Religious comic books aren't unusual. While you may not see them in your local comic book shop, they are out there and they've been very successful. Our own Steven Grant wrote the comic "The Life Of Pope John Paul II" back in 1982 for Marvel, a huge seller at the time. IDW Publishing hopes some of that success rain's down on them next year when they release "The Bible: Eden," a comic that was originally serialized in, of all places, Penthouse, an adult magazine. Written by Dave Elliot and Keith Giffen with art by Scott Hampton, this will be the first time "The Bible: Eden" will be seen in one complete collection.
"The book is called 'The Bible: Eden' purely because the majority on the book is taken up by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden," series writer Dave Elliot told CBR News Thursday. "People always think they know the story of what went on in the Garden, but most people still talk about Eve giving Adam the Apple. Nowhere in the Bible does it say 'apple,' it just talks about the forbidden fruit. Scott went out of his way to make the fruit like nothing that has ever been seen before."
The creative team was careful to keep the story within the comic as faithful to the original biblical tale as possible.
"The intention was to not take any liberties with it at all. We all feel that it is very faithful as to how we saw the word of God. The only thing I felt explaining was a few obvious (at least to me) things, such as we all know that Adam was the first man and that Eve was the first woman, that God created them whole... as adults. So in that case, they never had the whole parent experience and if they didn't have that, didn't experience childhood, how would they react to having a baby, let alone how Eve would have any idea of what was happening to herself."
As we said earlier, this comic was originally serialized, six pages a month, in the back of the Bob Guccione owned Penthouse, the very same magazine that posted nudes of Vanessa Williams that led to her ouster as Miss. America as well as video captures of Tonya Harding on her wedding night. It's not exactly the first place you'd expect to see a story like this and you'd probably expect it to have an adult spin, but it doesn't.
"The 'adult spin' was that we wanted to keep it faithful to the Bible. Every version that even tries showing pictures plays it safe and puts a kid friendly spin on it. Our version is The Bible. People may be offended that we don't have bushes and branches or birds flying across the panels to cover the two of them, but the story is accurate and no one should take offense."
The question remains, why do this story and why/how Penthouse?
"The idea of doing an illustrated Bible has long been of interest to me, but I always wanted to do it properly and with the right creative team," continued Elliot. "The Bible has everything you could possibly want. Adventure, action, romance, love, betrayal, and a strong morality to it. As the comics and cartoon editor for Penthouse I pitched it to Bob Guccione for inclusion in Penthouse magazine (that always had a long history of running comic strips) I told him just that. We didn't need to add to it or make anything up, just depict it exactly as it is in the Bible, because that hadn't been done before. So he agreed. The story of Eden was just perfect to start it all seeing as the sexual elements were all there.
"Scott Hampton was always my one and only choice for it. I'd worked with him on A1 and Penthouse Comix before and was comfortable doing so. I felt this was a perfect venue for his talents. We both agreed that we wanted to do this with the Hal Foster 'Price Valiant's' in mind. Big panels, captions and no word balloons or sound effects.
"Although I started the project, I initially felt that I should act as editor on it and asked Keith Giffen to write it. After six months Keith was getting so much work that he had to leave the strip, but by that time I felt confident that Scott and myself could take it over between us."
Reaction to the work being published in the pages of Penthouse was met with intense curiosity. What would these guys do with the story? Once people saw how they handled the story, any fears they had were allayed.
"I think that many people held their breath thinking that we were going to produce some pornographic version of the Adam and Eve. You could almost hear them ask, "What will they do with the snake?" So when it came out it was almost an anticlimax. They did get a few death threats and extremist hate mail, but nothing serious. It got some positive discussion on independent radio and some great reviews."
While reaction was mostly positive, there were internal problems that hampered the series.
"It ran for twelve issues and I think Bob was disappointed that we were being so faithful," said Elliot. "There was a couple of times he asked for things that just never happened or even to start using well known movie stars and politicians in certain roles, to make it more political satire, but we disagreed, so he asked us to stop after a year. Scott Hampton had the foresight to make sure that he kept his rights on the material should Bob cease publication at anytime. Scott had turned down some big jobs to make this commitment so we made one back. If we stopped publication within three years, all rights would revert to Scott, at that point Keith had already left the strip, so Scott is the one who actually owns the material, I just helped find a publisher to reprint it."
And find a publisher they did, IDW Publishing, the same company made famous for books like "30 Days of Night," "CSI" and the upcoming "The Shield." But what made them the right choice?
"IDW seemed the perfect company to take it to. They were doing some very different projects where the only common element seemed quality. Scott's artwork made it an easy sell.
"With everything being done digitally these days, I just sent Scott the files on disc. After IDW said they wanted to do the book, Scott asked me if I'd help him put it together which I was only too happy to do so and took the chance to be able to rewrite it as a collection and not a serial. There has been no problems putting it together, Jeff Mariotte, Ted Adams and Robbie Robbins (the books designer) have been a dream to work with. No wonder everyone wants to work with them."