Interview with Robert James Luedke
Eye Witness: Acts of the Spirit
Reader Views is happy to be talking with Robert James Luedke, the founder of Head Press Publishing and author/illustrator of the graphic novel, “Eye Witness: Acts of the Spirit.” Robert is being interviewed by Juanita Watson, Assistant Editor of Reader Views.
Juanita: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today Robert. Would you give us an overview of the storyline in your new graphic novel, “Eye Witness: Acts of the Spirit”?
Robert: Acts of the Spirit, like all the Eye Witness graphic novels in the trilogy, basically has two stories running concurrently. The first, is a modern day political thriller that features as it central character, forensic archeologist Dr. Terry Harper, (who is affectionately know by the nickname, the Bone Man). That portion of the book takes place in modern day Israel and touches on all the aspects you would expect to find in that very turbulent part of the world…suicide bombers, kidnapping and political unrest. But overall, this portion of the book will present Dr. Harper’s journey from being a lifetime skeptic to his becoming a man of faith.
The second story within the book, takes place in the first century and through all three Eye Witness books, will present the birth and early development of the Christian faith.
Juanita: I understand that this is book two in the Eye Witness Trilogy. Would you tell us about the trilogy and how it came about?
Robert: The inspiration for this project came about through a men’s bible study I had attended shortly after I personally had accepted God in my life for the first time, in 2000. It was a presentation given by a physician that was entitled, “Did Jesus Really Die on the Cross.” Being someone who’s always loved history and not just knowing "that things happened," but understanding "why they happened," I was blown away to see that there was hard scientific, archeological and medical evidence to support the Gospel description of Jesus death and the passion story. I just always assumed scientists or men of high education did not believe, and to hear that there were those who did and even presented evidence to support that belief was very eye opening to me and really solidified my faith.
My immediate thought was, “Wow, someone should present this combination of spiritual and scientific evidence in a way that more people, specifically non-believers, could see it…. especially young people. If I had something like this to read in my teens, I might not have waited till I was 40 to explore my spiritual side.” I though it would make a great comic or graphic novel project, but at the time I just didn’t think it could be marketable outside a very small niche. But the seed of inspiration was planted and over the next two years, I kept thinking about this and slowly developed the concept of wrapping the Biblical information within a fictionalized story and thus make it more appealing to all readers of graphic novels, not just Christians.
In 2002 I began production on the first book, Eye Witness: A Fictional Tale of Absolute Truth, (which from the Biblical perspective focused on the Passion Week). It wasn’t until I started marketing this book in 2004, that I realized that I was called to do much more than just this portion of the story, but expand it to show the readers the results of this incredible event on the world. Thus the Eye Witness trilogy was born.
Juanita: “Eye Witness: Acts of the Spirit” is considered a graphic novel. What is a graphic novel and how does it differ from a comic book?
Robert: To someone like myself, who has been a life long reader of comic books and graphic novels as well as text only literature, it’s amazing that most people in this country don’t really know what the term “graphic novel” refers to. By definition, a graphic novel is more than an illustrated adaptation of work done in another literary form. It stands on its own and is an integrated whole---combining text with visual images, both of which are critical to the storytelling.
The term graphic novel was first used in 1978 in connection to the release of Will Eisner’s, A Contract with God. But Eisner himself, in his book Graphic
Juanita: Your lead character Dr. Terrance Harper is an archeologist at the center of this adventure. Would you tell us more about him and the significance he plays in the story?
Robert: He is the catalyst and focus of the modern day thriller and spiritually speaking is a metaphor for myself. He is a forensic archeologist and is looked upon as one of the leaders in this field around the world. He has become known as “The Bone Man” to the general public, through his archeological specials shown on Discovery, National Geographic and History channels. Through Dr. Harper the story will make it’s transitions from the 21st to 1st century parts of the story, in very creative ways unique to each book in the series.
Juanita: What story of the bible are you conveying to readers in “Eye Witness: Acts of the Spirit”?
Robert: The first nine chapters from the Book of Acts. This covers from the morning of Jesus’ resurrection through Saul’s encounter with him on the road to Damascus.
Juanita: How do you weave the modern story with Dr. Harper, into your in-depth foray with the roots of the Christian faith?
Robert: As a world renounced forensic archeologist, Dr. Harper has been instrumental in presenting a number of significant discoveries that have proven the narrative of the Bible from a historical and archeological standpoint. But he has never found that “trace evidence” he needs, as a man rooted in scientific method, which would lead him to believe in the divine nature of God. It’s through the discovery of just such “trace evidence”, that the reader views the Biblical events as they unfold through the eyes and experiences of Dr. Harper.
Juanita: What significant themes are you alluding to in “Eye Witness: Acts of the Spirit”?
Robert: That there could be many groups or forces in our world, which would either destroy or at the very least conceal, conclusive proof of the existence of Jesus and the accuracy of the accounts of his ministry, as documented in the Bible…if such proof was indeed discovered.
Juanita: Who are you trying to reach with your “Eye Witness” series?
Robert: Primary young adult readers, (teen and above) who not only love reading entertaining stories in the graphic novel format, but also may have an interest in the roots of Christianity, but are not church goers or Bible readers. As a result they may be looking for ways to get those answers from sources that seem more approachable and culturally relevant to them.
Juanita: What are the unique qualities of the Christian-based graphic novel that makes it a good avenue for spreading the message of faith?
Robert: The main reason is, that comics and graphic novels are the number one read format of literature world wide, (outside of the USA). This literary form has proven to be one of the most successful ways to pass on educational, public safety or spiritual information to either new or challenged readers. Evangelical groups and missionaries have used this format of literature for decades, to take the Gospel into cultures all over the globe, because it has a sort of universal attraction for young people or the under-educated.
Just like Christian contemporary Rock music, brought millions of young people around the Globe to becoming involved with God, through a music style that they could easily relate too, so too will Faith-based comic books and graphic novels touch untold millions of readers who are not being exposed to the Gospels currently.
Juanita: Would you tell us about your history with the comic book industry and what inspired you to turn your focus to the graphic novel and Eye Witness Trilogy?
Robert: I have previously owned a pair of comic book retail shops in Dallas Texas and founded Head Press publishing, in the mid 1990’s, publishing a couple of science fiction based titles.
The Eye Witness series is my first foray into the graphic novel format and it was started through divine inspiration, which directed me to use my wonderful God-gifted creative talents to help further God’s word to those who may not be exposed to it currently.
Juanita: What is the process for designing a graphic novel? How do the text and the graphics come together? And, are they all your own drawings?
Robert: There is probably many strategies to go about this, but for me, the story comes first. I sit down and create my outline for each book, then do a first draft, which looks more like a screen play than a novel, since it is breaking elements down by acts, scenes, pages and individual frames. This process takes me about 3 months. Then I begin to create page layout sketches from this script, usually working with 10 pages at a time taking them from sketches through finished pencils drawings and inks. During this process the script usually goes through a second draft, as I make additions, subtractions and edits based upon the space on each page I have to work with. For a book of about 100 pages of text/illustration, this portion of the work will take about 12 months. From there, the finished art pages are then scanned into my computer, then the coloring and the dialog and sound effects are added with Photoshop and Illustrator. During the final dialog/text phase the book usually goes through a final revision, as I make sure the dialog flows smoothly and conversationally from panel to panel. This final piece will take about 3 months.
Juanita: Robert, what do you ultimately trying to convey to readers with “Eye Witness: Acts of the Spirit”?
Robert: By combining the spiritual nature of the Gospels with the historical and social implications of the first century and then wrapping it all within a modern day fictional thriller…I hope to make this story of Jesus and the birth of his Church come alive for the young reader of today, just like the movie the Ten Commandments made the story of Moses come alive for me as a youngster.
Juanita: What is your next book in the Eye Witness Trilogy?
Robert: I am currently doing the background research for the third and final installment, (which at this time is still un-subtitled). It will pick up the Biblical narrative at Saul’s conversion and follow his exploits/adventures through his imprisonment and eventual execution in Rome. This will naturally follow the narrative of the remainder of the Book of Acts, but also integrate a lot of the information contained in the letters he wrote, (which became the majority of the New Testament). In the modern day piece of the story, I will attempt to wrap up all the various plot threads I have left the reader hanging with through the first two books and bring them to a logical and satisfying conclusion. So, this installment will not only be covering the most material of any of the Eye Witness books, but also be the longest by page count.
Juanita: How can readers find out more about you and your endeavors?
Robert: By visiting our website: www.HEADPRESS.info
Juanita: Robert, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. Your graphic novel, “Acts of the Spirit” is an adventurous story that will undoubtedly capture the attention and inspire young readers. Do you have any last thoughts for your readers today?
Robert: I hope this series of books not only entertains and enlightens readers around the world, but also inspires more artists and writers to use their talents to share the story and majesty of the Bible and Christian faith through this largely untapped format. If as a result of my efforts the next J.K Rowling or Steven King of this genre is inspired and emerges with a best seller, then I will feel that my efforts paid off.