Art Ayris is the founder of Kingstone, a multimedia company known for its top-quality Christian comics and graphic novels, as well as animation and film. Last year, the company released the hugely popular Kingstone Bible, a 2000-plus page fully illustrated Bible trilogy. In this exclusive Q&A, Ayris discusses three new Kingstone publications—Help Me Say Goodbye, a comic book for children dealing with the loss of a loved one; the graphic novel Voices of the Martyrs: A.D.34-A.D.203; and the comic book Hell—and reveals some exciting developments happening with the Kingstone Bible.
The topic of “Help Me Say Goodbye” might seem like a somber topic for a comic book. What inspired the idea to create this comic, and what kind of response is it getting now?
Every comic has a story. Literally. A man who owned six funeral homes and who is a big fan of Kingstone had been pestering me for several years about doing a grief comic, because there was nothing like it for kids he had seen in the funeral industry. As a pastor and a former children’s pastor, I knew that grief was something that parents often struggled on how to communicate with their children. He said he would fund it if we would just do it, and we did. It has been very well received in both secular and sacred markets. In fact, they are developing a special insert to put into the comic for funeral homes to use for families.
Comics are such a visual medium; what are the challenges of tackling an abstract topic in a way that still takes advantage of what’s special about the format?
One of the beautiful aspects of comics is the efficiency of the format. You can tell a lot of story in a few panels as the reader seams in and fills in the information between panels. The truncated writing mixed with action describes a lot in a short period of time. Plus, there is a little edge to the whole comic and graphic novel format that plays well into these stories that really do have an edge to them.
Moving on to Voices of the Martyrs: A.D. 34 – A.D. 203…. Why this anthology? Why do you believe it is important for these stories to be revisited at this time?
I think most modern Christians have a lack of understand of the times around Justin Martyr, Perpetua, and others. Personally, it really helped me with perspective. We felt very humbled to tell their stories.
Is there anything you learned while researching this anthology that particularly affected you?
They honestly were ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Their steadfastness and humility in living for Christ were very inspirational.
Kingstone Comics is one of the only publishers that makes original comics with Christian themes. Why do you think there aren’t more publishers making Christian comic books?
That is a good question. I guess they deeply value their sanity. It is a very niche market, so I guess they feel they want to focus on other publishing products. Also, the metrics on comics and graphic novels are tough. They are typically much more expensive to produce than a traditional print book so the margin of error is pretty slim.
When Kingstone creates new titles, is there a particular reader you have in mind? Or do you just start with what you’d like to see in print and go from there?
Our target market is really boys 12–15 but our spectrum goes far beyond that. Some of our comics (like “Help Me Say Goodbye”) are geared to younger children. Our logline is “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories,” so we like to show what can make us ordinary people extraordinary.
We also recently did a comic book called “Hell,” aimed toward middle and high school ages, that has been pretty popular. We brought on a guy that had been a top horror artist with Marvel, and he smashed it for us. None of us really like to talk about hell, but the Bible sure doesn’t flinch from it, so we tried to address it in a meaningful and memorable way without being way over the top. Some name Christian leaders have shied away from the biblical stance so we thought we would take a swing. I guess if we are anything, we are unconventional.
What else is happening in the Kingstone world these days?
Interesting you should ask! We have been inundated with languages all over the world wanting the Kingstone Bible in their language to explain the Bible. So we started a nonprofit, www.comicbiblesociety.org, which offers translated languages free of charge on www.superbible.tv.
I spoke at the Eurasia Media and Distribution Consultation in Europe this year as well as the Global Media Summit for the largest Bible translation agency, and we keep seeing our language partnerships growing. If you read the “Why Comics” tab at comicbiblesociety.org, you can understand one reason we are passionate about comic book story telling.
We also signed an animation agreement on the Kingstone Bible with an animation studio. Just as we have produced the most complete graphic adaptation of the Bible ever done, they are producing the most complete animation of the Bible ever done.
And we have some new projects in the pipeline—as always.
“Help Me Say Goodbye” was created by Art Ayris (Author), Roger Beyers (Editor), Kelly Ayris (Editor), Rich Bonk (Illustrator), Chris Ivy (Illustrator), Ben Prenevost (Illustrator)
“Voices of the Martyrs” was created by Art A. Ayris (Author), Kelly Ayris (Editor), Danny Bulanadi (Illustrator), Kyle Hotz (Illustrator), Ben Prenevost(Illustrator), Rich Bonk (Illustrator), Chris Ivy (Illustrator), Mark McNabb (Illustrator), plus Ben Avery (Writer) and Randy Alcorn (Writer)