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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Bunch of Stuff

My wife and I went to the Northwestern Baptist Association Prayer Conference last night, and had a very good time. Greg Frizzell (Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma) always brings a great presentation, reminding Christians that there is no better plan for church success than committed corporate prayer.

Speaking of Christianity, a few years ago, I ran across a web page containing an article which actually focused on Christian individuals in the comics profession. It contained interviews with well-known writers and artists about their faith and how it affected their work. I saved that site on my list of favorites, but, unfortunately, it eventually went the way of the dodo. All I can remember about the site is that it had the word "eightball" in it's name. That's it. I know my chances of ever finding out more are poor at best, but I mention it primarily as a segue into my own research into Christian comics, as well as professionals who profess a Christian faith. This is fairly new, and will be ongoing.

I'll start with the site Comix35, which, on it's home page, explains exactly why a Christian comics minstry is so vital in many countries. If you have any interest at all in evangelism, missions, or comics, I encourage you to check it out.

Also, for those who are fans of 70's D.C. comics (or even remember when they first hit the stands!), it may interest you to know that the late (great) fan-favorite artist Nestor Redondo professed a Christian faith, and took part in teaching those who wanted to produce Christian comics. Click his name to read about it.

Now, as promised a couple of days ago, here's a review of a "classroom comics" selection. Such comics are those which I believe would be great aids for teachers and parents who desire to help their kids get interested in reading. Such selections will often flirt with history lessons, or classic literature.

The Castaways, published by Absence of Ink Comic Press, 56 pages, $5.95.

Tucker Freeman is 13 years young, and living the hobo’s life on the road. Not because he wants to, mind you, but it’s the age of the Great Depression, and, in the wake of his father walking out on the family, he feels it’s his responsibility to go out and find work, so as to be a help to the family, instead of a burden. Along the way, he meets an interesting individual, who becomes a trustworthy friend; an old hobo named Elijah Hopkins. During his time with Elijah, Tucker learns about being a hobo (as opposed to a "tramp," or a "bum"), as well as being a decent human being.

Written by Rob Vollmar, The Castaways is a poignant, thoughtful, engrossing tale, largely influenced by conversations with the author’s grandmother, as well as a documentary on the Depression. You see, there is a great deal of emotional investment in The Castaways, and it shows. Vollmar doesn’t write two-dimensional characters, here. Somehow, he manages to breathe a semblance of life into Tucker and Elijah, making the reader care about what happens to them. This book is a fine compliment to Rob’s skills as a writer.

Artist Pablo G. Callejo uses a highly-detailed style of rendering that is easily as important as the writing for bringing the characters to life, in this tale. Reminiscent of Rick Geary’s work, Callejo excels in the black and white medium, showing a wonderful grasp of light, shadow and textures. Though his characters’ expressions are sometimes over-simplified, overall, he shows much promise in this area, as well. I hope to see more of Pablo’s work, in the future.

The Castaways is highly recommended for all ages, and is believed, by this reviewer, to be a great candidate for a classroom comics selection, being both entertaining, AND historically relevant. Look for it at comic shops, comic conventions and online auctions. For the comic shop near you, call 1-888-comicbook.

Mark Allen