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.