Graven Images

This academic collection of essays tackles, as the subtitle has it, “Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels”.

Editors A. David Lewis and Christine Hoff Kraemer explain in their introduction that they want to acknowledge comics’ history with “subversive subject matter” and how they’ve “tackled controversial religious issues”. This 2010 book came out of a 2008 conference on the same subject co-chaired by editor Lewis. It’s divided into three sections: New Interpretations (looking at traditional themes), Response and Rebellion (subverting the traditional), and Postmodern Religiosity (innovation).

Papers of particular interest to the lay reader (selected from the 21 contained here) include:

  • “London (and the Mind) as Sacred-Desecrated Place in Alan Moore’s From Hell” — Emily Taylor Merriman considers the graphic novel’s setting
  • “Drawing Contracts: Will Eisner’s Legacy” — Laurence Roth examines Jewishness in the master’s work
  • “The Christianizing of Animism in Manga and Anime: American Translations of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind — by Eriko Ogihara-Schuck
  • Mark Smylie writes about religion in his own Artesia series

As one might expect, given the works’ subject matter, there are also papers on Mike Allred’s Golden Plates, Garth Ennis’ Preacher, Mark Millar’s Chosen, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Grant Morrison’s Invisibles, Alan Moore’s Promethea, and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Overall, there’s a nice balance of religions and works discussed.

I haven’t yet read through all the pieces in depth, but the book unfortunately has the problem of any academic writing about comics, which is: not enough pictures. There are few samples of the works being discussed, and since it’s all black-and-white, if the comics talked about are color, the reproduction winds up dark and muddy. I wish it was easier to exercise fair use rights, but so many publishers are gun-shy of the commercial firms with so many lawyers so eager to justify their positions. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

2 Responses to “Graven Images”

  1. john Says:

    I’m kinda surprised there doesn’t seem to be an essay that examines religion in John Ostrander’s Spectre – especially considering the protaganist of the story is the literal embodiment of the Wrath of God.

  2. Johanna Says:

    I suspect that’s faded from view a bit more than some of the other titles mentioned, unfortunately. You’re right, it would be a great topic.




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