After a couple of years, the creators of iplates have published a second volume of the graphics novels that recount instances in the Mormon scripture “Book of Mormon.”
Stephen Carter, editor of Sunstone Magazine, and artist Jett Atwood have combined their talents to continue the story in “iplates: Volume 2, Prophets, Priests, Rebels, and Kings,” which depicted the story of the prophet Abinadi, who was captured and eventually burned alive by the wicked Nephite King Noah. The story in “iplates: Volume II” recounts the exile by former King Noah of priest Alma, his efforts to start a church in the wilderness, and his pairing with Gideon to try to overthrow King Noah. A problem develops when the Lamanites flex their muscles against King Noah and the Nephites.
Atwood’s drawings are superb, capturing the emotions of characters such as Alma, Gideon and the slothful, wicked King Noah. Using appropriate literary license, Carter has injected new characters into the graphic tale, which incorporates only two chapters of the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 18 and 19. The story, with a brief recap of volume 1 at the beginning, can be understood by those unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon. However, for those very familiar with the scripture, I recommend re-reading Mosiah 18 and 19 just to more easily get into the flow of the story, which assigns emotions to various characters, as well as colorful dialogue.
I asked artist Atwood what went into into creating Nephites and Lamanites and the personalities. The answer was a pleasant surprise.
“There are a lot of cameos of friends and families and Kickstarter backers in the Lamanites and Nephites that appear in the book. My cousin’s son wound up being Limhi because he looked the part and fit the character so well. My King Noah was pretty much a hat tip to Arnold Frieberg’s King Noah. Why reinvent the wheel?“
And yes, adds Atwood, the authors do try to interpret the characters’ personalities.
”Stephen and I have read and reread the chapters we are working on as well as other relevant chapters that would shed any light on who these people are but ultimately any sort of adaption to the Book of Mormon is going to be an interpretation. We try to look at the events of the book and try to get in the heads of our characters.
“There have been times when I have been working on some pages and the script says one thing but the characters pretty much dictate another. There is an entire section of Volume 2 that exists because Gideon pretty much told me that he’d need a much stronger reason for surrendering than the one that existed in the script,” said Atwood. “The characters were doing the scripting for me. It’s a lot of fun when that happens.”
The Book of Mormon fits easily into the graphic novel genre. The material is faithful to the scripture and not disrespectful. It’d be great if these volumes can get into Deseret Book. Those interested in sampling or purchasing “iplates” can go to iplates.net.
Below is an interview with co-author Stephen Carter, answering questions from the Standard-Examiner.
1) Why did you pick the section on Noah, Abinadi, Alma, Gideon, Limhi?
One thing that every writer hopes to find is a trove of raw material that he or she can fashion into stories. Even though the Book of Mormon has 14 million adherents, very little has been done to adapt it into comic book form. And everyone who does adapt it always starts with Nephi (see The Golden Plates, The Book of Mormon Reader, and From the Dust). So Jett and I figured we’d start in unadapted territory: Mosiah 18 and 19. And boy was it fun: Discovering what the motivations of Alma, Gideon, King Noah, Sybil, and Zerin could have been, mapping out their relationships, making Nephite jokes—basically finding the human elements in their characters.
And this particular time period is very interesting, too. Alma is on the run from King Noah, Gideon is planning to assassinate the king, and a Lamanite army is on its way to take over the city.
2) What other sections of the Book of Mormon are you interested in doing?
When I tell people that our next graphic novel will be about Abish, their eyes kind of roll around in their heads for a few seconds as they access their mental Book of Mormon Rolodex. And about 50 percent of the time they finally remember who she is.
Abish is one of the three female characters mentioned by name in the in the Book of Mormon. (The other two are Sariah and Isabel. Mary and Eve are mentioned as well, but they are Bible characters.) She’s the Lamanite servant who gathers the people after she sees the king, queen, and Ammon lose consciousness under the influence of the Spirit. Then she touches the queen’s hand and wakes her up.
Jett suggested that we do a book on Abish, and the more I thought about her and the time period she lived in, the more interesting she became. She was a Christian before it was fashionable (or even legal) to be so. She had a first-hand view of the conversion of the royal family and then of the whole kingdom. She was probably there when her people took their oath of non-violence and buried their weapons. And she was probably there when they were slaughtered as a result of their oath. If she survived the slaughter, she likely went with her people to Nephite lands for protection. She was also probably around when the next generation decided that they weren’t bound by their parents’ oath and joined Helaman’s army.
We have the luxury of seeing these events in a larger context, but she was in the middle of them. What did she think when her people buried their weapons? What did she think when they were slaughtered? What did she think when she was forced to leave her homeland? What did she think when the next generation decided they weren’t bound by the oath her generation had sacrificed so much for?
The dramatic possibilities are endless.
We’re also planning a book that picks up where Volume 2 leaves off, following Alma, Sybil and their people into the wilderness and slavery, and following Gideon, Zerin, and Limhi in the Land of Nephi as they deal with their new Lamanite overlords.
3) How do you brainstorm your ideas of adding characters and color to the comics story?
Our goal with iplates was to make Book of Mormon characters human. So as I wrote these characters, I tried to put myself into their shoes.
For example, Alma flees into the wilderness. Being one of King Noah’s priests, he probably didn’t have much skill for living in the wild. And his entire worldview had just been overturned by Abinadi, so he was also trying to rearrange his thoughts, habits, and beliefs. And then a bunch of people start to believe his teachings and follow him. I can’t imagine that he was ready to lead hundreds of people into the wilderness. So I let the readers be with Alma as he wrestles with these problems, as he wins converts, as he makes mistakes, as he sacrifices.
The other thing we wanted to do was bring a female perspective to the book, so we added Sybil and Zerin. Sybil is a servant in King Noah’s palace, and her sister, Zerin, takes care of their aging mother at home. Sybil helps Alma gain converts, and Zerin tries to keep her mother safe as she flees the Lamanite attack.
One of my favorite things about the iPlates stories is when we can find ways of bringing Book of Mormon characters into contact with each other. In the Book of Mormon narrative, Gideon is a revolutionary who chases King Noah up a palace tower to assassinate him. In the graphic novel, we bring Alma and Gideon together early on, Gideon helping Alma to survive in the wilderness, and Alma bringing together a band of converts that Gideon hopes to turn into an army.
Like I said at the beginning, every writer hopes to find a narrative treasure trove. iPlates Volume 2 has 150 pages and covers only two chapters of Mosiah. At this rate, we could produce volumes of iPlates for the rest of our lives and never run out of material. I hope we get the chance.