Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Supergirl!

If you’re like me, then you probably spent last night plopped in front of the television enjoying the newest superhero series pilot—Supergirl! (Okay, if you’re really like me, then you downloaded the leaked version and watched it months ago… but regardless).  Supergirl is a fun – if formulaic – superhero drama with an absolutely delightful lead actress. Melissa Benoist truly brings Kara and her alter-ego to life, adding a sense of joy and optimism that we all want to see in a Superman-inspired world.

Being the first female superhero series of its kind, Supergirl is heavy on the girl. From Kara’s no-nonsense boss Cat Grant, to the mysterious villainess pulling all the strings, and, of course, Supergirl herself—all of the strong powerful roles are played by women. Supergirl reminds us that super-women can save the day just as well as super-men!

Christians should take note. Historically, the church hasn’t always been at the forefront of equality. Whatever your views on women’s role in the church, however, we can all agree that the Bible is full of strong, even heroic, women. Miriam not only saved her baby brother Moses, but helped him lead their people out of slavery. Deborah led Israel as both judge and prophetess. Queen Esther risked her life to save her people from extermination. The list, of course, goes on. Similar to Supergirl, the stories of strong, successful women in the Bible should inspire a new generation of women to step up, stand out, and join forces with God—the greatest hero of them all. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Back to the Future!

So how did you celebrate Back to the Future Day? My wife and I stopped by the video store and attempted to rent Back to the Future 2 this afternoon, but alas they had just given away their last copy. In the now classic movie, Marty McFly travels thirty years into the future to today - October 21, 2015. All week long leading up to this historic movie moment, friends flooded my Facebook newsfeed with complaints about unfulfilled expectations. 2015 didn't exactly live up to the technological advances Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis envisioned. We don't have flying cars, bio-fuel or hoverboards. Back to the Future turned out less prophetic than we may have hoped.

I wonder if some people worry that the same will be true of the Bible. The last book of the Bible predicts a day when Heaven and Earth will be one--God will wipe every tear from our eyes, there will be no more pain, or sorrow, or death. The return of Jesus will herald the last day of evil. Believers will be resurrected and reunited with lost loved ones. Heaven, it seems, will be the perfect place for people made perfect.

Honestly, it sounds too good to be true. Kind of like flying cars and hoverboards. The difference, however, is in the author. Steven Spielberg offered his best guess of what the future would be like; but as the eternal omniscient God, Jesus knows our yesterdays, our todays, as well as our tomorrows. He schedules and plans our past, present and future. As the old saying goes, "We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future!"

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Heroes don't get any bigger... or do they?

Last weekend my wife and I took the kids to a double feature at the local drive-in theater. Sitting in lawn chairs and snacking on Twizzlers, we watched with eager anticipation as Marvel’s smallest superhero graced the gigantic screen. While I was a little turned-off by the level of foul language, Ant-Man proved to be an enjoyable and entertaining entry into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.

At its heart, Ant-Man is a story about redemption. After a short stint in prison, Scott Lang longs to be the hero his daughter sees him as. He wants to make up for his past mistakes. In a critical scene, Hank Pym—the original Ant-Man—reminds Scott, “Everyone deserves a shot at redemption… are you ready to redeem yourself?”

As a Christian, I connected immediately with the idea of redemption. Like Scott, we’ve all made mistakes. The Bible says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The problem is—we can’t make up for all our shortcomings. We’re just not capable of redeeming ourselves. Fortunately for us, the next verse says, “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24 NIV). God gave each of us a shot at redemption through Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, he paid the price for our faults and failures.  "With his own blood... he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever" (Hebrews 9:12 NLT). While it’s still important for us to make amends and repair the damage we may have done to others, we can be thankful that all our sins—large or small—are redeemed by Jesus, making him the biggest hero of them all!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Holy Bat-Family!

I've just recently posted another cosplay video tutorial. This time, explaining how to repaint a Mattel 1966 Batman cowl (download Cowl Template here).

There are so many things I love about the classic 1966 Batman TV series. Among them is the strong sense of family. Throughout their campy adventures, Batman and Robin relied on one another, and together relied on Alfred, Batgirl and even Aunt Harriet. In my upcoming book, Holy Heroes! The Gospel According to DC and Marvel, I devote a whole chapter to spiritual lessons we can learn from the Batman family dynamic. Here's a brief excerpt:

Batman’s persistent pursuit of partners is a vivid reminder that you and I were formed for God’s family. The loss of his paternal family drove Bruce to build the largest crime-fighting family in comic books—a family that he relies upon for support, strength and stability in his war on crime. That’s what the church provides for you and me. All of us need a place to belong. All of us need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. All of us need to experience family and fellowship. Going to church is not primarily about worship. You can worship God at home from the comfort of your recliner, or behind the wheel of your car, or while kneeling at your bedside. Church is primarily about family! The Bible uses a lot of metaphors to describe the church, but the most persistent is family. In the New Testament, believers call each other brothers and sisters. The church is called the household of God.  The Bible say, “Now you…are not foreigners or strangers any longer, but are citizens together with God’s holy people. You belong to God’s family” (Ephesians 2:19 NCV).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Holy Footwear, Batman!




CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD the PDF boot pattern!

Whether it's the swashbuckling stylings of Captain America or the armored appearance of Arkham Knight's Batman, boots are an essential part of nearly every superhero's wardrobe. Unfortunately, realistic looking boots can be one of the most difficult and costly parts of creating a costume. I filmed the above video tutorial to demonstrate exactly how to make your very own custom superhero boots cheaply and easily!

Of course, as I filmed this tutorial about heroic footwear, a passage of Scripture came to mind. The Bible says, "For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared" (Ephesians 6:15 NLT). Just as any superhero must pull on and zip up his or her boots to answer the call of justice, Christians are called cloak our feet in the peace that comes from the Gospel.

The road of life can be rough and rocky. Without a decent pair of boots, we'd likely grow weary and worn out. Thankfully, Jesus offers us spiritual shoes for our journey.  The "Good News" of God's love and the hope of heaven enable us to enjoy comfort and peace along life's journey.

So while you're zipping up those cosplay boots, don't forget to also lace up your spiritual shoes and experience the peace that comes from the Good News of Jesus Christ!

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Flash and Fatherhood

In case I haven’t mentioned it already, I absolutely love The Flash. I was only nine years old when the original television series aired but I made sure never to miss an episode. A remarkable and unforgettable series, The Flash left a lasting impression on my imagination. The new Flash series, currently airing on CW, had some big shoes to fill in my mind. It doesn’t disappoint.

In addition to lightning-fast, swashbuckling action, the Flash brings something to television that most TV shows lack—a positive portrayal of fatherhood. Throughout the first season, the Scarlet Speedster enjoys not just one, but two strong, supportive father-figures. Framed for murder, Barry’s biological father, Henry, spends the first season in prison. In his absence, police officer and neighbor, Joe West, adopts and raises Barry as his own son.  Despite one of them being in prison, both fathers play a powerful and important role in Barry’s life. In an episode titled Crazy for You, Barry visits his father in the prison’s infirmary. Suspecting that his son is, in fact, the Scarlet Speedster, Henry tells him, “If The Flash were my son, I'd tell him a few things. First off, I'd tell him it's a dangerous world, so be careful. Then I'd tell him he's a hero. And he's saving a lot of lives. But the most important thing for him to know, I feel, is that his father's proud of him.” As a dad myself, father-son scenes like these really speak to me.

This weekend I happened to meet John Wesley Shipp at Cape Comic-Con. Mr. Shipp not only played Barry Allen in the original series, but now plays Henry Allen in the current series. When I asked him what he enjoys most about having played the Flash and now playing the Flash’s father, he spoke of the “passing of the baton” and the many connections that he shares with Grant Gustin (the actor currently playing the Flash).

When the crowds died down, I stopped by John’s table again to tell him how much I enjoyed his role in Hell and Mr. Fudge, a faith based film about the life of Edward Fudge. In the film, John plays Edward’s father, Bennie Lee Fudge—a staunchly conservative Alabama preacher. Mr. Shipp immediately lit up when I mentioned the movie and went on to tell me how much the role reminded him of his own upbringing. John is likewise the son of a preacher. His father faithfully served as a Baptist pastor until finally retiring in 2009. We chatted briefly about Edward, his relationship with his father, and some of the similarities in his and John’s life. Before heading back to our table, I gave him a copy of the Amazing Gospel and one of our Costumers for Christ pamphlets.

A short time later, Mr. Shipp saw me passing by in the lobby, left his table, and flagged me down to show me an article from his early career as an actor on the daytime television show, Guiding Light. The article featured a photo of his mother and father and spoke of them and their faith as the real “guiding light” in Shipp’s life. John beamed with pride as he spoke of his father and seemed genuinely excited to show me the article and picture of his dad. I didn’t ask if John still practiced the faith of his parents, but his father’s faith clearly left an indelible mark on John’s life.


The Bible has much to say about fatherhood. For instance, it tells us, “Reverence for God gives a man deep strength; his children have a place of refuge and security” (Proverbs 14:26 TLB). In other words, when a father relies on God for strength and security, his children will be able to do likewise. Every father leaves a legacy, an “indelible mark” on their sons and daughters. Although I frequently fall short, I strive to be a good and godly father. And I pray that my children will same day speak about me with the same pride and excitement that John Wesley Shipp spoke of his dad. The question is—what kind of legacy will you leave? How will your children remember you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Daredevil: Learning to Discern

If you’re like many comic-book fans, you likely spent the weekend holed up in front of the TV binge-watching Marvel’s newest small-screen superhero, Daredevil, on Netflix. My busy schedule and preparations for Cape Con this weekend didn’t allow me that luxury, so I’m not yet finished with the series. But, like everyone else, I’m lovin’ it so far.

Daredevil’s story is compelling. Blinded in a tragic accident as a child, Matt Murdock’s other senses compensated for his lack of sight. Having honed these senses to a superhuman level, Daredevil can taste the additives in a can of Diet Coke, track the scent of a particular perfume from two blocks away, read the newspaper by running his fingertips gently over the print, and uses echolocation to navigate the dark and often dangers streets of Hell’s Kitchen. Murdock’s weakness became his strength.

Christians can easily relate to Matt Murdock. Strength out of weakness is a recurring theme in Scripture.  Daredevil’s heightened senses also grant him an ability that all Christians should covet. By listening to a person’s heartbeat and smelling an increase in perspiration, Daredevil is a human lie-detector. He “sees” the truth buried beneath deception and dishonesty. This is the gift of discernment.

Now more than ever, Christians could benefit from Daredevil’s discernment. In the city of Corinth, a multiplicity of religions and world-views claimed to have the corner on truth much as they do today. Many of the Christians there didn’t know what to believe, so the apostle Paul wrote to them, saying, “You know that when you were still pagans you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. So I want you to know how to discern what is truly from God” (1 Corinthians 12:2-3 NLT). 

I think God still wants the same for us. Countless Christians today have likewise been "led astray" and "swept along" by unbiblical beliefs. Unlike Daredevil, we aren’t gifted with super-senses, but we do have the gifts of God’s Word and God’s Spirit. As Christians, our most-trusted source of spiritual truth is God’s Word. Jesus once prayed, “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth” (John 17:17 NLT). We can also receive help from God’s Spirit. Jesus assured his followers, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).

By developing a deeper relationship with God’s Word and God’s Spirit, we heighten our spiritual senses and eventually we can learn to discern like Daredevil. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Christ of Two Worlds!

Tomorrow, Christians all around the world will celebrate Good Friday, commemorating Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. For decades fans, commentators, and movie reviewers have identified striking similarities between Superman and Jesus. Few stories illustrate Superman’s Christlikeness better than The Death of Superman. I write about this in the following excerpt from my soon-to-be release book, Holy Heroes: Comics, Cosplay and Christianity:

I will never forget a chilly Wednesday afternoon in November of 1992. My dad drove me to the comic book store to buy the newest issue of Superman. I never saw anything like it. The line at the comic book store stretched out the door and around the corner as customers waited for hours to get a copy of the issue that sold millions. When I finally made it to the front of the line, the store owner reached beneath the counter and handed me the coveted collector’s edition of Superman #75.

In the story that resulted in the Man of Steel’s murder, a mysterious monster imprisoned far below the surface of the Earth breaks free and wreaks havoc all over the Midwest. This hulking behemoth collapses an interstate overpass, demolishes an 18-wheeler in a head on collision with his fist, and aimlessly destroys whatever catches his eye. A bystander describes him as, “the devil incarnate ushering in the end of the world!” One of the other heroes, who try and fail to stop him, dubs the monster Doomsday.
Superman is the only hero strong enough to face the ferocious beast in a battle that stretches across six issues and several states. Full-page panels decorated each page, stressing the hugeness of the story. As their mêlée reaches Metropolis, streets are demolished, cars are hurled, and the indestructible fighters crash through buildings. Their final punches send shockwaves, shattering the glass from nearby windows. Bruised and bloody, Superman refuses to give up. Finally, he puts every ounce of strength into one last blow. Like weary boxers, the two contenders collide and then collapse onto the broken pavement.

On the last page, in an image reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Pietà, Lois whispers to Superman, “You stopped him! You saved us all!” Then the leaf folds out into a three-page splash as Superman dies in Lois’ arms.

I’ll be honest with you. I cried when I read that story. Superman was my hero, yet there he lay—broken and lifeless. It shattered my eleven-year-old heart. This story and this image defined for me what it meant to be a hero.

Meanwhile, I was also reading my Bible and listening closely to the stories I would hear in Sunday School about a hero sent from above to save the world. I made a connection between the two. Superman became the bridge that Jesus walked across.

What Superman did in that comic book, Jesus did in reality. The monster may have been different, but the outcome was the same. The Bible says, “When we were unable to help ourselves, at the moment of our need, Christ died for us, although we were living against God. Very few people will die to save the life of someone else. Although perhaps for a good person someone might possibly die. But God shows his great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:6-8 NCV).

This is why Jesus is my superhero! He wants to be your hero, too. As we observe Good Friday and remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, let me encourage you to embrace Jesus as your own heavenly hero. If you’re not sure how to do that, I’d love to help. Better yet, find a Bible-believing church to attend this Easter.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Heroic Proportions!


I lack what comic-book illustrators call “heroic proportions.” I wasn’t blessed with bulging biceps or washboard abs; rather, I’m cursed with scrawny arms and a bit of a spare tire. Four years ago, in order to compensate for the lack of sinew beneath the spandex, I built myself a muscle suit. The construction is simple. I carved twenty-six individual muscle shapes out of ½ inch high-density foam, then sandwiched the muscles between two layers of spandex, carefully sewing around each muscle. I was pretty proud of my achievement—instant bulk without a single day in the gym! A transformation worthy of any infomercial.

DOWNLOAD MUSCLE TEMPLATE HERE!

After a while, however, I decided that muscle padding alone wasn’t enough. I needed to make some lifestyle changes. So, I started dieting and exercising. I stick to a strict 2,000 calorie-a-day diet and do a twenty-minute box-fit workout every morning. I quickly lost twenty-five pounds and, more importantly, I’ve managed to keep that weight off for three years. More recently, I’ve set my mind to building muscle. Living in the country, we don’t have easy access to (or room in our budget for) a gym membership. Instead, I utilize dumbbells for a variety of exercises. Three days a week, my workout consists of the following:

Since I started lifting, I not only look better, but feel stronger and have more energy. Although I still wear my muscle suit for bigger characters like Superman, Batman and Captain America, I’m slowly building muscle and no longer feel the need for padding with slimmer characters like Spidey, Cyclops, or Mr. Fantastic. I think every costumer ought to consider a consistent diet and exercise plan—you’ll look better and be healthier.

But as important as physical fitness is, some things are even more important. The Bible says, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 NLT). Just as physical fitness transforms our bodies, spiritual fitness transforms our souls. As a cosplayer, I want my body to look like Superman. As a Christian, I want my spirit to look like Jesus. A steady diet of Scripture combined with the exercise of lifting prayers and praise to God and a healthy dose of the fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:21) will give your faith “heroic proportions.”

So, what does your spiritual exercise routine look like?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beneath the Cowl

What does Space Ghost, Captain American, and the Flash have in common? They all conceal their true identities beneath a cowl! I recently posted another tutorial on YouTube, demonstrating how to make a fabric cowl for characters like Flash and Cap. You can download the pattern here! In cosplay, a good looking mask can make or break a costume. Whether it's Batman's scowling cowl, Green Arrow's domino mask, or Iron Man’s hi-tech helmet, the mask is an essential part of countless costumes.

Of course, superheroes don’t wear masks just because they look cool; rather, a superhero’s mask serves a vital purpose—protecting their identity.  Most superheroes live a dual life and are very careful about whom they allow to really know them. As costumers, it’s fun to put on a mask and pretend to be someone we aren’t for a while. A problem arises, however, when we forget to remove our mask.

According to a study conducted by LifeWay Research, 72% of people surveyed believe that churches are “full of hypocrites.” The word hypocrite actually comes from the Greek theater. It was the Greek word for actors who wore masks and performed on stage. Jesus repeatedly railed against the hypocrisy of the religious leaders in his day.

Today, churches are often full of people who pretend to be someone they aren't. Some are guilty of false piety, a holier-than-thou attitude, or saying one thing while doing another. These people hide behind the mask of religion, but they lack a genuine relationship with Jesus. Others are sincere believers who love Jesus but when they walk into church, they put on a "painted grin" and act like everything's good and life is perfect. They’re afraid to reveal their true identity. Perhaps they fear rejection, or intimacy. Whatever the reason, they never let their guard down; never let people see their faults, failures and foibles. The downside to protecting your true identity is never experiencing authentic fellowship and intimacy with fellow Christians.

Bottom line: don’t make a stage production of your spiritual life. Take off your mask. Be honest with yourself, with others, and especially with God.  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Quelling Quarrels

Yesterday afternoon I arrived home to find my son plopped on the couch enjoying an episode of one of Marvel's latest animated series, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. In this episode, Hulk and his argumentative ally, Red Hulk (aka General Ross), are merged into a two headed behemoth thanks to the reality-warping powers of the Impossible Man. As if this isn't bad enough, the power-sucking pterodactyl, Sauron, saps the Impossible Man's powers and unleashes destructive havoc on the Hulk's hometown, Vista Verde, with the help of the psychically-controlled Fin Fang Foom. Despite being melded down the middle the twin titans overcome their differences and manage to smash the two reptilian rogues! In the end, both Hulks admit, "I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on what makes a hero, but I can tell you one thing we'll always agree on... SMASH!"

The whole episode underscores the value of teamwork and learning to get along despite our differences. It's a common theme in superhero cartoons. It's also a common theme in Scripture. The Bible instructs, "Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful" (2 Timothy 2:23-24 NIV). Unfortunately, we Christians aren't always so good at keeping this command. We often debate, dispute, and even divide over trivial matters. An old rhyme that puts it this way:

What joy to love the saints above
When I get home to glory.
To love below, the saints I know,
Well, that’s another story!

The Apostle Paul felt that putting aside our differences and working together was so important, that he publicly called out two women from the church in Philippi. Here's what he says: "Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life" (Philippians 4:2-3 NLT). Paul's advice to these two Christian women is to set aside their egos and settle their disagreement with the help of a mature, impartial friend. Disagreements and disputes are going to happen, that’s just part of being individuals; it’s how we handle them that matters.

When Christians fight amongst themselves, nobody wins. Instead, let’s heed Peter’s advice: “And now this word to all of you: You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy toward each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds” (1 Peter 3:8 TLB). When Christians learn to put aside our differences and work together toward a common good, the only one getting smashed will be Satan!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Losers, Long-Shots, and Little Guys


In my last post I was a little critical of the Guardians of the Galaxy, calling them thieves, murders, and generally self-centered—and rightfully so. These heroes don’t wear halos. Peter Quill—who insists on being called Star Lord—is portrayed as a self-aggrandizing womanizer. Rocket Raccon is an amoral bounty hunter out to make a quick buck. Gamora is willing to lie, steal and cheat to escape her tyrant father, Thanos. Drax is driven only by his thirst for revenge. The verbally-impaired Groot is likely the most valiant of the bunch. In a pivotal moment in the movie, Star Lord assesses his team, saying, "When I look around, you know what I see? Losers.” Yet, strange as it may seem, it is this very quality that makes the Guardians so refreshing and appealing. They have flaws of biblical proportion, but so do we. Your past and mine is filled with faults, fumbles, and failures. But here’s the good news—God loves the losers, the long-shots, and the little guys.

The Bible is full of losers. Story after story is marked by scandal, stumble, and scheming. Noah drank 'til he passed out. Abraham lied about his marriage and slept with the maid. Sarah laughed at God’s promises. Jacob was a con-man. Leah was ugly. Moses was a murderer. Miriam was a gossip. David failed as a father. Jeremiah wrestled with depression. Martha worried. Peter denied. Thomas doubted. The list goes on and on. Each one of them had flaws of biblical proportion. Yet, just as the Guardians managed to save the entire galaxy, God used these imperfect people to accomplish his incredible will.

Max Lucado writes, "If God chose only righteous people to change the world, you could count them all on one finger—Jesus! Instead he included others in his plan—sinners, the ungodly, the imperfect. God used and uses people to change the world. People! Crooks, creeps, lovers, and liars—he uses them all!”

If you ever wonder how God can use you to make a difference in your world, just look at those he has already used, and take heart.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Holy Heroes, Batman!

I’m in the process of completing an exciting costuming project. For several years, I’ve coveted a quality replica of the Batman costume worn by Adam West in the 1966 television series.  After tracking down patterns made from the screen-worn costumes, several shopping trips to locate matching fabrics, and finally finding an affordable cowl, my Batman costume is complete! Not only that, but my son is equally excited about being the Boy Wonder (though he was a little hesitant about the bare legs). My wife and daughters will soon be clad in Catwoman, Batgirl and Riddler costumes, too.

I remember watching the 1966 Batman series at ten years old and thinking, “I’m too old for this.” Now, at thirty-four, I can’t get enough. This colorful, campy version of the Caped Crusader is perhaps my favorite incarnation. It hearkens back to a time of moral certainty. While various villains continually plotted their nefarious schemes, Batman and Robin were “good guys” by every definition, duly deputized officers of the law who obeyed traffic signals and helped little old ladies cross the street.

When I compare these classic do-gooders to many modern superheroes I’m often disappointed. Take Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy for instance. I enjoyed the movie as much as everyone else, especially the sound track. However, the Guardians lack the moral integrity I long for in a hero. They are thieves, murderers, and generally self-severing. Although, they ended up stopping the big bad guy and saving the universe, their moral ambiguity is highlighted by Starlord’s question, “What should we do next: Something good, something bad? Bit of both?”

I’m reminded of the Bible verse that says, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil…” (Isaiah 5:20). I think this is why I’m more drawn to “good guys” that are truly good—superheroes like Superman, Captain America, and, of course, the Caped Crusaders—Batman and Robin. Besides, who wouldn’t like a guy that can hit you so hard words describing the impact will appear out of thin air?