BY MARK I. PINSKYI still have a hard time with the phrase "graphical novel". When someone tells me a novel is "graphic" I think of something else...
The Orlando Sentinel
For more than 2,500 years, Jews have been telling their faith's sacred stories, in written words on parchment and the page, and through the oral tradition of rabbinical debate.
Now they're trying something new: a graphic novel.
The Jewish Publication Society, a venerable group that is the closest thing to an official press for all the religion's denominations, is turning to a very modern way to reach young Jews. "Megillat Esther" is a graphic novel - an extended, black-and-white comic book - based on the holiday of Purim, and probably rated PG-13 for a few borderline racy drawings.
"We all understood that it was a way to reach a much younger generation," says Ellen Frankel, CEO and editor in chief of this Philadelphia-based publisher. "Even though it is a stretch for JPS, it is right on point because it's Bible commentary."
This Jewish foray into the world of graphic novels is just the latest example of believers creating alternative forms of religious messages in print. Christian artists have been drawing on the divine for more than 50 years - one of the most notable being Jack Chick, who in the 1960s began using pocket-size comic books to illustrate Gospel tracts. Modern graphic novels, including those in a style that emulate Japanese comics called manga, have become underground hits with young Christians during the past decade. Popular titles include "Testament," "Creature Tech" and "Marked," and a new series, called "Serenity."
My son devours these, and I have to concede that they took him from a below-standard reader to one who is well ahead of his age in reading comprehension, vocabulary, and articulateness. He has branched out into the more traditional books, but when we go to Barnes and Noble, I still know where to find him -- plopped down right in front of the comic books -- excuse me -- graphical novels.
It sounds like this genre has developed far beyond the Jack Chick tracts, which I remember with a bit of disdain. What I have seen recently has been fairly meaty and if that is what it takes to get youth to enjoy learning the faith, then I am fully in accord not only with the goals, but the methods to achieve them. Besides, I have no room to talk. I read Classics Illustrated when I was in junior high and high school.
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