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Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books & Graphic Novels Paperback – October 21, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


As much as comics deal with religion, analysis of religion in comics is sadly lacking. [...] Happily, Graven Images is the first step in filling that gap in scholarship.
--Rebecca Buchanan, Sequential Tart (December 2010)

In the mind of the present reviewer, there was not a single weak piece in this collection, and all were enjoyable and insightful, and well worth reading. --Phillip A. Bernhardt-House, Eternal Haunted Summer (Winter 2010)

Unlike so many studies of, say, "religion and film" that continue to treat the audio-visual medium as if it were a type of literature, the contributors here take the comics medium seriously, juxtaposing analyses of words, frames, pages, and images, and pointing toward comics as a whole. [...] Graven Images establishes comics as a vital subject matter, and provides an array of strong essays that display various ways the comic-religion relation can be seen. 
--S. Brent Plate, Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception

"Every art form has told stories of faith, and sequential art embodiments have included Egyptian tomb paintings, the traditional Stations of the Cross, and Bible comics from the last century. With the recent graphic novel boom, religious themes and interpretations abound, mostly summarized in a dozen or so popular books like Stephen Skelton's The Gospel According to Super­heroes, Arie Kaplan's From Krakow to Krypton: Jews and Comic Books, and Jeff Dunn and Adam Palmer's The Soul of Spider-Man: Unexpected Spiritual Insights from the Legendary Superhero. Graven Images appears to be the first to take a broader and more academic approach, collecting 21 essays from a conference of the same name held at Boston University. While most of the contributors have faculty appointments, five are comics creators. Themes range across religions and denominations, from expected topics (animistic and Christian themes in the manga/anime Nausicaä) to surprising ones (connections between religion and underground comics). VERDICT This varied and thoughtful collection invites more serious consideration of the medium thematically and hopefully presages additional conferences and collections. For all academic and larger public libraries." — Library Journal

"Graven Images excels at offering sophisticated interpretations of comic books and graphic novels that demand critical attention...Undoubtedly, Graven Images is a valuable contribution to the study of religion and popular culture. For religion scholars engaged in comic book/graphic novel criticism, the collection sets a high mark and will likely become an essential reference point for those in the field. For general scholars of religion or popular culture, Graven Images offers insight into how religion is a self-conscious engagement for comic book authors and readers, yielding works of depth and power within genres frequently dismissed as child's play." —The Journal of Popular Culture

About the Author

A. David Lewis is a national lecturer in Comics Studies and an award-winning graphic novelist. He holds a PhD in Religion and Literature at Boston University.

Christine Hoff Kraemer is Managing Editor of the Pagan Channel at Patheos.com. She holds a PhD in Religion and Literature from Boston University and is an instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary, South Carolina.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; 1 edition (October 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826430260
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826430267
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,479,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Reading Graven Images is, I imagine, very much like sitting through the 2008 Boston University academic conference that inspired it - there are the hits, the misses, and the things that make you roll your eyes hard enough to make a strike.

After a brief but fascinating foreword by Douglas Rushkoff, editors Lewis and Kraemer offer a lengthy overview of the volume's genesis as well as a layout for what's to come (one can almost hear the implicit dread "In this paper I intend to show..."), describing the three sections into which Images is split.

The first, "New Interpretations," examines traditional religious themes in comic books, including comics explicitly created to support Catholic, Mormon, and Hindu traditions as well as others which simply adopts elements from various religions. As a Catholic I naturally gravitated to Blankenship's piece on the use of comics as educational texts in parochial schools ("Catholic American Citizenship"), but the most fascinating piece was easily Eriko Ogihara-Schuck's essay on the Christianizing of Animism in manga and anime, which compared and contrasted the animistic/dualistic worldviews in the manga and anime versions of Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.

The second section, "Response and Rebellion," looks at the ways comics can either subvert or expand upon existing religious traditions, and includes strong pieces on Preacher and Superman, as well as a fantastic examination by Kerr Houston of Satrapi's Persepolis which explores the influence of medieval Christian woodcuts and the Shahnama on the author's artistic style.

The final section, "Postmodern Religiosity," basically springboards into the unknown or nontraditional, beginning with a piece by fan favorite G.
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