Monday, December 19, 2011

Bible Stories 019

Once again, I go off-text a bit and utilize other sources than Genesis. In this case, I'm setting up Milton's view that Satan entered the snake to tempt Adam and Eve, so I have to go ahead and introduce the concept of angels. Obviously, angels must have been created by God before "the beginning," so I'm squeezing them in here. If I had stuck with just the Genesis story as-told, I wouldn't have to mess with this stuff, but I do hope it will pay off.

The white angel asking for the dipped cone is Satan himself (though I wasn't sure at the time if this is what I intended), who appears in this form again in strip number 39. He's obviously the jealous angel God is talking about (and his "demonic" followers).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bible Stories 018

A talking animal! But that's explained in the next comic, so I'll wait until we get there to talk about that. For now, I'll just say that I needed another character (not God, not the Son) to have this conversation with Adam. I chose a bird.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bible Stories 017

I'm often not this meta with the strip, but even Adam himself can't get around the fact that this story feels metaphorical. How could you take it literally even if you were involved in it yourself in real life? It would be like if your parents told you, as a kid, to stay away from the Cookie Jar of Free Will and Consequences.

Another way of showing that the tree was beyond a regular tree was to make sure I pointed out what the Bible actually says: that God himself planted the tree. This either means that God was human-like and able to plant organic trees, or it meant that the tree was a magic, godly tree--made of spiritual stuff. In other words, metaphorical. It comes from the "deep magic from the dawn of time."

Thanks to John Milton, people tend to think of the tree as containing apples. When Milton wrote Paradise Lost, the word apple was a generic word for fruit, and since people get their Genesis from Milton more than from the Bible itself (whether they read either one of them or not), apple (as a specific fruit) stuck. I drew all kinds of fruit on my tree, to show that it didn't matter and to show the multi-faceted nature of the tree. I also wanted it to look otherworldly and pretty: tempting.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bible Stories 016

The first human (and penis!) in the strip. The design of the characters is similar to those in my "Carrie" comic, maybe even more basic and less stylized here. They're slightly fancy stick figures, which I wanted to be easy to manipulate.

I knew Adam and Eve would be naked, but I chose to just draw clothes-less sticks rather than accentuating naughty bits--unless, of course, those bits are needed, as in this case.

Adam is black, naturally, so he gets the appropriate skin color and hair. Throughout the strip, the skin color is different for every character. (Very few are identical.) Most of the time, the color is meaningless, but sometimes it has a purpose. I do try to mirror actual human skin colors.

Although Adam is human, I wanted him to have some pre-human features, too (the Son is calling him a "cave man"), mostly in the arms.

I considered using translations of the names of the characters throughout the strip rather than the proper names themselves, since most Hebrew names can be translated into words. Adam can be translated to both "man/mankind" or "earth/ground." Eve is "life." Though I still think it would be a good idea for a translation of the Bible, since it would make the stories make more sense and -- in this case -- would demonstrate the allegorical nature of the Eden (which translates to "delight" or "plain") story more apparent, in the end I decided to stick with the names themselves, which is how we know these characters. When spellings varied, I used the ones given by the New Revised Standard Version (my translation of choice, though the KJV is my artistic favorite).

Adam here, of course, isn't created from scratch by God. He is chosen from among existing humans who have evolved over long periods of time, all happening in this short amount of "days." (Notice that the sky is slightly darker now than in previous strips.) I don't think this idea goes against either account of creation (Genesis 1 or 2), since mankind was described as being formed out of the dust of the ground, which is still true here (and in science). The "breath of life" is the important thing, the "inspiration" of God, and the second panel lists some of the things used to distinguish men from beasts: anything that goes beyond mere survival and propagation of the species, what might be called "spiritual" things. Adam's first question seems to be a nice mix of both godly and beastly (though some would disagree).

So here we have him: the first "man."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Bible Stories 015

I still wonder if this particular strip was a wise move, the reference to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and the monolith. I do allusions in the comic, yes, but I never make a reader's knowledge of them necessary to understand the strip. But, with this one, you have to know the movie and the idea that the monolith promotes evolution (and use of tools).

The reference to Lucy the Australopithecus is fine, since it's not an allusion, just information that I assume everyone knows. In the end, I think I determined that 2001 is known enough to be used, but I still think maybe it crosses my art and Kubrick's art in too direct a way. (I use an actual still from the movie, after all.)

Besides my personal agonies, the strip introduces more frustration with the "laissez-faire" of the Son, more interference with the Father (this time unsolicited), and the concept of the "breath of life" that appears in Genesis, which I use as the thing that separates man from beast, the thing that makes man an animal with a little god inside of him.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Bible Stories 014

Holy cow! Well, almost. Here is proof that cows were designated by God to be eaten. I put a lot of God's words to (eventually) humans here, which seems to work. The way the cow manure is drawn in the last panel is a reference to the DUSKBUSTERS!, but you already knew that.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bible Stories 013

Day six is when the land animals (including, eventually, humans) appear. This particular strip should give you an idea of how long a "day" is. The Bible, of course, doesn't have dinosaurs, but my strip does, since I felt they were important enough to be represented.

God "revealing" himself to a creature is just another way of saying that the creature is achieving a higher consciousness. According to this story, dinosaurs almost achieved it, but then went "extinct." I tend to side with those scientists who say that many kinds of dinosaurs evolved into birds (though some types became extinct in the usual sense of the word), and I figured an ostrich would be the closest visual approximation to get that idea across (whether the connection shown is scientifically accurate or not).

The fact that the Tyrannosaurus Rex evolves into an ostrich during the gods' conversation demonstrates not only the speediness of time (from God's point of view) but the slowness of God (from ours). So if it seems that 2,000 years between Jesus and now (for example) is a long time, it's not--not compared to the difference between panel three and panel four of this comic.

As far as technical matters go, I had to make the choice between whether to draw the animals myself (on the computer or by hand) or just use images from the internet. I went with the latter, obviously, figuring if this comic ever got picked up, I'd do the difficult work later (whether that meant replacing the images or getting permission).

Story-wise, the narrative seems to be following the Son trying his best to impress his dad and failing. But something tells me it will all work out for him.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Bible Stories 012

We finally leave outer space and enter earth, which means the backgrounds become less dazzling (and less black) and more mundane: the flat green grass and blue sky that will dominate lots of the strip from now on. This is day five, which is when the creatures of water and sky are created. I go ahead and hint at day six as well, when land animals appear. Of course, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are two different stories, in which these things are all out of order and different things happen, so (like so many before me), I quietly ignored these things and pretended they were one story, trying to maintain as much of both as possible.

I also wanted to incorporate current science, so -- like the big bang before this -- we're introduced to the slow process of evolution. The Son would like to show off all these new creatures he has in mind to his dad, but instead there are only single-celled organisms. But you have to give him credit: at least one out of the three pictured here eventually did exist.

You'll notice that these "days" are incredibly long. I'm not following the "one day is as a thousand years to God" bullshit (where people ignore the word "as" and forget how to read simile): that's way too little time for what's going on here. But I am, in these early strips, following "God time" where things are moving along at what we'd call a rapid pace.

I have a warm place in my heart for Phil, the father (and mother) of us all.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bible Stories 011

After doing the last one, with the gods are spherical and planet-shaped, I figured I'd do a dumb, image-based joke. No theology.

Are the gods planet-sized? Not necessarily. You'll see them soon interacting with people, being about the size of their heads. Here, though, they're a little smaller than Mercury. They're gods: they're whatever size they wanna be.

Funny, of course, that they're talking about something named "Mercury," another god. Since the premise of this comic is that everything is translated into contemporary English, the planets get called what we call them.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bible Stories 010

Day four and the creation of "the lights" and stars. Since planets are more or less spherical, I decided they were "in God's image" since my version of God is also spherical. In 2-D, he might just look like a flat disc, but he's meant to be a sphere.

I went with nine planets, which means that God, too, doesn't like to admit that Pluto isn't a planet (not that he calls it one here). No one would have known about Uranus and Neptune during the time the Bible was written, and the Earth would have been in the middle of the universe, the Sun revolving around it, and the planets would have been attached to a dome-like covering of a flat earth, but -- hey -- God wasn't as ignorant of the writers of the Bible, so I went with the more recent model of the solar system.

I based the temperaments of the planets (and, hence, of God) on the gods they're named after: God being a combo of all these gods into one. (I'll let you look those things up if you need to. I don't feel like going through all the Roman gods' personalities and stories.) My friend Lori thought I was poking fun at those multi-colored faith bracelets or whatever they're called, but I wasn't (though I see the similarity).

The summer home joke is funny to me, cause -- you know -- I mean, it's pretty hot there. Since the gods live in "heaven," I pretty much have them hanging around in outer space all the time, which is a lot further away from the Biblical conception of heaven (that dome idea again), but we gotta mix ancient with contempo.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Bible Stories 009

Day three is the "dry land" day, and once again I turn to reality for part of the joke, in this case Pangaea, the land mass that eventually broke apart. The image of the globe is one someone made during the Pangaea days, which may not be too obvious at first glance.

I also set up the idea that the Son of God would be "laissez-faire" by nature. Not only would he allow the expansion of the universe and evolution to do their things, but he would try to let people do their own things as well, interfering as little as possible, but nudging them in the right direction when he felt he needed to. His father, however, would become more impatient and hot-headed.

The punchline here is just a dumb "your mama" joke, of which I allowed myself just this one. More generally, this is a non sequitur joke, which are funny in small doses, but they're very easy to write, and I didn't want my strip to be riddled with them. In August of the year I created Bible Stories, I created The Insightfulness of Itduz Nutfellow, which is a comic about non sequiturs. With many of the Bible Stories, I am initially more concerned with the plots, characters, theories, etc. and not as much with the punchline, which explains the temptation for something like this.

Oh, but the punchline is also a good joke and bit of character weirdness too, since the suggestion is that God has a mother. In fact, mothers don't exist at all yet (as far as we know).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Bible Stories 008

I'm not sure if I like this one. It's meant to illustrate "day two" in which God separates the sky "vault" or "dome" from the water. I think the joke is the view that creation can seem arbitrary: that there's no rhyme or reason for things being the way they are except that a creator decided it would be that way. Of course, when the Son of God gets too carried away with his Blow-Up style vocal delivery and silly artistic expression, God comes in to put a stop to it, suggesting that there's a "right" way to do it. I'm with God on this one. Everywhere else in the strip, creation and the "interference" of the gods is more natural and limited. They're not what I would call "all-powerful."

Of course, the Son is also making devil horns and stuff, typical childhood graffiti, so there's that silly joke to enjoy too. (The devil face brings up theological questions about this strip that I'm not equipped to answer.) And the yellow is the color of the usual smiley face.

My guess is that no one would think about the strip as much as I do/have, so everyone else probably likes it as much as any other.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bible Stories 007

It takes me seven strips to get to "let there be light," which shows how slowly I'm taking this. I want to make sure I get all of the jokes out before I move on to the next thing. The "meanwhile box" declares that it is "day one" of creation of the earth (not the universe), in the Milky Way.

Very difficult to say what "light" even means in the Biblical context; I made it to be some vague, undefined luminescence that allows God (or whoever) to see the bits and pieces floating around in the universe, in this case a "formless void" that eventually becomes the earth.

I consider this a four-punchline strip: the Son of God saying he can't see a damn thing (which is funny for some reason), him using The Clapper to turn on the light (which of course is not funny), the phrase "a little light on the subject" (which is maybe only funny to me because my dad constantly says it), and the final panel that makes fun of Biblical language.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bible Stories 006

You'll notice, perhaps, that the book of Genesis hasn't even started yet. No creating of the heavens or the earth. Still working on the universe. Taking a while. This is my nod to existentialism and our non-place in an absurd and meaningless universe. I've also utilized my first graphics. Not sure how legal this and upcoming space pictures are, but I always figured I'd change them once someone complains.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bible Stories 005

Even though I'm more or less sticking with Genesis literally, I also want to present this comic strip with some of our contemporary understandings of the way the world works. So here's the Big Bang. So far, the theology is that God created the Son of God who created another "son" who was a bundle of energy who exploded to form the expanding universe. And since we all come from this matter, we are all God's grandchildren (which really explains all the hard candy).

Bible Stories 004

I set up a few ideas in this strip. One is the "confusion" of the father god and his son. Since I would be purposefully confusing/using the two throughout the strip -- having the father do some things and the son do other things, even though in the Bible all these things are simply done by "God" -- I made this strip as kind of a warning that this would be happening. Of course, this also points to the Christian idea that "the father and the son are one" (though you'll notice the Holy Ghost doesn't appear; my strip promotes binitarianism, not trinitarianism or unitarianism).

The next idea is the idea that this yellow Son of God character is eventually going to be Jesus. The larger joke is a commentary on John Milton and company who set up the son's/Jesus' role in nearly this way, from before the beginning of time (which is when the strip is taking place at this "moment"), except that instead of his role as the one sacrificed for/by humanity being certain, here it's 50/50. (I'll try not explain jokes too much in this commentary, but in this case, it seemed appropriate to show other things besides the joke itself.)

I didn't know at this point that I would be making the Son human within the book of Genesis. But it happens.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bible Stories 003

As I said in the previous commentary, I'm going with the idea that the Son of God was the creator of the universe, but -- as this strip demonstrates -- it was done for God himself. Of course, the Son soon gets personally involved.

This strip contains the first (mild) swear. I'll discuss more language-specific stuff in future posts.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Bible Stories 002

I did this one (and the next two) on the same day as the first. Easy enough when you're just "drawing" dots in a field of black.

The punchline is a very slight allusion to a Bill Maher joke. He's making fun of the Christian concept of God having a son and he says, "What is this, Bonanza?" I didn't count on anyone catching the allusion (especially since it's barely an allusion at all, and since it's maybe even better if they didn't), and I also set up a rule for myself that allusions are allowed but not if it is required that the audience know them in order for it to be funny. I don't like allusion or parody for the sake of parody. (Family Guy, for example, will just have characters do an entire scene from a movie, with no comment or further reason other than "Hey, remember this? Hey, look, we're doing this.") For this particular strip, the joke works by itself. You don't even necessarily have to know about Bonanza (though I'm willing to hear arguments to the contrary).

Make what you want of the use of the word abracadabra.

This will be the last time that the clunky identifying arrow is used. I originally had it again for the following strip, but my wife said it was beginning to look like one of those MTV reality shows where names pop up every time someone appears on the screen.

Now for the theological stuff. I said in the previous commentary that I was taking the Bible more or less literally for these strips. However, you'll notice, a "Son of God" doesn't appear in Genesis. But I had a few reasons for introducing this character. For one, Genesis does imply that there were multiple gods involved in the creation of the world (or at least some non-humans). I also knew that eventually the Jesus story would appear in the narrative (though I'll never get to it in my lifetime), so I wanted to go ahead and set that up. In certain traditions (including Jehovah's Witnesses), God creates his son and his son creates everything else, so that the son is the creator god, not the father. Most of all, I wanted to create two characters who could talk to each other (as opposed to a lonely god talking to himself), so it was handy to have two. This allowed me to set up characters with specific characteristics and dynamics, which begin to appear soon.

I already had plans for using the color yellow for the new dot, which you'll see many strips from now.

Every now and then, I regret straying from the literalness of Genesis, but -- in this case -- I'm ultimately glad I decided to jump testaments and introduce this Christian character.

Bible Stories 001

The ideal way to look at the world is as a four-panel comic strip, a form perfected by Charles M. Schulz with Peanuts. Why not look at the Bible this way too?

You can see all of the Bible Stories I've created so far here. This blog is meant to provide commentary for each strip and to give you guys a place to write dumb comments. Whenever I'd rather talk about the strips than create a new one, I'll write a commentary.

I've had something like this idea for a long time now, of re-telling the Bible graphically and with jokes. I'm not sure how long, but at least a few years. Some of the jokes that eventually appear (including this first one) are jokes I've had in my mind for many years indeed. On one beautiful day during spring break of 2007, when I had a whole week off from teaching English to college students, I decided to start this strip.

I had a strong idea of what the strip needed to be and what it didn't need to be from the beginning. There would be jokes, yes, but I wouldn't be "making fun" of the Bible, not in the way that you often see anyway, with some cocky kid drawing goofy pictures and always making the same essential comment: "Isn't this silly?" It also wouldn't be some New Yorker style comic where Bible stories are used to make some banal observation about daily life (St. Peter at the pearly gates saying "You'll have to take a number" or whatever).

I felt it was essential to do the story in order (or at least the "order" that made its way into my particular copy of the Bible) -- from Genesis to Revelation -- even though I would probably die before finishing even the first book. No jumping around for me. No skipping over the less popular stuff in order to get to the most anthologized bits. In a way, I thought I might tell a continual, connected story even better than the Bible itself does.

And I would try to tell the story more or less literally. I wouldn't, for example, treat the serpent in the garden as a metaphor for an internal voice. Instead, you'd actually see a snake. However, I do take liberties in the form of outside traditions and personal interpretation. More on this as we get to those strips.

As far as the look, I create these strips with the cheap versions of Photoshop, the kind you buy for twenty bucks at the Office Max. I keep the designs simple (glorified stick figures), though I hope I make them distinctive. I'll talk about these as I get to them as well.

As for strip 001, this is a joke I've had in my brain since I've been a kid. It was the way I always thought back then of God before our universe existed: some tiny dot posited in the middle of infinite black, eventually getting bored. "Eternity is in love with the forms of time," so he finally gets the ball rolling. And a dot I made him, a pink one specifically. I wasn't sure yet if the dot would change forms as the strip went on, but you'll see that it stuck.

Peanuts never used those text boxes in the top left corner (what I tend to call the "Meanwhile..." box), but I borrowed that from superhero comics (which, incidentally, I don't like to read).

I'm sometimes a little annoyed that I didn't think of a better way to demonstrate that this was God than with a labeled arrow pointing to him (I later realized I could have had the text box read "In the beginning, God sits in the infinite void...", and it's still not too late to change it), but in a way I also like the image. It's become iconic for me. It's inconsistent with the rest of how the strip works, but this is primal stuff here, so I think it's okay.

"You can see how this could get old very quickly" becomes my first running joke.