When talent, faith and passion collide...
Writer, Christian comic book author and pop culture commentator, Paul Castiglia, spent time with InnerVoice Magazine at the recent Superheroes For Hospice event to talk about comic books, his faith in God and how he has collaborated with the comic industry as they find new ways to help kids get excited about classic Bible stories.
"Archie Americana" Comic Series
Castiglia is perhaps best-known for three different accomplishments. He is the historian-editor behind the famed of classic decade-by-decade archival collections of vintage Archie Comics stories. When Archie attempted its first “event” storyline to rival DC’s Death of Superman, Castiglia was one of the architects behind The Love Showdown and his promotional efforts also garnered worldwide publicity for the landmark tale. He also spent several years writing the Archie’s Weird Mysteries comic book series, spun off from the animated cartoon show of the same name.
In 2008, Castiglia made a pilgrimage from Archie’s hometown of Riverdale to ancient Israel with a unique retelling of David and Goliath appearing in "Mecha Manga Bible Heroes" to unite his passion for telling stories with his passion for God.
In this series, classic heroes from the Old Testament are given a new twist. The stories, characters and themes are the same but the setting is changed to a futuristic world of robots, aliens and advanced technology. That means the classic tale of David and Goliath now has some new elements, like the hulking Goliath is now a giant robot of Transformers proportions and a space-helmet-wearing David is now equipped with high-tech gadgetry.
Paul Castiglia met with InnerVoice Magazine at the recent Superheroes For Hospice event to talk about comic books and faith.
IV: I had the chance to read Mecha Manga BibleHeroes #1 and it seems like you guys had fun making it!
PAUL: It was fun! We had a blast creating the issue. We took on the challenge of presenting the Bible word for word but setting it in a futuristic world, and we hope the result is as much fun for the reader as it is for us.
IV: Why change the setting? Especially to something so “out there” as a sci-fi landscape?
PAUL: Our thought there was that a lot of little kids hearing these stories in Sunday School just might not be able to relate. Especially in this high-tech age of modern gadgetry like smart phones, pad-size computers, APPS, etc. where convenience and instant gratification is at a person’s fingertips. Contrast that with the Bible’s tales of men in ancient times walking around in sandals and togas and you can see how there could be a disconnect for kids growing up in this generation. We want to reach them with the heart and soul of the Bible’s stories, then it hit us that we can maintain those elements and just change the “window dressing” to attract kids to the tales. As a fringe benefit, the sci-fi element affords us the opportunity to really spotlight truths in a clear way – for example, when you have warring groups of two alien races that are different in appearance, you can point up the contrasts that much more
IV: With elements like a cyborg lion, a robo-bear and an incredible re-imagining of Goliath, I’ll say it was fun!
PAUL: Thanks! A lot of people have liked it, and we’re grateful for that. Before our first issue came out, we sent out a press release heralding its imminent debut and immediately saw a 12,000 percent increase in hits to our site. We were flabbergasted!
The response we got was all over the spectrum. There were Christian believers who thought this was a great idea and other Christian believers who did not. There were non-Christians who decried the concept but also an encouraging number of non-Christians who loved the idea.
IV: Are you still publishing the comic?
PAUL: We wish we were, and we hope to be able to do so in the future. It’s all a matter of financing. Until that is worked out, the project is on the backburner. Tom Hall and I believe the concept has potential to branch beyond comics and become a feature film or TV series, live-action or animated or perhaps a mix of both. If some forward-thinking producer out there sees the potential that we do in it perhaps that could be the impetus to continue the comic book series.
IV: Taking this back a little further, how did you get into comic book writing and editing?
PAUL: Ever since I could remember, I have always been into comic books and cartoons. Eventually, I decided to go to art school and I realized that I was not as skilled an artist as I would have to be to break into the competitive world of comics. Note that this was in the mid-late 1980s – a quick scan of the talents that made their first splashes back then shows just how competitive a field it was!
Thankfully, I studied at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). That school emphasized content and context and characterization and storytelling as key components of sequential comic book art. It also offered several writing and literature courses. I was always a good story and gag man going back to my elementary school days (in addition to devouring comics and animation, I had a steady diet of watching and analyzing classic comedy films from the likes of Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, the Marx Brothers and others). I had a vivid imagination which led to a steady stream of ideas and I enjoyed writing humor, so I decided to pursue being a writer.
I could draw well enough to get a story across in picture-script format. This was something like a cross between a storyboard and a rough of a comic book page, with panel layouts broken down complete with captions and dialogue balloons. I put together a portfolio of sample scripts starring some of my favorite humor characters from the Archie, Harvey and Star Comics lines.
I had been out of college for about a year and the legendary Joe Orlando, a former teacher of mine at SVA, was heading up a magazine based around the Looney Tunes characters for DC Comics. He decided to give me a break – my first break into comics – and I made my first professional comics script sale in the fall of 1989. I ended up selling several scripts to the magazine, as well as to Cracked (which at the time was still a black-and-white magazine take-off of Mad aimed at younger readers).
Realizing I couldn’t live off of freelance checks, I kept calling around to the New York area publishers and got interviews for assistant editor positions at Marvel, Harvey and Archie. Archie was seeking someone who could be an assistant editor but also an archivist, which is a fancy word for historian. I soon graduated to being a full-fledged editor as well as promotional director – I wrote copy for the distributor’s catalogs and the majority of press releases the company issued – and I dealt directly with distributors and retailers as well. I was also a “copy utility man” – from trade ads to business letters to text pieces in books like back cover blurbs and tables of contents, if there was any in-house writing needed I did it. I had a unique experience where I got to be involved on both the creative and business ends of the company. I remained on staff at Archie for nine a quarter years and have continued to freelance for them in various capacities ever since.
IV: Who was your favorite Archie character?
PAUL: Jughead has always been my favorite male character. He has always reminded me of a Greek Chorus in a play. He’s always making the commentary on what the other characters are doing. A lot of people think he is a bit of dimwit, but I always think of him as the smartest person in the room. He’s not book-smart like Dilton, but he’s world-smart. He knows the score and can see through any phony person or endeavor.
IV: In this industry, you must meet many people of different faiths and ideologies.
PAUL: Oh sure, absolutely. And I think that’s great. I do my best to keep focused on the “red letters” in the Bible – those Bibles that highlight Jesus’ words in red. My goal is to follow Jesus’ lead and treat everybody fairly. I want people to know I embrace everyone and treat them with respect and dignity. In the comics industry as well as in my daily life I meet so many people of different faiths I want to reflect the way Jesus would have treated them.
IV: Tell us more about your involvement with the Superheroes For Hospice charity.
PAUL: I became involved with this charity in 2009. It was started by a man named Spiro Ballas a few years back. Spiro is the Volunteer Coordinator at Saint Barnabas Hospice and Palliative Care in West Orange, New Jersey. He’s also a huge comic book fan and collector. He decided to combine the love of his hobby with a chance to raise funds for the needs of the Hospice volunteers and the families they help through the program. I became involved when my wife saw an internet article about Spiro’s charity.
At first it was just a way to donate comics and clear some clutter, but then I thought that perhaps my standing as a comics pro could be an extra draw for Spiro’s sales. It went so well that Spiro decided to expand to include a variety of comics creators at each show. Since I’ve been in the industry for quite some time now Spiro asked if I’d consider being the “Creator Coordinator” and I accepted. This means I help secure talent to appear at the shows and also help coordinate info for the talent as well as providing some extra help writing press releases and getting publicity.
The charity is very near and dear to my heart as I have known many people in my life – family members, friends, children of friends – that have valiantly fought against cancer. Some won their battles; many didn’t. Naturally, it goes without saying that if there’s anything I can do to help such a worthwhile cause I will. I am humbled to be a part of it all, and happy to report that the charity has raised nearly $20,000 to date.
IV: How can interested readers order a copy of Mecha Manga Bible Heroes?
PAUL: Right now printed copies are only available from third-party sellers on Amazon.com and eBay, sometimes at collectible prices. I often bring copies to my personal appearances where I sometimes discount or give them away. Digital copies are also available at Amazon.com and at the iTunes store.
IV: Paul, thank you so much for your time!
PAUL: Thank you, Don! This was fun.
For more information about Paul Castiglia, visit his author page on:
For more information about Superheroes for Hospice, please contact:
Mr. Spiro Ballas, Senior Volunteer Coordinator
Superheroes for Hospice
Barnabas Health Hospice and Palliative Care Center
95 Old Short Hills Road
West Orange, New Jersey 07052
Interested in connecting with other Christian Comic Writers? Check out this link:
Mecha Manga Bible Heroes Series was co-created by Castiglia and Thomas Hall, the writer-creator of R-13. Castiglia acted as Managing Editor while Hall co-wrote the first issue with Joey Endres, another Christian Comics stalwart known for his work as a publisher/editor/writer/artist of the faith-based anthology, Megazeen. The comic was published by John-Marc Grob of JMG Studio, who also acted as Editor-in-Chief. Interior art chores were handled by Thomas Pratt and Daniel Bradford with a very Dell Comics-esque painted cover from Jeff Slemons.
Paul Castiglia has been writing and editing comics and pop culture articles for over 20 years for publishers including Archie, DC and Dark Horse. Among Paul's many credits are writing the Archie's Weird Mysteries comic series, editing the Archie Americana series of classic paperback reprints, and writing stories starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Droopy Dog and Sonic the Hedgehog.