A southern California megachurch pastor has teamed up with popular comic book artist Rob Liefeld to create a graphic novel series on the end times.
Phil Hotsenpiller, teaching pastor of Yorba Linda Friends Church, describes the biblically-inspired series as "24 meets The Da Vinci Code meets Left Behind."
Titled Armageddon Now, the series merges biblical prophecies about the last days with current events.
It's not intended to be a theological book though Hotsenpiller has eschatological knowledge. Rather, it serves as entertainment both for Christians and non-believers.
But it isn't purely all just for fun either.
With a professional artist like Liefeld and a story like the Bible, the megachurch pastor views Armageddon Now as a powerful tool for God's Kingdom and a "cultural key."
"It seems every generation is consumed with or concerned about the end of the world," Hotsenpiller told The Christian Post. "Everybody seems to [think] 'well, I don't want the world to end but when is it going to happen?'"
"I think there's something in our DNA that recognizes 'there's something wrong with the world and it's probably going to end by one of a multitude of ways. And now we just have to figure out which way it's going to end and can we somehow divert that or delay that so that I don't have to go through it?'"
Hotsenpiller realized the widespread interest on the topic of end times when he held his first Prophecy Conference in 2006. It was a Labor Day weekend and he didn't know what to expect. Some 7,000 people showed up. They heard him speak about the Islamic emergence, the antichrist, rapture, the seven-year Great Tribulation and the final judgment. At that time, Liefeld was in the audience.
Liefeld, whose works include X-Force and Youngblood, actually regularly attended Yorba Linda Friends Church but Hotsenpiller had never met him and was unaware of who he was.
Following the Prophecy Conference, Liefeld approached the pastor and proposed working together to produce a graphic novel.
"I had been developing some biblical projects; I'm a huge fan of the epic stories in the Bible. But once I heard Phil's seminar, I knew this project should take the lead," the artist said, according to Comic Book Resources.
The first installment, titled Armageddon Now: World War 3, was released last January. It begins with a terrorist attack on New York City and Los Angeles and introduces the heroes, including Lt. Col. John Corbin, a military investigator who is dispatched to the Middle East in order to bring the conspirators of the U.S. terror attacks to justice. At the end, readers are introduced to a British political leader that readers are led to identify as the antichrist.
The second installment, Armageddon Now: The Beast, focuses on the antichrist and the mystery of the constellation Orion as it relates to the future of mankind. The latest graphic novel is set to be released soon.
Scripture is replete with references to the antichrist and his work, Hotsenpiller said. Initially, he is going to be well received by this world, the teaching pastor detailed.
"The beast is the antichrist. This beast ... is an incarnation of Satan himself," he said during the most recent Prophecy Conference, which has continued to draw large audiences. "And yet he comes on the scene charming, brilliant, intelligent, well-spoken, captivating the entire world with his presence, with his charisma."
While the graphic novel series isn't filled with preaching, Hotsenpiller believes it can serve as a bridge for those who may not be interested in church or God but are curious about end times. The series can help people understand the Bible, especially the prophecies, and relate to it, or at least create a talking point, he said.
The Yorba Linda pastor says there's a lot of misinformation and wrong attitudes among Christians regarding the last days possibly because not enough pastors are addressing it.
"I think some Christians actually seem to exasperate that whole point in that they want the world to hurry up and end or they're looking forward to it," he noted. "And I don't think that's a Christian perspective.
"I think the Christian perspective is one that says 'we have prophetic Scriptures that tell us about the end of time. It's not that we want the world to end but we want to be prepared and, in the meantime, we should be doing all we can to preserve our world, to be kind to one another, to do good and to preserve peace ... and to live out a true honest Christian life."
Armageddon Now: World War 3 will be adapted into a feature film. Hotsenpiller and Liefeld are in the early process of gathering producers and have meetings scheduled with major film studios in January 2010.
The Armageddon Now book series is created by 12 Gates Productions and published by Image Comics.