Religious superheroes come back fighting in a Manga comic Bible

London, UK - He comes to town as a stranger, a silhouetted superhero ready to save the world. He’s dark, he’s moody and he deals in miracles. He is Christ.

That’s the portrait of Jesus depicted by a British artist in a new, abridged version of the Bible illustrated in the “manga” style, the Japanese form of comic books.

The Manga Bible, created by Ajin-bayo Akinsiku, known as Siku, has earned rave reviews in the Christian community and has been endorsed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who is quoted in the book’s blurb as saying: “It will convey the shock and freshness of the Bible in a unique way.”

Speaking to The Times, Siku said: “I’m seeing him as the original Superman. That’s why he appears as he does, in silhouette and exploding into the scene in heroic poses. I am saying, this is my hero, my superhero.”

The Manga Bibleaims to pass on the biblical message to the 15-25 age group and has already sold 30,000 copies in Britain, becoming the best-selling manga novel in the country.

It attempts to illustrate the whole Bible, from Genesis and the Old Testament to the Book of Revelation and the New Testament, in 200 pages.

In recent years publishers and Christian authorities have seen the benefits of directing Bibles at niche markets in an attempt to make the “greatest story ever told” more accessible to new generations of readers. In 2005 new renderings of the Bible included a translation into text message form as well as a slimline version designed to be read in 100 minutes.

The accessibility of The Manga Bible is aided by the book’s heroes who sound like street-savvy teenagers dressed in the latest Bedouin fashion. Samson falls for a girl called Delilah who asks him: “Samson babes, what’s the secret of your inhuman strength?”

John the Baptist appears like a bedraggled fighter from a video game, and is described as “a lone figure emerged from the Jordanian wilderness . . . fearless and full of attitude”.

Siku admits that these colloquial flourishes, such as when he described Jesus as “the ‘badass’ that kicks everyone’s butt” has caused some problems. “I got into trouble with some Christian forums for talking like that,” he said.

But the Church of England praised The Manga Bible, describing it as “brilliant and clever”. A Church spokesman said: “This will clash with some people, but it’s something many people will identify with too. The idea of Christ as a sort of superhero figure isn’t new. Think back to Jesus Christ Superstar. What’s important is that the message of the Bible is maintained.”

Though young adult men are the main readers of manga, Siku claims to have heard from grandparents and young children reading his book. The novel is meant to be a starting guide for new readers of the Bible. Every few pages, a small tab refers readers to the biblical verses that the scenes cover.

Siku, 42, grew up in England and Nigeria in an Anglican family of Nigerian descent. He has worked as a graphic designer and artist and recently graduated from theology school. He hopes to be an Anglican minister.

The novel has been criticised by some manga fans as being too wordy, because the manga style is usually cinematic. “If you are condensing the Bible into 200 pages, it will be wordy,” argues Siku.

As with many comic books there will be a sequel. His next project is The Manga Jesus, a 300-page novel focusing on the life of Christ. Jesus will be darker and moodier, like Christian Bale in the new Batman sequels. Every good comic book hero needs a side-kick however. The Robin role will be fulfilled by John and Peter, who will provide the humour and light relief.

Siku said: “When you have a heavy character like Christ you need a side-kick who softens the tone a little bit.”

Word for the day

Da txt msg Bible “In da bginnin God cre8d da heavens & da earth.” Thus begins a version of the Bible published by the Bible Society in Australia in 2005. All 31,173 verses of the Bible were translated into text messages

The hundred-minute Bible for the “hurried and harried” generation, was introduced in 2005 at Canterbury Cathedral by its author, the Rev Michael Hinton. All 66 books of the Bible were cut down into a 20,000-word version

The Bible for teenagers, published in 2004, is written in modern idiom and includes a number of extra passages penned by contemporary authors on “youth issues”. The passage on pornography advises teenagers “to avoid the top shelf of the newsagents, [and] pray as you surf [the internet]”

The sexed-up Bible The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, gave his backing to a translation of the New Testament in 2004 in which St Paul’s condemnations of gay sex were deleted and Christians were told to go out and have more sex. St Peter became “Rocky” and Mary Magdalen “Maggie”