Lenten Devotional Turns Into A Saintly Comic Series
Those of the Roman Catholic or Episcopalian varieties of Christianity can generally recall the ritual of sacrifice during the Lenten season.
Lent is the 46-days proceeding Easter Sunday that represent the 40-days of sacrifice of Jesus Christ in the desert (if you subtract Sundays, the 46-days are cut down to 40). Some Christian denominations treat Lent as a period of reflection, prayer and sacrifice in preparation for the most holy of days, Easter.
As a kid, you tend to give up candy, your favorite TV shows, and other important things to the young ones. As I’ve grown older, I’ve gone through several seasons giving up beer, enjoying the side benefit of reducing my waist-line.
As you may be able to tell from my artwork on this website, I feel strongly that artists should use their talents as a form of a devotion to God whenever possible. This was well explained by Pope John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists” in 1999. Instead of giving up something I loved, was there some way to use my talents to fit the season of Lent?
As I was discussing this with my Sunday school students, the idea occurred to me to create a comic about a saint every week. To really put myself on the hook, I told them I would share the finished cartoons with them each Sunday leading up the Easter.
I decided to create a 2-page comic on a given saint every week of Lent. Keep in mind I’m a pretty busy guy, managing an online art studio, a day job marketing industrial chemicals, and the spare moment with my family. The only way this would happen is if I could make it a relaxing way to wind down at the end of the day. Basically doodling during my TV time with my wife.
That meant no fancy computer software, drawing tables, bristle board, or professional inking brushes. I picked up a simple tablet of graph paper and some paint markers that would be easy to handle while kicking back in my favorite Lazy Boy.
I chose saints that spoke to me, or I have always been curious about. Saint Francis was my first subject, inspired by the work I have already completed on the San Damiano Crucifix. I played with a simple drawing style that steered me away from perfectionism and too much detail. I was on a deadline each week! Next came Saint Sebastian, who I was always drawn to as a kid because he was shown shot full of arrows. These are ancient figures in the early Christian Church, so while they were familiar, research uncovered details that amazed me!
I would love for you to picture me digging through ancient tomes in my deep research, but in all honesty, I used my smart phone to look up information on a Catholic website, for the more authoritative background, and Wikipedia, which often included the wilder “facts” that may or may not be based on much. Since many of the saints go back over a thousand years, their stories are woven with legends that border on folklore. I had to decide what to include and what to discard, trying to be reasonably sourced, without getting overly bogged down.
There is a bizarre story of Saint Nicholas bringing 3 kids back to life that were boiled and eaten by their starving parents. That’s a bit dark for a comic, don’t you think?! I wasn’t able to verify that adequately so I tossed it aside, just alluding to it visually in the opening sequence. I did, however, choose to show him punching out Arius in the Council of Nicea, even though there is some disagreement on whether he even attended. If I have a chance to draw Santa punching a bishop, I’m going to take it! Unfortunately, I couldn’t show that to my class, because they are young enough to struggle with the true story of the “jolly red elf”.
Saint Christopher is a subject of controversy because their are questions on whether or not he even existed. His name, of course, was derived from Christ, but that’s not unusual when you consider Abraham, Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Many scholars feel he is an amalgam of people and stories. I chose not to wade into that debate and just reported the most common details, as passed down over hundreds of years.
In contrast, I did cover more modern, better documented saints like San Juan Diego, the children of Fatima, and Saint Pope John Paul II. In those cases, I actually had some accurate visual references, which always helps.
Saint Moses the Black was something special. He is so obscure that I had never heard of him. My son discussed him is his Sunday school class, and recommended I take a look. What a story, and lots of opportunity for cartoon flourishes! I hope I didn’t push it over a cliff with the Samuel L. Jackson reference, but it was too tempting given St Moses’ stature and attitude.
So I succeeded in completing 2 cartoon pages every week, and was still going strong during Holy Week. I reflected on Saint Peter and the Passion story, for obvious reasons, which made that part of my journey all the more special. I kept going for a few weeks after Easter, but eventually tired myself out at 10 saints — 20 pages of comics! I hope to get back to these again, maybe next Lent or sooner. If enough are collected and there is demand, I may publish a collection someday. If you think you’d be interested, sound off in the comments section of this post.
All the comics are available for free download, so feel free to copy and share with your own Sunday school classes. These are copyrighted, so reach out to me before you start mass producing.
Download Full Comics for FREE!
Fill your cart and check out like any web store, but when it asks for your credit card, just leave it blank. You’ll get the links to download PDFs. Feel free to use in your classroom, but do not mass produce or sell without my permission.
All comics copyright 2019 Paradise Found Studio LLC.