Here are some great covers from Spire Christian Comics, featuring artwork from former Marvel artist Al Hartley.
First, I’m not posting these to make light of anyone’s beliefs or spread my own. Here at the Illustrated Archives I’m interested in looking into the history of art, illustration, animation and comics - whether it’s the good, the bad, the ugly, or the weird and the strange.
Al Hartley worked for over a decade with Atlas Comics (the precurser to Marvel) and completed one issue of Thor in the 1960′s. He had even worked on a few adult publications for Marvel and feeling unfulfilled he became a born again Christian and then spent the majority of his career drawing Archie’s comics and writing and illustrating for Spire Christian Comics, who published nineteen Archie’s titles by Al Hartley.
Hartley, before working with Spire, had worked on Archie’s comics; often inserting his own Christian beliefs into the stories. John L. Goldwater, Archie’s creator, was also a religious man (Jewish) and allowed Spire Christian Comics to run their own Archie’s comic titles. Goldwater was a huge proponent of the Comics Code Authority; the very strict comic censorship guidelines created in the 1950′s. Publications like Spire Christian Comics obviously thrived under the rules of the CCA.
So last week I picked up a new comic called The Spire
And it’s awesome. As far as first issues go, this one really has what you want: Interesting initial conflict, bad ass sapphic lady loving lady protagonist, weird world building, and fun art.
There isn’t actually a rating on this comic, but given that there’s some mild nudity, some murder, and some cursing, I’d say “Older Teen” is pretty fair.
Sha, our main character, being a bad ass. Yes those are…tentacles?
I see we’re going for a bigotry theme here.
Sha and her girlfriend. (The scene with some ahem mild nudity)
Look at this guy!
Ok, but really. A short synopsis: The Spire is some kind of mega city where humans and Sculpted (various kinds of non-humans) live in a somewhat fragile peace. It’s huge, it’s unruly, and Sha is the police chief in charge. In the wake of the old Barons death and the new Baroness taking charge, a grisly murder takes place which…well, needs to be investigated!
There’s some cop stuff, there’s some representation going on (Sha is a lesbian, we don’t know about her girlfriend yet), Sha seems like a badass: I’m looking forward to more!
Comics are the one thing I keep meaning to talk more about, especially with all the hoops I now jump through just to keep up with my monthlies. (Think being a comics fan is tough? Try buying all of your issues sight unseen from Scotland.) So I figured I’d kick off the conversation by chatting about a couple of titles I’ve been pulling of late:
Mali and Tessa have lived hundreds of different lives throughout time, caught up in an eternal cycle as they take part in a war so old that neither side remembers what they’re fighting for anymore. As Mali wakes up in her newest life, she suddenly becomes self-aware and starts to question everything, especially why she continues to fight. But elsewhere, Tessa is already on the hunt…
Jason Bourne with added dashes of past life regression therapy, We(l)come Back often feels like a paper-and-ink version of those high-concept shows Fox will launch to modest fanfare, then Jimmy Hoffa after a dozen episodes: tough female leads, plenty of action, and an intriguing mythology teased out just enough to keep people hooked. Initially drawn up as a limited series, WB made the jump to an ongoing run almost immediately; whether the premise can keep pace remains to be seen, but seven issues in, this is still slick entertainment.
The Spire is a mountain of metal and stone that rises out of the middle of the desert, containing a vast city of twisting tunnels, grinding elevators, ancient machinery, and is home to over a million human and non-human residents. Shå, the last of the Medusi, is responsible for keeping watch over them as Commander of the City Watch, despite the fact she isn’t shown any respect due to her race. When a string of grisly murders is committed just as a new Baroness of the Spire is about to be sworn in, Shå will have to find the serial killer and bring them to justice.
I’ll admit, I added this one to my pull list entirely off the strength of that first issue’s cover art (see above). Thankfully, those instincts panned out, as this is probably one of my favorite reads of ‘15/’16. A spirited strange-fantasy police procedural, The Spire gets big returns in pairing the charming, off-handed weirdness of its setting with sympathetic characters and some particularly sharp writing (see above, again). And now it’s been nominated for an Eisner Award, so clearly you can judge a book by its cover.
300 years since humanity was brutally subjugated by the alien race known simply as “Management.” Two years since these invaders abandoned Earth to return to their home world. Following her participation in the brutal massacre of human-alien hybrids left behind by Management, resistance fighter Marta Gonzalez declines to join the new human government and starts her own private detective agency instead. When a human-alien hybrid who survived the massacre is abducted for sinister political ends, Gonzalez is forced to confront her own bloody past and acknowledge the fact that the transition from oppression to emancipation is anything but clean.
Alex Paknadel’s last title for Boom!, the ambitious Matrix riff Arcadia, boasted imaginative set-pieces, but a sprawling cast and relentless location-hopping often left it feeling just a bit too widescreen-epic for its own good. His new noir-inspired yarn, Turncoat,is a more focused affair, though not one shy on the ideas, either - its post-alien NYC, astew in fungal infection, bad blood, and conspiracy, is one of the more intriguing settings this year, ably rendered by Artyom Trakhanov’s expressive, appealingly grubby artwork.
As comics continued to proliferate in America, many small, short-lived printers came and went. One such publisher was Spire Christian Comics.
They published biographies, Bible stories, and adaptations of book and movies - like The Gospel Blimp.
What is actually most interesting about Spire is their art, most of which was done by Al Hartley of Archie Comics fame. In fact, Spire was able to publish a few Archie books, and use the characters in advertising.
Alpha and Omega from Spire Comics. When I decided to sell off most of my comic book collection, I didn’t see a great market for the number of religious comics I had. So I decided to give them to a co-worker I knew to be very active in her church. This title almost went with those books, but I paused before leaving it in the stack and decided to re-read it. Let me make one thing clear. I am a religious man, and I have collected a number of religious comic books. I am, however, not an Evangelical and I am a strict non-literalist when it comes to all things myth and Bible. So don’t worry, I’m not preaching any gospel here.
Spire’s line of Christian comic books have reached near legendary status in the world of comic fandom, though not usually for good reasons. The title of this book is very odd as it actually refers to a man and woman who are obvious science fiction analogues of Adam and Eve, not to the famous “I am the beginning and the end.” They fly out to deep space and land on an asteroid that is obviously a new garden of Eden, and are warned by an omnipotent voice to avoid a forbidden red planet. In case it isn’t obvious what that planet is, one character says that it looks “Like a giant apple!!!” Then Lucifer turns up without even bothering to be a serpent and all chaos breaks out.
Even with the strangeness of the characters’ names and Lucifer being little more than a cartoon villain, I still thought there was great potential here for exploring the idea of perceptions of deity. Maybe I’m just weird. Al Harley and Spire were obviously much more interested in getting a heavy-handed “Christian” message across to young readers. Please note my use of quotation marks there. The message is clearly an indictment of secular society and the institutions of science. As far as Spire was concerned, all the ills of the world could be traced to people rejecting their brand of Christianity, and science not being content to explain the wonders of the universe with the simple idea of “God’s creation.” That’s not a message I can get behind.
I decided that it would be irresponsible of me to put this in the hands of impressionable young people. So it remains in my collections as a curious relic.