[Interview] Soner Coruhlu on what makes Prophecy Comics unique and build bridges between faiths and cultures
Inspired by his faith, stimulated by powerful narratives, and experienced in cross-cultural products, Soner Coruhlu is the founder of Prophecy Comics – an exciting narrative exploring the ultimate battle between the forces of good and evil.
In an aim to bedazzle his audience on a visual level with illustrations of spiritual beings, Soner believes that Prophecy Comics can inspire others to be conscious of their spirituality.
But can tradition and spirituality be explored in an entertaining and universal way?
I talk to Soner about the powerful concepts in Prophecy Comics, the challenges of illustrating Angels and Demons, and how he hopes to build bridges between faiths and cultures.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Who/what inspires you?
“I’ve always been a fan of both theology and comic culture. Having read my mother’s edition of Texas comics when I was 5 years old, I was a fan of the genre for life. In latter years, I became more and more interested in theology.
Eventually, I took it upon myself to start a degree, part time, in Islamic Studies and also undertook a separate graduate diploma in Christian Theology at Charles Sturt University.
In addition to theological qualifications I hold multiple post graduate degrees in business including: an MBA from the University of Technology Sydney , currently enrolled in a DBA (Doctorate of Business Administration), and plan to finish a Masters in Islamic Theology as well.
A combination of all these qualifications and experience in the realm of cross cultural projects has helped in conceptualization and production of these comic books.”
What inspired the creation of Prophecy Comics? What makes it unique and different?
“At the time of its conception in 2004 there were no other products like it across the globe, at least, none that we knew of. Looking at the way in which the digital era was leading humanity in the area of information and knowledge distribution, it was clear that a new means to distribute sacred knowledge had to also be devised.
This was not to replace the sacred text of course, but was to be a way in which we can at least tap in to an audience that otherwise would never be interested in the sacred text in the first place or for those that would be interested under normal circumstances but are too distracted by that which appears to be more visually stimulating/exciting in the current era. Whether we like it or not we live in a world wherein the majority must be bedazzled on an audible and visual level to be interested in any way.”
“Drama, suspense, tragedy, action and romance are just some of the genres contained within the historical documents of the Semitic traditions”
The intriguing, emphatically mystic narrative of the religious texts is one that has inspired almost every human being since it was ‘revealed’ to humanity. The narrative will be the success and our repackaging of its deliverance will play only a minor part in its acceptance.
Drama, suspense, tragedy, action and romance are just some of the genres contained within the historical documents of the Semitic traditions. It is a great read to the believer and non-believer alike and the focus on moral and ethical excellence, in my opinion, is second to none.
Another aspect with regards to my inspiration in producing such a book lies in the opportunity to build bridges between faiths and cultures. Many are unaware as to how similar the traditions are between Islam, Christianity and Judaism prior to the concept and controversy surrounding the role of Jesus the Messiah (peace be upon him).”
What have been the highlights and challenges of this first year? How did you overcome these challenges?
“Due to the Islamic instruction to avoid illustrating the prophets, the first issue was extremely difficult to produce as it relates to the time surrounding the Prophet Adam (peace be upon him). It was through the council of many scholars that we decided upon a final representation, more so a silhouette of the prophet illuminated by brilliant blue light in some scenes.
The angels and the devils were not as difficult, we simply stuck to the text and made the angels as abstract as we could by representing them as a white light and wearing an elaborate cloak. The devils were represented as a humanoid shaped flame. Prophecy comics brings the concept of the angels back into a more abstract, undefined and unknowable illustration.
The concept of Prophecy Comics is quite powerful and spiritually deep. Who do you aim to reach out to, and what’s the feedback been like so far?
“The sales were primarily through comic book conventions here in Australia and we would receive feedback at these conventions. The most popular and positive feedback we have received relates to the abstract form of the angels. They quite liked the idea that their appearance is more mystical and unknowable than the Hollywood rendition.
A few of my students became my students as a result of friends giving them a copy of Prophecy Comics. They wanted to learn more about the spiritual dimension after being more thoroughly introduced to it via the comic books.
Most of our books have been sold to Christians, atheists, Buddhists and Hindus but very few Muslims thus far. Reaching out to the Christians and the Jews through these comic books will illustrate a common background. Atheists may see, in a new light, why it is we are so passionate about the scriptures, especially when they are reminded through narratives in Prophecy Comics that a large portion of the sacred text deals with perfecting nobility in character, considering the rights of others and the spiritual rewards earned by one who strives to attain humility, be compassionate/forgiving and seeking an elevation in piety. It may even influence them to be more conscious of their own spirituality.
“Producing such a book lies in the opportunity to build bridges between faiths and cultures. Many are unaware as to how similar the traditions are”
The overwhelming emphasis in these books is the illustration of how important it is to overpower the base desires of the human condition and we believe this message will be of utmost benefit to the reader especially in the current, overly materialistic, climate.
Perhaps the most important, relates to our comic books strictly conforming to the religious texts. When reading the comic books, one is in essence reading that which is in the source ie primarily from the Qur’an, the prophetic traditions, scholarly works on religious history and in some cases the Old Testament. Thus, when one reads our books one is reading about theological history, not unlike reading a translation of the original. For example, one narrative in issue one is the following: “Behold, We said unto the angels, we will create a vice regent on the earth” (Qur’an 2:30).”
How were the illustrations of the “Angels” and spiritual creatures decided and finalised? Were there any challenges involved in the process?
“The angels and the devils were certainly challenging. They were redesigned at least six times. After multiple attempts we came up with the final product which was more in line to some of the narratives depicting the angels and abstract enough to ensure the majority would not be offended with the attempt.
One major concern some of our readers raised related to how cool the devil looked. I thought long and hard when coming up with a manner in which to represent the devil and decided to keep the cool look as many of our whims and desires are in fact appealing on the surface. Mischief and temptation is exactly that due to its appealing appearance, the context however, shows in no uncertain terms that the devil is evil and is in fact the unrelenting avowed enemy of humanity without exception.
Angels and spiritual beings are viewed by some as fictional. Will Prophecy Comics appeal to those who do not believe or understand these concepts, and how?
“While many refer to the historical accounts in the Quran to be stories of the past, I like to refer to them as narratives of the past.
When we refer to something as a story there is an inclination towards a fictional element to the text and hence referring to it as a narrative, cognitively, moves us to perceive fact rather than fiction. Having said that, though we believe the narratives to be fact, such a belief is not of primary importance.
Rather, the moral teaching of the narrative is of utmost importance and relevance to the human element of creation. What is it that we learn from such narratives of the Quran and how can we apply it to our lives? More importantly, what are the ramifications on an individual and societal level when one ignores this moral road map?
We pray that people will not be inhibited to read these comics as a result of the book referring to spiritual entities in which they disbelieve. Again, it is the moral of the story we believe has the greatest impact in Prophecy Comics and a force that drives positive change in the reader. Such spiritual entities can be analogically viewed by such readers as simply agents of good, and where the devils are concerned, agents of evil.
“The angels and the devils were certainly challenging. They were redesigned at least six times. After multiple attempts we came up with the final product.”
A premise can be made for further research into such beings if one’s curiosity is sparked and if it is not then the moral of the story and its impact will be more than sufficient in contributing positively to the human dimension of peaceful coexistence.”
Comics are usually associated with just entertainment, but Prophecy Comics is based on spiritual and religious teachings. Do you feel this basis will have the same impact and appeal to a wide audience?
“Yes, it is an exciting narrative. Some of the narratives found in the text are so much more interesting than ones conjured by the figments of many an author’s imagination. The first book introduces hope, romance (where eve is created), conflict, tragedy followed by serenity.
We must remember that the religious scriptures have been the most read texts in history and we are simply representing some of that text in a new way. For those that are believers in the spiritual or metaphysical reality of creation, it will be a good reminder and perhaps a motivation for them to uncover more information through a more traditional approach post Prophecy Comics. Those that do not believe will find that it will either sparks their curiosity to learn more, be a good illustration on theistic morality or at the very least be, God Willing, an interesting story.”
You’ve described Prophecy Comics as an “innovative means for readers to delve into religious history”, and a reminder of “the importance of crushing one’s pride, ego, and evil desires.” How does Prophecy Comics do this, and how does it serve as a reminder?
“The theme of Prophecy Comics relates to the infinite reality of the spiritual composite and the temporal reality of the physical composite. What strengthens the spiritual composite is a selfless approach to worldly ornaments and worldly benefits and hence the reader is reminded of the imperceptible rewards to the infinite human dimension as opposed to the finite dimension.
Prophecy Comics focuses greatly on the devastation that can come about when one is consumed with personal ambition, pride, ego and envy and illustrates this so dramatically with the narratives that surround the rebellion of Satan and in the third and fourth edition the magnanimous level of envy that Cain has towards Abel. The comic books visually and textually amplify the devastation that follow as a result of this envious and egocentric state of being.”
Where can our readers find your works?
“The book can purchased in hard copy with an option to purchase the author/producer’s signature (alongside a personal message) via our website www.prophecycomics.com.au or buy it in digital format on Kindle, iBookstore (Apple), the Android Market or via lulu.com.”
“Those that do not believe will find that it will either sparks their curiosity to learn more”
Any plans for the future?
“We have already begun the next series entitled “Dawn of Idolatry” which will eventually lead to the narrative surrounding Ibrahim (pbuh). God Willing, the series will continue right through to the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Our only demise is the capital to now propagate them across the globe. It is due to a lack of funding that these comics, always praised by those who have had the opportunity to read them and a concept or product that was way ahead of its time (eight years in the making), that we have been unsuccessful in promoting them.
For the most part, many issues have simply been sitting in my garage. With the Will and permission of the All Merciful, we will finally attempt to market them on a global scale but I believe we will only be able to do so effectively with the support of the community.”
Last but not least, what do you think of Sufi Comics?
“It provides great anecdotes to life’s problems and ones that of particular importance in this day and age. God tells us that “only with the remembrance of God will hearts find satisfaction” and Sufi comics certainly assists in reminding all of their creator. The essence of Islam that is captured by the various remedies prescribed by the Sufi scholars of the past make it easy for humanity to understand and apply in their lives. A very noble project aimed at benefitting society and the community which is a duty endowed upon all Muslims, based on their capacity.”
Read about our new and upcoming book: Sufi Comics: Rumi