For today’s interview we have creator Frank Patriot. Frank lives in the Bible Belt. He likes zombies, ice hockey, Christian hip hop, drawing comics and Reformed Theology. He’s been married to the same awesome woman for ten years and was known as “that guy who draws” all through school when he was growing up. He is too scared of crowds to preach, so he draws his sermons instead. He has never broken a bone, is scared of spiders and doesn’t know how to write a bio about himself.
Now for the interview…
When did you first get into comics as a reader/fan? As a writer/artist/creator?
I have been drawing since I was 5, but never read a comic book until I was around 10. My first comic book was an Archie and Jughead Digest. I think my parents felt that comic books were pretty violent, and therefore, a bad influence, so Archie was nice and safe. Can’t say I blame them. It’s pretty ironic that Archie comics now have a gay character in the mix. The times are a’changin, eh?
I started buying comics regularly when I was around 13 or so. Pretty much anything Todd McFarlane or Sam Kieth touched, I would buy. I never read comics for the stories; I just bought them for the pretty pictures. I drew an ashcan comic when I was 18 with a friend of mine, just to see how it looked. In retrospect, it was pretty crummy-looking, but it made me see how much fun comics were to create.
My first work was published in Megazeen, the “Horror” issue, followed by the “Failure” issue. Joe Endres let me contribute and I am very grateful for that. I couldn’t write myself out of a wet paper sack, so I just tried to compensate by drawing really hard, lol. Not sure what anyone thought about either of the pieces I did, but it gave me confidence to keep drawing.
I knew that, as a follower of Christ, I was expected to share my faith and use whatever talents God gave me for His glory. So, I drew a short zine called Why Should I Be Saved?, which explained the basic Gospel, and presented it to the guy who was over the outreach program of the church I was attending at the time. He looked at it, and said “Eh, nobody really reads these things. They’re not really that effective”. Then, he handed it back to me. I think I stopped drawing for about 2 years after that.
A few years later, I was attending a different church, and a guy came up to me and asked if I’d be interesting in drawing a comic for a missions team to take to South America. I think I did a kind of George Costanza “I’m back, baby!” scream, then immediately I started work on The Killer. I had a bilingual coworker translate it into Espanol for me, then we printed several hundred copies which were taken on missions trips. From that point on I realized I didn’t want to draw anything but comics for evangelical purposes.
Why comics? What do you like most about this medium?
I am really bad at just walking up and saying “Let’s talk about Jesus!” to some random stranger, but I want to share my faith. So, I figured that the best way to do that is by drawing comics. My dad was a pastor and my brother is an evangelist, so they just have this amazing gift of going up to people and sharing Christ in a loving way. I have the diplomatic skills of a bulldozer, so I have to resort to means where I’m less likely to stick my foot in my mouth. I guess if I’m Moses, then comics are my Aaron.
I’ve always loved drawing more than anything, so it just makes sense. People who would normally never touch a bible may be more likely to pick up a comic book, ya know?
The Killer was a short story about twin brothers, one good and the other one evil. The evil one commits a murder, and the other one takes the punishment for it. It was supposed to help communicate the idea of Christ’s substitutionary atonement.
Kickflip was the second evangelical-type comic I did. I meant for it to mimic a Thrasher skateboard magazine theme. It’s kind of a mock interview with a fake skater, and goes through the Way of the Master method of witnessing. The back cover of that one features a fake ad for “Berean Shoe Company” with a character named “Saul Caldpaul”. I really liked the idea of having a modern Apostle Paul as a type of street preacher, so I used him again in a short one panel expository comic, sporting a cap with a Star of David (representing his Jewishness) and a hoodie with “Elect” across the front.
I love doing short expository pieces because I enjoy that style of preaching and I think that it’d be fun to do some short sequential strips explaining some basic systematic theology. Doesn’t sound that interesting to some folks, I’m sure, but maybe if I draw some barnyard animals delivering a doctrinal statement on soteriology, people will feel compelled to read it, lol.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on another comic for street preachers. Most people saw Kickflip as being directed towards teens, which is kinda how I intended it to be. I actually tried to start skateboarding when I was around 30, so I could use that as way to reach teens who needed to hear the Gospel. After almost breaking numerous bones, however, I decided to just draw a comic instead. I’d kinda like the next comic to be directed at adults. I want to reach people with the full Gospel of not only God’s mercy, love and grace, but also the other half of the Gospel nobody talks about anymore: sin, God’s judgment and His wrath on sin.
I’m also planning to illustrate some more short expository pieces. I’ve got two pages almost finished on “Understanding Total Depravity”, the “T” in Calvin’s acrostic “T.U.L.I.P.” Not subjects people normally draw to illustrate, but I think if God wants me to draw this stuff, it’s because He’ll get somebody to read it…”predestine” them, if you will, lol.
I was doodling during my lunch hour one day and started daydreaming about “What if Charles Spurgeon was preaching in a church next to an experimental science lab, and there was an explosion which caused him to somehow gain these superhuman preaching abilities, as well as a ‘hulk like’ physique?” It made about as much sense as anything else I daydream about, so I started sketching and came up with a character called Tank Spurgeon. I think it’d make a great comic, but I just don’t know if I’ll ever actually do it. He’d team up with his Armenian counterpart, Smith Knucklesworth, to fight the forces of evil with a holy anger. Why not, right? I have always loved offbeat, unconventional characters. I copyrighted an Amish superhero a few years ago, named “Obediah Yosep: The Amish Fury”, but haven’t put him into print, either. Maybe one day…
What format(s) do you prefer for telling your stories (e.g., on-going series, mini-series, one-shot, graphic novel, etc.) and why?
I prefer one-shots and really short stories. Mostly because I have a short attention span, so I try to draw stuff for people who have the same problem. It’s really as simple as that.
What sources of information and inspiration have helped you along the way?
Predictably, I’d have to say I depend on the Holy Spirit to direct me on what to draw. It’s amazing how God will tell you to start some projects and to shut down work on others. I’ve been working on things before and felt like God was saying to me “You’re not drawing this because I told you to. You’re drawing this because you think it’s cool and hope people will compliment you”.
I read books such as Driscoll’s Doctrine, my MacArthur Commentary, and Grudem’s Systematic Theology books and think to myself ‘How would this look as sequential art?’ I mean, who among us hasn’t read a seminary textbook and longed to put it into cartoon form. Right (sarcasm alert)?
My wife and family are especially encouraging. I know they pray for me, that God will bless what I do for His glory. My wife is also my editor in chief. I really depend on her honest opinion to keep me from getting lazy.
Say a little about how you’ve been able to communicate your faith through your project(s)? What has that process been like? How has it evolved over the years?
I started out thinking that I should just “disguise” my faith in stories, hoping people would somehow peel back the layers and pull the truth out of it on their own. I’m an “art” guy first, and a “word” guy second. Besides, I’m not talented at crafting stories like other guys, so writing clever and well thought-out fiction is really tough for me. Fortunately, I feel I’m called to evangelize, so I can just use raw scripture to do the talking and be very overt with my message.
My comics ministry used to be called i535 Comix (in reference to Isaiah 53:5) but when I decided to start doing more projects that talk about doctrine and Reformed Theology, I changed it to Sola5 Comix, named for the 5 Sola’s of the Reformation.
What advice would you give to other Christians who are considering making comics?
I’d say, to first pray and ask God what kind of work He desires you to do. But in all things, give God glory. It’s the ultimate purpose of every Believer in Christ, so that should be the number one goal.
For me, I have asked “What if nobody reads any of this stuff that I’ve worked so hard on?”, and the answer I have, is that if you do everything for the glory of God, as Scripture commands, then it ultimately doesn’t matter if you have any fans. You have glorified God and that is the role of the Christian artist and is pleasing to Christ.
What is your take on the current state of Christian or Christian-themed comics? What, if anything, would you like to see more of in the future? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?
Strange as it may sound, I don’t really read many comics of any kind, believe it or not! I know that’s weird; a guy who draws comics but doesn’t read them, lol. I guess it’s for the same reason that I don’t read much fiction, period. I just like learning about certain things, so I just read what I can learn from, and try to draw what I have learned. I’m not sure if that’s nerdy, geeky or snobby. I do, however, look at comics for the art. Maybe that makes me shallow, haha.
What is the best way for people to contact you, and to read/purchase your work?
I started a blog that I will update pretty much when I feel like it, honestly. It’s got some of my comics, links to ministry resources or just anything else “Christian-themed” that I think is cool. You can leave comments on stuff I post there or just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any last thoughts?
I make anything I do available for free to download. If anyone is interested in downloading, printing and using my comics for street evangelism, missionary work or just whatever, they have permission to do so as long as nobody makes money off of it. Freely ye receive, so freely give, right? The pdf files for mycomics are on my blog. Thanks so much for this opportunity. Soli Deo Gloria!
And that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed the interview, and stay tuned for the next one!