“Bible comic books challenge the status of images as subordinate to the Word, and of a translation to the original text, by highlighting the creative rather than mere imitative potential of producing a visual translation of the Bible. ”
At the intersection of cultural history and cultural anthropology, this project uses visual and literary analysis to focus on the technical skill involved in producing Bible comics. I pay particular attention to how genre conventions, marketing strategies, gender relations, and an artist’s individual style or biography inform the creation of these visual translations. To do this work, I take an interdisciplinary approach that combines historical and ethnographic methods to interview artists, editors, translators, and publishers as well as to analyze particular sets of images illustrated by both Christian and non-Christian comic book artists from 1945 to the present. In so doing, I seek to identify the ways in which these comics are both attempting to universalize the Bible’s message through a familiar visual medium while also becoming subject to the creative whims and theological positions of their creators. More specifically, I think critically about how the Bible’s creation stories are retold through both the visual and literary elements of a comic book using critical translation theory (i.e., feminist, material, and biblical studies) in connection with the media turn in book historical and religious studies to conceive of the artist as a creator. By connecting these various fields of study, this project addresses the longer history and authority of biblical scribes, translators, scholars, and commentators as positions typically reserved for male experts while also providing space to consider how the visual form and content of the comic book might challenge our understanding of the Bible in North America as simply a mass-produced, printed, or word-based “book.” I therefore draw attention to the materiality of hand-drawing the Bible and the physical, embodied, and feminine labour involved in such processes of translation and missionary effort in order to shape an understanding of the Bible as both a word and image-based text.