I’ve been a comic-book junkie ever since I can remember. As a child I remember growing up reading and collecting various comics (both British and American). Every now and then I stop off at a comics shop and have a look around to see what’s being published now.
The July Sojourner’s magazine had an interesting article on the comic book format as a vehicle for telling spiritual stories, which of course pricked my curiosity. You can find the article at Holy Warrior Nuns, Batman!, Sojourners Magazine/July 2004. It was the final paragraph or two that struck me. In particular
What they add to the experience of their readers is the call to a life lived with at least one eye open to the possibility of an enchanted universe – a place where the spiritual world is alive, active, and intervening in the affairs of humanity. This intervention isn’t in the form of brightly costumed messiah surrogates who can leap tall buildings in a single bound, but in the lives of fairly ordinary human beings, imperfect and often conflicted in their motivations, who are struggling to find meaning in their lives beyond the dulling drone of the culture’s demands, the sudden storms of violence that threaten to overwhelm their worlds, and the limitations of life boxed in by not enough justice, not enough joy, and not enough hope.
Having read the article I went to visit the local library who include comic books in trade paper back format in their collect and grabbed a copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes (Reviewed here).
Gaiman’s work polarises me. I enjoyed his novel Neverwhere (an alternative & magical London “under” London) and I’ve used his disturbing short story Babycakes in class once (technology & ethics). But some of his other of his stuff leaves me cold. Which is not to say that his writing, say in Sandman, isn’t helpful for looking at some of the kinds of spiritual storytelling that is going on around us. And the depth of that narrative.
I keep looking for Christian equivalents – graphic novels integrating the spiritual with the everyday. Posing questions about God, the world, evil and humanity’s place in it. So far, no luck beyond comic book versions of the Bible or writing that can only be described as tracts. But the genre has so much potential for engaging readers who are outside the mainstream book format.
Oh, and as an aside, have a read of Stephen Baxter’s short story “Good News” in Traces – a much better “death of Superman” story than the DC version from the mid-90’s and with some nice religious/spiritual parallels too.