Like many parents, I have mixed feelings about comics and graphic novels, especially adaptations. I want my kids (and the rest of civilization) to be able to read through a block of text without pictures to help them along; and I want them to read “the real thing,” not a watered-down version of a classic. But more and more, I see that, while many comics are still lurid and vapid, many are not. We’re firmly in an age of comics with something on their mind. They’re not just colorful, easy-to-digest substitutions for books; they’re something different — or at least they can be. Ben Hatke‘s and Mike Mignola’s work spring to mind.
The other week, I stumbled across an ad for a serialized comic adaptation of The Light Princess. Although I adore the original illustrations by Maurice Sendak, I have always wished someone less wordy than George MacDonald had written his wonderful stories, especially for reading out loud. So I dug around to see what else the publisher, Cave Pictures Publishing, is up to.
It turns out they’re new, and The Light Princess is one of five comic titles debuting this year
— and holy cow, it’s a diverse line-up, to say the least. There’s also “Appalachian Apocalypse” by Billy Tucci (Shi), Ethan Nicolle (Axe Cop), and Ben Gilbert:
After the ancient staff of Lilith, mother of the damned, reanimates the dead, country boy J.B. and his estranged upper-crust wife Anne must come together to stop the zombie hordes and save the people of Appalachia.
and “The Blessed Machine,” a dystopian sci fi series by Jesse Hamm (Batman ’66) and Mark Rodgers
Locked in a city deep within the earth, a courageous few struggle to reach the surface, fighting not only against the minds and flesh of men but against their man-made minders.
THE NO ONES by Jim Krueger with art by Well-Bee
A team of superheroes, blinded by their fame and self-promotion, are forced to reckon with their destructive choices when a twist of fate erases them from both history and present memory.
WYLDE by Daniel Bradford
When a mysterious masked lawman partners with a suspicious sheriff to save his frontier town from an invasion of the undead, the sheriff will learn ancient secrets of the lawman’s past and the power of self-sacrifice. In saving his town, he will save himself.
Cave Pictures (tagline: “Great comics for the spiritually inclined”) says it intends to deliver more than mindless, two-dimensional entertainment. They’re not religious, but they hope to engage readers who thirst after spiritual meaning.
My take? I’m intrigued. The artwork and storytelling is skillful and lively, and they do seem dedicated to presenting work that’s layered, but driven primarily by story and art, not message.
The first issue of The Light Princess (the only title I previewed) is a little unsettling. For reasons that are not yet clear, they’ve invented some odd backstory for the princess’ parents
but I’m suspending judgment until future issues. The artwork leans fairy-tale-ish, and so far lacks some of the weird, jarring edge inherent in the story; but this may change as the plot progresses (the first issue ends just as the baby first loses her gravity). The overall look is professional and effective, sometimes quite lovely. The lettering occasionally gets overly pictorial and almost too ornate to read in a few places, but not disastrously so;
and the story moves along briskly and keeps the reader’s attention. In short: Not perfect, but intriguing, and definitely a publisher to watch. I’ll be asking my librarian to look into carrying these titles, and I’m more curious now to look into the other stories, which are all original, not adaptations.
Here’s a page from their free comic that frames their mission, retelling Plato’s allegory of the cave:
Earlier this week, I chatted with the president, Mandi Hart, who “manages all the moving parts of Cave.” Hart has a background in filmmaking, but got a law degree to help her manage the legal and logistical aspects of running a creative business. She soon came to realize that investors would be willing to finance a company that published what their children and grandchildren loved, and that meant comics.
The key theme in the The Blessed Machine is about whether there is more to the world than the characters inhabit, than what they can see — and more than what the machines they depend on for life are telling them exist.
The Light Princess is actually a little more overtly Christian than the even book itself is. Is there some particular faith background from which you’re approaching these titles?
Hart welcomes questions from readers. You can follow Cave Pictures Publications on social media: