Much has been commented on the evangelizing power of painting, sculpture, music, literature, theater, and film. What about comics?
Anthony James Perez from the Philippines believes comics can be a potent medium to transmit the word of God. Together with a team composed of Gilbert Monsanto (penciller), Raymond Ferrer (inker), Bryan Arfel Magnaye (colorist), Jayboy Acosta (editor and assistant project head) and Michael Anthony Mapa (managing editor), he is currently creating Patron Comics, which he describes as “taking the Gospel and inserting it into the action/fantasy/adventure genre of comics and manga that our youth are reading nowadays.”
“It’s 100% entertainment and 100% catechism,” Perez says. “It’s catechism in 6X9 format, inside a compelling fictional story.”
How does Perez plan to transform a popular entertainment genre into an effective channel of God’s grace?
I interviewed Perez about his project and here is what he has to say:
Where did you get the idea for Patron Comics?
I have always loved telling stories and hearing or reading about them. I have always been receptive to good stories all 33 years of my life. There are a lot of elements in Patron Comics that I got from movies, books, and even video games. But as far as the bulk of the story of this series goes, I used the most touching stories I have encountered from people, stories of friends, stories of people who attended the spiritual retreats I have helped facilitate, stories of ordinary people who have touched my life. So in many ways, Patron Comics story is the story of those whom I have met, weaved together with the Gospel.
What motivated you to start Patron Comics?
We in my pro-life advocacy group called “Filipinos for Life” have always thought of spreading the Gospel through ways that will appeal to the youth. I was thinking along the lines of “How did my teachers teach me?” when I realized one thing: I have had the privilege of receiving excellent Catholic education through the Salesians, and I have watched many exceptional movies and read very engaging and educational books that reinforced the things my teachers taught me. So I thought: what if I can do that through comics? We have good priests and good catechists; all we need now is a good medium to reinforce Catholic teaching among the youth. So I thought of doing comics and met a group of very talented and very Catholic guys who can flesh out a story, and that is how it started.
Without revealing any spoilers, can you give us a teaser of the stories?
In a nutshell, our main characters are involved in battling devils, while waging war against their own personal demons. The battle is very spiritual as much as it is a personal and emotional one. One character has to struggle against same-sex attraction. He works part time as a ferryman at the town’s river. His constant paddling against the current had made him physically strong, but deep inside he’s still a softie. Then there’s this basketball varsity hotshot who was excelling both in sports and academics because he was trying to win his father’s love and attention, but when he didn’t get it, he slid into indifference, and his performance both on and off the court slipped.
Our characters are a team of young Catholics guided towards the path of holiness by their mentor, but they soon realize that becoming saints and carrying their crosses is just as difficult as battling devils and demons.
Who are the target readers?
My target readers are pre-teens, teens, and young adults. I have formatted the book series in such a way that our youngest readers will still learn something from the stories, while our older, more receptive readers will certainly get the deeper, more profound lessons.
When and where will it be available for distribution?
As of this writing, we’re still negotiating with local bookstores as far as retail is concerned, but mainly I am offering the series to our Catholic schools. Those who want to pre-order may contact me at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What works and genres, both religious and secular, influenced the comics?
My education from the Salesians is certainly an influence; the mentor of our team constantly reminds them that the path to holiness is in doing their everyday duties with holy joy and excellence, something taught by St. John Bosco to his students. Holiness through ordinary life was also preached by St. Josemaria Escriva.
I have always been thankful that I am old enough to know the teachings of the Catholic Church and young enough to understand what the youth are into, partly because I am also into the things they are into: comics, cartoons, manga, video games, novels.
How do you intend to strike a balance between making the comics cool and catchy, and maintaining orthodoxy in the content?
The formula is actually simple. Make it cool first and foremost. The coolness factor should always be there. Once you have captive readers, sharing the Gospel is very easy. I got this from St. John Bosco himself. As a young boy he was a very good acrobat, musician, and story teller, and he used his talent to draw listeners towards him that he may share Christ to them.
I had endless back and forth discussions with my editor, Jay, because we had to make sure that the story and the dialogue preached our Catholic values without being preachy.
Do you have any other message for readers?
I would urge all campus ministers, school administrators, our clergy and parents to buy the comic book series for their students and kids. Nowadays we have to be pro-active in educating and forming our Catholic youth. This is a project of the New Evangelization. The team behind this has done their utmost in making sure that the kids get the best Catholic comic book series. The first book to be released this November is the first among several books in a series that will run for several years; how nice it would be if our youth are entertained and the Gospel seeds sown in their hearts during their formative years.