Thursday, March 10, 2011

Josh and Caleb

Ten years ago, I decided to try my hand at making a web comic for the Gathering's website. It was called Josh and Caleb, and was intended to tell the story of the Twelve Men who went into the promised land as spies. Originally meant to be a brief series of strips over Lent, it ended up running at my site for years, while I sporadically updated the story. I had periods when I was more prolific than others, and for one summer the strip was regular like clockwork.

My intention had been to warm myself up for drawing the web comic I really wanted to produce, a steampunk retelling of Cinderella called Cinder, which never made it past design sketches and story outlines. Josh and Caleb gained a momentum based upon fan response: people were reading it, so I felt compelled to finish it. And "finish" I did, coming at least to a moment of closure with the series before abandoning it completely during my graduate studies. However, there were three pages I had penciled and inked in the summer of 2005. They're scanned into the computer, and one of them received colour two and a half years ago. That leaves two to go. Seems like as good a time as any to wrap it all up and re-release it here at the blog. With the website going down in late '09, Josh and Caleb lost their online presence: this Lent will restore them.

These character cards were created several years into the process, after my hand really had warmed up, but they're not indicative of the art I was producing at the start of the series. I was Alexandra Junior High's "Most Promising Art Student" many moons ago, and had dreams of being a graphic artist. However, in 1989, my guidance counselor wasn't sure where to send a student who wanted to be an artist and filmmaker. Besides, many people were encouraging me to go to Bible School and become a pastor, and I was idealistic and stupid enough to think I could do drama and art in a Baptist church. Over the next ten years, I learned the hard way that Baptists like their art with scripture on it, and by art I mean nature photography. When I consider what forty-year old Mike would tell sixteen-year old Mike, it always goes something like, "Don't go to Bible school - attend studies in Vancouver at..." and then I either put in a design college or a film school. Hell, I'd tell sixteen-year old Mike to study art at Grant MacEwan here in Edmonton over Bible school.

So Josh and Caleb stands as the only comic I ever finished (providing I get those last two pages up), and despite the clunky start artistically, an achievement I'm very proud of. It probably isn't the greatest material to be working from in this fractured, war-torn world, and the artwork isn't my best - I was experimenting with manga-styles, but I get something a little closer to Disney in the process. Still, I think most of the jokes are good, and I really like my lead characters. The idea I had in my mind was to render Josh and Caleb younger than they are accounted as in the Pentateuch, as extreme-sports adventure junkie types. Not patriarchs, but two ordinary guys who like to have a good time, who are sent because they're good in a fight. In Dungeons and Dragons, Josh is a fighter, and Caleb's a multi-class rogue/ranger. It's a good indication of where I've been spiritually, as well as where I'm going. I think Josh is the voice of my spiritual journey, starting out ready to do as told, and ending with some questions.

One of the themes of Lent is wilderness journeys, and the stories of Israel in the desert are often material for homilies. So let's take a desert journey together, along with Josh and Caleb.

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