Graphic novels conveying biblical truths
Philip Robinson meets Art Ayris, who heads the world’s biggest ‘Bible comic’ project.
Art Ayris serves as executive pastor of First Baptist Church, Leesburg, Florida. He is the founder of Kingstone Studios, and executive editor of the Kingstone Bible, the most complete graphic adaptation of the Bible ever made. He is also president of the Comic Bible Society, which distributes sections of Bible and apologetic material as graphic (comic style) novels in more than sixty languages. Art has been married to Kelly for 39 years and has two sons and two grandchildren.
As an avid comic reader when I was younger, I was excited to meet up with Art Ayris while on a trip to America. We met at Kingstone Studios, which he founded in 2005. It aims to provide visually engaging attractive media to explain the Bible and scriptural truths to a wide age range. His motivation was that, while serving as a youth pastor earlier in life, he found it hard to find good resources to use with the young. He also explained:
“When visiting bookshops at the weekend, it would prick my soul to see kids reading spiritually unhealthy material.”
He wanted to make the Bible accessible to a wider audience who would not read traditional books, never mind the Bible. Since then, Kingstone has completed a 2,000-page serialization of the Bible, in the form of graphic novels—a comic-strip format.1 It took a little over seven years and about 45 illustrators to complete this immense volume of work. Art is passionate about high quality Christian artistry; he ensured that about 95% of the illustrators used on the project had previous experience with either DC or Marvel comics.
Art makes sure a biblical worldview underpins everything they create at Kingstone, with none of the artwork surrendering to any element of a naturalistic evolutionary worldview. This emanates from his firm belief in the Creator God of Genesis. He believes people can use their God-endowed creative gifts to represent biblical history accurately, staying faithful to what Scripture intends to teach.
Graphic novels have been around for decades and many millions are sold every year. As this presentation style increasingly appeals to the masses, even scientific books on human evolution have been adapted as graphic novels.2 Recognizing the powerful impact this effective and enjoyable communication format can have, Art said:
“Teens and young people read comics and graphic novels. It is a popular medium so I feel Christians should be there with truth. Marrying the text with images also helps with long-term memory. We want young people not only reading but also remembering. I am a pastor, and I’m appalled at the biblical illiteracy in both the church and the general Western culture. The Bible lends itself well to a graphic novel format.”
Since Art has a high view of Scripture, the graphic novels are clear about their source; the Bible reference is given at the bottom of each page. The graphic novel serialization of the Bible also has a timeline that clearly shows the earth is only around 6,000 years old, which Art thought important to include.
“Scientifically and historically, I believe this time frame best fits the data. If one accepts the Bible as the infallible revelation from God, then it is hard to reach any other conclusion for the creation as well as the placement of mankind upon the earth. Of course, I‘ve read lots of other sources that give credence and support to that.”
Defending the faith
Kingstone has illustrated not just the Bible, but also other materials defending the faith. These answer questions such as: Where did Cain get his wife? What about dinosaurs? How did Noah fit all the animals on the Ark? And, what does the Bible say about aliens? I asked Art why he thought it was so important to enter the debate about the age of the earth, evolution, and apologetics? He explained:
“Scripture does not shy away from it, and neither should God’s people. Also, the Bible provides the answers to every difficult and perplexing human situation. We want people to understand that Scripture has some amazing things to say and helps us make sense of our world and culture today.”
Indeed, several of the graphic novels cover the descent of all mankind from Adam and Eve, created in God’s image. This means that all people are precious in God’s sight. Art has recognized this in some very practical ways. One was the acquisition of a local motel through his church, subsequently renamed The Samaritan Inn, which now houses homeless families. Additionally, he was the founding executive director of the Community Medical Care Center in Leesburg. This is a no-cost medical clinic for the poor, now staffed by 50 doctors and numerous volunteer health professionals. It serves over 7,000 people annually.
Combating racism with Adam and Eve
Beyond practical demonstrations of Christian love for mankind, Art believes that explaining humanity’s origins from Adam and Eve in his material means we can
“address the sinful scourge of racism by helping people understand their origins.”
This is a very real issue for many societies today and finds its answer in the Bible.
Our origin is also directly linked to the Gospel, since it was through those first parents that sin and death entered the world (Genesis 3) and has passed on to all of humanity. Only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, our kinsman-redeemer, can we be saved.
While these graphic novels have gone down well with teens and young adults, those in prison have also received them enthusiastically. Art explained that the inmates particularly like this format, as the images bring the text to life for them.
Saved by blood
Early in life, Art had a real physical connection to prisoners. At the age of four he was walking behind his father who was using a mower. A metal piece flew out and penetrated Art’s stomach and intestines. Rushed to hospital for emergency surgery, he was losing blood, and there was not enough to save him. A local prison brought prisoners to the hospital to donate their blood so he could live.
Kingstone donates its popular products to prisons and juvenile centres. Some prisoners and chaplains have written to thank them, saying they are the most requested and passed-around products in the prison. Prisoners’ blood was used to save Art’s life; he now gets to share with prisoners about the blood of Jesus, which can truly save their lives, eternally.
In closing, Art wanted to remind all those conducting creation apologetics to continue to “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12).
References and notes
- Available either digitally, or in print as 3 hardcover or 12 softcover books, or 30+ individual comic books. Return to text.
- The popular evolutionary book Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari (2014) was converted into graphic novel format, Nov 2020. See review of original book: Line, P., A history of humankind distorted by evolutionary thinking, J. Creation 31(3):38–42, 2017; creation.com/harari. Return to text.