As a longtime comic book fan, I’m always on the lookout for exciting new stories. While the “Big Two” comic publishers, DC and Marvel, are the homes of some of my favorite superhero characters (Batman, Superman, Captain America, Spider-Man), I also firmly believe in supporting the often underappreciated work of independent comic book publishers. Thanks to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, the indie comics scene is more vibrant and varied than ever before!
A rising talent in indie comics is Philip Kosloski, the founder of Voyage Comics. What sets Voyage Comics apart from its peers in the industry is that it’s a company staffed by comic book fans who are also faithful Catholics committed to using their talents to evangelize the culture. I’m a big fan of Voyage’s flagship historical-fantasy title Finnian and the Seven Mountains, and I’m also a regular contributor to the Voyage Comics Blog. I recently had a chance to interview Philip about his work at Voyage, the state of comic book culture, and comics as a tool for evangelization. Enjoy!
Every comic book fan has their own unique entry point into the world of comics. What first drew you to this art form? What about it do you find fascinating or compelling?
As a kid, I was first introduced to comics by the X-Men, as one of my favorite TV shows was X-Men: The Animated Series. Comic books are a powerful medium for storytelling, as they can be used to convey a story in a unique visual way, unlike a traditional novel. In many ways, it is like a movie in book form.
What inspired you to found a Catholic comic book company?
I was discerning how I could use my talent of writing for evangelization and began to explore comic books, as—besides a handful of Bible or saint comics—it is a medium that has not been utilized by either Catholics or other Christians. As I started to become serious about it, God continually sent me signs leading me in that direction, connecting me with experts in the field from Marvel and DC Comics. I didn’t have to search for them as they came to me, something which made it clear to me that God was behind it.
A lot of Christian entertainment fails to appeal to a wider audience and often comes off as sentimental or preachy. What’s different about your approach at Voyage Comics?
Our focus at Voyage Comics is to stress high-quality storytelling, both in the concept and in the execution. That is why we hire the best artists in the field. But besides amazing artwork, we underlay it with a beautiful story. We try to create comics that are truly “Catholic” in the various senses of the word: both rooted in the Catholic faith, but also universal, appealing to a large audience. We don’t simply want to preach the Gospel; we want to show it.
Most people today probably associate comic books with superheroes. Your work at Voyage Comics seems to focus on a unique blend of fantasy and historical fiction. Why these genres?
Initially we have focused on the fantasy/historical fiction genre. In the future, we do hope to expand into other areas, such as science fiction. We find that these genres are popular, but also provide us with some creative freedom to portray spiritual realities in a visible way.
Tell us about your flagship title, Finnian and the Seven Mountains. What inspired this historical fantasy about a young man on a quest to solve the riddle of an ancient map?
Our Finnian series was inspired by Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the filming location of the island that appears at the end of the movie. It is an island in Star Wars where the Jedi lived, a group of spiritual warriors. In real life, it is known as Skellig Michael and is the place of an ancient monastery where there were spiritual warriors of a different sort, monks who fought in a spiritual war. Furthermore, it is part of a mysterious “Sword of St. Michael,” a line of monasteries that are all dedicated to St. Michael and have various legends about his appearances. I wanted to tie all of these together and tell a tale of spiritual warfare, showing the battle that is being fought in the spiritual realm.
In October you successfully Kickstarted Finnian #4. You’re also currently putting the finishing touches on the upcoming Jonah’s Voyage to Atlantis. The story behind that project is fascinating. Tell us about this unique take on the familiar biblical narrative of Jonah!
Jonah’s Voyage to Atlantis is more of a “Jonah Story” than a re-telling of biblical events. It is inspired by a few interesting verses from J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Jonah for the Jerusalem Bible. Tolkien translated a few lines that point to an ancient Hebrew tradition of Jonah going to the underworld, where the patriarchs were waiting until the coming of Christ. It is a blending of biblical and Hebrew traditions, while also tying it to the Atlantis myth. In any case, while it isn’t a literal re-telling of the book of Jonah, I stay true to the spiritual “essence” of the story and the spiritual war that must have gone on underneath the surface.
Voyage Comics has seen incredible growth in the last year! You’ve managed to bring on some truly amazing talent to the team. Who are these artists and what experience will they bring to future titles?
Our main artist is Michael LaVoy, who has been rising in the Catholic world of publishing, working for TAN Books, Ascension Press, and more. Recently, we have also added Jay David Ramos to our team, an artist who currently works for Marvel and DC Comics and Disney. Another artist who has helped us is veteran Jim Fern, who has worked in the comic book industry for over thirty years, co-designing and drawing X-Men character Jubilee in her first story.
What is unique is that these three talented artists are all faithful and devoted Catholics, using their gifts and talents as best they can.
In terms of its potential for evangelization, does the comic book medium have any unique advantages over other artistic forms like novels, television, or film?
Comic books are easier to pick up than a novel and are less threatening for a casual reader. Furthermore, non-Christians can pick them up and flip through them, finding inspiration in the stories and artwork.
In recent years there has been controversy in the comics community as contemporary mainstream comics seem to aggressively promote the dominant atheistic and relativistic philosophies of our age. What role do you see Christian comic book companies like Voyage playing in witnessing to the truth in an increasingly secular society?
Unfortunately, comic books have always been tied to the culture. Wherever the culture goes, so go mainstream comics. This has meant many readers have stopped reading comics, or if they do, they have to hide them from their children! It is our hope that we can offer a family-friendly alternative that utilizes the comic medium and gives parents a viable option that entertains their children in a positive way.
A major focus of the work of Word on Fire is “evangelization through beauty.” Do you believe that comics, as a blend of the literary and visual arts, are able to be effective tools in this kind of evangelizing mission?
I have always been a big proponent of using beauty as a way of evangelization. This is why I pick artistic styles for our comics that are beautiful works of art in themselves. In a certain sense, churches have always created their own “comic books” with stained glass windows and statues, telling the history of salvation through sequential images. Modern-day comics can follow in that tradition by using beautiful artwork to evangelize—not so much in a catechetical way but through the “way of beauty.”
In his famous essay “On Fairy-stories,” J.R.R. Tolkien proposed three roles that fantastic fiction has in affecting the reader: recovery, escape, and consolation. Do you believe comic books are similarly able to fill these three needs in the human heart?
Comic books, when done well, tell a story. As long as comics stay true to that reality and try to tell a beautiful story, we can fill those needs in the human heart and inspire them to be heroic in their everyday lives.