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Comic-Con, specifically San Diego’s highly anticipated annual convention, is no doubt the Mecca for all Sci/Fi and Fantasy enthusiasts, with upwards of 100,000 attendees flocking from all over the world to gather in sunny Southern California for this once-a-year experience of a lifetime.
Arguably the largest multi-genre entertainment and pop culture event in the country, this means scoring a booth is the holy grail for comic book, toy and collectibles vendors alike. As the convention sees its first return to San Diego since 2019 — the in-person event was halted due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — having any notable presence could mean business for any company, of any size.
Sitting not all that far from media powerhouse Marvel in what they call the “Small Press Pavilion” is Christian Comic Arts Society and fellow partner-in-crime-fighting God and Country Graphics. It’s no surprise to anyone that the former [Marvel] has a consistent stream of loyal fans congregating at its massive setup — a well-deserved two-booth arrangement — while the latter two tables struggle to compete for the attention of the expected 135,000 attendees.
But even though they and others like them might be deemed small by the medium, their collective message is larger than life.
Fox News Digital chatted with Eric Jansen from God and Country Graphics and Ralph Miley from New Creation Comics — the two gentlemen holding down the fort at the former’s table — to learn more about the inspiration behind their chosen subgenre and what it means to them to be at “the Con.”
Ralph Miley and Eric Jansen, both part of the Christian Comic Arts Society, sat down with Fox News Digital to talk art, God, and how they work to bring the two together. (Laura Carrione, Fox News Digital)
Jansen and Miley, both part of the Christian Comic Arts Society, met one another at San Diego Comic-Con during a meeting for CCAS, who’s had a presence at the convention for 25 years. Though their partnership is long-standing, this is the first time they’re sharing a table together at the four-day experience already crowding downtown San Diego.
“We’ve had our table, a Spiritual Themes in Comics panel, and we’ve actually had a Sunday service here for about 20 years,” Miley told Fox News Digital. “We decided to put in for a table here, and God was just gracious to us and allowed us to have one together.”
“We both printed our own books a lot over the pandemic and this is the first time anybody’s seeing a bunch of these, so we wanted more than just to be part of the CCAS table this year,” added Jansen, who self-publishes under God and Country Graphics.
“People have this idea of who Christians are and what they’re all about… well, we’re just like anybody else,” Ralph Miley of the Christian Comic Arts Society
Miley, a pastor, described getting to do the work of God through art as his “calling,” adding that comics like his under New Creation has become a sort of alternative subgenre — underscoring a perversive stigma surrounding Christians throughout a multitude of creative media that has existed for some decades now.
“When you talk about alternative press, what’s more alternative than when you share the Gospel?”
“But because we love comic books, it kinda softens the impact when we start sharing the Gospel, because that’s what we’re about: We’re here to shine the light of Christ, to try to bring people to get curious,” Miley explained.
“People have this idea of who Christians are and what they’re all about, but then when they see us here, and we have such a long track record here, they’re like, ‘Oh, they’re not so bad.’ Well, we’re just like anybody else,” Miley said.
Sitting in the Small Press Pavilion is CCAS, a long-standing staple of the famed convention. (Laura Carrione, Fox News Digital)
Jansen explained that while the CCAS table is offering free Evangelical comics to try and bring people into the fold, the God and Country Graphics table is operating like any other comic book vendor would: They’re hoping for a sale, especially because they’re doing the publishing.
“A lot of Christians are self-publishers, because there’s not really a big Christian comic book publishing company. The Christian book stores don’t seem to want comic books, and the comic book stores don’t seem to want Christian material — so on the one hand, we’re just like any small publisher.”
On being relegated to the Small Press Pavilion, Jansen says it’s actually a blessing — calling it the best location in the convention center.
“It’s less expensive. You don’t have a large overhead. For us, we spend a minimal amount, a few hundred dollars for all four days… ” Miley said.
“And get the same experience,” Jansen added.
The convention organizers have been gracious enough to comp them the space to set up shop on past occasions when they couldn’t afford it, Miley said.
“We’ve had such good experiences here with the convention organizers. There was one time where we weren’t able to afford a table, so we’d told them we couldn’t make it. They called us right back and said, ‘It just doesn’t feel right that you guys aren’t here,’ and they comped us a table.”
Jansen says the charity was a result of Miley’s gentile and Godly nature, having allowed him to develop a strong relationship with “the Con” people throughout the years.
“And then dialoguing with them, letting them know that they’re not less than,” Miley added. “From a pastoral point of view, we’re all sinners. Because of that, sin for me as a pastor makes everything an equal playing field. That’s how I approach people. I can’t come at people with an attitude like, ‘Alright then, I’m better than — ’ I can’t. I’ve only been saved by grace.”
As for what the future holds for the gentlemen and their fight to make Christianity the superhero, Miley said it’s all about exposure.
“To have that type of exposure at our first venture together, we’re just thankful for this kind of opportunity,” Miley concluded.
San Diego Comic-Con International 2022 attendees can visit https://www.comic-con.org/ to learn more about this weekend’s tables, panels and, of course, comics, associated with the Christian Comic Arts Society.
Laura Carrione is an Editor with Fox News.