Spreading the Word - in comic books
October 04 2020
Shane Gibson meets a local man whose faith and artistic skills have combined to create an innovative series of cartoon publications based on Bible stories
Alex Morgan is the creator of The Word for Word Bible Comic. Every word, historically accurate and unchanged, is the promise made for each of the graphic novels in an ongoing series that Alex draws in his home near Filton Golf Course.
Becoming a Christian in his twenties, Alex was inspired by the stories found in the Bible itself.
He said: “There’s just so much in the Bible that I don’t think people realise is actually there. From politics to tales of people whose lives are made up of real struggles, but these things are not present in other adaptations, particularly comics. I felt God was telling me that I should create one that did.”
Alex, although confident in his drawing ability, was not a trained artist, nor was he a historian. He learnt how comics were designed, researched the history, and quite importantly made sure that the words of the Bible could be literally placed into comic book panels. Once he had done all that, Alex had to sell the comic.
“I have a background in direct sales. I started off selling milk door to door and that experience transferred quite well into selling comics,” he said.
Alex attempted to resource funding through a Kickstarter campaign in 2014. The campaign was successful enough that Alex was able to transition into working fulltime on the comic.
“The challenge was money. Since the beginning it has been the challenge of taking the seed funding, producing the book and then selling it whilst covering the cost of living,” he said.
Alex and his family lived by faith through times of uncertainty.
He said: “We had been approaching the time to launch a Kickstarter for a new book, but January is not a good time to launch a Kickstarter. It had to wait until March. We were running out of money, however we were provided for by God. We had money in the post and anonymous donations. People who had never heard of the comic were suddenly hearing about it and sending gifts through PayPal. But it is always going to be a challenge to get by.”
Alex is not working alone. He has support from across the world with two colourists living in Japan and Mexico, and two historical consultants who are based in the Middle East. “Support as well as public reception has been very positive.” Alex said. “The other day I had an email from someone in Canada who said that they were an atheist, who had tried to read the Bible but found it very difficult to follow due to terms, places and unfamiliar names. This person had come across the comic and found the story so much easier to follow as they could see characters' faces and follow the included map.”
“That’s what we wanted the comic to allow people to do!” Alex added.
The Word for Word Bible Comic has received endorsements from academic scholars and the comics industry. Alex spoke of a surprising one from British comics legend John Wagner, the creator of Judge Dredd.
He said: “I asked him if he was a Christian, he looked at me and said, ‘No I am anti-religious.’ Oh, umm I said, could you look at this anyway?”
John Wagner did look at Alex’s comic, gave his endorsement and has remained in contact to this day.
Choosing to make the comic a word for word translation, Alex had to decide which translation to use.
“I wanted to use the NIV (New International Version) as it is the most well-known and understood today, and I thought I had obtained the rights to use it” Alex recalled.
Unbeknown to Alex, the NIV was owned by several companies across the world and rights had to be obtained from each one. Instead Alex chose the Public Domain translation of the World English Bible. That was until his most recent issue, The Gospel of Matthew.
“It took a lot of effort and contacts, but we managed to track down all of the companies involved and eventually I got everything that was needed to use the NIV,” he said.
To use the King James Version, Alex said he would first have had to obtain permission from Her Majesty, The Queen.
The first issue of the comic was an adaptation of Judges. The blurb describes a tale of temptation, greed, lust, betrayal, and tragedy but is perhaps most known for the story of Samson and Delilah.
Alex explained that “Samson’s story is a story that people think they know but they don’t. I wanted to give people the real story, even in churches people never talk about the more adult and difficult themes.”
Despite the difficulties of running an independent business at this time, Alex and his family continue to move forward in their faith with more comics to come.
Looking forward, Alex has an idea of how he is going to adapt the rest of the Bible.
He said: “We have now given readers and fans the option of helping to choose which books to adapt next. They will play a part in what happens as we move further into the future.”