Saturday, May 14, 2011

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.

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