Captain America, the Silver Surfer, Black Panther, Flash, Batman, Aquaman—and now Joseph Smith. These are some of the epic characters artist Sal Velluto has depicted in his career.
But how does a Marvel and DC comics artist end up working on a graphic novel that tells the story of the First Vision?
The genesis of the project came in 2003 when Andrew Knaupp wrote a script for a graphic novel that harmonizes and depicts the various accounts of the First Vision. Knaupp—who has worked as a writer, art director, designer, and producer of faith-based graphic novels that depict the Book of Mormon—wondered what it would be like to turn modern-day Church history into a visual medium.
"Having been a fan of visual storytelling through comics, I always felt it would be a powerful medium for telling the story," Knaupp says. It wasn't until a decade later that Knaupp met Sal Velluto—who illustrated life stories from Joseph Smith's life for The Friend in addition to his impressive list of Marvel and DC credits.
As the 200th anniversary of the First Vision approaches next spring, these two creators decided it was time to put this idea into action, and the two have begun collaborating on Pillar of Light.
"We were both very interested in telling this story in a way that had not been done before in the previous films or story adaptations. We wanted to include details contained in the four official accounts that haven't been portrayed visually before. This included the presence of angels, the difficult battle with Satan, the influence of [Joseph Smith's] mother's personal testimony of her near-death experience, and the physical nature of the pillar of light," Knaupp shares.
And the best part is the entire book will be available online for free. "So many young people learn from and are drawn to the graphic novel illustrated format. It is a powerful way to teach," Knaupp says, explaining why the creators want this novel easily available and accessible to everyone. "We are excited to do a telling of the story that will reach people young and old in a new and profound way. We want to inspire the youth and to build their testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith."
About the choice to include details from several of Joseph Smith's accounts of the First Vision, Knaupp says, "This project has the purpose to show, with words and pictures, that all the accounts not only harmonize with each other but provide details, often overlooked, which make the story amazingly real. Given the sacred nature of the subject matter, particular attention has been given to present certain aspects of the story in a very respectful way."
In order to make this product free and available for all who want to enjoy it, Knaupp and Velluto are raising funds through GoFundMe. Once the project is finished, they plan to raise money to create printed versions of Pillar of Light for families to enjoy.
Check out the beginning pages of Pillar of Light below or view it here.