Comics are everywhere—and the influence of the art form reaches even further. (Don’t believe us? Check out the box office receipts of The Avengers, Batman and all the other blockbuster movies that started out as comic books.)
As mainstream comics move further and further into disturbing territory, many parents have been searching for an appropriate alternative. Enter Z Graphic Novels, an imprint of Zonderkidz, which wraps theologically sound concepts in exciting stories that range from superhero action to fantasy to sci-fi to historical adventure.
Since the imprint’s launch five years ago, they’ve published more than 7,000 pages. And this summer sees the much-awaited finales for all six series—the biblical epic Kingdoms; the superhero saga Hand of the Morningstar; the time travel antics of TimeFlyz; the two-fisted adventures of Son of Samson; the teen ninja fantasy of Tomo; and the English-language adaptation of The Manga Bible. Each series tells a complete story in eight volumes.
“Each of the stories deals with people seeking God’s will in their lives and obediently following His leading,” explains managing editor Bud Rogers, “and touches on themes of faith, family, forgiveness and redemption.”
Building a line of books like this meant finding experienced creative teams from diverse backgrounds, especially artists from mainstream comic books and animation. “Mike S. Miller, a longtime artist for Marvel and DC Comics, was involved in the development and design of Hand of the Morningstar and produced the art for the first two volumes,” Rogers says. “Sergio Cariello, another established artist for Marvel and DC Comics, handled the art on Son of Samson, which was written by Gary Martin, a well-regarded veteran in the comics industry.”
Sergio Cariello wanted to work on Son of Samson. “First of all, it was a Christian book based on Christian principles and values,” he says. “I knew it would be something that would have a deeper meaning than just doing a story for fun.”
Given a lot of freedom in the art, he got to draw in a more cartoony style than he usually uses. “It’s a catchy style,” Cariello says. He hopes it draws readers in so they can learn applications from the Bible, and use them in their own lives as they see what the son of Samson goes through.
Animators Tom Bancroft and Rob Corley, who have worked extensively with Disney and Big Idea, worked behind the scenes on Tomo. “The story revolves around a young Japanese girl named Hana, who has lost her parents and is taken in by her grandfather,” Rob Corley says. “While Hana struggles to adjust to her new surroundings, she soon becomes aware of an ancient prophesy that places her right in the middle of a battle between two worlds and the forces of good and evil.” Corey hopes that readers, while enjoying the ninja and talking animals in the story, will see the ultimate message: “We are only who we are meant to be when we allow God to do His part in our lives.”
The Manga Bible was a Korean import, found by Brett Burner, publisher for Lamp Post, Inc. “We were trying to find some kind of Christian Manga already in existence, of which there was very little.”
When he found The Manga Bible, both the style and the story attracted Burner. “The art style itself is a little different, aimed more for younger kids,” Burner says. “It is very comical in its format, which I really enjoyed.”
What makes The Manga Bible unique is that it actually dramatizes the entire Bible in its eight volumes. “I haven’t found many Bible comics that get so involved in so many stories in the Bible,” Burner says. “We pray that as a result of reading this, readers will want to learn more about these stories and characters and what the Bible itself really has to say.”
Rogers echoes that desire about the entire line. “Even though the stories may feature fantastic characters, high-energy action and exotic settings, I believe that the universal truth of God’s love and grace for us shines through. My hope is that readers recognize that and take the examples presented in the books to heart.”
In addition to being the resident comics expert for FamilyFiction, Ben Avery is also the author of two series for Z Graphic Novels, Kingdoms and TimeFlyz.
Action. Truth. Manga.
It’s all about the stories. Learn more about distinctive series from Z Graphic Novels:
KINGDOMS: A BIBLICAL EPIC
The people of Judah caught between the clash of empires…
Against the historical backdrop of the rise and fall of maneuvering kings and warring empires in 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles, the fictional series Kingdoms traces the saga of the dedicated advisor Iddo and his descendants.
HAND OF THE MORNINGSTAR
In the battle between good and evil, it’s hard to tell who’s on which side…
With the world watching, the opposing forces of super-powered beings clash in battles that reveal whether those who serve the elusive Morningstar, said to be a wise and powerful heavenly creature, fight for the cause of good and evil.
SON OF SAMSON
Incredible strength, heroic battles, and humorous antics…
Samson’s mighty son Branan traces his famous father’s footsteps as he battles the Philistines. Throughout the different episodes, with both humor and action, he learns about God’s purpose for his life and inherited strength.
Flying through time to save the world…
Laurel’s ordinary life changes to extraordinary when cyborg flies shrink her down and take her on an adventure to save the world. Racing through and against time to famous places of the past, learning about history and faith, Laurel discovers that even an average girl like her can make a valuable contribution to a team.
Student by day, ninja at night!
Hana would be like any other 13-year-old immigrant trying to fit into life at an American school, but she also battles hostile, animal-like warriors from the dimension of Argon Falls.
THE MANGA BIBLE
The Bible … larger than life!
Kids will love reading its stories told through the graphic storytelling of Korean manga. Readers will enjoy learning the Bible’s characters and landscapes portrayed through this cutting-edge style of art now popular around the world.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of FamilyFiction digital magazine. Subscribe for free today!