A graphic novel featuring the Christian rock band Skillet is coming from New York City-based publisher Z2 Comics on Aug. 27. Eden: A Skillet Graphic Novel is the latest project from the indie press, which focuses on a variety of graphic novels that each have a musical connection. Set in the future, the story takes place during an environmental crisis that includes the emergence of demonic creatures, and characters John, Korey, Jen, and Seth must learn that personal sacrifice is the only way to safety. The original concept and theme for the book started with John Cooper, Skillet’s frontman, who describes the story of survival, determination, and faith as an extension of the band’s music.
What is your background with comics?
I love comics. I grew up in the ‘70s with an older brother who loved comic books. I probably loved the characters before I loved the books, but I had Spiderman “underoos” and loved superheroes like Captain America and Ironman. As I got older, I fell in love with the stories in comics, the pictures, good vs. evil, and I started believing in these characters. Spiderman being this average, nerdy person, Peter Parker, yet he had great power. All of that stuff worked my imagination.
How did the idea for a graphic novel about Skillet come about?
It’s always kind of been a dream—I had lots of little ideas for fiction books but never would have done anything with the concepts. The publisher approached us, I think because I’m so vocal about my love for comics—I even have a leg tattoo of Marvel characters. This would very much be my brainchild and I’m really excited.
Can you talk a little about the main characters and the inspiration behind the story?
When I got on the phone with the writers [Alex Paknadel and Dan Watters of Random Shock Studios], I was able to throw out what I imagined it would look like. I talked about science fiction books, TV series, and movies like 24 and H.G. Wells, and obviously the band would be in the book [illustrated by Chris Hunt], but not in a band. Korey and I are married like we are in real life, and she’s a voice of wisdom, which is also true to life. It was cool to make Jen a little bit of a cyborg, bringing in a psychological aspect. And [readers] get to know and love Seth’s character; he brings a serious moral conviction and is quite brave, really. A lot of the moral decisions are up to my character. It’s tricky: when writing yourself into the book, you have a tendency to write something you’d want to be, but it’s not really you. Choices have to be made and each has negative consequences. Would I be comfortable doing some of these things, like torture and using bombs—bad things for a greater good?
How does Eden serve as an allegory for faith?
The greatest science fiction always has at least some philosophical overtones—like Blade Runner, one of my favorite movies. I didn’t want this to be a Christian or a religious book, but one with messages I believe in. The overarching idea is that there is a better life available. We are living in a tumultuous place and time, and we can do good and bad, but we can hope for a better life—a light at the end of the tunnel. In the book, there’s a prophetic dream of a purple door where [the characters] can find peace. It’s based on yearning hearts that long to go back to Eden, or a simpler time without sin, chaos, pain, and asks, how do we get back there?
How do comics fit your conception of music or art?
Between music and comics, I’ve always loved the messages that can captivate us. Comics can change our point of view of the world, and art speaks to a time period, but the influence of artwork lasts long after artist is dead. The power of it has always spoken to me, and I always share my faith and the things I believe [in my music]. Some people don’t think those go together, but for me they always have. Some people’s conception of Christianity is that it’s about conforming to a certain set of rules, and that listening to rock music, tattoos, and things like that are [off-limits], but I never believed any of those things. Christianity is about your heart.
What do you want fans to take away from Eden?
First of all, this might sound trite but I’m being totally honest: I hope that people really enjoy it. I have two teenage sons, and one loves comics. A lot of comics he wants to read, I’m not comfortable with—the violent and sexual, borderline R-rated content. [It’s like] Skillet’s music: parents don’t mind their kids listening to it. We don’t use the F word like a lot of rock bands. [Eden] feels wholesome, yet exciting and adventurous, like enjoying a Marvel film with kids as an outlet to imagination. And the second thing would be that life can be what you make it. Humans are capable of really horrible things, but they’re also capable of great things, and we should ask ourselves, who do we want to be?