Monday, December 31, 2007

One Banner: Epilogue

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.–Matt. 18:20

Not one, please note. Two or three minimum.

The bottom line regarding Unity in Christian Comics is this.

You can whine about it. You can stomp your feet and insist it’s the only way. And you’ll display your ignorance and end up coming up empty.

Or… you can actually do things to bring brothers and sisters together. You won’t get them all. All you need are two or three.

You can be like Ben Avery, who helped found Community Comics and the original Yahoo comics group to bring brothers and talents together. You can be like Nate Butler who created Christian Comics International and COMIX35, which recruits talent and helps to create and distribute evangelical comics in many languages all over the world. You can be like Phil Servant, whose Cyberlight Comics provides regular online comic serials from a variety of artists. You could be like Dean Rankine who united a group of artists form Australia to publish the Pulp Crucifixion anthology, or Veli Lopenon who created an anthology and translated work for use in Finland.

You could be like Tom Hall, Dan Bradford, Kneon Transitt or Dan Barlowe, all uber-talented but still smart enough to surround themselves with more uber-talented guys to make their great work even better. You could be like Jeff Slemons who lends his amazing painting skills to his friends’ projects, or Mark Melton or Josh Alves who provide the colors for many other works, or Psycho Ann who lends her comics to every anthology out there.

Let me also toot Megazeen’s horn for a moment. MZ has been recruiting talent from all over the world for six years. One time we sold a friend’s comic online as a favor and we gradually became an online store for a hundred independent comics. We began hosting as a fellowship and meeting place for Christian artists. We co-hosted Megaunity to challenge artists and get them working together. Most recently we began to offer quality, reasonably priced print services.

You can talk about unity, or you can create situations that are conducive to unity.

Thus concludes my series on One Banner. I trust I’ve been clear, and I hope somebody got something out of it.

Happy New Year all.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

One Banner #10: Creative Differences

Huh. Been a while since I drew that guy.
Up till now I’ve talked about why unity does not work, and still made it clear that I do not support complete unity, but haven’t said why. If there is any one overriding reason that Christian comic artists should not unify under one banner, one company, one ring to rule them all, it is creative differences. This issue is amplified by doctrinal differences, pride, artistic expression and ability.

Example: Artist A only wants to do comics about missionaries and bible adaptations- pure narrative documentaries, no artistic license. Artist B is okay with bible adaptations but wants to update the stories into a sci-fi setting. Artist A is offended that the characters are not wearing robes and sandals, and cites scripture as his defense. “The Bible doesn’t require updating,” Artist A would say. “The Bible is timeless and it doesn’t matter what they’re wearing,” Artist B would say. Then Artist C shows up and does a Bible comic, but fleshes out a scene with new and updated dialogue and character development. Now A & B think this is blasphemy, since scripture is being “changed,” but artist C thinks it’s cool because they’re still wearing sandals and robes.

Just down the road some guys don’t want to do Bible adaptations at all. They want to do superheroes struggling with Christianity (o but they’re wearing tights! The women look too hot and the guys need codpieces!). Or angels and spiritual warfare (most of which requires artistic license from a combination of scripture, tradition and imagination). Or end times (pre-trib trip? Pre-trip trib? Or any of a zillion interpretations of Revelations). Or superheroes and rock music combined (gag).

Then further on there’s a group doing comics with strong storylines but a more subtle spiritual message, more acceptable in the mainstream but less acceptable in the staunchy world of Christian marketing and churchface (because it involves, you know, thinking). And then there’s the downright irreverent, that have the nerve to make us laugh, to infer that, sometimes, Christians fart (it wasn't the dog) or act downright silly and/or obnoxious.

Take these differences and throw in religious conviction (aka self-righteousness most of the time) and you’ve got a melting pot that just won’t melt. Oh it’ll boil over a lot. But it won’t melt. Particularly where people have no ability to discern the difference between principle and preference.

Cerebus-300 issues later

Okay, so back in August I mentioned that I was reading through the entire 300-issue, 6000 page run of Cerebus this year. Last night, after roughly one issue per night all year, I finally, finally completed my reading (I read the comics, btw, NOT the giant phone books).

It was interesting, in the next-to-last issue, Sim mentioned that those of us in happy relationships and marriages would likely not enjoy the last, oh, say, 120 issues and long for the days of the earlier, funnier issues.
Yeah, something like that. I found that wading through "Guys", "Form and Void" and "Latter Days" to be a nightmarish, rambling of a bitter man with so little to say and so many words to say it in. I missed the days where he could rip my heart out and stun me with plot twists and character developments, as he did during Jaka's Story, Church & State, and Melmoth and Women. Once Cerebus came back from the Ascension (the climax of the story in my opinion) he just wandered through 120 issues of pathetic, depressing "I am man hear me whine" narrative. The new characters seemed forced, where characters of the past (Elrod, Sophia, Lord Julius and the Roach, to name a few) belonged.
It wasn't that I minded his anti-feminist stand (I agree with him on many points, including his 15 Impossible Things to believe Before Breakfast That Make You a Good Feminist). I do pity his selfishness and inability to find joy in life with a good woman. They are out there. I got me one.
There were some bright points for sure in the last 10 years' worth, though far fewer and farther between than in the frst 180 issues). Loved the Last Day (although I didn't quite follow the revelations of #299 or where/how exactly SheShep had come along). I was pleased with Jaka's final appearance and Cerebus' final moments. Rick, Joanne, Weisshaupt and Astoria were wonderfully tragic characters. I'm going to miss them. I wonder if Dave does too?
If anyone has not heard of it, Dave has finally announced his new top-secret project, Glamourpuss. Will I pick it up? You betcha.
Anyway, thanks again Dave. You're not at all surprised that I didn't enjoy the entire series, but that should be okay. It doesn't make me ignorant any more than it makes you. You gave me reads that were a heck of a lot better than any superhero book I've read in the past 2 decades for sure. And I've scooped up a bunch of your Guide to Self-Publishing to give out to friends- should be required reading for indy artists.

Monday, December 24, 2007

What Would Jesus Say?

I think he'd say HAHAHAHAHA!!!

Seriously... do we think God has no sense of humor? Do we think Jesus would not have done cool trendy stuff today? He was approachable in his day, and still is today.

Of course we COULD all flip out and start blowing people up...


Saturday, December 22, 2007


You know what I love about Christmas?

There's a little ceramic jar in my house that my wife fills with M&M's for me, just because she loves me. And today, she came home from food shopping and had bought some port wine cheese spread and was excited to tell me that she got it for me, because she loves me.

It may not seem like much, but this is the time of year that we seem to find a few extra reasons and creative way to love each other.

My wife is a dynamic, wonderfuly smart, nuturing, hysterically funny person, and my goodness I think she's just gorgeous. Though she has little interest in the things that interest me (comics, movies, music, etc) she still seems to delight in just me. It boggles my mind.

You know what I love about Christmas?

Experiencing it with her.

One Banner #9- Parable Explained

I would hope that the Parable of the Sandboxes is self-explanatory. However, I would also hope that the truth behind it would be so self-evident that artists would be working hard to make it a thing of the past. And yet, here we are.

The sandbox is the artist’s personal vision and body of work. Pride often attaches us to these projects so much that we become isolated, and the projects never become all they can be (in fact, they often fail to materialize at all). Further, someone else’s project might be improved and realized by someone else lending a creative hand- but that requires some sacrifice. There’s that word again.

Teamwork requires a character trait that will not be found in the prideful: compromise. Compromise means that you might have to give up YOUR project to work on another one. It might mean that your creative teammates might make suggestions about changing story or art elements for the betterment of the project. If you’re a hardliner “my way or the highway” kind of guy, you’ll be alone in your sandbox in short order.

As soon as you invite people into you sandbox, it becomes THEIR sandbox too in a way. If you can do it, you’ll have a lot more fun and your comics will rock. If ya can’t hack that, play by yourself.

The Bible teaches us quite clearly that we’re not to be alone. The New Testament alone has over 50 verses that emphasize how we are to be with “one another” and “each other.” There’s a reason for this: God loves it when we fellowship, and good things come from it.

I just get plain giddy when I see artists working together. Some of my best times in comics have been when I’ve gotten to work with talented guys like Tom Hall, Hale Burckinh, Jesus Marquez, Kneon Transitt, Ben Avery and many others. To me, that’s what it’s all about.

But I’m still not an advocate of one banner, one company, one ring to rule them all (just to be clear). Doctrinal, creative and business differences come into play more the larger the pool gets. I guess that’s where we’re going next- perhaps the ugliest arguments of all that have caused the most strife.

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Let it be know that the Endres Family does not mourn long.

Kalypso is about 14 weeks and 28 pounds already, a Great Pyranese mix that was rescued with her two brothers from a kill shelter in Georgia, trucked up to NJ for adoption.

And she's home.

Thanks to all your well-wishes and condolences about our loss earlier this week. We received a flurry of emails, cards and calls of sympathy. It really touched our hearts.
We're big advocates of pet adoption- there's nothing like the gratitude and loyalty of a shelter dog. To find a new friend, go to

Friday, December 14, 2007

ONE BANNER #8 – The Parable of the Sandboxes

Once there was giant playground filled fence to fence with sandboxes. Each sandbox belonged to one guy (or gal) and they were busy digging in our own sand, building their own sand castles, making their own mudpies, and all seemed well. They talked to each other, waved hi and said, “Nice job” and stuff, but stayed in their own boxes doing their own thing.

Now there was one guy that has some fine looking nice sand and a shovel or two, but no buckets, and his sandcastle didn’t hold together. He spied a girl nearby with some buckets- she was using water and her castles look sturdy, but the sand was old and has leaves in it, and the castle didn’t have much form.

The guy had a few choices- continue doing what he was doing, OR offer to help the girl out with her project, OR ask the girl to help with HIS project. Yet he was only really interested in his own sandbox, and didn’t want to play in hers because it would take away from time spent in his OWN sandbox. But he knew that he needed help, so he asked the girl to come play in his sandbox and bring her buckets over.

The girl realized very quickly that, despite how pretty the guy’s sand was, she would be doing what seemed like the lion’s share of the work on the guy’s castle, since it was obvious he couldn’t make one on his own. She didn’t want to leave HER sandbox behind either.

And so, they continued to sit, working in their own sandbox island.

On the other side of the playground, a couple more guys each had a sandbox. But here, one guy looked at the other guy, who has some mad skills working the sand, and offered to bring his Tonka trucks and Star Wars figures over. Together they built an empire in the sand.

I ask you, dear disciples, which of these was most accomplished?

“The man who shared his trucks and figures,” they responded.

Yea, and I say verily, you are correct. For that man showed humility and generosity and mad skills in the sand. Alone, your sandcastles will blow into dust and be pooped upon by seagulls. But when we work in fellowship with each other, moving mountains is as easy as shoveling sand, and we can accomplish far more.

Next: Joe explains the parable of the sandboxes

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Worst Day of My Life

Bye Heidi. Bye Mush.

You two dopey dogs, don't drive Jesus too crazy.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

One Banner #7- The Rock Star

Recapping the traditional arguments against unity in Christian comics:

Egos are too big.
People all have their own projects and don’t want to work on others’ projects.
We all approach the art differently.
Comic unity won’t work for the same reason that there are Christian denominations.
No one wants to take charge.
No one wants to submit to a person in charge.
There aren’t enough comics to justify a company.

Pride is clearly the main demon to blame for three of them, but I will go so far as to state that pride plays into every single one of them, and that pride is at the root of virtually every sin imaginable.

Egos the size of Captain Kirk’s are common when it comes to the creative arts. When my friend and I were radio DJ’s for a Christian show, our respective egos nearly cost us our friendship. No different when it comes to comics. There is something odd that comes over a person when they see their name in print. Immediately the dreams start to play into our heads and we become Captain Kirk. We can take on the galaxy. We can be Jim Lee or Alex Ross or any one of the guys that’s come of rock-star status.

Also playing into this: artists are notoriously insecure. Do not confuse insecurity with humility; they are worlds apart. Insecurity is a monster that begs to be appeased and fed with unending compliments, starved for positive feedback. Insecurity will come out as extreme defensiveness when criticized. Insecurity crushes the spirit.

Humility is its own reward. Pride asks, “How can I impress other people?” Humility asks, “How can I serve other people?” Pride asks, “How can I impress God?” Humility asks “How will God impress me?” Pride says, “Look at me! Look at my stuff with my big ole name on it!” Humility says, “Look at God!” or “Look at the work that guy over there is doing!”

I find annoying those who do nothing but self-promote on their blogs and message boards. You never see anything added to a conversation that doesn’t involve their own product placement. They’re not interested in souls or friends. They’re interested in themselves, masked in a shroud of artistic mission. If their work is attacked they take it personally and cut off friendships and fellowships. It is these types of people, whom it might seem are so active in the art, who are also doing the most to cut down unity. Coincidentally, it is these same people who are usually on the forefront of stating why unity will not work (cleverly inserting a commercial for their product into the argument along the way).

Artists: your skills came from God. They are a gift. God has also given you the means (time, money, mentors, materials) by which you can refine the gift. And any of it can be taken away in a microsecond. God and God alone is solely responsible, so we shouldn’t be taking a shred of credit for it. If you’re proud, you’re proud of something that someone else GAVE to you. And that’s foolishness. If there’s bragging to be done it should be done as boasting of God’s awesomeness, not your own contracts and premiere dates.

I’ve got a lot to say on this. I’m on a roll.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Anime Con

OOPS!!! Forgot to mention, Tom Hall and I will be at the Jacob Javits Center in NYC this weekend at the Anime Convention to promote our new book, Mecha Manga Bible Stories. Will have copies of Megazeen on hand as well as full-color ashcans and posters of the new book. BE THERE!!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

One Banner #6- The Elephant in the Room

Gonna get this out of the way first, since it is the most common reason cited for the failure of Christian comics, the most common reason provided for not supporting Christian comics, the most common reason cited for not printing the comics that have been created.


What a lame-ass cop-out.

First of all, the argument has already proven invalid if we were to use the scientific method. A few years ago, a guy had come upon a decent sized sum of money and decided to start a Christian comic company. He promised to collect the best talent available, and pay them, and crank out some quality comics. He did none of these things. More than half of the talent acquired was unimpressive at best, he failed to pay what he promised to many of them, and the comics sucked with a capital S. Thus proven, simply throwing money at it won’t make it work. One company had money, one company did not. The one with money, poof gone. The one with no money, still kickin’.

Secondly, the “prohibitive” cost of printing comics is hogwash. That is more of a mindset that the artist just has to get over.

There are two options an artist has to see his book get into print- (1) pay to print it himself or (2) get someone else to have enough faith in him to foot the bill. The latter option is an entirely separate issue. I won’t pretend to know a lot about it. What I do know about it is that the main motivation to pursuing a publisher or backer is money. It’s a mindset that’s tough to get over in this day and age of six-and-seven figure artists. Unless you’re willing to go through the steps of being a success in the industry (schooling, pounding the comic con circuit, collecting the mountain of rejection letters, prepping a portfolio, etc etc) that’s likely a steep uphill climb. Not insurmountable of course, but not easy.

Let’s go back to option A, self-publishing. “I don’t have the money to print.” Most artists could if they wanted to. I’m very frank about that and I believe it. The truth is not that the artist does not have the money- rather, that he chooses to spend the money in other ways. This is plain old budgetary stuff.

Let’s assume that the artist is your average fanboy at heart. It costs him at least $20 to go to a movie alone and buy a drink and popcorn. Bring a date and it’s a lot more- but hey, we’re talking average fanboy here, so dating really isn’t in the cards, is it? Ten mainstream comic books will set a collector back $30-$40 easy. A video game costs $20-$50 (without the system). Could we safely say that your average fanboy making a few sacrifices could scrape together $100 within one month? Then YOU can print 100 copies of your book, for about a buck a copy. Sell them at $3 cover and you just have to sell a third of them to make your investment back (selling 33 copies to friends and family is a piece o cake).

If you’re wise with the revenue, you won’t just turn it into another night at the movies and trip to the comic shop and PSII game- you’ll print issue 2 with it.

Money, like most everything else, simply boils down to choices. If God is leading you to write a draw a comic, which is LOADS of fun, isn’t it also logical he might be asking for a less pleasant sacrifice as well?

Now you could tell me that you barely scrimp by and eat Alpo, play an old Atari 2600 on a b&w TV and don’t have a dime to spare. But really, be honest with yourself. You don’t have to convince me. If I’m never gonna see your comics then the excuses don’t much matter to me. It’s your choice. Your elephant.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

One Banner #5- The Traditional Arguments Against

Whenever the topic of Christian Comics Unity has raised its head again like unto the Loch Ness Monster, usually a few well-meaning, seasoned vets of the movement will attempt to write off the idea in a quick nutshell, like there’s one simple overriding reason. The arguments AGAINST usually go something like this:

Egos are too big.
People all have their own projects and don’t want to work on others’ projects.
We all approach the art differently.
Comic unity won’t work for the same reason that there are Christian denominations.
No one wants to take charge.
No one wants to submit to a person in charge.
There aren’t enough comics to justify a company.

They’re all true. But they’re all not completely true. And they all should not be true. And there’s a lot more to the puzzle than any one of these individual sound bites.

I want to make it clear that I am NOT a proponent of the “One Banner” idea as it has been suggested, i.e. one ring to rule them all. I am a proponent of self-publishing. While I believe there are business reasons to do work under the heading of a larger company, I more strongly believe that artistic freedom in this industry is key to ensuring the purest expression. The greatest enemy of a visionary artist is a bureaucracy, and the worst kinds of bureaucracies I’ve bumped into have been (sadly) Christian bureaucracies.

However, I do wish to explore the validity of the arguments against the idea of unity, in an attempt to explore real solutions and to address the issue intelligently.

And when I say “intelligently” I mean that I’m not arguing these points on a message board in brief nuggets to be picked apart. “Intelligence” seems to fly right out the window on message boards. This is my little corner of the web, and my little one-sided monologue. So nyah.

“The Elephant in the Room” by the way, is money. I’ll kick off with that one next time.