An Interview With Steven Butler
One of the great things I’ve always enjoyed about being a part of Royal Rangers is the variety of activities we can participate in. From camping and hiking, to skateboarding and pinewood derbies, rangers get to do a lot of really fun things. And in the process of having fun, we learn new things about ourselves and the world around us. We develop new skills, find new interests, and have a great time with friends in the process.
Through the process of learning new things and developing new interests many rangers have found creative and innovative ways of using their talents and skills to share the gospel message with others. One great example of a person doing just that is Steven Butler. Steven is a Commander with Outpost 127 at Full Life Assembly of God in Hurley, Mississippi. Each week Steven works with his group of boys, earning merits and preparing for the next great ranger event. But when he’s not doing ranger stuff he’s doing something almost as exciting. Steven is a freelance illustrator for comic books. His work has included many popular titles such as Marvel Comics, Disney Adventures Magazine, and the Archie Comics. He’s currently working on a Sonic the Hedgehog series for another publisher and illustrated several Christian comic book projects such as "PowerMark" and "Welcome to Holsom", as well as some Children's books which have a Bible Story theme. I recently had the opportunity to visit with Steven about his work and how he uses it to reach boys with the gospel message. Here are some of the questions I asked him:
What is your current role in relation to comic illustrating?
I am a freelance artist who primarily illustrates comic books for a living. I've been doing that for 20 years now, for a variety of comic book companies like Marvel Comics, Disney Adventures Magazine, and Archie Comics, where I'm currently illustrating the monthly comic book title "Sonic the Hedgehog". I have also illustrated several Christian comic book projects such as "PowerMark" and "Welcome to Holsom", as well as some Children's books which have a Bible Story theme. I am also a Caricature artist and work a lot of local Arts and Crafts shows on weekends.
In what ways does your work impact people for Christ?
Many of the projects I work on these days are Faith-Based projects which have Biblical lessons and truths as their core message. It's entertainment, for sure, but the main reason for doing these types of books is to get the Message of the Gospel out there in a new and dynamic way. Most of my work is geared for kids, and most kids love comics, so to me, it's a unique way of fulfilling the Great Commission. I may never know how many people are affected by the work, but that's not really something I need to worry about- I know that if I'm faithful in this gift God gave me, and do the work, then He will make sure it gets into the hands of the people who need it. Of course, I've been really blessed to work with some really talented and committed people who are like-minded and have a vision for this specific type of ministry. I feel incredibly blessed to be able to share my gift in this way, because I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is what I'm SUPPOSED to be doing.
Your work sounds like something some of our members may be interested in. How did you get started as an illustrator?
I've loved comics since I was a kid and my love of drawing and art literally comes out of my love for the comic book medium. I guess I'm still a kid at heart. I entered the comic book field with several of my friends I met in College (Roland Mann and Mitch Byrd at the University Of Southern Mississippi). We all shared a love of comics and wanted to break into the business. None of us really had a clue on how to do that, so we just decided to create our own characters and do our own comic. Each of us had our own job to do, from the writing, to the art (penciling and inking) to the lettering, to coloring. Once we had all the work done, we started shopping it around by mail to every company we could get the address to. After what seemed like an endless stream of rejection letters, we got a "bite" from a company called MALIBU GRAPHICS, who was interested in publishing our book. From that point, after our book was coming out, other companies saw our work, and we started getting responses from other publishers who liked what they saw, and wanted to hire us out to do work for them. Unfortunately, doing that split us up as a team, and took us into different directions(I went to First Comics, then to Marvel Comics, Mitch went to DC Comics, and Roland became an editor at the aforementioned Malibu Comics), but we've remained friends to this day. We also did quite a bit of comic book convention going as well, to promote our work, and met editors face-to-face, which helps your chances when you're trying to break in.
How did you get connected with the Holsom comic line?
I got a call from my good friend Craig Schutt, who works in the Design Services department of Gospel Publishing. He told me about the project and asked if I was interested in illustrating it. I thought about it for about 2 seconds and said yes! Craig and I had previously worked together on the PowerMark comic book series, and I was thrilled to be working with him again, especially after he told me what kind of project we were going to be working on. Craig and I have very similar interests and tastes when it comes to the kind of comics we like, and I knew I was in for something special with this series. I still consider "Welcome to Holsom" to be the most rewarding series for me personally to have worked on. I say that because it has all the elements that make a truly entertaining comic book story(drama, comedy, action, cliffhanger endings, and last but not least-giant robots!!), as well as having that Christian message that permeates the entire series, from beginning to end. The plan of salvation is there, the consequences of sin, having one's faith tested, the true value of friendship- it's all there, and we get to see it through the lives of the kids in these stories. It's definitely one of my all-time favorite books to have had the pleasure to work on.
What advice or recommendations would you make to a young man who feels a desire to get involved in this type of work or ministry today or as a life’s work?
Well, you really have to LOVE this type of thing to be able to work in it. It really takes a different type of mindset. If you like to draw SO much that you'd be willing to do it for at least eight hours a day, then you may just have what it takes to become a comic book artist. But start off by drawing every day and honing your craft. Draw everything you see, not just superheroes in cool poses, or hot rods drawn from the same angle every time. Comic book artists are required to be able to draw just about anything, so starting early in life can only help you in the long run. Fill up sketchbooks, and draw from life, anything and everything you see. Most importantly, NEVER give up! To me, drawing comics for a living is a dream job, and getting to do it for the Lord is just fulfilling God's plan for me. The way I see it, doing all of the secular work was just a warm-up for the real deal of drawing comics and telling stories that have Christ as their center. Many guys who want to break into the business want to be the next "superstar" to draw Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man, and there's nothing wrong with that all. But, I know for a fact that I really didn't find true fulfillment in my career until I literally gave it up to the Lord. Besides the day I asked Jesus into my heart, the decision to make Jesus the center of my WORK was the most important "eye-opening" moment of my life(well, meeting my wife for the first time was high up there too, but you know what I mean).
In what ways have you been involved in Royal Rangers, both today and in the past?
I have been a Royal Ranger Commander now for about 10 years at Full Life Assembly Of God in Hurley, MS (Mississippi District Outpost 127). I've had the privilege of working with a lot of boys who have grown into young men and many of whom are working in the Church themselves now. I've been involved with every class from Ranger Kids to Discovery Rangers, to Adventure Rangers. Some of the things I look forward to the most each year are attending Pow-Wow (chiggers, ticks, bed-bugs and all), Pine-Wood Derby, and the camp-outs we have with our kids. Going through NTC was also quite a life-changing experience for me. We have a dedicated and committed group of men who are heading up the Ranger program at our Church, and I feel honored to be a part of that team. We're the "Howling Coyotes", Come hear us Howwwwwllll!!!
In what ways has your involvement in RR influenced or impacted your work as an illustrator?
Well, having that direct one-on-one interaction with kids on a week-to-week basis goes a long way to informing me what's on kid's minds these days, what they're interested in, what their fears are, and having that knowledge helps me in my comic work to communicate directly to them in a more impactful way. It helps make what I do more "real" and relevant in their lives. As far as that goes, I get most of my best ideas from just observing my kids and seeing how they interact with each other. I think kids these days are smart and can see right through you if you're "faking" it. I don't think they want "fluff", they want to know the real deal- that Jesus is alive and working in our lives NOW, and that He desires a RELATIONSHIP with us. That's a responsibility I don't take lightly, and I want it to show in everything I do. For quite a few of these kids who come from unchurched homes, we commanders are the only "Jesus" they see from week to week, meaning we're the only ones telling them and showing them what it really means to live a Christ-Like life. Let that one soak in for a few minutes.
Any other comment you would like to add?
Just that I feel truly blessed to be operating in the gift that God gave me and to exhort my fellow brothers in Christ to put God first in EVERYTHING. I know that when you do that, everything else will line up the way it's supposed to. Too many times we guys tend to go all macho and say, "Naw, man, I don't need any help- I've GOT this", when we don't even have a clue as to what we're talking about. In my art career, I went my own way for a long time, but didn't truly find happiness until I surrendered EVERY facet of my life to Him. This is what Psalm 37:4 says- "Delight Thyself also in the LORD: and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart." Let HIM say- "I've GOT this".
Steven Butler is another great example of a Royal Ranger who lives the Royal Ranger Code in his daily life. He has found a way to use his unique talents and skills to influence his world for Christ. God has likewise given YOU special abilities to equip you for the work of ministry he created you to perform. Pray and ask God today what kind of work you can do to share the saving message of Jesus Christ with your community. As you do, you too will enjoy the personal satisfaction Steven enjoys in knowing you’re fulfilling the purpose God created you for.