Comic Writer Ron Barefield
Jerry McCullough (Artist)

An Interview with the Writer and Artists
Conducted by Global University

 

GU - Global University
RB - Ron Barefield
J&F - Jerry and Faith McCollough

Comic Artist Jerry McCullough
Ron Barefield (Writer)

 

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GU: Can you discuss how the Heroes of the Faith comic series came into being?

RB: The McCulloughs and I were working in Brussels, Belguim together. Jerry had expressed a desire to do an illustrated series from the Bible and before long we had started on the series.

J&F: In 1987 Faith and I were in Brussels illustrating textsbooks. In a short time we'd completed the art for prject, and we were looking for a new project. We discovered that Ron Barefield had always wanted to write Bible stories in comic book form, and we'd always wanted to illustrate them. With half the world's population under the age of 15, Ron felt that we ought to try a full-color Bible comic and he decided to write the text for "David".

As Ron was preparing the text, we began researching the armor, geography of the battle site, and weaponry.

GU: What was the appeal for you to tackle a comic series? What freedoms did the medium provide? What limitations?

RB: Jerry and Faith really had a strong desire to illustrate the books, so that was enough for me. We did take a few liberties and had a lot of fun creating the series.

J&F: There were several things that appealed to us in tackling a comic series:

a) comics are an extremely popular form of literery entertainment in many countries of the world;

b) children are easily attracted to a message that is visual, simple and done with action and excitement;

c) in areas where literacy is limited, comics can convey the Gospel message in an understandable way;

d) Bible stories are timeless, and comics can communicate in a context that applies the story's message to present circumstances;

e) the message of Jesus Christ is one of hope and joy, and making Bible comics is a way of having fun in sharing that message.

The comic book medium provides the freedom to determine the setting in which the Bible story is presented, and emphasize the evangelistic point of the particular story in its geographic context in relation to other known features, and to present accurate pictures of clothing, armor and weaponry, utensils, houses and towns, and vegetation during particular periods. We feel that these should be depicted as accurately as possible based on current archaeological knowledge, so that the comic can be educational as well as informative.

The single biggest limiation is having to present the story into a limited number of pages.

GU: Could you describe your writing process? How did you adapt a Bible story into a comic book format?

RB: Basically, we picked a subject and tried to write it in a conversational style using Uncle Rufus as the storyteller. The majority of the work is in the illustration.

J&F: The illustration process involves several stages. The first is researching all aspects of the Bible story, based upon what we know about details of life during its time frame. This involves using both Biblical and secular sources, and detective work to fill in the blanks. for the David book there were Egyptian wall paintings as reference for the Philistine costumes. For Gideon's story there were only two examples of bronze age pottery that he might have used in which to hide the torches. We chose the most likely of the two.

The second stage is creating a mockup by breaking up the text into pictures that emphasize key points, cause the reader to turn the page, and build to an exciting ending. This has to fit into a certain number of pages depending on the printing criteria.

The third stage is final art. Faith lays out the pages in pencil on illustration board, after which I rough in the picures in pencil and then draw them in black ink with a technical pen. I pencil in shadows and clouds - things that are better left without hard edges. Faith then paints my ink drawings with water colors using techniques she's perfected over the years.

The fourth stage is pre-press. Faith scans the art, then uses the computer to make any minor modifications to the finished artwork. Next, she creates and inserts the word balloons and fills in the text in English. The completed book is then copied onto CDs.
Because the CD has the artwork and text on separate layers any language can be substituted and the text balloons are made to be adjustable to fit. This makes it very simple to get these books into languages all over the world.

The final stage is printing. We have print proofs prepared to make sure that the final product is accurate, and of proper quality. Our standard is that it should be at least as good as products produced by the secular world - hopefully better.

GU: What did the collaboration process look like? How did that work?

RB: We would meet and decide what story we wanted to tell and then I would write the script. We'd run it by several people to make sure we all the facts were right. Then Jerry and Faith would do the illustrations.

J&F: The collaboration process with Ron was the easiest thing in the world. He wrote the text, we prepared the draft. He approved the draft, and we proceeded with the final art. There was no ego involved, and we both respected each other's contribution.

GU: Do you have a favorite book of the series?

RB: My favorite is David because we were originally able to do it in a larger format.

J&F: My favorite book in the series is "Gideon", both because of having used my father-in-law as a model for the main character, and because of the appeal of the "little guy becoming a hero, if he yields everything to God." It was also the book with the least amount of available background material, so more imagination was needed to be used to depict the antagonists.

(Faith) I also liked Gideon, but painting armor and battles gets very repetitive, Esther and the Christmas Story were more interesting to paint for me.

GU: When you envisioned this project, did you ever consider that the Heroes of the Faith comics would some day be available in so many languages, and in so many countries?

RB: As with anything you create you don't know what kind of acceptance it will receive. We had no idea. We really enjoyed working on them and felt that we could present the gospel in a form that kids would read. I've been really surprised by the number of adult readers!

J&F: No. When we envisioned this project we were simply hoping that it would have an appeal to some children, somewhere. We were astounded by the immediate response from all over the world, and receiving back copies printed in Russian and Bengali and Flemish, etc. within a few months of completing the first book.

GU: What advice would you have for new, aspiring artists and writers?

RB: Write. Write. Write. The only way to learn to write is to write.

J&F: Essentially, determine your audience, then get to know what touches their hearts and life. Before touching pen to paper, pray and trust God to make the words, thoughts and ideas flow out of you. If the product isn't God-inspired, it isn't worth doing.

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