COMICS: Ben Avery Soaring from “Star Wars”

Star_wars_comic_book

Here’s another self-portrait by an important comic innovator, Ben Avery. As you read his story, you’ll realize that Ben is like a whole of us in gathering his own fresh creative energy from exciting storytellers he encountered as he was growing up. Specifically, he caught a major creative wind from the vast “Star Wars” saga, which unfolded in all kinds of different media.

(And, no, that’s not the specific “Star Wars” comic book he recalls — but you get the idea, right?)

Here are Ben’s words:

I’ve always loved comics. When I was a kid, from the time I was able to

read, I loved comic books. I didn’t have very many comics, but the ones

I did have were treasures. I still have some, relics from my childhood.

I still remember missing school for a dentist appointment and then

going into the Stop Shoppe with my mouth all numb and funny and my

mother buying me a Star Wars comic. Comics were a treat. A reward. And

they fueled my imagination.

Avengers_56    Around 1979 or 1980, I got two
comics books that influenced me forever. One was a Star Wars comic and
the other was an Avengers reprint (Star Wars #33 and Marvel Super
Action #15, reprinting Avengers #56). I read and reread them as a five
or six year old, and beyond, and they still hold a place of nostalgia
for me.
     The
Star Wars comic had a story that has molded my definition of heroism.
Luke Skywalker faces a bad guy, and as he does he learns that he has
more control over the Force than the bad guy. But, Luke uses it to destroy
the bad guy’s bionic glasses (the bad guy was blind without them). I just remember that bad guy on his knees after Luke escapes, saying,
“He could have struck me down. He was powerful enough. But he didn’t.”
And the bad guy was confused about why Luke spared him.
    That’s always
stuck with me: Villains are heroes to one person: themselves. But, heroes are heroes to everyone.

   

Somehow, I lost that Avengers
comic, but I tracked it down (through the wonders of the Internet)
and reread it recently. It withstood the test of time. It also got into
dramatic and emotional ideas of heroism, this time dealing with
sacrifice. All these things were pretty heady stuff for a little kid,
but it influenced me to this day.

Kingdoms_ben_avery
My
goal as a comic book writer now is to write those stories that
emotionally involve the reader, but also inspire them to action — to be
more than they are. I love action, and that stuff is lots of fun, but
it takes on a new dimension if you care about the characters. And the
dynamic of the ideal hero is the same dynamic we see Christ showing us.
Care for the weak and needy. Turn the other cheek. Love everyone.
    In
fourth or fifth grade I started drawing my own comics with my best
friend Richard. I have no idea what Richard is up to now, but I
remember back then we were going to go to art school and work for
Marvel. I never thought about that until just recently — but that goal
has happened! I just skipped the art school part. You see I stopped
drawing comics in high school, when I learned I could not draw.

    All
through junior high, high school and college I remained interested in
comics and writing comics. In college I started reading more “mature”
comics. And I discovered a handful of new, non-superhero comics that
were touching those emotional chords with me again. In different ways
than they had when I was five, obviously. Those kept me interested in
comics.
    I was still interested in making comics.
I had no plan, I was just interested. My real plan was just to get into
film. After college and film school, though, opportunities came to work
on some comic book projects. In 2000, I formed Community Comics with a
handful of like-minded people. Our goal was to create Christian comics
and encourage Christian artists to do the same.
    Meanwhile, I was
also given the opportunity to work on some books for other publishers
as well. I started on some books that were published by Image Comics.
Eventually, my work found its way to Marvel. And my plan to get
involved in film, sidetracked by comics, has become a reality because
of comics — my fantasy series, ArmorQuest, is being developed into an
animated movie.

Timeflyz_ben_avery
   Most recently, I was given the change to write some
graphic novels for Zondervan, including “Kingdoms” and “TimeFlyz.”

    Now is an interesting time for
making Christian-themed comic books. We have some major publishers
(like Zondervan) producing and publishing comics. We have Christian
bookstores that are actually able to put up a comic book section. All
of this is good, as comics are gaining acceptance in non-traditional
places. I am a little worried about there being too much, and that
publishers who do not understand the medium may try jumping on the
bandwagon, which could set back some of this headway.
    But most of what
I’ve seen out there is good, and it is slowly finding its audience.
    We’re
also seeing a number of Christians getting work in mainstream comics,
which is exciting. Some are on high profile gigs, and it’s cool to see
them be able to shape these stories with their worldview.

    The
body of my work shows many themes, but they all go back to those ideas
I found as a kid. Some of my stories use the superhero as a Christian
metaphor, other stories focus on the literal heroism of Christ. Some
focus on sacrifice, some on the idea that a true hero must trust in
God. But all probably have one thing in common: I want to encourage
kids, especially young Christians, to be heroes — to make a difference.
I hope that my readers have fun reading my comics. But I also hope
there is an emotional resonance with my readers. And a spiritual
resonance. And that, ultimately they will be encouraged to grow closer
to God.

    If you would like to learn more about me and my work, you can check out my website, www.benaveryonline.com which has news and a link to my blog and my projects. You can also contact me through that website.

    Community Comics can be found here: www.communitycomics.com
— Community Comics has links to free comics and also has a catalogue
of many different kinds of Christian comics. We also have links to a
number of different places to learn more about Christian comics.

    Another site to visit is www.zgraphicnovels.com.
It also is a resource for free Christian online comics, and also has
information about their six graphic novel series. I’m writing two of
those series: TimeFlyz and Kingdoms. But all are wonderful.

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