The Book of Mormon is many things to many people, a spiritual guide to the truths of the world to some, a topic of scorn and controversy to others – now it is one more: a comic book.
Mike Allred, a lifelong member of the Church of Christ of Later-Day Saints (LDS), is the creator of the hit comics The Atomics, Red Rocket 7 and his best-known work, Madman, which is expected to hit the silver screen Hellboy-style in 2006.
Having worked nearly 15 years in comics, Allred remains a big shot in the industry, and after recently coming off a successful run on an X-Men book for Marvel Comics, Allred could have done anything he wanted for his next project – another Madman book, something else for Marvel, or for rival DC Comics.
But instead Allred went for something a little more … ambitious. The Golden Plates, Volume One: The Sword of Laban and the Tree of Life is the first of a series of 12 graphic novels that will adapt the entire Book of Mormon. Volume One depicts the first 15 chapters of “First Nephi,” the first of 15 sections in The Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon has a chapter and verse format similar to that of the King James version of the Bible, chronicling the thousand year record of a people who left Jerusalem about 600 B.C. and found their way to Central America, where the book says later the resurrected Christ visited them.
The Oregon-based writer/artist had originally intended to do a graphic novel on the life of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, but, as Allred put it, “I had a very profound religious experience,” and his plans changed.
One day he was driving in his car listening to The Book of Mormon on CD. Allred had always wished there was an in-depth visualization of the book, like the 12 paintings LDS artist Arnold Friberg created depicting pivotal scenes from the book, when suddenly it hit him.
“While listening to the scripture on CD, it occurred to me that I completely understood and could visualize all the events in The Book of Mormon and was capable of illustrating them.”
After doing a few illustrations, Allred sent what he was doing to the main office of the church with a letter stating his intentions. The church responded as he expected, saying that they couldn’t endorse the book, but what Allred was doing was fine as long as he understood the book to be a sacred work and to treat it as such.
“My intentions have never been to shove my faith down anybody else’s throat,” Allred said. “If someone wants to enjoy it as an adventure story or as a historical document, as entertainment or as a sacred work, that’s for the individual to interpret it. My hope is great that this will touch some hearts and they will go to the scriptures themselves.”
Allred wants to make clear, however, that The Golden Plates is “in no way a substitute” to The Book of Mormon, “it’s a primer at best.”