Interview: Michael Allred — UPDATED

It’s not often that we at BCC have brushes with greatness, but over the past week I’ve had some emails with an artist involved in the most original and interesting news the LDS arts community has seen in years. Michael Allred is one of the biggest names in modern comics and graphic novels, with titles under his belt like X-Statix and Red Rocket 7, and his most famous work, Madman, is being made into a film by the fantastic Robert Rodriguez. His style has been compared to such greats as Jack Kirby and others, and his wife, Laura, has been his amazing colorist for years. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of Mike’s latest project, The Golden Plates, a series of Book of Mormon narratives that takes LDS doctrine in a bold new direction. I asked him a few obsequious questions, and he’s generously responded. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll answer a question or two of yours if he’s so inclined.

Question/Fawning Admiration #1: Tell us about your visual inspirations.

Well, Arnold Friberg (who originally did 12 paintings of the Book Of Mormon, most which appear in several editions) is the first artist I remember seeing. So, his depictions of BOM people are the definitive ones in my mind, and so I’m going from his interpretations.

Question/Fawning Admiration #2: How did you go about picking and choosing which narrative aspects to follow?

It’s been surprisingly easy. I simply read the scriptures and break the events into separate moments that can be illustrated.

Question/Fawning Admiration #3: What were the challenges of putting doctrine into the graphic novel format?

I do approach it as sacred. And while there is certainly a large bias of the comic book/ sequential art /graphic novel format, I’m
approaching it in the most thoroughly definitive way I’m capable of. In other words, using Friberg as an example again, what if he’d done THOUSANDS of illustrations instead of just the original 12? Well, I’m attempting to draw every moment with the doctrine placed in sequential order where ever possible.

Question/Fawning Admiration #4: Do you think the Book of Mormon is a history to be taken literally?

I absolutely DO regard the Book Of Mormon as a literal historical record, inspired by God, and the key to the truth of ALL things. It supports the truthfulness of ALL scripture.

Question/Fawning Admiration #5: Do you view this graphic novel as a missionary tool?

It is my testimony. Drawing is what I do best and having committed to this I will never again be at a loss to share my testimony and what I know to be true. Already many people who’ve never even heard of The Book Of Mormon have now been exposed to the first 14 chapters of the book. My hope is a seed will be planted, they’ll find the beauty of the record, seek out the actual scriptures and find their way to the gospel. And for someone like myself, a life-long member who originally struggled with the scriptures, this might help provide a visual doorway to understanding the events, context, and flow of the history, and embrace the scriptures. AND for those who already have a love and testimony of the book might simply enjoy seeing it fully illustrated.

Question/Fawning Admiration #5: I must say, incidentally, that I admire the artistic guts it takes to do a project like Golden Plates; you’re really going in some new territory here, and I think it’s fantastic.

Thank you very much!
At this point, I just hope enough people get behind it so that I can finish it. We’re off to a great start. The word of mouth on the project, and the positive response is well beyond what I had hoped for. It’s thrilling.

Thanks again Mike! We want to officially order all BCC readers to go out and order copies immediately, and spread the word about a great book by an amazing author. His official website is at www.aaapop.com, and you can order his books through www.onipress.com.

UPDATE: Some reviews of The Golden Plates are starting to come in, and it’s interesting to see.

Comments

  1. “I do know others…[who] prefer to avoid scripture centered art as it cements one interpretation in their mind to the exclusion of others.”

    I just thinks it’s cool.

  2. Apparently, a lot of people live under rocks, ’cause I’ve received word that not a lot of people have heard of this project. Hopefully, we can change that a little bit.

  3. I think it’s good to see that while we will have Shakespeares of our own, we will also have Jack Kirbys and Stan Lees of our own.

  4. I’m with Steve Evans in what he said. I’m glad to see we’ll have Stan Lees and Jack Kirby’s of our own.

  5. Something to swap my son’s Spiderman and Star Wars comics for. Heaven knows he doesn’t read the scriptures (OK, he’s only 4). Great interview. Nice scoop.

  6. Steve,

    Excellent post, and thanks to Michael Allred for taking the time to respond to Steve’s questions.

    A point that I’ve wondered about, and perhaps deserves some comment. I am personally uplifted by visual representations of scriptures–I find it interesting to see how others interpret the same scriptures that speak to me. I haven’t seen Michael Allred’s work, but I’ll check it out.

    I do know others, however, that are very distracted by it, and prefer to avoid scripture centered art as it cements one interpretation in their mind to the exclusion of others. I’m wondering if others have had this same reaction, and how they reconcile it to all of the visual work (and now film projects) available.

  7. The Book of Mormon, comic book translation. It’s a fine idea and I wish Bro. Allred the best.

    As a writer myself, who was a child when Pres. Benson was imploring us to place the Book of Mormon at the center of our spiritual study and religious perspective, I must say that I absolutely love its stories and I think that there are literally thousands of narrative reinterpretations of Book of Mormon possible. I think their quantity and quality are going to rapidly improve in the coming years.

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