Kingstone Comics, the comic book wing of Florida-based Christian publisher Kingstone Media Group, announced three major projects at a press conference at the International Christian Retail Show in St. Louis in June. The AFFIRM Films/Sony Pictures Entertainment film adaption of its graphic novel The Remaining, in production now, will premier in fall 2014, just after the July 2014 release of the novel, which Kingstone describes as a "first-person POV/Found Footage type thriller [that] chronicles a group of friends in the chilling three days immediately after the Rapture." The ambitious 12-volume graphic Kingstone Bible also is in the works for release in 2014. And Eternity, the first graphic novel by bestselling author Randy Alcorn, releases this month.
Alcorn—who was signing at the show--is the author of nearly 20 nonfiction Christian books and a dozen novels, including the bestselling Safely Home, has written the graphic novel Eternity (June) with artist Javier Saltares, focusing on the parallel New Testament accounts of Lazarus and Phineas in the time of Jesus. The novel chronicles the lives of two men—a penniless follower of Jesus’ ministry and a wealthy nay-sayer—telling the story of what Kingstone calls “two shockingly different spiritual directions.”
Eternity—a full-color, 128-page softcover—is not only Alcorn’s first foray into the graphic novel market, but also Kingstone’s largest first print run to date, 37,000 copies. For publisher Art Ayris, it’s the opportunity to work with Alcorn he has wanted for some time. “Randy is a huge comics fan--he loves Green Lantern,” explained Ayris in an interview before ICRS. “So I told him, ‘The first crack of daylight you have in your schedule, I want you to write something for Kingstone.’”
With Eternity coming out this month, Kingstone Comics is already at work on the Kingstone Bible, its next and most ambitious project thus far. Featuring artists from all of the major mainstream comics publishers, the Kingstone Bible will include passages from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, as well as additional or alternate materials specifically for the Catholic market. While noting the achievements of Sergio Cariello’s The Action Bible (David C. Cook)—which has consistently been on the Christian bestsellers lists since its 2010 publication—Ayris said the the Kingstone Bible will be “the most comprehensive adaptation of the Bible ever done.”
As with Kingstone’s previous comics publications, like The Book of God or Echoes of Eden, the target audiences for both Eternity and the Kingstone Bible are primarily consumers buying at chains and big-box stores such as Wal-Mart, Sam’s Clubs, and Barnes & Noble. But special markets (e.g., church groups, faith communities) and especially the digital market promise the most growth and reach, Ayris said. Kingstone already has apps available for both the iPad and Android smartphones, and their titles can be purchased as e-books from Comixology and iVerse Media, and on Amazon for Kindle devices. Kingstone is rolling out a guerilla marketing campaign alongside this digital push, including convention and conference appearances, author Q&As at live events, and traditional media campaigns.
Ayris said the time is right for Kingstone to emerge both as the premier Christian comics producer and as a recognized player in the mainstream market. With a major motion picture deal already in place (details embargoed for now), Kingstone has plans for future projects that will leave no audience behind. Even with a competitive Christian book market as Kingstone’s base, Ayris said, “there’s stuff with real cross-over material, like Pilgrim’s Progress, and [there will be] a number of Jewish buyers for our Old Testament material.”
The rising profile of comics and comic book properties, especially in movies and on cable television, helps all segments of the industry, but especially the faith-based market, said Ayris. The graphic novel is a “new and fresh idea” in the Christian market, he said noting that the Christian marketplace can be conservative when it comes to introducing new materials. Interpreting, visualizing, and then merchandizing Christian scripture carries the risk of offending different denominations and outright alienating others, he said, joking that his efforts to educate believers on the literary merit, artistry, and content value of graphic storytelling has also led to “a lot of arrows stuck in my back.”