Faith Found at Comic-Con
An Interview with CCAS’ Holly Knevelbaard
By Sarah Komisky
For any fan of comics and all things related, Comic-Con 2017 in San Diego was the it place to be. Filled with interesting finds like amazing events, surprise guests, outlandish costumes, and pop culture coffee enthusiast, Comic Con 2017 had another amazing discovery which caught our attention this year – faith. In this issue, Marked Ministry caught up with Christian Comic Arts Society’s (CCAS) Holly Knevelbaard to fill us in on all the fun details at the event including female super heroes, her “extended geek family,” film, and how her faith functioned in it all.
For starters, share a little bit about what you do and how you got involved in the industry?
Holly: Today, I work primarily as a Project Manager for collectables, which means that I am in charge of taking a product, such as a statue of your favorite Disney character, from concept art to the final product you see on store shelves. But since my background in the industry is art/paint I still get to paint prototypes and even create the concepts for some of our products.
I sort of accidentally fell into the world of consumer products after college. I had graduated with a degree in Illustration, which is most often 2D art, but had also grown up messing with model kits and painting in my Grandma’s ceramic shop. After college I was hired for a 2 week temp position as a Prototype Painter. Fortunately they liked my work and this turned into a full time job. I’ve been working in the consumer products industry in various ways ever since.
I know you are actively involved in the Christian Comic Arts Society (CCAS). For those who don’t know, what is that all about and what role do you play in it?
Holly: The Christian Comic Arts Society is a non-profit group of Christians from all denominations who share a love of Christ, comic books and geek-dom in general. Many of our members are artists and writers who aspire to work or already work in comics and related creative industries. Many others are simply fans. Our goals are to create a welcoming environment and encouragement for those who love both God and all things pop culture as well as being able to share Christ with our fellow geeks. We have booths at various conventions throughout the year, a monthly meeting if you are local to Southern California area, and an online Christian pop-culture convention (Alpha Omega Con). For over 10 years now I have been an active member at our SoCal meetings and have helped out at our booths at conventions when possible. More recently I have become a board member of the CCAS and begun assisting with AO Con.
Both Canal Street (upcoming 2018 faith-driven film) and Rapzilla (hip-hop community) partnered with the Christian Comic Arts Society this year at Comic-Con. You were able to attend. What was the partnership like and how do you all want to reach others for Christ?
Holly: I believe it was a very successful partnership. Rapzilla was filming and writing exclusive Canal Street content at Comic Con to help get the word out. Canal Street producers, writers, directors and actors participated in the CCAS mixer and panels. Canal Street was also featured prominently in all the PR materials and at our booth. All of this serves as a great way to get the word out about Canal Street and the CCAS.
I believe that all of us, Canal Street, Rapzilla, and the CCAS want to reach others for Christ through the things we all love. To me, it is more than just meeting people where they are, it is being one of them, part of the group they already identify with and using that shared experience to present Christ in a way that will hopefully be better understood. It is also about the ways in which Christ can be incorporated into and shine through the various creative disciplines.
As you just came back from Comic-Con, what was it like this year?
Holly: It was just as crazy as ever, but in a good way. It can be exhausting, frustrating, crowded and overwhelming but in spite of the lines and everything else I still get a sense that these are my people. My “extended geek family” if you will.
At Comic-Con, the Christian Comic Arts Society hosted for the 20th year the Spiritual Themes in Comics panel. Wonder Woman was one of the summer releases that explored some spiritual themes. What were your thoughts on it?
Holly: It was wonderful to finally see a female super hero lead in a movie, and to have the character be so noble yet still somehow relatable only made it better. But even without that, there was so much to love about this movie; the camaraderie and deep relationships amongst the Amazons, the themes of grace running though out the story, the refusal to sit idle when a wrong is identified, showing how one person really can make a difference when they act by inspiring others to do what is right.
One of my favorite things was the way the final battle with Ares focused more on the psychological battle of ideals and beliefs than the physical battle. I thought that was brilliant because it reinforced the theme of grace and gave a beautiful example of how God’s grace works; how he loves us and offers to save us in spite of our short comings. Mercy and grace to soften and temper justice.
Overall it was an visually stunning action movie that did not shy away from meaningful relationships outside of romance.
When it comes to this generation’s movies, comics, science fiction and fantasy, do you think we are intrigued with good verses evil? And how do you think hope can be found in these arenas?
Holly: I don’t think it is just this generation that is intrigued with good and evil. Throughout history and across cultures humans seem to have always told stories of good vs evil. I think this theme will always resonate with us humans because it is true and it is simple.
It is true because I believe that as a species we institutionally know that there is such a thing as good and evil. Whether we or not we follow it, and even if things are slightly different from culture to culture, most recognize that there is somehow an innate moral code that ought to be followed. For those of us who are Christian we know that this is the truth of God.
I think that stories about good vs. evil are inherently about hope. The hope that good will triumph over evil, that the heroes will be victorious, that there is meaning and light in spite of all the darkness, that you can experience something great, be moved, be touched, learn something.
The open meeting and the mixer at the convention were about connecting as professionals who are people of faith. So, how does your faith influence your professional life, decisions and creative process?
Holly: There has been an art project or two that I have had turned down because it conflicted with my beliefs, or a co-worker that I have discussed my faith with, but usually the influence is not quite so obvious. For the most part my faith influences the way I want to present myself.
As a Christian, how can we have faith-based dialogue concerning movies, comics, science fiction and fantasy with others who are unbelievers?
Holly: Most people who are fans of these mediums and genres are very passionate about them and love to discuss their views. If you have seen the same movie or read the same book it is more than likely you both really want to talk about it! At the same time many of these stories have spiritual themes. Wonder Woman dealt a lot with grace. Harry Potter had themes of sacrificial love. Often is it harder to not notice spiritual themes than to notice them, because our faith is part of who we are and our world view.
So when you notice spiritual themes, I feel it is natural to bring them up in conversation and discuss your thoughts on them. They may have different thoughts or takes on those themes. Listen to their thoughts and options, even if, or especially if you disagree with them, and then maybe you can discuss how and why your opinion differs. For me personally I think the key thing is to remember that this is a dialogue. If you listen to them they are more likely to listen to you and engage in this sort of dialogue with you again.
As a Christian, how do you want to leave your mark on the industry?
Holly: They say that mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery and our God is one who creates beautiful things. I too want to make beautiful things that will brighten someone’s day for years to come. In the process of making these beautiful things I hope that I will always work with integrity. I want to do my job well and when there are co-workers and bosses involved I want them to not only be pleased with my work, but not find it a chore to work with me. I would like to be thought of as an asset to whichever industry I am in.