“Okay, let’s do this again” are the first words printed in the Manga Bible, an adaptation of the Holy Bible in Japanese graphic-novel form. The simple phrase stands alone, as if to tell readers that although they may have sat through hundreds of agonizing hours of Sunday school memorizing stories and verses they might not even believe in today, chances are they’ve never experienced the word of the Lord as interpreted by artist and theologian Ajinbayo Akinsiku.
And so the story begins in nearly the same manner as the world’s all-time best seller. On a solid black page in small white text, the eminent phrase “And God said, let there be light” floats in a dialogue bubble like it would in any mainstream Marvel or DC Comics book. Turn the page and the words “And there was light” are bold on a white backdrop. Reminiscent of the onomatopoeic “whams” of Batman as he coldcocks the Riddler or Wolverine’s “snikt,” which emphasizes his unleashing claws, God is given a science-fiction “Zzaapp!!” to indicate the moment he illuminates the world.
Akinsiku, known as Siku, released the Manga Bible in early 2007, but the publication has only recently reached U.S. bookstores. Born in Leicester, England, Siku moved to Nigeria to study graphic design and went on to work as an artist for Britain’s famous comic-book publisher 2000 A.D., best-known for its Judge Dredd issues.
As a child, Siku says he was “an anomaly.” Although he was interested in the normal things other kids his age were into, including Western pop culture and influences, Siku was also fascinated by the spirituality of mankind and the idea that each individual possesses the power of free will.
“I’ve always had a very high aptitude for spiritual things,” Siku told the Current during a phone interview from England. “I would pontificate on what it meant to be human. I was asking these questions to myself and I was only 7 years old.”
To help him understand his thoughts, Siku grew close to the church and by age 11 considered himself a believer in all forms of Christianity, from the Pentecostal faith to the Anglican beliefs of both his parents.
In hopes of reaching out to a new generation who might find religion less intriguing than he did, Siku took his love for comics and his devotion to his faith and combined them to create the Manga Bible, a 200-page revision of stories from the Old and New Testaments.
“Every decade has a new interpretation of the Bible,” Siku said. “My artistic and religious viewpoints are one in the same. `The Manga Bible` is a way that I am expressing my faith through my art. I felt I could bring something fresh and vigorous to the table.”
So, exactly how does one condense a book as complex as the Bible into something that could be considered a comic book? Siku says it all starts with Manga — a “Japanese way of looking at the world” in a gently paced and cinematic
To choose the books he would adapt from the unabridged Bible, which arguably spans 5,000 years, Siku first looked for cohesive stories that would flow well with each other. He also wanted stories that were visually pleasing and could be told in a realistic number of pages.
“We wanted stories that were compatible and felt natural to the book,” Siku said. “Certain stories, like Joshua’s battles in the land of Canaan, work very well in Manga. It’s action-packed and very dense. We also looked for other genres, like the story of Ruth, which is a love story.”
Siku elected to give the character of Jesus Christ both human and superhero qualities. In parts of the book, Christ walks into a city as a dark silhouette covered in a hooded robe who comes to save lives and deliver judgment on sinners.
“When Batman puts on his cape he’s Batman,” Siku said. “When he takes it off he’s Bruce Wayne. We pretty much did that with Jesus. He’s like a samurai from one of those 1950s Japanese movies, and the only people who really are afraid of him are the ones that are evil.”
Although Siku wants readers to find the Manga Bible entertaining as a comic book, his ultimate desire is for people to start asking questions about the meaning of life. Who knows? Maybe his Manga Bible will convert someone to the traditional Bible.
“I want Westerners to start relying on something that is greater than themselves,” Siku said. “I hope they will take what they can from this book and ask very hard questions about their own spiritual reality.” •
The Manga Bible: From Genesis to Revelation
$12.95, 224 pages
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