I saw a post from my brother Toby on the new Bible Bookshelf Forum (and by the way, I'm not using Christian lingo here, Toby really is my brother) in which he expressed his interest in The Action Bible, a comic book-style Bible published in 2010. I have The Action Bible in my collection, and I do think it's pretty well done. The art is substantially more exciting than the art in the older Picture Bible, published in 1978. But I think, much as in the case with Bible-zines, there are pros and cons to the idea of the Bible in comic book form. So here's a list of pros and cons, off the top of my head:
The visual format is a good introduction to Bible stories, much like VeggieTales (animation) or What's in the Bible? (puppets). Especially for young people.
The Action Bible gives Scripture references for each of its stories, so the interested reader can go to a text Bible to read the whole story.
The style of the artwork helps fight the notion that the Bible is "boring" or "difficult to understand."
Once a comic book Bible captures a young person's interest, do they really take the next step of developing an interest in the Bible as a non-visual text? I'm not sure they do.
The emphasis on action can set up a false expectation that all Bible stories should be action-oriented. When faces with texts that require meditation or study, the reader may easily lose interest.
The characters in comic book style, with their muscular physiques and heroic postures, may foster the idea that Biblical characters are like super heroes, rather than the all-too-human figures that they are in the Bible.
The Picture Bible (1978)
I will say this in favor of The Action Bible: unlike the Bible-zines (about which I've blogged quite a bit in the past), it is published in a sturdy hardcover, so it doesn't come off as a disposable product. That has always been one of my biggest problems with the Bible-zines: you pay $15 or so for a New Testament in magazine form, and you have to throw it away and get the new one a year or so later. The Bible becomes a disposable product. The Action Bible seems to be designed as something to keep, perhaps on the same shelf as your other Bibles. Still, I have a problem with this popular notion that the Bible is so intimidating, so complex. Yes, it's a big book, and it does take some concentration to study it. But there's a stereotype that's being fostered, even by Bible publishers, that the Bible has always sounded like Shakespeare..."so buy our Bible, it's in modern language!" Bibles in easy-to-read, everyday language have been around for several decades now. (In fact, there's even a Bible version called the Easy to Read Version.) I am uncomfortable with the notion that the Bible needs to be "dumbed down" in order to be understood by the average person. Do comic book Bibles and Bible-zines continue to feed that idea? I think so. So the question I leave you with is this: how do we, as parents and church leaders, encourage young people to engage with Scripture? Not an easy question to answer.