A Survey of Mormon Comix by Theric Jepson

8.12.08 | | 75 comments

When I asked Theric Jepson to write a bit about Mormon graphic novels, I didn’t expect that he would launch a full on bibliographic project. But he did — and even though the results make for a very long post, it’s very much worth a read. Indeed, it’s quite the amazing project and must have taken quite some time to put together. Thanks, Theric. ~Wm Morris

I’m also going to make you click through for the full post because the “more” tag seems to be causing some problems with the special formatting for the post.

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This is going to be a post long enough that it risks breaking that tacit understanding between bloggers and readers: “This really won’t take you that long. I swear.”

In order to alleviate your sense of “This really might take that long,” I have chopped this post into sections and provided a table of contents wherewith you may click on ahead to the portions that interest you and comment thereupon. You should not feel you have to read the whole thing to start commenting. If you have lots to say about Mormon Superheros and couldn’t care less about who’s who in the funny papers, comment on Mormon Superheros and ignore the funnies entirely. Fair enough?

Let’s start with a couple definitions, then I’ll give you the ToC.

So. Comics. How do we define this term? The easy way: we do what everyone else does and agree with Scott McCloud‘s definition of comics. Which is:

from Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

I know Motley Vision readers are a bright crowd so I’m not going to insult you by overexplaining this definition. But I do insist on pointing out what still isn’t obvious to everyone, viz. there is nothing in this definition about blue pajamas or fuzzy animals. And if you have never read Understanding Comics (from where these images were taken), I insist you click on the picture above and sail over to Amazon and buy a copy for your home library. There’s a very good reason this book has become a required college course in many disciplines other than “mere” comics.

But before we go, can we add a touch more clarification to that definition, Mr McCloud?

from Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Thank you. That’s the definition I’ll be using and even though I know some of my examples will stretch what most people are willing to call comics, I think you’ll be surprised by the comics legacy we see in Mormon Arts.

(Note: the spelling of comix in the title is a holdover from this stuff. Art Spiegelman has taken to using it more generically and although I like the sentiment, it’s never going to catch on. Still. It’s a good-looking word. Perfect for titles.)

Table of Contents

Theric’s Credentials and Disclaimers

Mormon Panorama

Galleries and Temples

Newspaper Comics

Mormon Superheros

Mormons in the Superhero Business

The Book of Mormon Stuff

Wild and Crazy People at The Friend

Other Print Comics

Webcomics

Closing Remarks in Bold Type So You Know They’re Important

The End

Theric’s Credentials and Disclaimers

    I love the comics form. I read a lot of comics. If it’s my taste you’re concerned about, this post gives you a sense of what I like.

    But today’s post has little to do with taste or anything else. I’m just trying to get a sense of what has gone before. What qualifies me for this? I can use Google, I guess. I have an idea where to look and who to ask. I dunno. No one’s really qualified to write the definitive monograph on Mormon comics. Best we know, I’m the best we’ve got. Sorry.

Mormon Panorama

    Carl Christian Anton Christensen, a Danish man who converted in 1850, was one of the first notable Mormon artists. His Handcart Pioneers is “the most widely published painting of the Mormon pioneer experience by an actual pioneer.”

    The other thing he is well-known for is Mormon Panorama, a series of twenty-three paintings depicting early Church history. Panoramas were popular at the time. The idea is, you get one long painting (or, as in this case, a series of paintings) and make it into a circle and people can stand inside and ooh and aah. Christensen took Mormon Panarama on the road and people took in his juxtaposed pictorial images in deliberate sequence and had an experience with art. Voila. The first Mormon comics.

    Here are the fourteenth and fifteenth paintings in the sequence, depicting Carthage Jail. (Please note that here, as in future images, I have set them up so that if you click on them, you will be taken to where I obtained the images.)

    Mormon Panorama 14

    Mormon Panorama 14

Galleries and Temples

    I hope starting with sequential paintings isn’t stretching our definition of comics too far for anyone. I think looking past the newsprint stereotype and seeing how the artistic strengths that are comics are applied in nonprint media is a great way to get us thinking about how comics work and the potential they have in the specific arena of Mormon Arts. Again, I can’t recommend McCloud’s Understanding Comics enough to anyone interested in the artform.

    We’ll be sticking with paintings for a little while longer, and next up is your favorite and mine, Minerva Teichert.

    Teichert’s Book of Mormon series (only recently discussed here) was up on public display my entire time as a BYU student in the religion building. I had seen few of these paintings before, but I had many opportunities to study them 1999-2002. They are beautiful. Teichert is one of the great American artists of the last century and eventually everyone will realize that, I’m certain. Take a look at Nephi and his brothers bringing in their treasure and then, later that night, when his brothers bring Nephi a little something all their own:

    Minerva Teichert's Book of Mormon

    Teichert wasn’t the first to tackle a whole series of Book of Mormon paintings (Christensen did it), nor would she be the last. I myself have seen the Arnold Friberg series at the Conference Center and Walter Rane’s more recent series at the L.A. Temple’s Visitors Center. The paintings are arranged chronologically. Or, in other words, they were juxtaposed in a deliberate sequence. The Church was making use of the strengths of sequential images to teach the Book of Mormon.

    Of course, dealing with the entire Book of Mormon in only a few images is not the sort of storytelling comics is best known for. Nor, would I argue, is it its strength. But the Book of Mormon has consistently been a favorite place for Mormon comics artists to draw from. We’ll look into this more a little further down.

    But before we leave the so-called fine arts behind, we need to talk about one more set of sequenced images: temple murals.

    First a set of images representing Creation; often one part of the room representing an earlier portion of Creation than another. Then what? Another room. Then another. Each representing a part of the story. The images are static. They are there more for meditative purposes than as set dressing (I would argue) and they are comics. Comics on a grand and sacred scale.

Newspaper Comics

    From the sacred to the funny pages.

    Frankly, I’m surprised I couldn’t dig up any more Mormon cartoonists than I did. It’s a big field and I seem to remember there’s an editorial cartoonist in . . . Atlanta? who’s Mormon, but I didn’t find all that much. Sorry.

    The big cheese in this category is Brian Crane whose Pickles is widely syndicated. LDS readers eventually catch on as Crane is fond of putting pictures of temples on his characters’ walls and they sometimes read the Ensign. Other than that, the Pickles could be any pleasant American family. I apologize for not having a better image for you, but this is the best currently online at comics.com (look in the first panel):

    Pickles by Brian Crane

    Actual Mormon-themed newspaper comics have existed in the past. I know Church schools have published some, but even with the assistance of the mighty 100 Hour Board I was only barely able to come up with one BYU comic and, as it was called PhD and later syndicated, I’m going to guess it wasn’t particularly Mormoncentric. The artist, Aaron Taylor, later went on to work as an editorial cartoonist for the Daily Herald (Provo/Orem) until recently.

    The other person we must mention is Pat Bagley (not to be confused with cartoonist Val Chadwick Bagley, whose style has become the defacto look for Mormon funny pictures. That Bagley’s a brand unto himself. I, for instance, play Go Fish with my four-year-old on cards with VC Bagley’s drawing of Lehi, Lamoni, cureloms and cumoms.)

    Something I find fascinating about the Bagleys is that despite an apparently widespread confusion, both have been successful in Mormonland (Val particularly, but Pat’s I Spy a Nephite is no slouch) while, at the same time, Pat’s presenting a political viewpoint at Mormonland’s gentile paper that doesn’t match the stereotyped Utah Mormon’s presumed viewpoint. I think this can only be interpreted in good ways.

    a VCB original

Mormon Superheros

    • Madman is apparently Mormon as well. Even back in the ’90s, Madman was being stalked by “the Three Nephites,” which Mormons will recognize as a reference to Book of Mormon-related folk myth. More recently, his archenemy Monstadt tried to corrupt him by paraphrasing dialogue spoken by the Satan character in the LDS temple ceremony. Madman sang the oddball Mormon hymn “If You Could Hie to Kolob” to himself after being blasted into outer space. And in the March issue, Madman even (spoilers!) got married, kneeling at an altar across from his bride, while an alien performed the ceremony. This may be an unusual way for most Earthlings to marry, but it does closely resemble the “sealing” ceremony used to perform marriages in Mormon temples. Um, minus the aliens.
  • When Mr Morris first suggested this topic to me, I wrote my go-to guy on all things comics. He didn’t have any Mormonspecific information to add to my information, but he did send me to this post by Ken Jennings. I was already aware of adherents.com’s comic-book religion page, but I had forgotten all about it and was astonished, now that I was looking, how many Mormon (or possibly Mormon) characters there are.

    I won’t discuss them all here, but I encourage you to follow the link and take a look at people like Captain Canuck (co-created by Mormon Richard Comely) that I will be ignoring.

    Captain Canuck

    The character I find most fascinating is Michael Allred’s Madman (we’ll talk more about Allred later). To quote Mr Jennings:

    I wish I owned these books. Madman has leapt to the top of my must-find pile. As it is, I have no scans of Madman’s wedding; instead, I give you this:

    Madman

    One of the big event storylines in mainstream comics was Marvel’s Civil War. I didn’t read it; I don’t read a lot of superhero comics anyway and this would have been an investment of time and energy (and money) I did not have. But apparently, each state got it’s own superhero team–even Utah:

    from Marvel's Civil War

    Marvel fans never got to meet this team, but if the information’s in a file somewhere, I would love to know their names.

    However. While the existence of Mormon characters like Dr. Deseret in superherodom is fascinating, the fact is, to the best of my knowledge, the concept of a straight-up Mormon hero has not been pursued very far, if at all. Pity.

Mormons in the Superhero Business

    • Captain Canuck may sound like a joke to us elitist Americans, but he’s big news in his native north. He was on a postage stamp and the Canadian version of Time. According to his creator, he’s particularly Canadian because “He’s against using firearms, which is somewhat Canadian, he’s more mild-mannered even when in costume, more polite, taps his own maple syrup… he’s more tolerant and unassuming” (source). In this portion of our discussion, however, we’re much more interested in his creator’s Mormonness and his work in the comics industry. Best I can tell, he’s been successful in the Canadian industry, but his work hasn’t traveled south much. So there you go.
      I’m hesitant to mention this guy. He’s so far removed from his time as a Mormon that he thinks he was baptized at age seven. Following him around the web, I get the sense that he’s hostile to his Mormon connection, so I’ll just leave him alone.
      This writer’s done some work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I haven’t seen it, but if, when you think TMNT, you think silly movies and Saturday-morning cartoons, you don’t know the artistry of the original creators–even when they were being silly), Marvel and with a friend to create something called Runestone. But, if I’m not mistaken, he doesn’t have more than a couple publication credits to his name.
      Now we’re getting into some famous people. This is the gentleman whose fault it is that so many fans think Power Pack is Mormon.

      Vellutto is an Italian immigrant to America and the first thing that strikes me about him as I read his interviews is how, once you know he’s Mormon, it seems so obvious. He says things like “‘you know what’ is paved with good intentions” (source) ask him if he prefers his coffee decaffeinated or straight up and he’ll say, “Actually my quandary is meat or spinach Lasagna” (source). He’s very deft.

      Vellutto has worked all over the industry (his resume), including the same TMNT series as Quinn Johnson (but not the same issue) and such bigshots as Captain America, X-Men, Silver Surfer, Batman, the Green Hornet, Flash, Justice League, Green Lantern, Aquaman–you get the idea. Vellutto is a known quantity in the world of the superheros.

      Sal's GL

      His distinctly Mormon work will come up later; for now, suffice it to say he’s a man with a reputation, lots of titles to his credit, and thoroughly LDS.

      Yes, there are more than one.

      Mike seems to be the head of this clan. His brother Lee is better known for his prose work in science fiction, but has contributed a thing or two to the Madman universe. Laura Allred is an award-winning colorist best known for her work on her husband’s books (although it would be a mistake to say that is all she has done; her work ranges from Spider-Man to Fables and is quite the corpus). (If you’re not familiar with the highly specialized world of modern superhero comics such as what a ‘colorist’ does), a nice, brief primer can be found here.)

      And so it seems that all the Allreds’ work finds genesis in Mike’s brain. If this is incorrect or highly insulting, I hope someone in the know will correct me.

      Mike’s done work on comics from Catwoman to the Powerpuff Girls, but he’s most interesting for being part of the creative-ownership revolution in the 1990s. Comics artists were tired of creating something awesome like Batman and then seeing suits roll in batmoney while they continued working for a measly batsalary. Mike Allred’s Madman was one of the vanguard of creator-owned characters who shook things up and permanently changed the industry.

      ad for Madman #1

      Hooray for Madman. (Movie rumored to be coming soon for over ten years now.)

      (Speaking of movies, Mike Allred wrote G-Men from Hell, which movie I have an unwatched copy of somewhere in the garage. I need to find that thing.)

  • We’ll come to that Allred of the Kolob-singing Madman in a moment; first I want to discuss the other Mormons in the business that I’ve uncovered.

    Orson Scott Card

    Richard Comely

    Rick Remender

    Quinn Johnson

    Sal Vellutto

    Them Allreds

The Book of Mormon Stuff

    Speaking of the Allreds, easily the biggest announcement in Mormon comics ever was when he told the world he was giving up his high-paying gigs to adapt the Book of Mormon to the comics form. This led to all sorts of debate and expected laments like “I didn’t know he was a cultist.”

    Golden Plates cover

    One of my great regrets as a consumer is that I didn’t buy a copy of The Golden Plates when it was at my local comics store. When I went back for it, it was gone. At any rate, Mike has had to discontinue the series at three due to poor sales (he’s publishing them himself) and if you’re a Mormon comics fan sitting on a wad of cash, I imagine he’ld love to talk to you. (Note: he also has plans for books of Jesus and Joseph Smith, so feel free to throw money at those projects as well.)

    There are no shortage of Book of Mormon-based comics (the earliest I found was Eileen Chabott Wendel’s 1960 Nephi the Valiant published by Deseret Book), which makes sense as the book is the foundational document on which our entire culture is built. Even the Church has gotten involved: no less than Mike Allred counts Book of Mormon Stories as on influence on his own adaptation.

    from BofM Stories

    In response to (or annoyance with) the Allred version, Corey and Douglas Peery started their own comics adaptation. To the best of my knowledge, Book of Mormon Heroes moved even fewer books than The Golden Plates. I have theories as to why neither has done that well, but they’ll have to wait for a later post.

    from BofM Heroes

    In the meantime, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Wild and Crazy People at The Friend

    • Cypher begins in a dark and obscure future America with an unfortunate nameless hero. He lives in a world of ever-present anxiety and dread where those around him are more sophisticated and stranger than him. They seem to know secrets that he just doesn’t understand.

      The unnamed protagonist soon realizes that the symbols surrounding him explain the meaning of life. He is plucked from his mundane existence and shown first-hand how bizarre this world can be if you peer beneath the surface.

  • I know, I know: how often do the words “wild” and “crazy” apply to The Friend? But that magazine is one of the few outlets (maybe the only outlet) of regularly occurring Mormon-themed comics. But let’s start by dispensing with the nonwild&crazies.

    Sal Velluto you know. Here’s he’s working with somebody named Eugenio Mattozzi (about whom I have uncovered nothing) to comicsize the lives of the prophets. If you get the friend, you’ve noticed their work over the past view years. Pretty good stuff. A little Friend-bland, but overall, not bad.

    Miracles along Joseph's Journey

    The writer of this next piece (from last January’s Friend is regular Friend contributor and successful romance novelist Jane McBride Choate (assuming there is only one Jane McBride Choate). Drawn by regular Friend illustrator Elise Black (this Elise Black, not this one). To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing wild nor crazy about either of them.

    Just Like Heavenly Father

    Now. Wild and crazy.

    Shauna Mooney Kawasaki’s drawing style has become one of the most recognizable in all Mormondom. Until recently, she ran The Friend‘s art department and her mark still is omnipresent, notably in the regular “Matt and Mandy” comics.

    Matt and Mandy, August 2008

    Sadly, Kawasaki has not published any Mormon comics outside The Friend. Her style, which I imagine many in the Mormon Arts community dismiss, is capable of much more than you might think.

    A few years ago she had a solo show at the gallery in the Provo Library. Her trademark ink-and-colored-pencils style was applied to delightfully grotesque monsters and other assorted horrors. It was one of the most enjoyable shows I have ever seen. Seeing this classic Friend style applied to the headless and fanged was quite the disconnect. Sadly, this aspect of Kawasaki is little known. There are a couple of nationally published books (1 and 2) that hint at it, but nothing quite like what I saw in Provo.

    I would love nothing more than to write a charming horror script for Kawasaki to illustrate. Someday, in fact, I hope I have a book of grotesqueries that will be perfect to send her way for illustrations. Please, Mrs Kawasaki! Make us a book! Let your wild and crazy side roam free!

    Brad Teare is our next wild and crazy. He is currently working as The Friend‘s senior designer and his woodcut illustrations make regular appearances (example). But in outside the insular world of church magazines, Teare works making everything from corporate comics to adaptations of classic books.

    original story by da Baum

    But Teare is probably best known for his apparently very strange book Cypher.

    The book is famously weird and parts of it first appeared in Heavy Metal (no further qualifications for wild and crazy required, thank you).

    My only problem with Cypher (besides the fact that I haven’t read it yet) is that Teare hasn’t published another book since its release over ten years ago. What gives, Mr Teare? Have you found us wanting? (Note: his wife is also a painter, but I don’t think she’s done any comics.)

    Brad Teare

    I think (and again, this is part of a future post) that one of the smaller LDS publishers needs to solicit these artists for stories and print a collection. I for one want to see what they are capable of.

Other Print Comics

    In brief:

    “The Mormon Battalion” was a six-page sequence in Our Fighting Forces #135, 1972, by Ric Estrada (not LDS, presumably).

    A comics adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s Red Prophet, originally based itself on Joseph Smith. Currently at your local Barnes and Noble.

    Red Prophet

    We can fairly safely assume Joan Hilty’s not LDS, but Zion, her “Mormon-Jewish teenage love story set in southwest Utah,” is one of the few stories with Mormon characters I know of by a major author in the alternative press.

    Joan Hilty

    I can’t swear to you that Jake Parker is Mormon, but he attended BYU, making it 98% likely. (And, given he’s from Arizona, probably even higher). He’s been published in the popular Flight anthologies. Plus, his “language problem” seems very Mormon, don’t you think?

    Jake Parker

    Just last week, Newbury-winning LDS writer Shannon Hale’s new book, a graphic novel, was released. Cowritten with her husband Dean and illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation, although his wife also helped making the book–I think that Hale pair are also LDS). I’m looking forward to reading it–looks like a fun take on the Rapunzel story.

    Rapunzel's Revenge

    Last but not least, Annie Poon. I just recently discovered this woman (and I’m a little irritated she doesn’t sell DVDs of her animation) but she makes and sells comics, much of which are available (in whole or in part) online. I’m most fascinated by her Eve story (but then, I always love a good Adam-and-Eve story).

    Annie Poon's Me Good Me Bad

Webcomics

    Most of the comics work by Mormons online is typical of its type. A few Mormon-penned examples that are typical of their online genre include Schlock Mercenary (science fiction) and Lin Christian-Foxxer’s work (cute animals). Nick Perkins’s “Cooties” (first strip here) is about kids in crazy situations (day one: alien invasion). Digital Strips is allegedly written by its characters, one of whom is Mormon (?). Jake Parker (mentioned above) has work online in the form of a prelude to LDS filmmaker Kohl Glass’s film The Promethean. Glass himself has work online (although they may be storyboards) (but what are storyboards if not comics?). Then there’s “the Little Mormon/Amish Girl” (presumably not created by a Mormon/Amish artist) and things like this:

    Wapsi Square

    So what do we have in webcomics that represents the Mormon experience? Well, there’s this (although it’s not really comics, just some cartoons), but what really asks for our attention are Gleaners and Pew People.

    Gleaners, strip by strip, tells a missionary experience, starting at the MTC:

    by Tom Doggett

    I’m intrigued by Gleaners, but every time I visit, the site seems to be on the blink. I don’t know how far the story has traveled from that first day in the MTC–I hope some distance, but I can’t see. I hope you will all click on the strip above and see if you can make it work. The strip has potential, but I can see so little of it, I don’t know how much.

    Pew People, on the other hand, is less story, more jokes. But I like it. (Well, some of it. But it’s definitely worth a look. Click and explore.)

    by ropearoni

Closing Remarks in Bold Type So You Know They’re Important

    Please, if you have contact information about any writers or artists in the Mormon Comics Scene (mentioned here or not), please invite them to our discussion in the comments section. I will be trying to invite as many of them as I can to our discussion myself, and, with your help, maybe we can get some input from people with on-the-ground experience.

    Also, anything that’s happening (or has happened in the past) in Mormon comics, please share. By virtue of writing this post I’m probably the world’s leading expert (main competitor), but I still don’t feel like this WLE really knows very much. I’m sure there’s more to see and read and know. For instance, as Mr Larsen recently posted, I know nothing about, say Mormon manga. Or the 24-hour-comic some French kid did for his Paris singles ward’s New Year’s dance. But I would like to. This post is only the beginning; I don’t believe for a second that it’s comprehensive.

    Mr Morris wants me to write about the direction of Mormon comics. My opinion’s great, but what about the opinion of people who actually make comics? And what about your opinion. I’m listening.

75 comments: “A Survey of Mormon Comix by Theric Jepson

  1. Th.

    .

    I apologize. The if-you’re-interested-in-my-taste post is here. Any other mistakes should be understood as my own as well.

    Yesterday I received the Annie Poon comic in the mail that appears above and it was delightful–well worth the four dollars. Go get a copy!

  2. William Morris

    Hmmm. It appears that something has gone wrong with the coding. It looked fine in the WordPress preview.

    Let me try and fix this. Patience, dear readers.

    —-
    Edit to add: Okay. Everything is in the right place. Some of the text wraps rather in-elegantly, but it was exactly my attempts to fix those that messed everything up in the first place so we’ll live with it for awhile and if I can fix it, I will. ~Wm

  3. Marny Parkin

    According to The Skousen Book of Mormon World Records, Ric Estrada is Mormon (the author interviewed him). Ric has worked on many comics, including Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and Flash Gordon, and has also done animation work.

    The other name behind Captain Canuk, Ron Leishman, is also Mormon. So is Kevin Fagin, who draws Drabble.

    Probably the first Mormon comic artist is Floyd Gottfredson, who was the artist for Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse comic strip beginning in 1930 and continuing to 1975.

  4. kadusey

    I never knew Pickles was written by a Mormon. Now I’m going to have to look for clues every time I read it.

    I would love to see Matt and Mandy style art of monsters. That sounds positively delightful. Plus, I like monsters.

    In the realm of webcomics/manga/comics written by Mormons and not mentioned above, there’s The Way to Your Heart, written by Emily Muto (both webcomic and manga).

    There’s also Amy Reeder Hadley, who is writing the manga Fool’s Gold, in addition to working with Matt Wagner on the DC/Vertigo comic Madame Xanadu.

    Here’s hoping my link tags work.

  5. ComicBookReligion.com

    Be sure to check out the Latter-day Saint Comic Book Characters listing at comicbookreligion.com/index.php?Religion=Latter-day_Saint_/_Mormon

    This is a continuation of our work at Adherents.com.

  6. danithew

    Ric Estrada is definitely Mormon. He was in Westchester Ward many years ago and had a son named Aaron who was my age. I thought it was very cool that Aaron’s dad drew comics for a living. They moved away while we were still young so I don’t know much more about the family after that.

    I used to think Power Pack was a pretty cool comic and I _loved_ the Katie Powers crossover with X-Men where she helped Wolverine deal with a particularly nasty enemy (Lady Deathstrike). [That comic was drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith, who is probably my favorite comic artist.] However, I had NO idea anyone thought Power Pack was a Mormon family. That had not occurred to me but it’s an interesting one to think about.

  7. Bradly Baird

    I heartily endorse purchasing Scott McCloud’s book. I read it for coursework in my MBA program. Incredible insights and techniques await you.

  8. Matt W.

    Power Pack was thought to be Momron because the dad wore a BYU sweatshirt in one issue, I’m told.

    Mike Allred’s Comics are amazing and I would love to finacially contribute to their completion. Everyone should have a copy.

  9. The Only True and Living Nathan

    Bill Galvan, Mormon artist in Utah County, is currently drawing the main Archie title. He also works on Scrapyard Detectives, a public-service comic funded by The Diversity Foundation, the same group that helped out the “lost boys” kicked out by the FLDS. (I collaborated in writing an issue of Scrapyard Detectives for Bill and worked with him on his defunct superhero series Thunderbird, so I suppose you could even put me on the list.)

    Ryan Ottley, who draws Invincible (published by Image) is also Mormon.

    Oh, and regarding Allred’s The Golden Plates… that was a REALLY bad idea. Allred tried to put EVERYTHING in — which seems fine until you realize just how many prophecies and doctrinal discourses there are just in 1st and 2nd Nephi. By the second issue (the last one I bought), we were getting pages of solid text, which, thanks to the all-caps typeface used, were a lot harder to read than the same material in the Book of Mormon.

  10. S.P. Bailey

    Very, very cool post. Thanks, Theric! You forgot Cal Grondahl’s unsurpassed Utah satire.

  11. NoCoolName_Tom

    Gleaners stopped because I got married, then we had a kid, and now I NEED to finish school and get a real job. The strips have all been drawn as I drew the strip on my mission as part of my journal. I still want to finish the project and keep trying to make time for it, but it’s been years and inertia seems to have taken hold.

  12. Howard Tayler

    I’ve met most of the LDS comic-book and comic-strip artists mentioned here. We had a big event at the Woodbury Museum in late ’05 when the Eisner exhibit was in town.

    Setting my own record straight: Yes, I’m LDS. Schlock Mercenary is my family’s sole source of income, and we’re doing great. We have sold almost 10,000 books out of 15,000 printed (three volumes) and are getting ready to take delivery of another 5,000 books in October. Business is good.

    I don’t write much Mormonism directly into my strip, but the comic is definitely informed by my beliefs. It’s hard not to do that. I mean, I have Voices In My Head, but I’m not schizophrenic.

  13. William Morris

    Hey, thanks to everybody who has commented so far. We appreciate the additions from our standard coterie of commenters as well as everybody who is dropping by for the first time.

    And I just want to brag that I have been a reader of Schlock Mercenary (and knew Howard was LDS) from day one. Or maybe day 3. But either way it was near the very beginning. And it’s Eric Snider’s fault (because Howard posted a link to the comic on Eric’s site). What’s more, it turned me into a compulsive follower of several Web comics.

  14. Th.

    .

    I also read Schlock Mercenary early on, but somehow, that habit was interrupted.

    And, wow, I knew that when this post went live I would learn much more than I already knew about Mormon comics, but I never guessed I would learn so much so quickly! Thank you, everyone.

    Since we have so many people in the room, I would like to ask a a question (and please, if you have contact info for, say, Ric Estrada, invite him/her/them to the party): What form might a Mormon-specific comic take? What sort of stories will be told first or best or most in Mormon comics?

    William originally asked me to talk “on the graphic novel form and in what ways it might and might not be suitable for dramatizing/exploring the Mormon experience” — which I interpret to mean the future of Mormon comics as I don’t think this has really been done yet. But now that we have a coterie of readers and creators present, what think ye? What doth the future hold for Mormon comics?

    (In the meantime, I need to go follow all those links you’ve kindly shared.)

  15. Th.

    .

    Lee Allred just emailed me a link to Jake Black. I actually did know about him, but only knew he wrote for Smallville–not comics also.

  16. Th.

    .

    Kohl Glass has also emailed me–in part to remind me he’s more filmmaker than comic guy–but he also sent along these corrections and additions:

    As for other Mormon comic artists . . . I’ve been good friends with Jake Parker, who you mentioned in your article, since our art class in high school. He is indeed Mormon but he didn’t attend BYU. He is employed at Blue Sky Studios and working on a graphic novel of his titular character, Missile Mouse for Scholastic.

    Another Mormon artist you should know about is Ryan Ottley http://ryanottley.com/
    He draws one of the coolest most popular comics out there, Invincible.

  17. Jake Black

    Yup, I do write comics, too. A lot. I did Marvel’s adaptation of OSC’s novel WYRMS, a ton of the TMNT stuff, a backup story in the previously mentioned “Red Prophet” comic, some indie stuff like Dead @ 17 and Silent Forest, some PSAs, Spongebob Squarepants, Smallville and Legion of Super-heroes at DC, and am currently contributing to Marvel’s Ender’s Game comic by backups and as story consultant (since I also wrote the upcoming Ender Companion, aka the Ender’s Game Encyclopedia…) I’ve also done a lot of non-fiction on comics, including a bi-weekly series of magazines on each of the characters in the DCU, and documentaries on Green Arrow and Supergirl for Smallville DVD sets…

  18. Nick Perkins

    Hey, thanks for the mention and directing me to this article, Theric. I’m honored to be mentioned among such good company.

    Like the esteemed Mr. Taylor, I don’t necessary seek out to put Mormonism in my strip, but it happens. After I was most of the way into writing my current Cooties story arc, I realized I had inadvertently embedded some basic LDS doctrine: the titular aliens’ motivation is effectively the same as Satan’s plan. Namely, taking away the free agency of man and “saving” them by making them unwillingly obedient. Not exactly original as far as alien invasion plots go, but the theme was something I wanted to explore.

    As far as the direction of “Mormon comics” goes, it’s hard to say. I think most of us are trying to reach as large an audience as we can, and generally, the niche LDS market doesn’t cut it. On the other hand, the Bagleys and Calvin Grondahl seem to be doing quite well there. That could have to do more with their name recognition from being in large market newspapers in Utah, though.

    The Davis County Clipper gets very skittish when I try and tackle any religious subject, so I pretty much keep it out of the cartoons I submit to them. I’m just waiting for Pat Bagley to either retire or or die at the hands of a Utah County lynch mob, then I can take over at the Trib. Bwa ha haaa!

  19. Th.

    .

    I need to mention that I misspelled Sal Velluto’s name in almost every instance(!). Sorry about that.

    [Wm says: Fixed!]

  20. The Geek

    You can take that question mark off the Digital Strips section. I am the token Mormon for the DS crew. Although we consider ourselves to be more about a web comics than a web comic ourselves.

  21. Jake Parker

    Thanks for the mention in the article. Never went to BYU, but I went snowboarding in Provo once. Good times.

    Adam Koford has done some awesome stuff for the Friend, and his Laugh Out Loud Cats comic strip is pretty sweet too. Lots of great cartooning here:

    http://www.adamkoford.com/

  22. Pike

    I don’t know if I count because my comics are rather obscure, but I do have a collection of my own found here: http://scrapsthecat.com/ including many that are distinctly missionary themed =P I haven’t done much cartooning in a long time but I am considering picking it up again, now that I have gained a lot of exposure through my blog (which is about something completely different)– I dunno, it’s something I’ve considered, now that I have a built-in audience.

    I can’t tell you if I would continue to make distinctly Mormon comics or not, at the time the “Missionary Series” was meant to be a sort of one-time thing to send to the local missionaries to make ‘em laugh. The characters were not really designed as “Mormon” so much as I was willing to put them in Mormon situations in the name of Mormon humor.

    Anyways I really enjoyed reading this article, super interesting reading…

  23. Kent Larsen

    Th., While I’m sure you’ve caught the major players, I suspect that, like in fiction and most other arts, there is still a lot of talent out there who’s Mormon connections aren’t widely known.

    In comics, I suggest (if anyone has the time and access) a perusal of the back issues of the Daily Universe, which turns over its comic staff (mostly editorial) almost annually. We’re I at home, I know I could list the names of two or three Mormons who published regularly while I was at BYU (1983-1988).

    Th. truly a significant and helpful post.

  24. Th.

    .

    Thanks, Kent. I also knew that I would miss a lot (like Pike–hi, Pike! of course you count! I’m heading over to look at your stuff next), although I didn’t expect to miss as many important ones as I did. I hope this post keeps drawing people in now and then and that, here in the comments, the list can continue and grow.

    As for the Daily Universe, it sounds like getting access to their archives is tricky work and would require someone pretty dedicated to work through it. I hope someone does, though. That was the most frustrating strike out for me, in writing this.

    Thanks also to those who’ve emailed me or contacted me through my site. I’m making a list and checking it twice but, promise, no judging who’s naughty or nice. This is more a come-one-come-all collection of names.

  25. Kent Larsen

    Theric:

    FWIW, an Annie Poon animation is available on DVD. See The Book of Visions. The Book of Visions is a 10 minute short that tells the stories of three visionaries: Joan of Arc, Black Elk, and Joseph Smith, but with a twist in the end.

  26. Th.

    .

    You had something to do with that, right Kent? It’s not available on that site anymore–can I get it somewhere else?

  27. Th.

    .

    I hope you post more, Lance; my wife and I just laughed at them and were sad when it went on for so short a time.

  28. Kent Larsen

    Th (34): You are not correct. The Book of Visions is very much available. The site had indicated that availability was “limited,” but I’ve corrected the error that showed limited availability.

    If you want it, order it!

  29. Th.

    .

    If it makes me seem like less of a liar, I should point out I just bought her book.

  30. Ivan Wolfe

    Great post, but one quibble:

    Note: the spelling of comix in the title is a holdover from this stuff. Art Spiegelman has taken to using it more generically and although I like the sentiment, it’s never going to catch on. Still. It’s a good-looking word. Perfect for titles.

    Are Spiegelman may be using it more generically, but in the field of comic studies, it refers to “adult” comics specifically (though not necessarily x-rated). See, for example, Roger Sabin’s “Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels” or his earlier “Adult Comics” where he makes a clear distinction between “comics” and “comix.” He’s not the only one.

    It may be perfect for titles, but it’s more than guaranteed to be misunderstood.

  31. Th.

    .

    I know; you’re right. But it’s still fantastic graphically. And being misunderstood can be a great way to draw people in. I’m willing to wager the phrase “Mormon Comix” will draw more people in than it draws away.

    The real problem might be that I’m a showman at heart.

  32. Wm Morris

    I saw that post, Kent. Thanks for mentioning it here at AMV. It’s a fascinating story.

  33. Th.

    .

    My darned wife just treated me like an idiot because I didn’t know about John Held, Jr. She even wrote a paper on him back in college.

    Thanks, sweetheart. Way to have my back.

  34. Colby Purcell

    This is such a great article, and I’m so glad I stumbled across it! I’ve been feeling fairly alone as an LDS webcomic artist for quite some time, so this shed a lot of light on the subject.

    My own is http://purnicellin.com/lint and I’ve been doing it for about 4-5 years, now. I think it would be a great thing if there was a collective of LDS webcomic artists.

    Another webcomic by an LDS artist (well, the only other one I know besides Howard Tayler’s) is Torio ( http://torio.comicgenesis.com/ ) by Simon Shepherd, although it recently went on hiatus. He’s still around and drawing comics, though.

  35. Th.

    .

    Since writing this post, I have caught up on my Madman reading (zero to sixty in only three months!), including the wedding scene mentioned above. You can get my responses to Madman here and here.

  36. Matt Olsen

    Great article – I learned lots that I didn’t know!

    I didn’t see a mention of Ethan Van Sciver, who is one of the leading artists in superhero comics. He’s doing art for two of DC’s high-profile projects this year – Flash Rebirth and Green Lantern: The Blackest Night. If I’m not mistaken, he’s a den leader in his ward, along with his wife Sharis.

    He’s a very funny guy – hunt down his blog posts and articles some time for a laugh.

  37. Scott Nelson

    As the creator of Pew People, I am glad someone has actually found it. When I posted it to LiveJournal it was just because a friend told me to so his friend could read a few. I was able to keep it going for 38 pages – 37 where I changed the written words to typed font – my writing skills are in need, and you could barely read the words before – check out number 38 to see a rough draft before the computer was used. Well, I have 300 that I have done during my time at church meetings to keep me awake – yeah, justification – and a following of 4 families (mainly the kids). All I ever heard was “get these published” over and over (I also have one strip that convers that topic). Thanks for reading them, and maybe if I get enough encouragement, I’ll add some more to give everyone their Pew People fix. :)
    Scott

  38. Th.

    .

    Scott—

    I can’t find contact info for you at your livejournal site. Will you contact me?

    +

    Oh, and not related to Scott, I’ve now read the “manga” mentioned in comment 56, and except for a couple panels that make brief glancing references to the language of manga, it’s clear that Atwood knows very little of manga. The comic was okay though. Couple good moments.

  39. Kevin Beckstrom

    Hey! One year later and I just now discover that I’m mentioned in the 53rd comment! That’s so incredibly AWESOME! I’ve actually got three cartoon blogs, two are strips and one is just random cartoons from way back when until now. Zarahemla Times is the only one that’s strictly LDS-themed, but there are lots of Mormon jokes on BeckstromBuzz. Thanks for noticing and thanks for the mention!

  40. Th.

    .

    Kevin—

    I stop by your strips every now and then and I would put you on par with syndicated work. Keep ‘em coming!

  41. Th.

    .

    Special thanks to FoxyJ who today pointed me to this (and special thanks to Ardis who wrote it so Foxy could find it and thus show it to me). I knew this fellow existed but hadn’t been able to run down a name.

    The obvious moral to this story is Always Ask Ardis.

    ———

    Also, don’t miss this hit from an anonymous Mormon, Brinkwater and Toad.

  42. Val Chadwick Bagley

    Just by chance I found all these great comments (I typed in “MORMON CARTOONIST”…my business name is:”THE CARTOONIST GUY”).

    Just so you, besides drawing for the FRIEND and THE NEW ERA magazines, I also had a nationally syndicated comic strip called:”GOBLIN” from 1986-87.
    (it was overwhelmingly hated and cancelled after 18 months).

    Thanks for the kind words and observations you made about me.

    Val

  43. Th.

    .

    Val—

    I would love to see Goblin, even if no one else liked it. Can you email me? (Just follow the link attached to my name.)

  44. Katya

    I’ve got a new webcomic for you: Rocket Road Trip, by Isaac Stewart and Shawn Boyles. (Both are BYU grads, if that’s enough evidence of Mormon-ness.)

  45. Davey

    Whoa, sweet! I’m a little sad to hear Allred’s books got so few readers, in spite of so much (relative, at least) publicity at the time of their release. I’m in the initial stages of a Mormon comic epic as we speak, and a couple other comic projects in the works. New to the form, been doing lots of reading and exploring. Gonna have to check some of these out.

  46. Th.

    .

    In terms of clairvoyance, Jake Parker now teaches at BYU. So if you say I was wrong, you’re just not thinking fourth dimensionally.

  47. Josh Cotton

    Awesome article! A few things-
    -Ric Estrada was Mormon. He was the father of a friend of mine, and in addition to the Mormon Battalion created a comic about the Book of Ether, with the Jatedites disguised under a fictional pseudonym. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ric_Estrada
    -Jake Parker is LDS. I studied under him at BYU and helped with one of his comics.
    – you might check out Reality Not Included, a compilation of comics from BYU Animation and Illustration Alumni.
    -My sister, Sarah Cotton, has an awesome webcomic that started a couple of months ago at: http://anacrinecomplex.tumblr.com
    She served an LDS mission in Chile, and publishes the comic in both English and Spanish.

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