Sunday, February 10, 2008

"War Machine"

In the past few days, there has been more than quite a few reactions to the upcoming release of Mecha Manga Bible Heroes; Some look forward with anticipation to the first issue, some are critical and still others seem to be holding back judgement until they actually see the finished book in their hands. In any case, the one common aspect that has drawn the most critisim and the most praise is the stated use of the Biblical plots and characters as the Bible presents them rather than looking to produce a fictional plotline using Biblical characters. Since I am the person chiefly responsible for making this our "mission," I thought I would add to the dialogue on the topic by giving you a glimpse as to what prompted this and why I think it's a good idea, at least for this series. Over the next few days, I will try and shed light on some of the thought behind Mecha Manga Bible Heroes...
When I was first approached by my friends at JMG to work on a project with them, several ideas were being kicked around- some using Biblically based characters in new situations and some using Biblical ideas in more modern settings. In my discussions with Paul Castiglia, the mangaging editor for comics at JMG, we talked about how much of the Bible we could include into a story and still make it interesting and exciting to the reader. Paul, rather than pushing one philosophy over another on me, left it up to me to propose a framework for a new series... The one thing I was asked to keep in mind was the desire they had to do something of a Genre piece- meaning we needed to bring things into a Sci-fi or some other setting rather than doing a "Passion of the Christ" Biblical aged epic.
As a writer who really likes to do research, I decided that it would be a great opportunity to open up the Old Testament again and read it for what it was and to inform myself with the original source of the stories I felt I knew well. Rather than starting aimlessly, I chose to read the meat of the Historical books- Judges, the 2 books of Samuel and the 2 books of Kings. (All good stuff, by the way- I'd recommend them to anyone)
What I found was quite eye opening- the stories were nothing like most people make them out to be, and they were fuller and richer from a story perspective than even I had thought before. The character developement of people like David and Saul within those stories was equally as rich; the "villians" weren't as clear cut as you might believe, and the "heroes" had their flaws and made their share of mistakes. The themes of the stories are also mulit dimentional, and I saw that there was really no need to do much to the plot to make anything current... these stories are really timeless.
In saying that, I will admit that not every story in the Bible could be translated into a Sci-Fi setting. Some stories would have to be pushed too far into a weird direction to make them fit such a setting, while others were a little too "adult" for anything that JMG wanted to do...
One that jumped out right away, however, was the story of David. While some people see the cover or hear about this first issue and say, "Goliath as a robot... sounds like a stretch," I would argue that the original text made it's own case to me.
When you read about the account in 1 Samuel about Goliath, the theme of technology and it's use to force submission through warfare is explicitly there. The Philistines are not just seen as a people who believe in a different god than the Israelites, they were depicted as a people with superior technology and a more developed "war machine" which they used to crush their enemies. In fact, the Bible is very clear that the people of Israel upgraded their technologies through beating nations like the Philistines, and that they were at a huge disadvantage in these areas until David and his son Solomon came along.
As the story of David continues, this idea of the gap of technology between David's people and those they are in conflict with will continue to be re-visited.
There are, of course, other aspects to the Biblical story of David which made it ideal for adaptation in this way... But I can't give it all away in one day, now can I?

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