Catholic comic books, graphic novels communicate timeless truths to youth
Book Review by Katie Bogner
When you consider resources for teaching the truths of Catholicism, comic books are likely not the first thing that come to mind. It sometimes seems that graphic novels are the only books that children reach for on library shelves, much to the chagrin of parents and teachers hoping to engage their minds and hearts with quality literature.
However, it is important to remember that graphic novels are a format, not a genre. They present an opportunity for good storytelling and solid Catholic content using an interesting and recognizable style.
Catholic graphic novels can use modern tools to communicate timeless truths. They are attractive to today’s kids, who live in a visually stimulating world. It is difficult to catechize if we don’t first evangelize, and Catholic graphic novels are a tool that encourage readers to pick up a book so that they are able to find the treasure within.
The graphic novel format can bring important info (including complex non-fiction topics) into the hands of reluctant readers. Graphic novels use tools that are a benefit to visual learners using both verbal and non-verbal communication. To fully understand the nuance of a story, the reader must look at body language, facial expression, “sound effects,” and movement. The use of images, captions, and sidebars help to break up chunks of text, creating a more readable structure.
Many Catholic publishers are responding to the rising popularity of graphic novels by publishing their own, highlighting stories of the Bible, lives of the saints, and teachings of the church using this format. Some of them are truly excellent, offering an opportunity for catechesis with a fresh and attractive tool. Here’s a highlight, including options for both younger and older kids, as well as the young at heart.
“The Illustrated Bible for Children” from Ignatius Press
At more than 250 pages, this keepsake quality hardback includes a wide variety of stories from both Old and New Testaments. The illustrations and text are simple and warm, making them approachable for younger kids ready to read stories of the Bible independently.
“The Comic Book Bible” from TAN Books
These comic book Bibles are most impressive because they contain the full text (RSVCE translation) of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. The church-approved, adult-level translation is coupled with the illustrations and movement provided in a graphic novel format, making it more readable for both kids and adults alike.
“Catechism of the Seven Sacraments” from StoryTel Press
Creatively illustrated using photos of Lego Brick scenes, this Scripture-rich, sacrament-themed book is a 300-page treasure. It connects typology of the sacraments as found in the Old Testament and the church today. The richness of our faith is shared in a multifaceted manner throughout the book as it weaves together the story of salvation history with saints, morality, prayer, and more.
Saint Graphic Novels from Pauline Books and Media
Several in this collection are Shonen-Manga style, recognizable to kids but packed with saintly content, making them favorites in my middle school classroom. There are about 10 in the series, each with a unique spin on favorite saints like Clare, Philip Neri, and John the Baptist.
“The Saints Chronicles” from Sophia Institute Press
The Saints Chronicles has a mature look for middle school or older readers and features a collection of saints in each book. Well known saints like Anthony, Patrick, and Nicholas are mixed in with the lesser-known Henry Morse, Charles Lwanga, and Pachomus. Each biography is told by a different author and illustrator, so the books read like five individual comics in one.
Interested in more? Check out an extensive list of Catholic Graphic Novels at tinyurl .com/2vcahsa4 .
KATIE BOGNER is director of religious education at Immaculate Conception Parish in Lacon and junior high faith formation teacher at St. Philomena School, Peoria. A popular blogger at looktohimandberadiant.com, she is the author of “Through the Year with Jesus” and “Through the Year with Mary.”