09 November 2009

So, like, I made a Bible comic once.

(Image from my Small Bible minicomic by me.)

So, a week or so ago my aunt says to me, "I read this thing in the New York Times about this underground comic book guy turning the Bible into a comic book and I thought he was stealing your idea". I immediately knew she was talking about R. Crumb's The Book of Genesis and explained that no, R. Crumb was not stealing from me. What he has done is a literal drawn translation of the book of Genesis. What I did was take the Old Testament and break it down into nine pages. Totally different goal. Totally different result.
(The cover of R. Crumb's The Book of Genesis. You should buy one copy for yourself and one copy for me. Really, you should seriously buy me a copy.)

Still, there are some similarities between the two. Not at all to compare myself to the greatest living comicbooktoonist and one of my heroes but I do find it interesting that we came to similar conclusions on some things. We both decided to use the exact text and make things literal. The way I came about that decision was somewhat painful. I was making minicomics and I was a Sunday school teacher and I was trying to think of a way to merge the two. I wanted to do a small summary of the Old Testament that could be passed around easily and cheaply. I set about trying to write a summary of the Old Testament. I went through draft after draft over a period of a few years and finally threw it all away. I decided that you can't re-write the thing. If you change it at all it is not the real thing, it is your thing. I decided the only way to be true to the thing is to let it speak for itself. From the interviews, I've read, it seems that Crumb came to the same conclusion. To just lay it out there as is and let the readers interpret it for themselves.

The big difference is that his is an exercise in representing the entirety of one book of the Old Testament. Mine is the opposite. Mine is about subtraction. Breaking the thing down to it's most essential. The minimal amount of info that gives a representation of what the Old Testament is. In short, the minicomic version of the Old Testament. It's basically minicomic versus graphic novel. Two totally different things.

I've not been able to read (or own) Crumb's book yet but I've seen bits of it online. I spent a lot of time researching for my comic so I'm always interested in how someone else handles the visual elements of the book. Especially when the artist is R. Crumb. One interesting difference I've noticed and thought about is how he chose to draw Angels. I think the difference is clearly a generational thing. Crumb grew up on those epic historical and Biblical movies of the 50's and 60's. I grew up on epic sci-fi films of the 70's and 80's. My Angels are much more sci-fi and his are much more, well, traditional. I think both are technically consistent with the descriptions in the text but they look totally different. Which, is kind of the point in doing a visual Bible. The Bible is different to every reader and I think that is the way it should be.

You can read a color webcomic version of my Small Bible here and buy the original minicomic here. You can read what critical types thunked about my Small Bible here.

Your best pal ever,
Shannon Smith
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