Thomas Nelson, Marvel team on glossy project.

Comic books have long been the black sheep of literature. Yet, while many literati consider them trash, comics provide a motivation for many children to read. And such comic characters as Superman and Popeye are firmly established as icons of American culture.

This year Thomas Nelson Publishers is trying an unusual experiment, introducing three lines of comic books in both Christian and secular comic-book stores.

Some Thomas Nelson staff whose young children were drawn to comics noticed there was little available from a Christian viewpoint. Realizing they did not have the resources in-house, the publisher struck a deal with Marvel Comics to produce a series of comics under Nelson’s editorial direction, using Marvel artists and writers. The resulting comics would be marketed in Christian markets by Thomas Nelson and in comic-book stores by Marvel.

Colorful history

Marvel is the largest comic-book publisher in the world, known for its series featuring heroes such as Spider-Man and Captain America. Around since the 1930s, Marvel now publishes more than 100 comic-book titles, with monthly sales of around 14 million. The Life of Jesus comics are the first of a series of Bible-story comic books. Thomas Nelson’s second series, Christian Classics, is a variation on the Classics Illustrated series—classic Christian books in comic-book form. The first of these, Pilgrim’s Progress, is a striking adaptation of the John Bunyan classic; the primary difference in story line between the comic book and the original is that the story has been updated to the twentieth century. The second Christian Classic, currently in production, is The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis.

The third line of coproduced ...

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