When Phil Hotsenpiller became the teaching pastor at Yorba Linda Friends Church, Yorba Linda, CA, writing a comic book was the last thing on his mind.
By John Welches
When Phil Hotsenpiller became the teaching pastor at Yorba Linda Friends Church, Yorba Linda, CA, writing a comic book was the last thing on his mind. In fact, the thought had never occurred to him. Little did he know that one of the comic book industries most talented and controversial artists, Rob Liefeld, attended his church. Neither Hotsenpiller nor Liefeld ever imagined what would happen next.
Over Labor Day weekend in 2006, Hotsenpiller decided to do something very different at the church. “I thought it would be pretty cool to have an entire weekend dedicated to studying the End Times. We figured ‘Why not?’ It’s supposed to be a light weekend, what with vacations and all,” Hotsenpiller laughs. “We ended up having more than 8,000 people present. It was like Easter!”
Liefeld was among those who attended the weekend sermons at Yorba Linda Friends Church, which typically sees an average attendance of 5,200, and he was mesmerized and enthralled by Hotsenpiller’s interpretations and theories that merged current events with biblical End Times prophecy.
Signed to Marvel Comics at 17
Liefeld has been creating comic books since he was 17 years old, when he was signed to Marvel Comics.
Since then, he created the popular “Youngblood” series, co-founded Image Comics (the publisher of “Spawn”) and sold more than 65 million comic books.
“I was completely taken in by Hotsenpiller’s teaching,” Liefeld says. “The way he meshed historical and current events and then brought it all back to Scripture was radical. I knew something was there, but that it was bigger than a comic book.” Liefeld has never been one to sit still. “I just walked up to Hotsenpiller after a service and told him we should do a graphic novel,” Liefeld says. “I explained what a graphic novel is to him and he was like, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ And then we just made it happen.”
Graphic novels have been steadily rising in familiarity and popularity among audiences, especially youth and young adults, thanks to the movie industry’s frequent adaptations of stories based on new and classic comic books. A genre of literature distinctive for its extreme art fused with text, the graphic novel format is a visually-stimulating way to illustrate a compelling story.
Liefeld knew that Hotsenpiller’s ideas and storytelling ability would go beyond a Christian audience and the graphic novel presentation would be the perfect packaging to not only get their message across, but also reach the mass population in a relevant way. In developing the characters, both creators had the intention of not making it a solely “Christian” comic book, falling in the genre of “The Left Behind” series that followed believers around while the world fell apart.
Reaching a larger audience
“We quote scripture in the graphic novel and use the Bible as a historical artifact,” Hotsenpiller explains. “The ultimate goal is to entertain, enlighten, and get young people to start asking questions and to stop ignoring the signs pointing to what lies ahead. We want to reach a larger audience because that’s what we’re called to do as Christians.”
This is the main reason for “Armageddon Now: World War 3.” What’s truly unique about this story is how Hotsenpiller and Liefeld implement astronomy, chemistry and other scientific methods to support and inform. You’re immediately introduced to larger than life characters‚ figuratively and literally. Liefeld’s style is known across the industry for the way he draws his characters, often exaggerating muscles and bending the rules of anatomy.
The first installment has received rave reviews from young readers in both the Christian and mainstream groups. Young people are already responding by asking questions, starting discussions, and diving into the next installment of the series, “Armageddon Now: The Beast,” which was released this past Labor Day weekend. There will be a total of seven books in the entire series, plus additional books featuring back-stories on many of the main characters.
“We are pouring so much information and truth into these stories,” Hotsenpiller adds. “Young people, both Christians and nonbelievers, will benefit from reading these books. Both Liefeld and I believe that we were called to create these books not only for the current Kingdom, but to use as an unconventional tool to reach the rest of the world.”
John Welches is an award-winning writer and owner of the branding firm J. Welches and Associates, Yorba Linda, CA. [www.jwelches.com]
For more information on the “Armageddon Now” series, Hotsenpiller and Liefeld, visit www.ArmageddonNow.net.