Drawing the Bible’s super heroes


MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Wednesday, September 16th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re so glad to have you along today. Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: animating Scripture.

Some of America’s most famous heroic characters are brought to life in comic books and comic strips: think Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Captain America, Spiderman … and the list goes on. 

Well, ten years ago, a new comic book came out that centered around a much more important hero. One who didn’t use might to make right.

BASHAM: The comic book is called the Action Bible and it tells the story of Jesus from the creation account to His death and resurrection. So far, it’s been translated into more than 30 languages and has sold well over a million copies in the United States. WORLD’S Sarah Schweinsberg met up with the illustrator.

CARIELLO: Let me show you something. 

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: Like many garages, Sergio Cariello’s has a good number of boxes. But these aren’t packed with old tax returns, family photos, or birthday cards. 

These contain Cariello’s comic drawings. 

CARIELLO:  This is the Action Bible right here. All the originals. 

SCHWEINSBERG: How many: 750, 750 pages.

Pages of battles, miracles, romance, sacrifice, prophecies, and instruction. The Bible, told through comics. 

Each page has several illustrations on it, adding up to thousands of individual drawings that started as simple pencil sketches. Once Cariello was happy with the rough drawings, he had to trace each one with ink. 

CARIELLO: We don’t want the pencil to show through. So we erase the pencil and the ink will remain.

Then he enlarged, scanned and emailed each layout to the publisher. All-in-all, the process took more than three years. 

CARIELLO: 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. 

The project was a dream come true.

Sergio Cariello was born in Brazil, but he grew up loving American comics.

CARIELLO: Whenever I wanted to read American comics, I will go to the local airport and read the the original English, colorful comic books.

He also learned to create his own. 

CARIELLO: My brother and I, we would fill you know every piece of paper with our scribbles and sometimes we will draw on the walls, on the furniture…

Cariello dreamed of coming to the United States to study and work for comic studios like Marvel or DC. 

When he was 20, a Bible college in Dover, New Jersey, gave him a scholarship. There, Cariello covered the rest of his tuition by drawing caricatures of students. 

CARIELLO: I had made a big sign here. Have your caricature, 1 minute caricature drawn by Brazilian artist for only $3. 

Then he attended a graphic art school. There he landed an internship with Marvel Comics. Marvel liked his work so much, they hired him to freelance. 

CARIELLO: So I got work to do Daredevil and Spider Man and Conan.

Not to be out done, DC picked him up too. 

CARIELLO: Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern. 

With those experiences under his belt, publisher David C. Cook approached Cariello about creating the Action Bible. 

Cariello said he wanted to use the style that made DC and Marvel comics so popular: action. And action is created by what Cariello calls dynamic drawing. 

CARIELLO: You feel the emotion by making the figures pop out of the page with a choice of angles, and choice of poses, even exaggerating the pose a bit more from reality to make it really pop. And thus, we marvel at it, right?

Back inside his house, Cariello’s small office looks like a toy museum.

CARIELLO: I’m a big little kid. 

The office is filled with figurines of superheroes, animals, a sword, and even a donkey’s jawbone. 

CARIELLO: I use it to draw, Sampson, and I wanted to know how somebody would hold a Jawbone in his hand, to kill 1,000 Philistines

Today, Sergio Cariello no longer uses a pencil. He draws on a large digital pad with an electric stylus. 

CARIELLO: I have this little guy here. He helps me a lot.

He sits in his office chair and holds a figurine of a man in his right hand and draws with his left. 

CARIELLO: See he moves and stuff.

He stretches out the model’s arms and starts to sketch. 

AUDIO: [SOUND OF STYLUS]

CARIELLO: And I can take pictures or just pose them in a way that I know how to draw them. 

But sometimes knowing what to draw is more difficult than knowing how to draw it. Figuring out how to convert the words of Scriptures into pictures that would make those words clear was a challenge. 

CARIELLO: Whenever I don’t know what to do, I just asked the Lord, you know, what would you have me do here? And sometimes  I just open a good book from art, and start flipping the pages, and my juices start, you know, pumping again and oh, I know.

Cariello creates a fresh page on his drawing pad. He starts sketching the fight between David and Goliath. 

CARIELLO: So right off the bat, you see a big foot of a giant. And you see that David is much smaller. You want to convey in a story that we are dealing with a small guy fighting a huge guy, and we want to show that in a drawing. 

After he finished drawing the Action Bible, Carellio worked with artists to color the comics. Sometimes people have criticized the way characters look. For instance, Jesus has brown hair, brown eyes and fairer skin. 

Cariello says while it’s important to portray historically accurate characters, getting caught up too much in physical attributes misses the point. 

CARIELLO: I’m not saying that the way I drew him is exactly the way he is. I’m saying that God uses our gifts when we present it in a way that we are glorifying him. So he anoints it and uses [it] regardless of us.

This month, the Action Bible publisher is releasing a 10th anniversary edition. 

Sergio Cariello says he believes the Action Bible continues to attract an audience because many people are visual learners. They also love a good Superhero story. And it doesn’t get better than the Bible. 

CARIELLO: It was a little bit different than drawing Batman and Captain America. Because all of those superheroes are for entertaining, but the Bible is not only for entertaining, but it’s for life changing.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg in Holiday, Florida.


(Photo/Sarah Schweinsberg) Sergio Cariello

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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One comment on “Drawing the Bible’s super heroes

  1. Judith Jamison says:

    I was somewhat skeptical about the Action Bible until I learned that Voice of the Martyrs uses it in outreach to children and their semi- or illiterate parents in places like Colombia. I have now purchased a copy and used it extensively with my five year old grandson, who spent two days every week with my husband and myself during the COVID-19 shutdown, as his parents were considered essential employees and his preschool was closed. It was such a blessing to share with him, and we were also careful to explain that it doesn’t contain every single word of the Scripture, but is a faithful retelling. For helping introduce God’s Book to a very energetic little boy, it’s great.I must add that his parents are believers and have been faithful to teach him about Jesus and were attending church regularly until the shutdown, so it wasn’t his first exposure to Christian doctrine and narrative, but it definitely engaged his attention. Now that he is back in preschool, I have given it to his family to enjoy, and when I took care of him on a recent Saturday he asked to read it again. In this day and age when our traditional Judeo-Christian culture is no longer dominant and our children don’t get the exposure that was once mainstream, I think the Action Bible is a valuable tool.

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