Creative Christian Moments
“Reviews of up and coming Christians in the arts community.”
Blog Article 48: Interview with Clint D. Johnson, Author/Comic Artist of Matthew Cross: Faith Walker
I once had a friend tell me a tale about how he had thought up an idea of expressing the Gospel message in a comic. The pastor laughed at him and stated God could never use such a literary device to reach people with the Gospel message. Twenty years later…there is a massive move of revival within comic/manga culture as artists and storytellers arise developing the stories of the Bible in comic and manga form by well known authors who work in DC, Marvel, and independents but are Christians. Clint D. Johnson has pioneered in this community for the last twenty years and has begun to see the fruit of his faith fulfilled before his very eyes.
Johnson’s own work entitled Matthew Cross: Faithwalker recounts the titanic tales of superhero Faithwalker as he rids the city of Los Cosmos from the demonic forces of Ba’al and Chain, Priestess Intoxica, the Sin Assassins, Judge Jonah, and other nefarious villains.
I’ll be honest, when it comes to Christian superheros I am a BIG skeptic because I personally feel the Christian writing community creates very cardboard cut-out characters with cheesy dialogue and scenarios reminding one of a 1950s TV Land television show. Many of the characters I have encountered over the years are completely unrealistic. Faithwalker is the polar opposite of my previous statements. Johnson weaves whimsical usage of the Word of God within his character’s dialogue; fills the pages with action packed scenes worthy of the glory years of comics from the 1990s; and confronts heart aching issues all comprised within in five short stories, equaling one graphic novel. As the reader opens the very first page, the Holy Spirit splashes one with His presence.
How would I describe the hero of Faithwalker? Blend your pastor and Gambit together and you produce him. Faithwalker, Matthew Cross, is a pastor by day but at night, dons a superhero’s outfit as he flies through the city of Los Cosmos to battle the forces of darkness seeking to prey upon the innocent. The first story, “Sin Assassins,” introduces us to Faithwalker as he combs the night sky, like Batman, confronting the Sin Assassins (different sins epitomized in skull-like henchmen). The next story and my personal favorite “Deliver Us from Evil” has Faithwalker, joined by fellow hero Lady Virtuous, take on Ba’al and Chain as they dismantle a human trafficking ring. Johnson drew my attention deeper into the anthology as he tackled the gritty darkness of human trafficking within a believable story context. The third story “Sins of the Father” has Faithwalker fighting against ex-judge Jonah Wilson as he kidnaps a convict and his son to punish them both from the past crimes of his father. Johnson bluntly and unapologetically tackles the issue of stereotyping children within the criminal mistakes of their parents. “Smoke and Mirrors” is next as Faithwalker, Mercy Maiden, and The Chaplain infiltrate a new age cult run by Priestess Intoxica as she manipulates the locals for personal gain. The last story, “Keeper of the City” has Faithwalker process his own superhero calling while battling a group of thieves.
Overall, Johnson’s graphic novel is an outstanding read. Every page kept me on the edge of my seat. I hope he creates another very, very soon. But this blog post is not over yet. Why not check out the email interview below to learn more about Johnson’s personal calling to comics as a personal evangelism tool?
Clint D. Johnson: Thank you Barry for giving me the opportunity to share with your audience the creativity that God gave me to share.
Barry Irwin Brophy: For those who may not know about you, could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started drawing comics?
Clint D. Johnson: My name is Clint D. Johnson and I was born and raised in Los Angeles where I went to Trade Tech College and received my Associates of Arts degree. I love movies, cartoons and I use to be a hip hop artist in my early twenties. I’m a pretty laid back guy who loves poetry, laughing and talking. I’ve been active in ministry at least half of my adult life from starting as an usher to becoming a licensed minister. I’m passionate about my relationship with God and with my family. I’m very passionate about being creative.
My initial inspiration came when I was about 7 or 8 and someone in the neighborhood threw away a box of comics. I saw Richie Rich, Sergeant Rock, Batman, Archie and a variety of books that took my imagination by storm. That soon became my favorite art form. Like most kids I started to draw what I saw. I began making short stories and I would take an 8 ½” by 11” sheet of paper, fold it and started making my own comics. I have to admit that they were crude but they were the foundation that would later evolve and become the major focus in my life. My mom was always super supportive and she would take my art work and mail it to studios and enter me into contests. The first time I was the cartoonist at my high school. My first comics that I drew was when I was in school and they were about super heroines that were from outer space but that’s all I can say because I am a Christian now.
Barry Irwin Brophy: How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ?
Clint D. Johnson: I had an Aunt that said when I was twelve that I had a sweet spirit and she said the Lord can use me. I already had faith and I believed what the ministers said. I believe in the death, the burial and resurrection and the second coming of Jesus Christ. As like many Christians I strayed but the Lord never let me go. Around 25 years old I went down to an alter call and I was saved and baptized at a church called First Apostolic Church of Inglewood. That is where I met the Lord, got saved and baptized in Jesus Name.
Barry Irwin Brophy: Tell us a bit about your comic projects? Any other projects you’re currently working on?
Clint D. Johnson: We have a project called, Faith Walker Collected, a 100 page volume graphic novel. It features comic strips of my creator owned properties. Matthew Cross, Faith Walker is a Christian Action Hero that quotes scriptures all while fighting the forces of darkness. It’s been a labor of love and mission of ministry for many years. I’m currently working on a cross over with the creator of Spirit Knight, Bryan Mero. I’m in talks with another group doing a cross over with a project called the United. I’m also working on a new title called Faith Walker and the First Watch, a spin off tittle using preexisting characters that are on Faith Walker’s team. Stay tuned for some exciting news surrounding the First Watch. I’m also working with a group called the Christian Comics Arts Society. We are hosting the second annual Alpha Omega Convention which is a Christian Comic Book and Pop Culture event happening in La Mirada, CA on September 19, 2015.
Barry Irwin Brophy: How has God been using your comics to spread His Gospel message? Any stories?
Clint D. Johnson: My most memorable stories are from two great ladies that I’ve come in contact with in the last two years. Pastor Deborah, who has a ministry in the South, found me online and shared Faith Walker with her youth ministry and she uses it as a tool. She also ordered numerous Faith Walker products to bless the community in which she served. There was also a mom we met at Wonder Con named Tori, in 2013. Tori has really great kids. She shared with me how the scriptures used in the Faith Walker stories helped her son direct his day. I’m amazed that Faith Walker is used as a ministry for kids. I occasionally run into kids that are now adults that knew Faith Walker when he was first created 25 years ago and it’s humbling to hear when they say, “I still have my first issue of Faith Walker.” It’s a blessing to be known as that guy that does the Christian comic books.
Barry Irwin Brophy: What do you think are the biggest obstacles within the American Christian Church institution? How can they change to be more effective in preaching the Gospel?
Clint D. Johnson: Division. I come from the perspective that the bible says how good it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. I believe that we are divided like Republicans and Democrats and Crips and Bloods. We don’t assemble under the banner of Jesus Christ as we ought. Be those economic, cultural or lifestyle differences I believe some of our denominational groups become denominational barriers. I don’t believe Jesus is coming back for denominations, I believe He is coming back for His bride, which is the church. I’m not against denominations I’m just citing that it’s a form of division.
I think we are in the midst of a massive culture change and it’s obvious that a lot of the old ways are not as effective as they once were. The message should stay the same but maybe the method should change with the times. We don’t write on scrolls, we don’t get on bull horns or go door to door anymore. We should utilize all the current methods that people are connected to like social media, pamphlets, television and radio. We should also foster relationships and model a Christ like lifestyle.
Barry Irwin Brophy: Where do you see the future of the Christian Church heading given our current environment politically, socially, and economically?
Clint D. Johnson: Judging by today’s temperature I believe that church has a fight on her hands. We can’t afford to be passive when the world is feverishly pushing its own perspective and views. It goes back to unity and education coming together. Scripture tells us to come together as a body. The church can come together to grow and stand. We need a makeover just to go back to what we know to do. We are in a fallen world. Our ideas are different than secular people. We are in the world but not of the world. We have to share the gospel in love. It’s challenging to do that in a world that is hostile to you. But God would not have us do that if it were not possible. We have to be assessable and show our love. We have to live a Christ like existence to the best of our ability.
The bible tells us to count the cost before we build the house. It takes money for everything from pews, to sending your children on missions’ trips and communion cups. I don’t have the answers but I think we should develop and operate as a collective or co-op.
Barry Irwin Brophy: In Washington state, our area is experiencing quite a Christian renaissance revival in the arts. With that knowledge, comicons are quite popular too and offer another area to share the Gospel message. How do you think your comics will influence the coming revival?
Clint D. Johnson: Being an 18 year member of the Christian Comics Arts Society I believe that the comics as a part of the pop culture with the Christian influence has the potential. Christ centered materials is already a great influence of artists, creators, writers and illustrators because it’s the arts. It offers universal appeal and if it’s appealing you have a greater chance of reaching the viewer. If I’m a superhero fan and you have someone leaping of a building I’ll probably stop and look. The generation behind me likes manga. If it has the Asian influence style it will attract them. Or like the ones that came before me like the Alphonse Mucha and George Bridgman. Art is a beautiful tool when utilized to gain an audience.
Barry Irwin Brophy: What advice would you like to give to future Christians wanting to pursue comic drawing and writing as an occupation?
Clint D. Johnson: Like any creative occupation it has its challenge, art graphics and comics sometimes is not viewed in the best light. You have to pray and work. Polish your craft. People like great concepts and people appreciate style. Be engaging in your stories, there’s nothing wrong with sharing about the gospels. I have a friend Melchezidick Todd who is writing a steam punk version of Jesus and the gospel. You have artists like Sergio Carillo of the Action Bible with beautiful artwork. That book is anointed and it’s done his way. There is no one way. Sharpen your tools, read books, research, push, dream big and believe God. I’m not going to say it’s easy. I don’t believe God would give you a talent and not give you a doorway for that talent.
Barry Irwin Brophy: I’ve also encounter many struggling Christian writer’s who’ve just giving up on their calling either through circumstance, unmet expectations, or just downright hardships that prevent them for continuing in their callings. If you were speaking with them one on one what encouraging words would you say to them?
Clint D. Johnson: From Joshua. I would say “Be encouraged.” I am a 52 year old man. God gave me this concept over 25 years ago. I’ve had my share hiccups, of heartaches, road blocks and creative blocks. It’s hard but you can’t give up on what God has given you. God is the Creator and for a portion of us, He issued a portion of creativity and I believe there’s a responsibility for us to do something with it. Don’t give up. The success stories you hear are a success because they had some type battle or block that they had to overcome.
Barry Irwin Brophy: Any helpful tips or practical disciplines that you have learned in your walk with Christ that other followers could benefit from?
Clint D. Johnson: Be consistent. Spend time with God and spend time in His Word. Like any other relationship you have to spend time with God. You have to block out time for him. God doesn’t leave us, we tend to leave Him. You have to be disciplined. Even on your lunch, 10 minutes will turn into 30 minutes, then an hour and so on. That may sound minimal but they add up and you’re building a relationship with Him. Turn off the TV and get off of social media. Let Him in.
Barry Irwin Brophy’s Closing Thoughts
The Christian artist renaissance continues on the west coast and revival will begin shortly with men and women like Johnson within the comic/manga community. Johnson’s unique ministry truly illustrates how the Gospel is going to the ends of the earth. Back in the mid-2000s I often pondered what the Gospel message would look like within every area of creativity one could imagine. As the years past and I grew in my walk, the Lord has led me to this men and women fulfilling this dream. Because ultimately, this dream inside of me was not mine by God’s as I met with men and women using their artistic talents to share the Gospel in the most unique areas of untapped ministry. The comic/manga culture is just one of the many sub cultures yearning for the Gospel truth.
So how can you support Johnson as he continues to write and draw more Christian comics? Why not buy a copy and tell your friends? I knew someone who had a son that was not interested in the Bible one bit, but one day his father saw the Action Bible and purchased it for him. The son could not put it down and he was able to receive the Gospel because it spoke to him in a medium he understood. The same is with Faithwalker and the future works of Johnson.
The Christian comicon is also still in its infancy so you have a ministry or youth event coming up, why not add the Christian Artist Society and the Alpha Omega Con to the list? Let’s make this event eclipse the comicons so well known throughout the states. Continue to lift Johnson up in prayer and I look forward to the day when his drawings will become movies in which the masses will see.
Clint D. Johnson’s Pages
Official Website: http://www.clintdjohnson.com/
Christian Action Heroes Universe: http://www.faithwalkerhero.com/about.html
FaithWalker Sneak Preview Short 1, YouTube, 1:58, posted by Clint D. Johnson, October 22, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Kn413KFSek (accessed August 2, 2015)
Johnson, Clint D., email message to author, July, 29, 2015.
Johnson, Clint D. Matthew Cross: Faithwalker Collected. Graphic Novel. Los Angeles: M25:20 Media, Inc, 2014. Matthew Cross: Faithwalker Collected.
Johnson, Clint D. Portrait. Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10206027617841881&set=pb.1604292583.-2207520000.1438571625.&type=3&theater (accessed August 2, 2015)