What are The Golden Plates Graphic Novels?
Why were The Golden Plates created?
Why make The Book of Mormon
into a Graphic Novel?
How much does it cost to make Graphic Novels?
What is covered in each issue?
How can we support the project?
How it All Began
by Andrew Knaupp
In July 2004, after a 14 year career in comics, Michael Allred “announced on his website that he would not be pursuing work from Marvel or DC for the near future. Instead, he would be following a still small voice and adapt The Book of Mormon into comic book form, under the title The Golden Plates.” Meridian Magazine, October 29, 2004
In an interview with Diamond Comics Allred said “I hesitate to explain exactly what happened to commit me to actually doing this; something profound and unspeakable. I know perceptions and misperceptions are already buzzing like crazy based on one simple announcement. And I’m not sure I want to add to any misperceptions. Too many people already think I’m crazy. Simply put--I have to do this. The images are in my head; almost as if I saw all these monumental events happen right in front of me. I’ve never been more alive with drawing anything in my life.”
And so, Michael Allred stepped out of his successful career in the comic book industry to create The Golden Plates, an adaptation of the Book of Mormon into a Graphic Novel. It was hailed as “the biggest announcement in Mormon comics ever.”
This was a huge financial risk for Allred. No one had ever really tried to do an adaptation like this and sell it in the mainstream comic book stores and LDS bookstores. Sure, there had been a few illustrated versions of The Book of Mormon released by independent publishers and the LDS Church, but no one of Allred’s professional caliber had ever attempted to do this full time, giving up paying jobs on the hopes that he could do something new, create a new niche in the world of comics. Allred’s wife, Laura, who worked as the colorist on many of Allred’s books, made the decision to support the undertaking and be the colorist for The Golden Plates. This again was a big financial sacrifice for the Allreds.
The plan was to adapt the entire Book of Mormon into graphic novel format in twelve, 64 page volumes. Truly an awesome undertaking. Allred went to work with vigor and zeal describing the process as “the most significant thing I’ll ever be a part of” and “by far my most personal work ever...this is something I simply had to do.” “My blood is pumping faster. My hands are feeling tingly,” Allred said. “I have to be pulled off the drawing table. I just love so much what I’m doing right now." (Diamond Interview)
Michael and Laura worked for nearly a year. Illustrating 200 full color pages. They used their friends and contacts in the industry to help with the lettering, editing, and printing. They published the books under their own label AAAPop comics. The first issue hit stores in October of 2004.
Initial sales and response were good, mostly from the LDS community seeing it in Deseret Book and other LDS bookstores. The non-LDS comic book audience, although curious, were not the major buyers of the book, and so the major sales needed to be at the LDS bookstores. The problems came with reordering and restocking. When the books sold out of the stores, there were no reorders. LDS bookstores are known for not promoting or prioritizing books they didn’t publish. Unless a customer specifically asks for a book and pays for it as a special order, they don’t bother reordering. In 2004 the internet was not nearly as big as it is now and most people weren’t buying their books online and definitely not reading books or comics on smart phones or tablets. So when the first three volumes of The Golden Plates disappeared off the shelves, they largely disappeared from the minds of LDS buyers.
As Michael set to work adapting Mosiah, Laura approached him with their financial situation and told him he had to go back to work. A hard decision and a blow, but they both went back to mainstream comics and The Golden Plates had come to an end. It was no small accomplishment. They had illustrated 27% of the Book of Mormon from 1st Nephi through the Words of Mormon. This constituted what is known to LDS readers as the entire Small Plates of Nephi. They had put out a quality book and had not been deterred by detractors or cynics who had been against the project. They had put it all out there and left nothing on the table.
The Premier Edition
Fast forward to 2017. I had been a fan of The Golden Plates when they were first released and was super excited to see someone finally doing an illustrated version of the Book of Mormon with class, professionalism, and quality. I had worked as a designer and editor on another black and white illustrated story related to the Book of Mormon called The Book of Mormon on Trial back in 2003. I had felt a connection to The Golden Plates project, not just as a fan, but because Michael mentioned The Book of Mormon on Trial in his introduction included in the books.
My own three sons were fans of the comic book format and were constantly bringing them home from the library and reading my own collection. I wanted them to see and enjoy the Book of Mormon and other church history stories in the same format and whipped out my own personal copies of The Golden Plates.
I noticed when looking online that there had been no additional printings and that anyone wanting a copy would have to pay some pretty steep prices to get a now, rare copy. I also wondered why it had never been converted to a digital format for phones and tablets. I wondered if Michael would be open to letting me put them out there digitally and letting them find new life in the digital world. I reached out via a Facebook message and to my surprise I got a interested response. We started talking about the project and we finalized the decision to move forward in February.
I had originally planned to release the books as their own app but discovered that it would work better to release them as digital books so they could load into existing readers and be part of peoples existing digital library. As I had my three sons (ages 7, 9, and 11) read the books I realized that it would work better for younger readers to split them into six 34 page books instead of three 64 page books.
I also realized that the full scriptural text became difficult to read in the comic format and that younger kids really stumbled on words like “gentile” and “abominable” and that there needed to be a simplification of some of the wording so it would flow more like a graphic novel. Michael had been strictly faithful to the scriptural text in his art and had included the full text in almost all cases. This was one of the strengths of the books, but I realized we could be faithful to the text but also edit it down. This freed up many of the panels that had a lot of text covering the artwork. Michael was okay with the change and just wanted the work to help provide access to the book. In his original introduction he had stated that the books were not intended to replace the actual scriptures but to be a “primer at best.”
I used the online version of Websters 1828 Dictionary to help me understand what words meant at the time Joseph Smith translated The Book of Mormon. I found many surprising and interesting differences, which would take to long to relate here, but I used this information to help simplify the text while retaining the original meaning.
After 8 months they were ready. I decided to rename this version The Premier Edition since used copies of the original print editions still circulate and we didn’t want there to be any confusion. New variant covers were created for 5 of the issues to further help with the distinction.
I was glad to learn that Amazon’s on-demand print services would allow us to offer printed versions without having to incur the usually high production costs of a large print run. They will now print and ship as they are ordered.
We are so glad The Golden Plates are now available to a new generation and hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed creating them. Will there be more? Only time will tell.