Zachary Schertz’ Biblical graphic novel: The Joyful Gospel of Christ
Here’s a piece on artist and author Zachary Schertz, who has created a graphic novel version of the Bible. He explains his creative process and inspiration.
How did you get the idea to illustrate the Bible as a graphic novel? Were you inspired by the medieval monks who illuminated manuscripts with decoration?
The idea for making an illuminated manuscript came a lot later and it is coming up. I will not say how soon, but it is coming. I always enjoyed picture Bibles, but they always seemed to either leave out details or put in quite a bit of creative license. I wanted to create something that you could place side-by-side with The Good Book and see the original text as well. That is why I put all of the scripture citations at the very back. How many times have you read the Bible or asked your kid to read a chapter a day and it seemed boring because there were no pictures. That is what I wanted to avoid. I wanted to have the exact same text as The Bible with accompanying pictures.
How did you strike a balance between creating scenes to illustrate and being historically accurate (i.e. how the manger scene likely didn’t really happen as it’s depicted on Christmas cards, the wise men likely arrived much later, etc)?
My goal in making this was so that it was as historically and scripturally accurate as I could make it. There was a bit of difficulty in this and I had to do some research on the matter, but I did not want to make it look like it was expected, but how it was. One of my more controversial changes is that Jesus is not depicted with long flowing hair as He often is. Historically, His hair would be cut relatively short and Jesus would have looked like an average man at the time which is why Judas had to point him out (Luke 22:47).
What would you say to someone who wondered why you were turning the Bible into a comic book? (I appreciate well-made graphic novels, about superheroes or anything else, but others don’t know as much about the genre).
Well, the technical term is graphic novel, but that is a very good question. As I said earlier, I want to make it so that a kid can read this and not just get bogged down with all of the text. I want to ensure that anyone who sees this is able to see the amazing artwork and see the greatest story ever told like never before.
How and why has the Bible played such a role in your life? Could you tell us something about your faith story?
My goal is to always be The Watchman (Ezekiel 33:2–6). When I was young, I listened to a sermon that said that a parent who goes to church for the child is in the wrong for the same reason that a child going for his parent is in the wrong. You must go for your own growth. That really did stick with me. If you know scripture, you can fight against the devil. When Christ was tempted in the wilderness, He could have just willed satan away, but He chose to use scripture as a guide to fight the lies. This was done so that we could know how to stand up to dark forces. How does God feel about anger and wrath? We are told to not let the sun set on our anger (Ephesians 4:26). If sunset is when the Jews started the day, God warns us to not even let our day start with anger. I could list many more examples, but that one comes to mind right away. You do not need to memorize scripture, but I have found that having a knowledge of scripture and the many heroes from Noah to Deborah to Paul always provided inspiration.
Who do you see as the audience for this project? Children, teens, adults, all ages?
I originally designed this project for teens and young adults. However, I have a pair of knee-high nieces that can barely read, but they just love all of the pretty pictures. I wanted teens to be able to read this and know The Bible without their eyes glazing over. I want all people to enjoy this and balancing the technical aspect with the accuracy was not easy, but God always provides.