By Redeemed Reader intern Jack Mertens
Today I continue my series on Kingstone Comics, begun on Monday with reviews of two of Marvin Olasky’s graphic novels. This morning’s post includes an interview with author Art Ayris, as well as a review of his graphic novel, Babylon.
Interview with Art Ayris
This is my first interview, and in my nervous haste I forgot to start the audio recorder until a couple questions into the interview! Fortunately, Mr. Ayris was gracious enough to supply written answers to all my questions. You can read the two I missed below, and then enjoy the rest of the interview in podcast form, where Mr. Ayris talks about one of Kingstone Comics’ upcoming graphic novels and also some more general topics related to Kingstone (and comics!).
1. What is your background? How did you become interested in comics and how did you become a publisher?
I was a school teacher and coach. I felt a real passion for full-time ministry and have been a staff member at a large SBC (Southern Baptist) church for 22 years.
Basically I had some super-God moments where God grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let me go. I was directing a humongous and successful children’s ministry, and I began feeling promptings to move into media that would not go away. I felt I was totally missing God. So in my prayer time said, “Okay God, I will fast for 40 days. If I don’t hear from you, I will drop it and never pick it up again.” Well, after that fast God clearly spoke to me. And He began giving me confirmation after confirmation.
Originally, I was just going to join together with a few friends at my church and put together some money to do a few Bible comics, but then I began doing the research and saw this tremendous void in the market for these types of materials. Plus I also realized that I would need a lot more money, so I raised money to start a publishing business.
Our Kingstone Comics app went live on iPad December 16. The first week there six downloads in Saudi Arabia alone. I said, “Okay God, this is what you’re doing.”
2. How do you choose what stories to publish?
Prayer and fasting.
We have a real passion for telling God stories, and we try to discern which ones are for us.
We are committed to finishing out the Kingstone Bible in 12 volumes and are releasing 4 volumes this summer. We plan to finish the Kingstone Bible by next summer. As far as we know, this will be the most ambitious graphic adaptation of the Bible ever done. It will be around 2,000 pages.
Babylon: A Review
Typically, adaptions err in two ways—either they are so faithful to the source material that the story seems wooden and lifeless, or they throw out most of the original story and end up with something that has more to do with the adaptor’s vision than the author’s. And so it is with great pleasure that I report that Babylon, a long-form comic book by Art Ayris and Mario Ruiz, doesn’t commit either of these errors.
To learn the story of Babylon, all a reader has to do is read the book of Daniel. Way back in 539 B.C., the Babylonians, under the dictatorial leadership of Nebuchadnezzar, captured Jerusalem and took several of its princes back to Babylon to serve in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. Babylon tells how Daniel and his friends rely upon God, adapt to their new situation, and are eventually appointed to influential positions in the Babylonian Empire. This story explores the intricate relationship between Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar.
Perhaps because Babylon adheres so faithfully to the Biblical story of Daniel, the plot progression is very natural and the events of the story are easy to follow. Also, the artwork in Babylon is stunning. There is lots of detail in every panel, and the colors and inking establish a serious tone for the comic that makes each page very cinematic. Mario Ruiz also renders the characters so that they are all distinct.
Also, many parts of this book are directly out of Scripture—this isn’t one of those stories that was “inspired” or “loosely based” on a true story. No, this book actually includes Scripture references at the bottom of many of the pages that reference a corresponding passage in the book of Daniel. Even the dialogue is quoted verbatim from Scripture in places. I was concerned that quoting Scripture directly would make the story tedious, but I was wrong. Ayris does an impressive job of incorporating this dialogue into the flow of the story:
Even when Ayris fleshes out the story—such as a scene he includes where Daniel gives King Nebuchadnezzar advice about how to conquer a stubborn Syrian outpost—it only serves to make the story more lifelike and interesting. Ayris’s additions aren’t random or tacked-on—at no point in Babylon did I wonder to myself “Why exactly is this in here?” Babylon is one of the best Bible-story adaptions that I have ever read. It is the winning combination of stunning artwork and equally stunning story. I would highly recommend this book to YA/Adult Readers.
Literary Quality: 5/5
Kingstone Comics has impressed me a lot—their artwork is always competent and often extraordinary, and their commitment to presenting all of their stories from a Christian worldview is what will make me wholeheartedly recommend Kingstone comics to readers in the future!
See Jack’s review of two Kingstone graphic novels by Marvin Olasky here.