A 2,000-page graphic adaptation of the Bible, The Kingstone Bible (Kingstone Comics) features more than 10,000 art panels drawn by some of the industry’s top illustrators including artists for Marvel and DC Comics. In this Q&A, Art Ayris–Kingstone Comics founder, creative director and CEO–shares the work that went into this project, how they got noted comics talent from Marvel and DC Comics, and the challenges of adapting the Bible into this action-packed format…
Q: THE “KINGSTONE BIBLE” WAS A HUGE UNDERTAKING! WHAT INSPIRED KINGSTONE TO MAKE SOMETHING THIS EPIC?
There were three factors that were all drivers to me, each weighted a bit differently. One, when I was a children’s pastor and teacher I was always struggling for materials to connect with kids. Secondly, when I was a kid myself my mother used to read a big picture Bible to me. Growing up, I never doubted whether or not the Bible was God’s Word. Third, I kept feeling this divine magnet to move into media and couldn’t figure out at first what God was doing. But then a lot of data started hitting me in the face in regards comics and graphic novels.
It really crystallized for me when I read the recent Barna report commissioned by the American Bible Society that showed 32-percent of Millennials never engage the Scriptures and the drop is even deeper among teens – 48-percent. Yet the comics industry has grown 42% the last five years (Comichron). I think those are intersecting stats that evangelicals should take note of.
Q: HOW MANY DIFFERENT PEOPLE / SKILLS / MAN-HOURS DID IT TAKE FOR SOMETHING LIKE THIS?
One thing we discovered is the Bible is truly an epic book! When you start telling it panel by panel it is mammoth. It took us seven years to complete and took a team of 45 artists and 3 different writers to tell the complete story – all 66 books. The man hours – only God knows. One of our writers had adapted three different graphic novels for Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin and another writer was Randy Alcorn, who is no stranger to great writing and is also a NYT best-selling writer.
Q: THE TEAM BEHIND THIS PROJECT INCLUDES A NUMBER OF PEOPLE WITH CREDENTIALS FROM THE WORLDS OF PROFESSIONAL COMICS AND ALSO CHRISTIAN PUBLISHING. HOW DID THIS TEAM COME TOGETHER?
One thing that has always been important to our leadership team is the quality of our products. We always want when someone lays a Marvel or DC comic down beside a Kingstone comic there is no appreciable difference. For that reason, almost every single artist that worked with us has already worked, or does work, with Marvel, DC or one of the big comic houses. I had a lot of artists approach me and say, “Hey I am a Christian and would love to work with you.” My next question would be whether or not they had worked for Marvel or DC. That really is the litmus test for us – premium quality art that is comparable the bigger houses.
The interesting thing was quality attracted quality. One person would start working for us and tell a friend, “Hey, Kingstone is really good to work for,” and the next thing you know we are adding a great inker or a talented colorist. A wife of one of the Vice-Presidents at DC Comics works for us and our top guys did runs on Spider-man, Captain America, Hulk, Conan, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider etc. One of the big surprises in the Kingstone Bible turned out to be my wife. She was a television producer and director and start chewing on me about some flaws she saw in a couple of the early comics we put out. I told her, “You got a complaint, you got a job.” She quite television and has become an art director for us and does so well in working with the artists. And let me just say, some of these artists are mind-blowing good.
Q: THE SOURCE MATERIAL IS, OF COURSE, HISTORICAL AND FACTUAL. WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF ADAPTING FACTUAL MATERIAL IN A WAY THAT ENGAGES READERS WHILE ALSO BEING TRUE TO THE ACTUAL BIBLE?
Since I am a pastor, Biblical accuracy was of supreme importance to me. Tyndale allowed us to do direct quotes from their Bible and we consulted a lot of evangelical sources to make sure we were both biblically and historically accurate with the story. In the front of the volumes are timelines to show how the Bible stories relate to each other and other key points of history. Of course, there are some gaps that can be inferred by the story and by history that we try to connect. But throughout the Kingstone Bible, at the bottom of the pages, we direct readers to the actual Scripture so they can compare the Kingstone Bible story to their own full text Bibles.
One thing we love about serialized graphic media is that you can convey a lot of information in a short amount of time. Someone who had never read the Bible before in a few short weeks would be able to understand most of the stories, relate specific books to doctrinal teaching and see an integrated story of God’s source of salvation. There is also a high level of engagement because comics impart meaning through the reader’s active engagement with written language and juxtaposed sequential images. Readers must actively make meaning from the interplay of text and images, as well as by filling in the gaps between panels. processing text and images together leads to better recall and transfer of learning. Neurological experiments such as the Dual-Coding Theory of Cognition show that we process text and images in different areas of the brain, but when combined it can lead to better recall and transfer of learning. We can also process visual images many multiples times faster than text. Also, from an evangelistic viewpoint, intricate and well-design comic art can be a more compelling pick up for a non-religious person than a text Bible full of unusual and difficult words, figures of speech and different literary devices.
Q: KINGSTONE COMICS HAS PUBLISHED A NUMBER OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF CHRISTIAN COMICS. IS THE “KINGSTONE BIBLE” SORT OF THE CAPPER – THE END – OR IS THERE MORE FOR KINGSTONE COMICS TO DO?
God willing, this is surely not the end. We get a lot of push from people for Kingstone to start doing Christian superheroes. I just haven’t felt compelled to go there yet. It seems to me we have so thoroughly identified our superhero that I think anything Kingstone would do would pale in insignificance. I haven’t closed the door yet, just don’t see a greenlight on that as of this time. We have more cinematic projects in the work as well as some planned apologetic projects. One of our black history fiction titles is under option for a motion picture.
Additionally, our work is being licensed and translated into other languages at a dizzying pace. Just as we published the most complete graphic adaptation of the Bible ever done, we recently signed an animation agreement with a company to do the most complete animation of the Bible ever done.