Noah's Ark, 1975, Spire Comics
by Al Hartley
They say April showers bring May flowers, so I can't think of a better month to review a comic book adaptation of the story of Noah's Ark. Interestingly, Al Hartley's take on this Biblical tale places Noah and his family in an inexplicably contemporary context -- well, as contemporary as 1975, anyway. With the exception of this modern imagery, the pacing and play-out of this issue's plot is familiar to anyone that has spent any time in Sunday school; Noah builds an ark, is mocked by his neighbors, gathers two of every animal, and watches them drown as God cleanses the Earth with forty days and nights of rain. I'm assuming the contemporary context is a mere feeble avoidance of drawing these characters in the ragtag wardrobe of Old Testament times, to make the tale more approachable to youth. Such vivid imagery certainly could be enough, as Hartley is obviously a very capable cartoonist. His pages are colorful and expressive, to be sure, but by the middle of this issue, every other sentence out of Noah's mouth amounts to "Shut up, guys, God knows what He's doing." As much as this may be true, the repetition became counterproductive, and if I was a younger reader, might even strike me as boring. Therein lies the ultimate challenge when adapting any material of a faith-based nature; as much you want to convey your message, you want to tell an entertaining story, lest you lose the audience before your point is fully realized. Heck, Jesus himself understood this, since his sermons were rife with imaginative imagery to maintain the attention of his audience. Otherwise, he would've drowned the crowd with his message like, well, forty days and nights of rain.
Will this Noah's Ark make a believer out of you? If you want to know my religious convictions about the whole thing, feel free to e-mail me. (Hint: Read Preacher.) Above all else, this issue maintained my faith in comics, which was the only reason I picked it up. The medium is really capable of preserving any message, like an ark in itself. Hallelujah!
Supplemental: Irony -- this issue's cover price? In fact, the original cover price of all of Spire's "Kiddies Christian Comics?" 69 cents. Hilarious!