Comic book evangelization

Aaron Lambert

The very first comic book was published in 1933 and sparked a craze that reached its height during the 1950s and continues even to this day. Original copies of comic books introducing famous, modern-day pop-culture icons such as Spider-Man and Superman can fetch, believe it or not, millions of dollars and are considered some of the most sought-after collector’s items.

The comic book’s ability to blend exciting visuals with storytelling intrigue makes it a great medium for communication — and in the Church’s case, evangelization. Jesus said that to enter the kingdom of heaven, we must be like children — innocent, curious and joyful. Comic books are often frowned upon as being “only for kids,” but if, as Jesus says, we are to be like children, then why not foster our inner “kid at heart” during this Christmas season and kick back with a few comic books?

Here are a few comic-style books to consider giving (or asking for) as gifts this Christmas season.

For the history buff: The Faithful Spy

Though he wasn’t Catholic, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a historical figure who has been revered and respected by the Catholic Church since his death in 1945. He wrote many works on what it means to be a follower of Christ, including his most famous work, The Cost of Discipleship, which is considered a modern classic about the Christian life, and his writings have had far-reaching influence on various denominations of Christianity.

Here’s the fascinating thing about Bonhoeffer: He was a budding theologian during the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime in Germany, an event that profoundly impacted the way in which he viewed and lived his faith. While witnessing the atrocities of the Nazis and the complacency of the Church in Germany, Bonhoeffer took matters into his own hands and did the unthinkable: He devised a plot to kill Hitler.

This remarkable story is told through a combination of handwritten text and vibrant, comic-like illustrations in The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix. Written and illustrated by Hendrix, this is an informative and entertaining read that recounts the incredible lengths one follower of Christ went to fight an unspeakable evil that ravaged the people of his beloved homeland and contains a core message of faith that’s both uplifting and challenging at once.

For the collector: Marvel’s saint comics

Did you know that once upon a time, Marvel Comics — that’s right, the Marvel Comics — counted saints in the Catholic Church among their roster of superheroes? Okay, maybe not explicitly — but Marvel published several comics about the lives of famous saints (St. Francis of Assisi), and even future saints (Mother Teresa and John Paul II) in the 1980s.

The bad news is you won’t find these comics at your local bookstore. The good news is that they’re not that expensive and can be found with relative ease online at websites such as Amazon. Who knows, they might even have them at one of the several comic shops around Denver (yes, comic shops still exist). There may never be the John Paul II/Spider-Man mash-up we’ve all dreamed of (or is that just us?), but each of these saints lived heroic lives that are more than worthy of being told on the pages of a comic book.

For the kids: Catechism of the Seven Sacraments

Let’s face it: As wonderful as the Catechism of the Catholic Church is, it’s not the most exciting thing for a child, especially when trying to teach them about the beauty of the sacraments. Nothing will get a child to become disinterested in the faith quicker than spouting a bunch of big words at them and attempting to explain complex theological concepts without any sort of context they can understand.

Authors Kevin and Mary O’Neill understand this, so they came up with a brilliant solution: Create a book that explains the sacraments using the biblical stories they came from, one that sheds light on the links between the Old and New Testaments, makes these concepts accessible and understandable for children and, oh — do all of this with Legos. The Catechism of the Seven Sacraments is perhaps the first book of its kind, combining comic book panel storytelling with incredibly detailed Lego scenes that any child would love.

The book itself is charming, presented as a tour of the history and origins of the seven sacraments, led by the Lego characters Fulton and Cynthia. While obviously intended for children, don’t be fooled by the book’s fun presentation; at 283 pages, it’s a surprisingly thorough guide to the sacraments and has a lot of nuggets of information that can be useful for Catholics of all ages, including a glossary of terms at the end. If you know a child who seems disinterested in the richness of the faith, The Catechism of the Seven Sacraments might be just what they need to see what God has in store for them.

COMING UP: Not your ‘this-could-be-for-anyone’ Christmas gift guide

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With Christmas rapidly approaching, many of us run into the problem of finding great and unique gifts for our friends and relatives. For this reason, we have come up with a gift guide that can make your Christmas shopping a little more fun.

For your friend who enjoys “Naptio Divina”

We all know that sleeping during adoration or prayer isn’t all that bad: you rest with Jesus, right? Well, we thought this quality would be worth honoring with this shirt from Elly and Grace that you can gift your “Jesus-took-naps” friend. The cozy baseball shirt is perfect for any man or woman who enjoys resting with Jesus. Visit EllyandGrace.com for more information.

It is great to nap with Jesus; but… it is also good to pray. Therefore, we have included Fr. Larry Richard’s “No Bible, No Breakfast! No Bible, No Bed!” Scripture Calendar, in case your friend is tempted to nap with Jesus every time, instead of talking with him. You can find this calendar on CatholicCompany.com and help your friend remain faithful to praying without napping.

For your friend who evangelizes while they drive

Is your friend’s driving accompanied by countless Rosaries and acts of contrition? We have the perfect gift! The Catholic Company provides numerous car accessories for the fast evangelizers. It reminds them to wait for their guardian angels on the road in their works of mercy. On the Catholic Company inventory, you can also find sacred images and pins, such as the visor clip for any parent who is worried about their children’s driving habits.

For your friend who fights for a cause

Religious art, yards, a great cause: everyone wins with one. Angel Haus is a Denver-based nonprofit that provides employment for the disabled by creating religious art, especially for yards. The founder is the newly-ordained Deacon David Arling, who has been operating it since its initiation five years ago. They have now sold over 300 Christmas Display boards and San Damiano Cross images. The family business has encountered much support from their pastor, Father Michael Carvill at Nativity of Our Lord Church. Nonetheless, they need your support to continue with this project. To purchase an item for your friend and help this great cause, email Arling at djarling2011@hotmail.com.

For your friend who is a lost cause

Okay, okay, no person is a lost cause; but we all know someone who is pretty close to being one. As soon as you think they’ve finally gotten it, an off-the-cuff comment smashes all your hopes. Hold fast and do not despair, St. Jude is here to help! This 3 ½” tall St. Jude wooden peg from Etsy.com will make sure that the patron saint of lost causes is constantly at work for your friend. Etsy provides a wide variety of religious hand-painted figures from Whymsical Lotus that range from the Sacred Heart to your favorite saints, such as St. Therese, St. Patrick, and Our Lady of Guadalupe. These charmingly detailed and delightful dolls make a unique gift for those friends who need a special intercessor.

For your little friend

Running out of ideas to gift your child, godchild, or short friend? The search is over. Faithful Findz from Etsy.com makes great replicas of saints’ attires. Take, for instance, the “Saint John Paul II the Great” costume, handmade out of cotton poly fabric (Hawaiian Pope mobile not for sale: sad, I know; but a miter and red cape can be purchased separately). Some of their popular costumes include the habits of Mother Teresa and Padre Pio (gloves included). Even more, the maker requests the person’s waist measurement to ensure the best fit. When in doubt, you won’t lose with the saints, and neither will your little friends.

For your priestly friend

He already has all sorts of things, what could he possibly want? Rosaries, religious art, and other religious accessories are probably some of the most common gifts for priests (or priestly friends). Nonetheless, we can assure you that very few have a custom-made priest bobblehead of themselves. It makes a great gift! All you have to do is send a couple pictures of your favorite priest to MyCustomBobblehead.com. Doesn’t sound like the best idea? Look at it this way: it is a way for your priest to remember and embrace his obedience to the teachings of the Catholic Church, as his bobblehead will constantly nod to God’s will and shake his head to refuse all sinful things. Plus, you’ll get a discount if you mention you saw this in the Denver Catholic.

For your friend who never gave up on comics

Why would anyone give up on comic books when you have great initiatives like The Ultimate Catholic Comic Book? A group of Catholic cartoonists joined forces to bring about this entertaining, clever, humorous, and enriching book for all ages. Although many of the parodies and puns may well go over children’s heads, the comics contain messages that remain true to Catholic Doctrine. You can buy it and check out the sample digital copy at CatholicComicBook.com.