I’m a big fan of comics even though the cost of collecting them has kept me from enjoying them as much as I would like. Still, I love to stay in touch with creators, fans, and all manner of interested parties. I recently had a chance to chat with Scott Shuford of the Christian Comics Art Society to pick his brain about the group.

What drew you to comics?

God really called me to support Christians involved in comics. It’s kind of a funny story. A few years ago, over time while I was seeking God about a few new places to serve, I felt a draw to two areas: comics and film/tv. I continued to pray about both areas, and started looking for opportunities to understand what He was doing in those areas. Over a period of time, one of the places I found for comics was the Christian Comic Arts Society, and one for film/tv was the Biola Media Conference. I met a lot of people and companies along the way. For the first year, I just attended to learn and understand about those organizations. In the second year, I volunteered to serve with my gifts in connecting people and ideas through marketing in various ways. Now I’m serving on the Advisory Boards for both organizations. It has been a huge blessing for me to see what God is doing and to be involved.
What titles do you (still) collect?

As shocking as this might be, I don’t collect. I’ve had several friends who collected various series, and I was a fan of a few series that I can’t even remember the names of now. I’m more interested in helping to connect creators and consumers, to see ministry happen through evangelistic comics, and to see culture influenced by story-driven comics and characters.

Are there any publishers folks should keep an eye on?

Christian comics is still in its infancy. The Christians involved in comics are where Christians involved in film/tv were about 10 years ago. There are a lot of creators looking to increase the quality of their work. Distribution is a major challenge. Two of the major Christian publishers, Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, are experimenting with comics distribution. This is a time of growth. I think that God wants to do something with comics. There are some great pioneers out there looking for ways to blaze a trail, people like Nate Butler, Brett Burner, Patrick Scott, Eric Jansen, Doug TenNapel, Buzz Dixon, Scott Wong, Mark Carpenter,
Robert Luedke, Ben Avery, Bud Rogers… That’s not an exhaustive list certainly.

With changes in technology, what impact to you foresee for the medium? What does it mean for the creators? And what impact do you see it having on distribution and the artist’s ability to get their name/work out there?

The internet and social networking systems have allowed any creator to connect to as large an audience as they can build. For the first time in history, a creator can reach out beyond his local area without leaving his house! This has been great as a new distribution channel, but difficult for many because it takes a tremendous amount of consistent effort to reach out and build a loyal following. It would be a lot easier for the creator to be able to sell 5,000 or 50,000 copies of something through retail stores including comic stores, Christian stores, or even mass market stores like Wal-Mart, but that’s not really an option for many at this point. There’s a shift happening with the move to online digital comics and to digital readers, just like the music shift that occurred to MP3 players and the iPod. It will be interesting to see how consumers adapt to and adopt these new technology options. Distribution cost drops considerably with these new options, so there can be a whole new audience ready for comics, or they may decide they don’t like the technology and prefer to hold their comics in their hands. Really, some of both will happen.
What is the CCAS?

The Christian Comic Arts Society
has existed for over 20 years through print publications, conventions, and local meetings. In the last 3 or so years, the Society has really seen a lot of growth, and with the recent debut of the CCAS Social Network at http://christiancomicart.ning.com, there are amazing things beginning to happen as God connects industry people and comics fans together. In just a short time, we’ve gather almost 500 comics pros, amateurs and fans together in one place, and we’re increasing our presence at the various Cons in 2009.

Is there a specific message/platform that the CCAS stands on?

Our goal is to provide opportunities for networking, mentoring and fellowship among Christian comic book enthusiasts and professionals. We are strongly committed to living out the Gospel through both evangelistic comics and through our personal lives as living examples of Christianity as we work in our professions. God calls us all to be different parts of one body. Some of those parts work professionally in the comics industry, some work in full or part time ministry, others are fans who spread the word through their passion for comics. The sum of all the parts is greater glory to God than the individual parts are alone.

How can it benefit creators?

Creators will find fellowship with other creators and fans: collaborators and constructive critics, information and inspiration, and encouragement in their comics passion to be
faithful to their calling(s) for what God has for them to do through their lives.

What is on the horizon for you? What can we be on the look out for from you?

We have a few irons in the fire as they say. I am very excited about the growth for CCAS. I’ll be traveling to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in February, the CIA Summit in March, Gospel Music Week in April, and then at the The Biola Media Conference on April 25th at CBS Studios. At FrontGate Media (www.frontgatemedia.com), we were recently featured in Adweek. As the largest pop-culture media group reaching the Christian audience, we recently expanded our promotions and advertising services to include Social Networking and Public Relations. In first quarter of 2009, we’re making our official announcement about Extra Mile Merch (www.extramilemerch.com), my latest venture in partnership with Scott Brinson, co-founder of Truth Soul Armor. We’ve already created truly fashion-forward merch lines for The Groovaloos who are featured on NBC’s Superstars of Dance, for the tween brand and movement iShine and its affiliated artists The Rubyz, Robert Pierre and Paige Armstrong, for B. Reith (Gotee) and for Matt Brouwer (Indie Extreme), and I’m looking forward to several new projects there as we coach brands and bands, church ministries and companies on how to create and execute a strategic merchandising line to generate revenue and for promotional purposes. For me, all these things are a fit with my calling to help connect companies with consumers in the overall Christian movement.

If you could pick one, what would your super power be?

That’s a tough question! A bunch of things came to mind, but the very first thing was that I would be invisible. I’d love to be able to watch all that is going on and influence it without anyone knowing or caring that I was there.

If you want to make sure that I see your comment or just want to stop by and say “hi”, feel free to stop by my message board. We always welcome new voices to the conversation.