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Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels

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Comic books have increasingly become a vehicle for serious social commentary and, specifically, for innovative religious thought. Practitioners of both traditional religions and new religious movements have begun to employ comics as a missionary tool, while humanists and religious progressives use comics' unique fusion of text and image to criticize traditional theologies Comic books have increasingly become a vehicle for serious social commentary and, specifically, for innovative religious thought. Practitioners of both traditional religions and new religious movements have begun to employ comics as a missionary tool, while humanists and religious progressives use comics' unique fusion of text and image to criticize traditional theologies and to offer alternatives. Addressing the increasing fervor with which the public has come to view comics as an art form and Americans' fraught but passionate relationship with religion, Graven Images explores with real insight the roles of religion in comic books and graphic novels. In essays by scholars and comics creators, Graven Images observes the frequency with which religious material—in devout, educational, satirical, or critical contexts—occurs in both independent and mainstream comics. Contributors identify the unique advantages of the comics medium for religious messages; analyze how comics communicate such messages; place the religious messages contained in comic books in appropriate cultural, social, and historical frameworks; and articulate the significance of the innovative theologies being developed in comics.


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Comic books have increasingly become a vehicle for serious social commentary and, specifically, for innovative religious thought. Practitioners of both traditional religions and new religious movements have begun to employ comics as a missionary tool, while humanists and religious progressives use comics' unique fusion of text and image to criticize traditional theologies Comic books have increasingly become a vehicle for serious social commentary and, specifically, for innovative religious thought. Practitioners of both traditional religions and new religious movements have begun to employ comics as a missionary tool, while humanists and religious progressives use comics' unique fusion of text and image to criticize traditional theologies and to offer alternatives. Addressing the increasing fervor with which the public has come to view comics as an art form and Americans' fraught but passionate relationship with religion, Graven Images explores with real insight the roles of religion in comic books and graphic novels. In essays by scholars and comics creators, Graven Images observes the frequency with which religious material—in devout, educational, satirical, or critical contexts—occurs in both independent and mainstream comics. Contributors identify the unique advantages of the comics medium for religious messages; analyze how comics communicate such messages; place the religious messages contained in comic books in appropriate cultural, social, and historical frameworks; and articulate the significance of the innovative theologies being developed in comics.

53 review for Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Reading Graven Images is, I imagine, very much like sitting through the 2008 Boston University academic conference that inspired it - there are the hits, the misses, and the things that make you roll your eyes hard enough to make a strike. After a brief but fascinating foreword by Douglas Rushkoff, editors Lewis and Kraemer offer a lengthy overview of the volume's genesis as well as a layout for what's to come (one can almost hear the implicit dread "In this paper I intend to show..."), describi Reading Graven Images is, I imagine, very much like sitting through the 2008 Boston University academic conference that inspired it - there are the hits, the misses, and the things that make you roll your eyes hard enough to make a strike. After a brief but fascinating foreword by Douglas Rushkoff, editors Lewis and Kraemer offer a lengthy overview of the volume's genesis as well as a layout for what's to come (one can almost hear the implicit dread "In this paper I intend to show..."), describing the three sections into which Images is split. The first, "New Interpretations," examines traditional religious themes in comic books, including comics explicitly created to support Catholic, Mormon, and Hindu traditions as well as others which simply adopts elements from various religions. As a Catholic I naturally gravitated to Blankenship's piece on the use of comics as educational texts in parochial schools ("Catholic American Citizenship"), but the most fascinating piece was easily Eriko Ogihara-Schuck's essay on the Christianizing of Animism in manga and anime, which compared and contrasted the animistic/dualistic worldviews in the manga and anime versions of Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The second section, "Response and Rebellion," looks at the ways comics can either subvert or expand upon existing religious traditions, and includes strong pieces on Preacher and Superman, as well as a fantastic examination by Kerr Houston of Satrapi's Persepolis which explores the influence of medieval Christian woodcuts and the Shahnama on the author's artistic style. The final section, "Postmodern Religiosity," basically springboards into the unknown or nontraditional, beginning with a piece by fan favorite G. Willow Wilson taking on Rene Guenon's concept of higher-order symbolism as it pertains to comics. This final section is perhaps the strongest overall, with Megan Goodwin's examination of magic as religious language in Morrison's Invisibles and Emily Ronald's consideration of absent believers in Gaiman's Sandman. As with any collection, your mileage may vary with Graven Images, depending on your enthusiasm for the texts and the traditions covered by the individual papers. I approached this collection without having read many of the comics referenced, so although it served as a lovely jumping off point to a lot of new and thoughtful works, I'll likely need to read many of the essays again to see if I agree with their conclusions after the fact. However you feel about the parts - some of which you can't help picturing the presenters having read directly into the page in grand conference style - the whole of Graven Images is worth celebrating for bringing more academic focus to the under-examined texts represented by comics, and for expanding religious discourse beyond the strictly traditional. Whatever background you bring to this as a comics fan, that's certainly something worth believing in.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tone

    A collection of academic essays. Some very strong but mostly just accounts of series that I've already read. Less insights than I was hoping for.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Astripp

  4. 4 out of 5

    SRIGURUKULAM SEC SCHOOL

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    Krysta

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    Will

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    Rao

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    David McConeghy

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    Celine Foulon

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    Andrea

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    Livvii Edwards

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    Jessica

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    Anna

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    A. David Lewis

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    Jenny

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    Katie

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    Aarcanum Black

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    John Romaniello

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    Antti Äikää

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    Julian Darius

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    Ken Mello

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    Elizabeth

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    Mary

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    Althea

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    BD

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    Shahzad

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    Anne

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    Ayman Fadel

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    Patchwork Poltergeist

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    Dan Still

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    Brent

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    Zachary Zellers

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    Niall519

  53. 5 out of 5

    Laurel Narizny

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