Thursday, November 10, 2005

Graphic Novel Based on Mark's Gospel

This was on Religion Press Releases today:

The Angel is a Clown: First Graphic Novel Based on a Gospel Captures Vivid Power of Mark

contact: Rebecca Wilson, 330-524-2067,

November 10, 2005 -- NEW YORK--The devil rides in a stretch limousine, Moses bears a striking resemblance to Frederick Douglass, and the angel left at the tomb is a clown. And that's just the start of the unusual cast of characters in Marked, the first graphic novel based on a Gospel.

Marked, created by New York artist and Episcopalian Steve Ross, is true to both the graphic novel form and the Gospel. The story is full of action, danger and subversive characters with wild ideas: just like a comic book--and just like the biblical stories of Jesus' life. "We might want to label Marked up front the way we should label the New Testament itself: Let the reader beware," says the Rev. William McD. Tully, rector of St. Bartholomew's Church in New York City.

Why turn biblical imagery upside down? "For centuries, we've seen the long-haired white middle-class guys who have co-opted Christianity. That was my beef," says Ross. "Those images of Jesus and his followers were created by really talented artists during the Dutch Renaissance, and after hundreds of years our culture is still bound by these images' tyranny." That's why this Jesus, who starts out holding a circular saw and sporting long hair and beard, is bald and clean-shaven by page 17.

To the uninitiated--and perhaps to the uptight--Marked may appear blasphemous. Ross's art was inspired by Nikos Kazantzakis' controversial novel The Last Temptation of Christ, and the format of graphic novels encourages sophisticated play with the sort of shocking images and complex themes that have made Art Spiegleman's Maus both a prize-winner and a classic. "I fear that two thousand years of 20/20 hindsight have sucked the surprise, awe and sheer weirdness out of the Gospels," says Ross, and Marked works hard to restore those qualities to the familiar story.

But Ross is a man of deep faith and abiding love for the Gospel story: "I just wanted to see if I could receive the Gospel of Mark with a lover's heart and then recount it with a troublemaker's eye," he says. "Like Picasso stripping away layer after layer of preconceptions until he finally arrived at a new way of seeing."

Steve Ross, whose illustrations have appeared in numerous magazines and publications around the world, lives in New York with his wife and their two children. He is a member of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church.

Steve Ross
175 pages 7" x 10 1/2"
Available December 2005 from Seabury Books
1-59627-002-0 Softcover $20.00
publicity contact: Rebecca Wilson,, 330-524-2067
Art and excerpts for media use available at


Seabury Books
an imprint of
Church Publishing Incorporated * 445 Fifth Avenue * New York NY 10016 * 1-800-242-1918
You can see selections from the book at this website:


I suppose that for academic types, it is especially refreshing to see a graphic novel that bases itself on a particular Gospel, rather than on a harmony. And it is even more welcome to see Mark the focus, since this is so rarely the case in art. I wonder what's happened to the Visual Bible's Gospel of Mark film, by the way? I haven't heard anything for a long time now.

Update (17.25): Amazon have it for $13.60.

1 comment:

crystal said...

That sounds interesting! If it follows in the tradition of The Road to Perdition and Sin City, it should have a compelling look :-)