Saturday, July 23, 2016

Martin Luther at Comic-Con International

Luther the Graphic Novel

So graphic novels and comics are perhaps the most culturally significant creativity in the present day. If you don't believe me, just google "highest grossing films." 

My friend Rich Melheim knows a bit about comics and graphic novels, and he's at Comic Con right now talking up his new graphic novel, Luther. 

Of all the #lutherancreative work happening right now, the work in graphic novels is particularly impressive. See, for example, Daniel Maurer's Sobriety.

But for this post, I'm going to let Rich speak for himself about his own project. Then I encourage all readers to go check it out for yourself.

The Graphic Novel Luther begins in 1415 with Czech Reformer Jan Hus burning at
the stake and predicting Luther’s rise 100 years later. It runs to and through the
trials and trails of a restless young monk - a brilliant but flawed hero - who searched
for peace at 21 by locking himself away from temptation in a monastery. As a monk
Luther wrestled with God, experienced a spiritual awakening, and was condemned
by the church for questioning the sale of indulgences (certificates guaranteeing
forgiveness of sins). Luther - who’s name means “freedom” in Greek - went to
trial but wouldn’t back down, even in the face of near-certain arrest and death. In
the end, he set the stage for a world where freedom of conscience, freedom of
speech, and freedom from abuse by government would be core values. That one
solitary monk became an annoyance, then an outlaw, then the voice of conscience
and reason for the entire Western World.

It is arguably one of the most pivotal events in the last 1000 years of human history
- the event that ended the Medieval Era and ushered in the Modern Era.
It’s Teutonic and tectonic. It’s 13 years in the making. It will have historians,
human rights experts and educators on five continents debating its significance next
And beginning July 24, 2016 at Comic-Con in San Diego, a hand-full of nationally
award-winning authors, musicians, designers, and artists are releasing a Marvel-style graphic novel, then tearing the story from pages and adapting it for theater stages in time for 900 million Protestants worldwide to celebrate their 500th Anniversary on October 31, 2017.
It’s Luther the Graphic Novel, and the new rock opera Luther the Musical.
Like the current Broadway smash Hamilton, both the graphic novel and Luther the
Musical deal with meticulously researched history AND issues at the forefront of
headlines and people’s minds today:
• The powerful (church and state) abusing power
• Brave young people putting their lives on the line for freedom
• Rich people buying political office
• A looming Muslim advance across Turkey into Europe

For historians, human rights activists, amateur social complexity theorists, and
those interested in ancient clocks, the story of Luther also weaves in a confluence of little-known but significant events that redrew the map of today’s world, including:
• BUYING THE THRONE: Emperor Maximilian spread one million gold piecesinto the hands of the German Electors to assure that his 19-year-old grandson,Charles V of Spain, would be crowned king of the Holy Roman Empire upon hisdeath. Charles later plays the pivotal role in the story as he holds the balance ofpower of the world in his hands and must fight Luther, the German Princes, theKing of France, the most powerful Sultan in Turkey, and a Pope who wants toweaken his power. 
• CONSPIRACY BETWEEN POPE, KING AND SULTAN: MachavellianMedici Pope Clement VII plots with Ottoman Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent andFrench King Francis I to weaken Charles’ power. The Pope told the Sultan he couldtake southern Italy and convinced the French they could take Northern Italy if theybut left him central Italy and helped him bring Charles V down a notch. 
• MUSLIM INVASION: Sultan Süleyman’s conquest of Hungary and the Balkansset the stage for the siege of Vienna and a near-conquest of Europe. Repercussionsof this event still smolder today. It set up the Serbian/Bosnian civil war, genocideand rape camps twenty five years ago. It also drew the path for the massivemigrations along the borders of Turkey, Macedonia and Greece in refugee camps tothis day. 
• THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: When Charles V got wind of the Pope’sconspiracy against him, he captured French King Francis I in Northern Italy andlater defeated Süleyman at the gates of Vienna. 
• SACKING ROME: Charles V didn’t stop with Francis and Süleyman. He orderedhis Spanish, German and Dutch troops to march on to Rome. They sacked the cityand imprisoned the Pope. (Yes, the Spanish Catholic king and grandson ofMaximilian, Ferdinand and Isabella, actually sacked Rome and threw the ItalianPope in jail!) 
• SPLIT OF CHURCH OF ENGLAND: Henry VIII wanted an heir and anannulment from Charles’ aunt, Catherine of Aragon. Charles finally let the Pope outof prison in exchange for a 200,000 golden crown bribe and a pledge not to letHenry ditch his aunt. With no annulment in sight, Henry VIII split the church andmarried Anne Boleyn. Their daughter, Elizabeth I, would rise to the throne uponHenry’s death. 
• DEFEAT OF SPANISH ARMADA: Elizabeth I defeat of the Spanish fleetchanged the balance of power in Europe, redrew the map of the New World, and setthe stage for the rise of the British Empire. 
• THE NEW WORLD: English Protestantism also led to the rise of the Puritans, thesettling of Plymouth Rock and Jamestown Colony, the colonization of much of theEast Coast, and the founding of 100 of the first 105 American Universities asseminaries and Christian institutions to bring the Gospel to the New World and“Light to the Nations” - a Biblical reference.) 
• THE ABDICATION OF THE KING: On September 25, 1555, Charles Vreluctantly signed the Peace of Augsburg with the German Princes allowing thelegal status of the Protestant churches. One month to the day later he abdicated thethrone and escaped to a monastery in western Spain.) 
“Perhaps the greatest irony of the story is this,” says Melheim. “Three years to theweek after signing the Augsburg concessions, the Emperor who couldn’t silence amonk died alone in a solitary monk’s cell, surrounded by a wall full clocks. 
“Tick tock.”

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