A Snapshot of LittWorld 2022: Creating Quality Comics in El Salvador

When asked what I did at the 2022 LittWorld in Siófok, Hungary, I said that I talked and I wrote—two things I do well. But there was a third thing that came into play as I talked and wrote: I listened and heard stories of reporters, broadcasters, podcasters, writers, publishers, and cartoonists/illustrators.

Creatives in this last group included Ivan Anaya and Carlos Mena from El Salvador. They are colleagues at Mercy Ways, where Ivan is the art director and writer, and Carlos is the director of projects.

Mercy Ways began in 2017 in partnership with the Bible Society of El Salvador. It was then when Ivan and Carlos created the comic “Fear Not.”

“When we were kids, the Christian material wasn’t that visually engaging and couldn’t compete visually with what was out there,” recalls Ivan. “Fear Not” came out of Ivan and Carlos’ desire to tell a quality, visual story of Jesus that would help kids cope with fear.

“It was a new way to tell the stories of Jesus that would challenge and meet the needs of people,” explains Carlos.

The team at Mercy Ways has also illustrated one children’s Bible and is working on another for children. They are focused on producing quality comics like the “Chronicles of Faith” series.

Ivan shares that a “comic can tell kids that they can trust Jesus. The Chronicles of Faith is about heroes such as David, Samson, and Gideon. Using visual metaphors, it helps kids cope with anxiety, loneliness, rejection or bullying. But it also reminds them that the real hero of the story is Jesus.”

Ivan and Carlos were invited to LittWorld by fellow cartoonist and graphic artist Jose Carlos Gutierrez Martinez, an MAI Board member. Both came ready to network and meet people. “But even more than that,” says Ivan, “we were inspired by others as we discovered that we are not alone in wanting to create in new ways.”

Both Ivan and Carlos describe El Salvador as a country in a bubble – a small country with a small-country perspective. This, they say, makes it difficult for people to accept an innovative medium such as comics. “Pastors are open to what we’re doing, and during Covid-19, when there was no church or school, we wrote a play based on ‘Fear Not,’ and the kids loved it.” Ivan notes.

“In the end it’s theological,” he continues. “We want to be sure we are telling the right story.”

This article was written by Lorraine Triggs, a LittWorld 2022 volunteer.

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