Spirituality in Comics
As I first conceptualized the universe of the Ancients Saga, I focused on the broad concepts of world building, including solar systems, stars, and planets. I narrowed my focus down to cities, landscapes, lore, history, and characters. I considered what types of belief systems the beings in my novels would have, and how to present these beliefs to my audience in a captivating way. Modern comics frequently focus on heroes, villains, journeys, and struggles of good versus evil. A few franchises delve a bit further, touching on spiritual themes in a broad way, or in the context of the specific setting where the comic takes place. Two examples of Marvel comics which contain spiritual themes are Doctor Strange and Thor.
Doctor Strange introduces spirituality in the context of an individual's journey through the material plane, which is the starting point for Dr. Stephen Strange, a materialistic neurosurgeon, who struggles to find his identity after an automobile accident renders him crippled. He eventually finds a new purpose as a student of the Ancient One, a mystical master who trains Strange to harness the powers of astral projection, as well as incantations which eventually allow him to open portals to alternate dimensions, and reverse time itself. During his metaphysical journey, Doctor Strange discovers that life offers more than the glamor of a brilliant neurosurgical career, the esteem of colleagues, and the acquisition of material wealth. He sees his role in a larger sense as a wielder of good versus evil.
Another Marvel franchise which successfully explores spirituality is Thor. Utilizing Norse mythology, this comic series takes its main character, a god of Asgard, and casts him into the world of humans. Thor must journey among mortals to learn humility, and understand his place in the universe. Initially, he struggles with his own vanity. He learns through his journey that he has the inner strength to battle through his power struggles with his father, brother, and sister. He learns to trust in others, and work as a member of a team for the good of the universe. He even learns to view himself with a sense of humor. His ability to embrace his human-like qualities and rise above his flaws makes him a more effective hero, as he battles against foes within his own family, and enemies from other worlds.
As I crafted my own imaginary world of the Ancients Saga, I decided to explore spirituality through the use of symbolism. I looked to C.S. Lewis for inspiration, with special focus on his Chronicles of Narnia, a series of fantasy novels for children, which were later made into animated and live action films. I found The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to be especially effective through its use of symbolism to portray religious themes in a nondenominational way. Once again Lewis uses a journey to transform his characters from self-centered beings into individuals capable of seeing beyond their own concerns, to envision their world with different lenses, putting the needs of others first. To develop the world of the Ancients Saga, I started with characters locked into a conflict of good versus evil. I added a benevolent deity, referred to as the Divine, served by an archangel, Gabriolus. As a counterbalance, I created Falonayus, a fallen angel with a grudge against Gabriolus and the Divine. These two realms, the mortal plane and the spiritual plane, formed the foundation of my first graphic novel, Portal of the Ancients: Book One of the Ancients Saga.