Sergio Cariello has become an internationally recognized comic book illustrator with Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and many more iconic characters on his resume. Sergio was only five years old when he decided to be a cartoonist and just 11 when his creation, Frederico the Detective, won a local Newspaper’s contest. Raised in the church, Sergio remembers the impact The Picture Bible had on him as a child growing up in Brazil, stating, “The Portuguese version was divided into small black and white booklets. The stories were in a format that I had enjoyed- the comic book- so I just immersed myself in the Bible because I could see the stories, not just read the words.” Little did Sergio imagine that God would bring his two loves, the Word of God and illustrating, together as he would one day be tapped to illustrate The Action Bible, the updated version of The Picture Bible that had fascinated him as a child.
At first glance, the Bible in comic book form might seem to threaten the solemnity of the Word of God. Hold The Action Bible in your hand with the vivid images appearing to leap off the page as the intertwining of text and image drag you through the action and your impression might be just the opposite. The story of a creator that is deeply involved in both the mundane and supernatural details of His creation’s existence seems eminently well-served by the stunning action scenes.
The miracles involved in this version of the Bible are not restrained to those of the Old and New Testament but continue in the present day as Tampa’s Sergio Cariello shares the three year process to capture over 215 Bible stories in over 700 pages.
Getting the Job
Sergio shares how he became the artist for The Action Bible, stating, “In 2005, I won first prize in a Christian competition and my entry was printed in a book. Representatives from David C. Cook were looking for an illustrator for The Action Bible, saw my entry and asked me to do a try-out page just in pencil and to submit it within a week. I was so excited that the next day, I submitted my entry of the story of Goliath- fully colored, inked and lettered. The pages I did are the ones you can see in The Action Bible.”
Realistic is one of the first words that most people use to describe the images associated with The Action Bible. One person, while leafing idly through the pages stopped and remarked, “I’ve always read that Rahab lived in the walls but never understood how that worked until I saw this page.” On the cover, the image of Jesus holding a shekel is particularly arresting. Many are intrigued by the images, but few could imagine the painstaking research that went into them as Sergio turned to a variety of research sources including replicas of the shekels used in Biblical times.
The Research Involved
“Every comic book project that I get myself involved in, I try to purchase props,” shares Sergio. “For the Bible, I purchased a jawbone from Spain so that I could hold it in my hand and see how Samson felt when he killed the five thousand Philistines. In my research, I used pictures, watched old movies, read books, and even referenced the original version of The Picture Bible. I have also always enjoyed studying the Bible in the original language, so that was helpful. Music, paintings, the arts – they are all an influence and act like scuba gear for a diver- allowing me to dive into a subject and to explore more deeply. A tight deadline also helps with the inspiration since we are talking about 750 pages of art that were completed in only three years.”
It is a temptation to envision the artist as only a sterile conduit for the inspiration on a project like this but Sergio is quick to point out that as a follower of Christ, this experience had a life-changing effect on him long before we were able to hold it in our hands.
“I would play music from The Passion of the Christ as I drew and sometimes I would have to stop drawing, kneel down and talk to God about what I was working on because it was impacting me so greatly,” tells Sergio.
Story or Page
“There are many stories that have touched me including Samson. Samson was always in love with the Philistines and the worldly things they represented. He was always attracted to their women and not to his own people and their conservative ways. He is a picture of me- always wanting more. Always pushing to go beyond the boundaries that God has given me,” Sergio explains. ” Often we want more and are greedy and God will pull the rug out from under us to remind us how dependent we are on Him. We have the freedom to go out from under God’s umbrella, but in the end, like Samson, we can say, ‘Let me not die blinded by my sinful way but to realize that I need Your mercy.’ There is nothing better than to know that the God of Abraham and Samson is the same God of Sergio and every person who reads this Bible.”
“Another favorite story is of Jesus in the New Testament when they brought the women caught in sin and He is drawing in the sand. That page was so powerful. I had to stop and worship my God for choosing me in spite of myself as I cried out to know more of His mercy and love and not be caught up in self-righteous behavior,” he shares.
Representing the Breadth of Scripture
“The Bible is very violent and God does not apologize to anyone for its contents. We know that we are dealing with an audience of kids and teenagers and so sensibility also plays a part,” Sergio explains. “One thing that is very important in graphics is learning that less is more, so often the tagging of the scene will do much more than showing the details of the violence. Like Hitchcock did by showing a scene in silhouette, it invites the reader to fill in the information.”
Comicons, comic books and worlds populated by fantasy figures might seem a strange environment for a follower of Christ, but you get the impression in talking to Sergio that there is no better place. He is passionate about his ability to speak to many about what could be termed the “original action heroes.” In an often cutthroat industry with a limited number of assignments available for top tier illustrators, Sergio’s quiet confidence in his “agent”, the Holy Spirit, is a breath of fresh air in a frenzied profession.
as an Illustrator
Sergio shares, “I am often approached by people who are interested in getting into this industry. I encourage people to fulfill their dreams, but I also place an emphasis on finding out their beliefs. I’m able to tell them that if you really want to be successful, you can’t depend on fate, luck or circumstances. Work hard as if it depended on you to fulfill your dreams, but trust God. I try not to be too preachy, but I do try to guide them through sharing how I did it. To me, the most important thing is to know our place in God’s story and that ultimately, we were created for His glory and to bless people. We have to tune ourselves and our motivations to Him and to change our goals and motivations to His definition of success and what He designed us to do.”
“When I draw characters, I create them for a particular event and scene. They can’t say to me that they want to be on page 48 instead of page 111 and the same is true for us. Life is too short. We have to make our mark in a good way so that others can have eternal life. Jesus is the artist of artists and He has designed each of us with specific gifts and talents. You have to remember that 5,000 can be fed by a small lunch. Romans 8:28 reminds that all things work together for the good of those who love God and called to His purpose. When we are aware of this verse and living it, we will not murmur or complain about our lives,” he adds.
Teaching the Next Generation
Sergio has been asked, “Don’t you feel awkward teaching your competitors?” He replies, “Truly and honestly, I believe that whatever God has for me is mine. Nobody can take it from me if I walk in His good works by keeping in tune with Him. If the communications between us are clear, I will not miss the turn. If someone else gets an assignment that I wanted and I am trying my best, I have to remember that God is more interested in my character and His ideas and dreams for us then our own.”
As the interview comes to an end, Sergio’s voice takes on a quiet note of awe at the realization that God has allowed him to have a small part in His master plan to share His story with the next generation, those who would never pick up a Bible in any other form and even those for whom the stories have become almost too familiar. Viewed from one perspective, the Bible is a simple love story between God and His people. Sergio Cariello is a man who has been forever marked by the love of his Savior.
The Impact of The Action Bible
“Recently I was looking at a copy of The Action Bible for the third or fourth time when I had a couple spare minutes to leaf through it. (Holding it) I remembered the thrill and the joy I felt in the creation and the production of this project. Ron Hutchcraft says. ‘We are like boats that cause waves that impact others. Even after we are gone, the decisions that we make today will affect others in ways that we won’t know this side of heaven.’ Drawing Captain America, Batman and Spiderman is great, but all these superheroes will pass, The Word of God will not pass; The Action Bible is the Word of God and we will be talking about the Word in eternity,” adds Sergio.