Today, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to interview our guest, Favian Ee. He is a personal friend of mine who has just authored a beautifully drawn and inspiring graphic novel, “John Wesley: The World, My Parish.” This book is not only a visual masterpiece but also a compelling exploration of the life and legacy of John Wesley, one of the most influential figures in Christian history. I am honored to have the chance to speak with the artist behind this incredible work and to gain insight into the creative process, inspiration, and themes behind the graphic novel. It is a true privilege to be able to share this conversation with our readers, and I can’t wait to get started!
Me: Hey Favian, thank you for taking this interview! Can you tell us a little about your background? How you first became interested in visual art and illustration?
Favian: I started drawing comics when I was very young, maybe even before I was in primary school. In primary school, I was already creating cartoon characters of friends and classmates and decorating my art folios with drawings of my toys or my own creations. I loved creating stories, and in primary school, I also discovered a love for writing, so I guess the comic medium suits me since it is a marriage of both writing and drawing.
However, when I went to university, I studied computer engineering for my bachelor’s degree. I didn’t stay long in the IT industry, though. I went on to study animation for 2 years afterward. Subsequently, I worked as a visual effects artist for a total of about 7 years. After that, I left the industry to be an adjunct lecturer in art and media and a freelance artist.
Me: What led you to create a graphic novel on John Wesley? Did you have a personal connection to his story or was it a topic that simply interested you?
Favian: I’ve long had the wish to create comics about Bible stories or Christian biographies. The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS) approached me to create a graphic novel of John Wesley’s life. It was a dream come true. Were it not for MCS, I wouldn’t have been able to spend close to 2 years almost full-time creating this work.
I can’t say I had a special interest in Wesley’s story, but I had some rudimentary familiarity with it. I grew up in the Methodist church and in Methodist schools in Singapore (even though I don’t currently attend a Methodist church). At my confirmation class, my group put up a skit about John Wesley’s life. In 2001, my dad took my brother and me to England. We got to visit Aldersgate Street and Wesley’s house and chapel at City Road in London.
Me: How did you go about researching and preparing for this project? Did you draw inspiration from any particular sources?
Favian: There were two kinds of research I needed to do:
1) research on the story of Wesley, and
2) visual research.
Thankfully, John Wesley’s life is very well-documented with many primary sources. Examples include his own journals, the journals of his associates, and letters between them. There are also several biographies of his life. However, you may need to discern which of the material is accurate and which contains misinformation or legends that grew up around him. I read his journals and several biographies, took notes, and highlighted quotes that could be used for some of the dialogue and captions in the book.
The visual research was also quite extensive as I needed to represent the look and feel of Wesley’s world convincingly. I scoured the internet and books for images of locations, dressing, architecture, flora and fauna, transportation, furnishings, key characters, etc. from Wesley’s time in an attempt to present something of historical accuracy. Many of the backgrounds drawn are real places Wesley lived and ministered in.
Thankfully, even though photography was not invented in Wesley’s time, there’s still a wealth of visual representations in paintings and preserved buildings and places that can be found on the internet, including the Epworth Rectory and City Road Chapel, and Wesley’s House.
Me: What about your artistic style? Were there any particular sources of influence?
As for influences, many have commented that the style I used resembles Tintin because of the small dots for the eyes. I’ve never been a Tintin fan, but I can see why they think so. Apart from the eyes, I don’t think my style really resembles Tintin.
However, I did want to use a style that is comfortable for me to draw and had wide appeal. Using Manga style for a comic about English history may not have been appropriate or as widely received. Having a more European flavour seems more suitable for this particular story.
Me: Can you describe your creative process in bringing this graphic novel to life? How did you decide on the visual style and layout of the book?
Favian: I had a fixed number of pages to work with and Wesley lived a long illustrious life. In order to squeeze his story into 98 pages, I needed to select parts of his life to focus on.
Thankfully, most biographies already do that, but there’s a lot more material in his own published journals.
So I started by allocating page counts for different parts of the story. I thought about how to convey each part in that number of pages. I used a grid panel layout as that would give me a structure that would be easy and flexible to work with, rather than try and create a unique page composition and layout for each and every page like what you might see in Marvel or DC comics.
It turned out that the paneling style also helped with the ease of reading. Many readers young and old have read the book in a single sitting and found it easy to read. After allocating the pages, I wrote a rough script, transferred it to rough pencil drawings on an A6 drawing pad, then did the roughs, pencils, inks, and colours on the computer.
Me: How do you feel your faith or personal beliefs influenced your approach to creating this graphic novel?
Favian: I wanted to create a graphic novel that honoured God’s servant and the God who worked through him.
Wesley was a controversial figure in his day, and is in some ways still controversial today. Like all of our heroes of the faith, he had his flaws and disagreements with other good Christian people and leaders. Some of these disagreements were a major part of his life and ministry. I didn’t want to shy away from it, nor did I want to downplay it. It’s not my intent to spark off debates with this story, especially since I was doing this for the Methodist church. I wanted people to appreciate the life of a man committed to God and who played a major part in the First Great Awakening, whose reverberations can be felt even today.
Thankfully the consultation team was happy for me to include those parts of the story, including his tragic marriage. And so I was able to present Wesley and his associates as human like the rest of us, rather than some distant untouchable figure.
In some ways, I guess, we can see the dynamic of brokenness and redemption played out in and through Wesley’s life, and the God who works through all things behind the scenes.
In some ways, we can see the dynamic of brokenness and redemption played out in and through Wesley’s life, and the God who works through all things behind the scenes.Favian Ee
Me: In your opinion, what makes graphic novels a unique and powerful medium for storytelling?
Favian: The marriage of images and words makes for powerful storytelling if done correctly. Every medium has its own power and its advantages and disadvantages.
The advantage of graphic novels is that the visuals help us visualise the vision of the storyteller in ways text alone cannot.
However it may not be able to deliver more nuance, and the visual media makes abstract thoughts and concepts difficult to represent. It forces you to be concise in writing and to use images to communicate things in ways text cannot or would take too much space to communicate. A comic that is too wordy can be difficult to read.
One advantage of graphic novels is also that, unlike film which requires a player or computer to watch, books don’t require batteries and are cheaper, easier, and faster to produce and distribute. You can read it at your own pace and put it aside and come back to it later. That’s much harder to do with a film.
Me: What message or themes do you hope readers will take away from your graphic novel on John Wesley? Is there anything you hope to inspire in your audience through your work?
Favian: The graphic novel I created is only a brief introduction to Wesley. I hope people will be inspired to read the biographies of him and other Christian figures that God used over the years and centuries.
The stories of these people show us how they walked with God in very practical terms and the kinds of sacrifices they made to follow Jesus Christ. It helps us see how faith is worked out in real life. We may not always agree with these people in all areas 100%, but there is still much we can learn from each of them.
Wesley was a man surrounded by controversy in his day. He suffered from broken relationships and saw deep divisions in his ministry. Some were his fault, some were the fault of others, and some were both.
Nevertheless, even though his friendships with some of his closest partners like Whitefield and his brother Charles were severely tested, their love for each other remained and triumphed in the end.
We are prone to focus on particular faults of people and lionise our heroes. But all our heroes – be they John Wesley, Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, or John Calvin – had their great faith as well as deep flaws. We lose something if we focus on the flawed parts as much as when we gloss over them.
And yet God’s purposes transcended their flaws and made them what they are.
All our heroes … … had their great faith as well as deep flaws. We lose something if we focus on the flawed parts as much as when we gloss over them. And yet God’s purposes transcended their flaws and made them what they are.Favian Ee
We stand as debtors to these flawed heroes of the faith and beneficiaries of their ministries, though many times removed. And we remember that we too are very flawed people. But if God could use them, he can use us too if we are similarly committed to him.
Me: Indeed, the lives of flawed heroes like John Wesley demonstrate how God called each of us to follow Him despite our weaknesses. Can you share your thoughts on this in relation to your calling in life?
Favian: All of us want our lives to have meaning, and many try to find it in our vocation, whatever that means to us. But that puts us in danger of making vocation into an idol. Only God can give us meaning. We need to seek neither vocation nor meaning, but God himself through Jesus his Son. He is the one who made us and prepared the works for us to do with the gifts and personalities he has given us.
[Finding ultimate meaning in our vocation] puts us in danger of making vocation into an idol. Only God can give us meaning. We need to seek neither vocation nor meaning, but God himself through Jesus his Son.Favian Ee
Not everyone will find his or her calling at the same time or as easily, and everyone is different, so we shouldn’t compare ourselves with others. Jesus said “follow me”, not “follow this other person”. We discover our vocation as we follow Christ.
My own journey has been a meandering path and I’m still learning more as I go along. Creating comics has been a long-time passion of mine, but finding a way to do it sustainably has not been straightforward. I’m still learning to trust God to lead me in this journey.
Working on the John Wesley graphic novel has shown me that when God puts things together, wonderful things and providences can happen. I’m looking forward to seeing more of it.
Me: Thank you so sharing so insightfully and authentically. We’ve been so blessed by your graphic novel. This is a fruit of your faithfulness in following God’s call in this season of your life. May God continue to lead you in this journey. Thank you again for joining us, and we look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.
We would like to thank our guest Favian for taking the time to speak with us and for sharing his insights and experiences about his newly published graphic novel, “John Wesley: The World, My Parish.” We were deeply impressed by the artist’s passion, dedication, and the way he brought this historical figure’s story to life in a creative and powerful way. This graphic novel is not only a visual masterpiece but also an inspiring and thought-provoking work that will leave a lasting impact on readers.
We hope that this interview has provided our readers with a deeper understanding of the creative process and themes behind this incredible book! We encourage everyone to check out the graphic novel for themselves!
If you’d like to connect with Favian or check out the rest of his stunning work, do his website at sketchpacker.com or follow him on Instagram at @sketchpacker or @sketchpackerstudio. You can also link up with him on Facebook.