New life for aging art form

AMS Staff

Far from being a dying art form, cartoons are the key to reaching the world with the gospel, a leading US cartoonist has told local Christian artists.

For many young Christian artists comics are a practice fading with the baby boomers, as they turn to CGI (computer generated images) animation, and the internet.

At a Create Ministry seminar in Sydney on Saturday leading US cartoonist, Nate Butler explained why, what we Australians perceive as an agingmedium, is actually "the world's most popular literature."

Nate has made a living for over twenty years as a cartoonist, comic writer and illustrator and worked on such characters as Archie & Jughead, Batman, The Muppets and Mighty Mouse.

Defining a comic as "a series of pictures which tell a story or make a point"  Nate explains that "modern-day comics are simply one of the latest incarnations of a narrative picture-story tradition which has been in existence for thousands of years around the world."

Comix 35 drives artistic evangelism

Nate Butler is the President and co-founder of Comix 35, a USA based ministry organisation which trains people in and assists with the production of evangelistic comics. 

Nate admits that it can be difficult to justify such a ministry in countries like Australia and even the USA where the biggest selling comic sells a relatively small 2.5 million copies a year. 

However, Nate explained why comics are an exciting and strategic medium to communicate the gospel of Jesus all over the world. 

"It's much more obvious in Japan" he explains in his introduction to Christian Comics 2005, "in Japan the top title Shonen Jump sells 3.2 million copies every single week, the three top sellers have a total turnover of 10 million copies per week, and a staggering 2.1 billion comics total are sold every year" 16.6 copies for every man, woman, boy and girl in that country."

He also points to statistics showing the high consumption of comics in countries such as Korea, Thailand, France, Norway, Finland, Sweden and even the Middle East.

Simple comics, complex messages

At the seminar for local Christian artists, Mr Butler demonstrated how cartoons can be used to distribute important information. 

He showed a Superman comic created by UNICEF to warn children of the dangers of landmines, an illustrated instruction guide used by the US military in the Gulf war to show the adversary how to surrender safely, and even an emergency instruction card found on planes.

"This is life and death information through comics," Nate pointed out.

"If people are using comics to tell life and death information, who has the most important life and death information there is?  We do, the church, we have information on eternal life and eternal death"

Nate explained exactly what it is that makes comics such an effective medium for communicating vital information to large numbers of people. 

"They communicate with clarity and simplicity, people can understand the messages quickly in an engaging story format, their accessible, they're portable and they're reviewable."

To illustrate how invaluable comics can be in sharing the gospel, Nate shared how they are being used in strict Muslim countries. 

"In Africa, in various countries" amongst even the semi-illiterate youth you could never hand them a Bible and they could never stand on a street corner reading a Bible, but you could give them Bible comics,” he says.

“The Bible Society has done this and you'll see semi-illiterate Muslim youths standing around reading Bible comics."

Visit the Comix 35 web site to find out more about Nate Butler and its international ministry.

Visit the Create Ministry web site to find out more about the association which hosted Mr Butler's seminar and exists to encourage Christians to use their creative gifts to proclaim the gospel.

Story by Naomi McGrath

Images copyright Anne Laurent. World rights reserved. Printed here by permission.