(Photo: Apostle Arts, LLC)
A bestselling comic book artist has converted the story of the nativity into a new graphic novel.
Billy Tucci, the author and illustrator of the cult classic Shi and numerous Marvel and D.C. comics, said he's always found the story behind Christmas inspiring. All the same, he said he was intimidated about turning it into a comic until a missions retreat in Colorado last year. Once there, he said he refueled his faith enough to attempt an adaptation.
"Everyone knows this story so it was tough to start," Tucci said. "God gave me the confidence to do it and I felt his hands guiding me as I worked on it. I wanted to tell the Christmas story in the most honest way possible and I never took it lightly."
The result of Tucci's soul-searching, he said, is A Child is Born. The intricately illustrated work is his go at the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Released earlier this month, he said he now considers it his best work.
"There was so much positive energy surrounding this book," Tucci said. "If you take the Gospels of Matthew and Luke that focus on Jesus' birth, it's a few miniscule paragraphs. Those moments changed the whole world though. There are so many amazing storytelling elements in the short amount of writing I had to work with."
The new graphic novel is a stylistic shift for Tucci, who first gained prominence for Shi and his Crusade Comics imprint. The title character is a female assassin whose identity unravels as she struggles with balancing revenge with her budding Christian faith. Though honest in its portrayals of faith, Tucci said it started off more violent and sexualized than material he'd write now. The popular character has earned $25 million in sales since its launch in 1993.
"When I started Shi my faith was so strong," Tucci said. "As it got bigger and bigger, I eventually got sidetracked by business and working hard and all my friends. The character was so important to me that I had to step away when she was on top."
Tucci said he stopped writing new Shi material in 2006 but that he plans on revisiting an older, more spiritual version of the character in a new series next year. His wife has since battled and beaten breast cancer, a trying time he believes reignited his passion for Christ. Wanting to use his talents for God's glory following her recovery, he said he desired to capture Jesus as "the greatest superhero to ever walk the Earth."
"Jesus is a person we should aspire to be like," Tucci argued. "He's so powerful and yet he's always so compassionate. It was very inspiring to me as I felt I had God on my side for the whole thing."
Tucci said turning back to God following his wife's illness is one of the defining moments of his life. The artist argues that the nativity story is essential during the holiday season as it's so important to spiritual health. As Tucci tells it, we're weak and alone without Christ's love.
"My wife's sickness was a wakeup call to really embrace my faith," Tucci said. "The story of Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus and the struggles they went through is so important to my family now. This story is so vital to hear. I hope I did it justice."