Home Graphic novel Reinventing a Classic: Spotlight on Joe Sutphin

Reinventing a Classic: Spotlight on Joe Sutphin


Pilgrim’s progress, the Christian allegory of an ordinary man embarking on an adventure to find the Heavenly City, was first written by John Bunyan in 1678 and is never out of print. Translated into over 200 languages, the work has been transformed into everything from operas and ballets to movies, progressive rock albums, video games and even a comic book. About 60 years ago, author Helen L. Taylor adapted the tale for children ages 6 to 12, simplifying some concepts and vocabulary and transforming The little pilgrim’s progress in its own classic, selling over 800,000 copies and in cash. Now, Little Christian’s heroic quest is reborn in a new edition of Moody Publishers, reimagined by successful illustrator Joe Sutphin.

“Obtain to illustrate a timeless and honored classic as The little pilgrim’s progress has been wonderful, ”said Ohio-based Sutphin. “And having the freedom to put my own creative mark on it was just a dream.”

Known for his anthropomorphic animal figures, Sutphin’s work has been featured in bestsellers such as James Patterson Mouse word and Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga. In this latest take on the timeless tale, Sutphin reimagines human characters as creatures of the woods: Little Christian comes to life as a little bunny, who meets owls, badgers, chipmunks and other wild animals beautifully. returned as he travels from home in search of the King, experiencing the trials and triumphs of loyalty along the way.

Sutphin was quite familiar with the original The pilgrim’s progression, but it was only when he got attached to the project that he began to deepen The little pilgrim’s progress. “Initially, the goal was to have 80 illustrations in the book,” says Sutphin, noting that the publisher decided to add a backstory for Little Christian and create a new prologue, intermission and epilogue. , entirely told in the form of sketches. “We ended up with over 110 illustrations at the end.”

Once the frame was locked, ideas weren’t hard to come by. “I’ve been inspired by the natural world my whole life,” says Sutphin. “I grew up with a father who was an artist who painted a lot of farm landscapes and nature scenes, and I loved being in the kitchen watching him.” One of Sutphin’s first drawings was of a chick hatched from an egg, created at the age of six.

Yet the new edition of The little pilgrim’s progress was not without difficulties. “I think the most difficult images to create were the gardens in the Land of Earthly Delights,” says Sutphin. “I wanted there to be a lot of flowers and plants, which doesn’t always come naturally to me.”

Sutphin estimates that it took him about two years to complete his work on The little pilgrim’s progress. Now that he’s about to be released, he’s working on a new project that sounds good in his animal lane: he and a partner have been chosen by the Richard Adams estate to work on a graphic novel version of the classic. Ship down. Sutphin reports that he worked with Adams’ daughters, “including spending time in England, tracing the footsteps of rabbits through Hampshire with them”.

The little pilgrim’s progress left a strong impression on Sutphin, as he did on generations before him. “At the start of the project, I started to feel like I was losing sight of myself as an artist,” he says. “But the confidence the team at Moody Publishers had in me, to imagine this world in my own way, was so refreshing to me and fueled me as a creative person. I couldn’t be happier with the product than we designed, and knowing that I can share aspects of my personal faith with the world, and in a visually exciting and beautiful way, is something I’m honored to be a part of.

A version of this article appeared in the 7/19/2021 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: Reinventing a Classic: Spotlight on Joe Sutphin