Ryan Kemp-Pappan: Five Graphic Novels Every Pastor Should Read

Ryan Kemp-Pappan: Five Graphic Novels Every Pastor Should Read April 10, 2012

I love sharing my blogging space with an occasional guest bloggers. It is my intention help share some new/different voices with a larger audience Today’s post is from my friend, Ryan Kemp-Pappan. Ryan is a “LGBTQ Advocate. Minister. Recovering Addict. Friend. Son. Spiritual Director. Social Worker. Artist. Writer. LA Dodger fan. Taco Aficionado. Runner. Aspiring Vegan. Extrovert married to an introvert.” Be sure to connect with Ryan on his BLOG, on TWITTER and on FACEBOOK. Thanks Ryan!

Being a broken, unemployed, and recently married young(er) fella I was super excited to be getting a job that paid me to do stuff I loved to do. I had to read, study scripture, and forge relationships with folks. I even got to watch movies and read comic books again. This last perk was my favorite thing to do as a kid.

I read a lot during the eleven years of undergraduate study and even more as a seminarian. In seminary, I did not once read for fun outside of menus and the occasional left behind newspaper. When I graduated from seminary and got my first call I received vacation and study time and other glorious perks, not to mention a great salary package.

The best part of this salary package was the book allowance. I was able to buy books, all kinds of books! I bought about a hundred books that first year and could not keep up with reading them. I was well purchased and decently read.

The next year I decided to not buy any more books until I had read all the books I bought the previous year. Then a friend of mine named “Funkmaster3000” gave me the challenge of challenges! He challenged me to only read graphic novels for an entire year. I loved comics as a kid and took him up on it.

I read many wonderful books. The range and depth of story that was engaged by graphic novels surprised me. I imagined I would read a lot of “hero” books or weird French books about crime and romance. There was real theology going on in these books and it renewed my faith as I explored it. This is a list of those I feel that every pastor should read.

ONE |  Irredeemable, 8 Volumes by Mark Waid and Peter Krause published by BOOM! Studios.

This is a great story. Imagine if the likes of Superman, the world’s greatest hero, seemingly turned bad over night, this is the story of the Plutonian. Here is part of the foreword by Mark Waid, “No one simply turns evil one day. Villainy isn’t a light switch. The road to darkness is filled with moments of betrayal, of loss, of disappointment, and of superhuman weakness. In the case of the Plutonian, there were sidekicks who sold his secrets. There were friends who preyed too often on his selflessness and enemies who showed him unsettling truths about himself. And those were the good days.”

This is a wonderful engagement of those moments in ones life where goodness conflicts with the nature of human sin. Tackling those “what-if” moments in the safety of a hero’s world allows for many of us to connect, relate and examine the realities within ourselves as we seek to minister for God to others.

TWO | Buddha, 8 Volumes by Osamu Tezuka, published by Vertical

I cannot remember how many times I have recommended this book to someone. This is the single greatest book that I have ever read. I savored every page, every word I read. I did not want it to end. I purposely took almost two months to finish the final volume (8) the first time I read it, as I was not willing to let the story end.

This is the story of Siddhattha Gotama and chronicles his life, as he becomes Buddha. A cast of fictionalized and real characters are developed and explored as very human characteristics are engaged and offered up to the reader to connect with. I enjoyed the direct nature of this encounter with violence, death, sex, and other traditionally taboo topics in my own faith experience. This book opened up my faith and allowed me to explore it through the lens of other wisdom navigated by the genius and daring of Tezuka.

THREE | Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm by Percy Carey and Ronald Wimberly, Published by Vertigo

This was the grittiest story that I read that took place in the United States. It is the story of MF Grimm a popular gangster rapper from the early 90’s. This book was a very real exposure to a life that is far from my own experience. The violence and angry that carried the book was not gratuitous.

I enjoyed this book because it introduced me to my “Other.” It took me out of the comfort zone of my life and offered me a counter to the early 90’s rap world I had lived in Los Angeles. It took my privilege and slapped the shit out of me with it. It forced me to see the humanity, the struggle, and hope for humanity that dwells in the depths of all our hearts. It is a wonderful examination of the dominant culture that shapes the norms used to strengthen injustice and marginalize people.

FOUR | Rex Mundi, Six Volumes by Arvid Nelson, Eric J, and Jeromy Cox published by Dark Horse Books.

I love alternative history stuff. Here is a book that supposes that the Protestant Reformation was smashed and exists only as a terrorist organization as the Catholic Church asserts it totalitarian authority upon the world. Need I say more?

It is a Steam Punkish setting with a dark mystic allure where the authors embellish the story with fake newspapers, maps, and a wonderfully detailed history available on the book website. It is extremely addictive and a fascinating look at the what if’s of the revolution that forged the foundations of my faith community. Easily one of my favorite books ever!

FIVE | The Walking Dead, 16 Volumes by Robert Kirkman Published by Image

Before there was the AMC TV show there was Kirkman’s intense apocalyptic journey through a mobile, living hell. This is one of those books that you will stay up late in to the night to finish. I read the first four volumes in one sitting. The story is very real. It explores humanity in ways we dare not as theologians. The dialogue is witty, honest and it scares the shit out of you. I found myself reading them in broad daylight or in the company of others.

It is one harrowing tale of depravity after another. You are bombarded with all evidence that God has forgotten the fearfully, wonderfully part of creation and has unleashed unimaginable carnage and judgment upon us.

Say good bye to Romero’s slow walking, dim-whit zombies and hello to Kirkman’s honest reflection of humanity in a pivotal era that demands we answer for the corporate sin of capitalism, greed, and the inhumanity we afflict each other with.

SIX-TEN | In case 5 is not enough . . .

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