A little over a year ago, I wrote about iPlates, a planned series of Book of Mormon comic books (http://blogs.standard.net/the-political-surf/2012/10/29/iplates-offer-the-book-of-mormon-as-comic-books/), created by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood (who does the drawings).
The comics were cool. I enjoyed reading and my son, then 7, eagerly went through the comics, which can also be called a graphic novel. The comics included the wicked King Noah, the prophet Abinadi, and the conflicted high priest, Alma.
My son, now 8, periodically asks when another iPlates is coming. One is on the way, and there’s a Kickstarter campaign, from Nov. 5 to Dec. 5, to help fund the second book. A couple of graphics from iPlates are above and below and here’s my interview with Stephen Carter:
1) Tell me about the Kickstarter campaign. How much is the goal? What are some incentives? You mention a donor’s countenance can be in the comic book. What is the web address?
Carter: (Kickstarter Web address is at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/590023130/iplates-a-book-of-mormon-comic-book) Our initial goal is $3,500, which will fund the printing of a black-and-white version of the book. $12,000 will fund a color book. And $16,000 will fund a hardback.
I don’t know about the rest of the planet, but I’ve always wanted to be in a comic book. So we’re offering that chance to our backers. For example, $100 will get you cast as an extra in one to two panels of the book (plus a copy of the book). But if you want to be a little more heroic, you can be one of Gideon’s freedom fighters and be involved in a bunch of action scenes for $400. (What better way to help your descendants remember you?) And for mischievous Mormons, we’re also offering the chance to be one of King Noah’s wicked priests. We even have a contribution level that will allow you to make your own Book of Mormon comic book with us.
2) Speak specifically as to using slight writer’s license to some of the comics. How do you do that without sacrificing any of the meaning and impact of a book that is considered Scripture?
Carter: Well, as most scripture readers know, each reading is different from the last. We see different things and make different connections depending on where we’re at in our lives and thought. Writing an adaptation works the same way: we focused on some aspects of the original scripture story and glossed over others. But I’m sure that if we adapted the same chapters a few years later, we’d come up with a completely different approach. I imagine Gerald Lund went through a similar process with Church history when writing the Work and the Glory series.
3) What is it like adding the occasional character to the comic, such as the female characters? Do you think that makes the comic more relevant to readers, young and old?
Carter: It’s been very rewarding to explore the characters that are already in the Book of Mormon text; creating new characters adds another dimension to that experience.
For example, in one of the Book of Mormon chapters we’re adapting, a group of refugees save themselves by employing a brave, counter-intuitive tactic, but no one is assigned credit for the idea. It occurred to me that it very well could have originated in a female mind. And that’s how Zerin started taking form. Another example is Gideon, a Book of Mormon character who tries to assassinate King Noah. We decided it would be great fun to weave his plot in with Alma’s, watching how their characters played off each other, and how they deepened each other’s stories. It’s amazing how much story potential the Book of Mormon has.
4) How long does it take to produce an iPlates comic book?
Carter: It depends on how long it is. The first volume is 68 pages, but volume 2 will be 128 pages. There’s the time I put in drilling down into the Book of Mormon and putting the events into context in order to start structuring the story; then there’s the writing, the revision, the storyboarding, the revision, the roughing, the dialoging, the revision, the drawing (which is insanely time-consuming), the coloring, the revision. And then preparing the book for publication. Yeah, it can eat your life.
5) We are so used to reading The Book of Mormon over and over that we lose sense, I think, of the action occurring. Choosing Alma gathering converts, with Gideon, and more. Is the graphic novel an attempt to draw life to these oft-repeated characters? It seems that motion pictures have failed, so far, to catch the Book of Mormon. Can the graphic novel carry that task, of humanizing icons?
Carter: For me, the scriptures are like a launching pad. Various Jewish scholars through the centuries have launched from the scriptures by teasing out possibilities hinted at by minor characters, events, and concepts. As Sandy Eisenberg Sasso wrote, “They believed that the Word spoke to every generation anew. They allowed the biblical stories into their lives, and they let their lives enter the stories. They created midrash, interpretations of Scripture, an imaginative body of literature, which enriched the biblical narrative and kept it fresh and vital.”
So iPlates is a kind of midrashic approach to the Book of Mormon. We’re exploring it anew through a medium our generation really resonates with: comics.
Reading the Book of Mormon can be like flying over a vast landscape. The book covers many hundreds of years of history and only stops to tell personal stories every now and then. What Jett and I are interested in doing is “landing the plane;” imagining how some of these stories could have played out on a personal, moment-by-moment basis, imagining what kinds of personalities could propel the events the Book of Mormon chronicles. We are constantly diving back into the scriptures, searching for clues about what kinds of characters and “in between” scenes would resonate best.
Thanks Stephen. We can’t wait to see another iPlates.