the stories of Paul's life with well-researched speculation. Salvator Salteres creates the Biblical landscapes nicely and renders Paul, Luke and the various players in a realistic but not stilted style with varied points of view and creatively designed layouts. While Paul's adventures were well told it was, for me, the depiction of the aged apostle, his vision impaired, passionately dictating his letters to the scribe desperately trying to keep pace, that really made the man come to life in a fresher way than ever before.
The Revelation is, of course, a real visual grab-bag, and Kyle Hotz jumps right in with dynamic imagery often exploding into two-page spreads. Art A, Ayris is credited as having done the adaptation (as opposed to being the 'writer'), and he carefully includes scripture references at the bottom of each page so that you can check out the text. The visions of Revelation are rendered vividly and references to temples and earthly realms are detailed and nicely drawn. In many ways, this is an excellent way to familiarize yourself with this Biblical text that relies so heavily on image, remembering that we really don't know exactly what John's vision looked like, but rely on his limited ancient experience of the world to create language to express the unimaginable.
Kudos to Kingstone for essentially doing the same.