Many people draw inspiration from Pope Francis, but how many actually draw him?
Singapore manga artist Sean Lam is the illustrator of the 48-page paperback Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy, which was published last year by US company Manga Hero.
Lam, 35, who has previously illustrated for other Catholic-themed manga such as Pope Benedict XVI, biblical characters such as Judith and St Paul, says that working on each manga brings him “closer to God” and deepens his faith. It also reaffirms, reassures and strengthens him of his decision to pursue his interest in manga illustration.
Working on real life characters provides good life lessons such as how to deal with life and situations as there is a human dimension instead of fantasy, said Lam, who accompanies his Catholic parents to church.
He listed several characteristics of Pope Francis one can learn from. “He [Pope Francis] helps anyone regardless of circumstances or any situations. [He is] down to earth, humble and helpful. These are good points you want to actually learn,” he said.
He says such books are useful for teenagers.“Kids won’t pick up a novel on Pope Francis…kids would pick up a manga...it is a good medium to reach out to youngsters easily,” Lam said.
This 48-page paperback comic book portrays Pope Francis’ teenage years to his election as pope. The full book is still in the works, Lam said.
It took about three months for this comic to be completed, and Lam said that a lot of research had to be done both by him and the writer, who is based in the US.
Lam told CatholicNews that the story would actually come first and by the time the story is half way through, the first artwork would be ready. While the priority goes to the story, Lam said that the “art and story have to go together”.
The art also helps the writer to visualise and develop the story further, Lam added.
Thus, he spends a lot of time online liaising with the writer, going back and forth on the story and artwork, and working on how to flesh out a scene.
Lam says that illustrating each pope is different as they are vastly distinctive in character.
Pope Benedict, Lam notes, is rather reserved and quiet, and has an air of solemnity around him, while Pope Francis is seen as outgoing, approachable, smiles a lot, and looks happy most of the time.
Lam read up about Pope Francis and his past and looked as his photos to “try to know as much of his character” so as to “portray him as realistically as possible”. Through his research, he discovered that Pope Francis is a “pretty easy guy, down to earth and approachable”.
It was enjoyable illustrating Pope Francis, he added.
Although Lam does illustrations for other publishers on non-religious themed manga such as Ringworld, Lam, who is the main artist for Manga Hero, said he looks forward to continue his work on Catholic-theme manga.
For more information on Lam’s works, visit the publisher’s website,www.mangahero.com. Pope Francis: I Believe in Mercy as well as a list of other Manga Hero’s publications are available for sale on amazon.com.
By Darren Boon