(Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake)
The San Diego Comic-Con International is one of the largest pop-culture conventions in the entire world, and the Christian Comic Arts Society (CCAS) will be there later this week to offer a Christian presence at the event.
In addition to promoting various products, CCAS is also hosting a number of events at Comic-Con that are designed to engage Christian professionals and comic book fans alike. On Friday evening the organization is hosting its annual open mixer, where fans and professionals can gather together for the purposes of networking, fellowship and discussion about Christian comic books.
On Saturday evening the organization will host its annual "Spiritual Themes In Comics" panel. According to Buzz Dixon, a CCAS board member and writer of comic books, cartoons and novels, the organization has, in years past, invited panelists from a variety of faiths to discuss the topic.
"The Spiritual Themes panel is less about specifically doing a Christian outreach and more about...[sharing] about how people view things and express these things through the medium of comics," Dixon, who is also serving as the moderator for this year's panel discussions, told The Christian Post on Tuesday.
Instead of focusing just on comics for this year's panel, however, they will instead analyze the spiritual themes in two recently released films: "Prometheus" and "The Tree of Life." "Prometheus," a sci-fi film released earlier this year, explores the theme of man's search for understanding human origins, while "The Tree of Life" examines issues relating to death and how to deal with the loss of a loved one.
On Sunday, CCAS will hold a devotional time in the morning, followed by another panel that will discuss how different artists have interpreted the Bible in graphic format. Graphic artists Sergio Cariello, creator of The Action Bible; Christopher Koelle, creator of The Book of Revelation; and Billy Tucci, creator of A Child Is Born, will all be on hand to discuss how they approached transforming the words of the Bible into images.
While some Christian graphic artists work almost exclusively on projects that are designed for Christian evangelism, encouragement or education – such as graphic interpretations of the Bible or graphics created for tract publishing companies – others take a different approach. Some graphic artists are Christians but work in a largely secular market, letting their values shine through their work without openly stating their beliefs.
"One of the ongoing debates within the CCAS is: are we creating Christian material or are we Christians who are creating material?" explained Dixon.
Scott Shuford, a CCAS board member who is also the founder and president of FrontGate Media, told CP that, to his knowledge, more comic books are being produced by Christians today than ever before.
Still, it's easy for a small organization to get lost in the mix at Comic-Con, where approximately 125,000 people are in attendance every day and numerous events are scheduled for any given time. That is why CCAS has plans to promote its events at the convention. Shuford says the two CCAS panels will likely draw between 50 and 200 people each – an average-sized attendance for the smaller events at the convention.
When most people think of comics they think of their favorite superheroes: Spiderman, Batman, Ironman, The Incredible Hulk and other heroes. While the aforementioned superheroes have made the leap from the comic book page onto the silver screen (some of them were even shown in 3D), how has their transformation into movie heroes impacted the world of comic books?
"I think it's kind of a mixed bag in the comic world," said Shuford. "What I'm seeing...is it hasn't created this big spur of comic book sales in the marketplace, but it has drawn a ton of attention to the comics industry as a whole."
Many people are drawn to stories about superheroes because of the conflict between good versus evil, a concept that is very familiar to Christianity. Comics can be a good medium to reach people with a Christian message, but Shuford also recognizes there's more than one way to do it.
"It's very easy to incorporate Christian-oriented values into your comics in various ways if that's your bend," he said. "And at the same time, it's very easy for the...person who's creating church resources to use comics to present Gospel ideas."
Comic-Con 2012 begins Thursday at the San Diego Convention Center and wraps up on Sunday, July 15.