Monday, June 17, 2013

Thirty Pieces of Silver

There was once a man who betrayed a friend for thirty pieces of silver.
He betrayed him with a kiss.
The friend was crucified.
- The Judas Coin
by Walter Simonson

The great Walter Simonson had the idea to write an original graphic novel chronicling a cursed artifact throughout the history of the DC Universe. What artifact could be more cursed than one of the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas to betray Jesus? The story hops from Roman soldiers shortly after the fall of Jerusalem to vikings, pirates, cowboys, Batman, and finally a space adventure in the far off future.

But before all that, Simonson begins with a brief prologue about the origin of the titular coin. The above image is the first page of the book, and even though there are only three sentences on the page, I probably spent five minutes examining it on my first read through. This page is a testament to the power of one of the unique attributes of graphic literature: the immediacy of the image. Instead of several long paragraphs or even pages describing in detail the betrayal and death of Jesus, Simonson conveys the same information all at once.

We get Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss, Pilate washing his hands before a shackled Jesus, soldiers casting lots for the condemned man's robes, and two images of the crucifixion: a close up of Jesus on the cross, and a wider shot showing all three crosses on Golgotha. But there's more! Part of the beauty of the composition of this image comes from how Simonson eschews normal panels and borders. All the individual images are blended together. The gutter is nowhere and everywhere at once! I'm sure if I dug out Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics it would have a lot to say about the immediacy of the graphic image. However, I just realized I don't even own a copy of Understanding Comics! What kind of Wednesday Theologian doesn't have that book by his side at all times? It's a resource I should keep under my pillow when I sleep! I will certainly have to rectify this failing.

Further, the images are blended non-sequentially. Simonson relies on the reader's familiarity with the Jesus story to piece the narrative of the piece together. He also relies on this familiarity when it comes to the brief amount of text on the page. Neither Jesus nor Judas are mentioned by name. But in our culture and popular stories, mentions of crucifixion and thirty pieces of silver are predominately associated with the story of Jesus. Again that folds back into the nature of stories and the power of stories and all that jazz that you know I love so much.

Anyway, I thought it was an awesome page and I wanted to share it with you, devoted members of the Avid Fan Base.

If interested, you can order The Judas Coin from Amazon, Things From Another World, or better yet, visit your local comic book store and see if they have it!

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