Ralph Sanders in his studioI have always admired wordless graphic narratives, editorial cartoons and illustrated characters of all ages in comic books and in classic literature. So I was inspired to create a graphic novel of John Bunyan’s 1678 Christian allegorical text “The Pilgrim’s Progress”.

I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Texas Tech University and a Master of Fine Arts from East Tennessee State University. My teaching experience is at the college level for many years in the South and in Appalachia – the area of the United States with the richest traditions of storytelling and folk art. These forms came with Scots Irish and Irish settlers and have had a strong influence on me. In the past few years I have been creating my own way of storytelling using a graphic novel approach. My current work on Pilgrim’s Progress is really just storytelling.

Graphic Novel for Our Present, Technological Age

My goal with this graphic novel was to use a series of illustrations that present an unambiguous message which impart emotional impact to an old story, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. I wanted memorable characters and scenes with which a reader today could quickly grasp the timeless narrative in Pilgrim’s Progress. I chose common, everyday words and phrases that transmit the message with a high level of immediacy.

They reflect our present technological age in which all resources are always open for search and acquisition, where everything in life involves a monetary transaction and where we are constantly in touch with new creations. Everyone is always online either literally or in some other personally chosen or socially inevitable sense.

John Bunyan’s story reflects an English view on humanity 337 years ago. I feel that people are basically the same today, although technology certainly has changed. The original storyline still has meaning through its societal and biblical references that highlight the common thread of the human experience.

Pilgrim, the motorcyclist, is my everyman. Visually, he is usually secondary to other characters and the settings, but he functions, nevertheless, as the unifying element of the storyline; we are on his journey. He travels a road in a near future as I imagine it and I make observations on the economy, labor, politics, religion and war with each frame and page. He is, like Christian in the original story, traveling because his name has been called, and he knows he has to go. Staying in “Destruction City” will accomplish only what that city is named for: It will destroy him. The Pilgrim travels the “King’s Highway” by motorcycle; the route is lined with doors to “Hell” in cities, shopping malls, gas stations, churches and farms. Each crossroad shows the various fates should a wrong turn be made. The road eventually leads to “Home”: from the “Temporal” to the “Eternal”.


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