Cartoon from Jason Bach courtesy of The Ultimate Catholic Comic Book.

Artists join forces to create Catholic humour

By 
  • September 2, 2017

John Smillie was just 15 when he stumbled into the world of Catholic comics. In October 2015, he posted a drawing on his Facebook page of the child Jesus tugging on the dress of an exasperated Mother Mary, yelling “Mom, mom, mom….”

The picture was titled “The First Rosary.”

It gained more than 10,000 likes and 6,000 shares within its first week and Smillie was firmly hooked on cartooning.

Two years later, the now 17- year-old is one of four U.S. cartoonists featured in The Ultimate Catholic Comic Book, produced and curated by Matt Martinusen.

Smillie, from Helena, Mont., feels a sense of responsibility for his work because there is a balancing act when creating a clever story while also staying true to Catholic teaching.

“A lot of humour is based on making fun of stuff,” said Smillie, who said he has been creating comics since Grade 1. “But when making these types of comics, there’s an underlying message or truth that you’re trying to portray…. It’s important when you’re working with sacred subject matter to keep that in mind.”

The book also features art from Pat Cross, Jason Bach and Tom Gould (creator of The Catholic Register’s Tomics).

Martinusen said the book represents the joyful side of the faith, combining rich history and tradition with a sprinkle of lighthearted humour.

“I think it’s a child-like way of looking at it,” said Martinusen, who manages the TomicsComics Facebook page from St. Paul, Minn. “We grew up in the faith hearing the same stories from saints and in the Bible and to be able to see them illustrated like this is a new way our generation can understand and appreciate it.”

After self-publishing their first book in 2015, Martinusen and Gould were looking for the next step. Not only should the second book be funny, but Martinusen said they also wanted it to bring together four talented guys with a flare for humour to use their gifts to “shed some light on the world.”

The artists launched a Kickstarter campaign for the book in October 2016 and raised more than $12,000 in 30 days.

“I remember keeping track of it and to be honest, I didn’t think we were going to make it,” said Bach. “But in that last week, people starting coming out of the woodwork and not only did we reach our ($10,000) goal but we ended up passing it.”

When the crowdfunding pledges started to come in, the guys sprang into action and by July 2017, more than 350 shipments of the published book went to fans around the world.

Bach, 32, works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer in Washington, D.C.

He has been drawing Catholicbased cartoons since 2013 and has been featured in Catholic organizations such as Our Sunday Visitor, Sophia Institute Press and Word on Fire Ministries.

“There’s not too many of us (Catholic artists) out there,” said Bach. “Everyone’s style is very distinctive, so (the book) wasn’t 80 or so pages of the same thing. It was amazing to see it all together.”

Cross, a 25-year-old political cartoonist in Santa Paula, Calif. , said that since political cartoons are often based on the news cycle, working on the comic book was a good change of pace.

“The nice thing about working on the Catholic comic book was that the Church is universal and there’s a whole wealth of history, and you have all of Scripture and they are things that I can apply at any time, so I wasn’t constrained in the same way,” said Cross, whose work can also be seen on PatCross- Cartoons.com.

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