Plough Publishing House and the Bruderhof are bringing the Radical Reformation to a new format with a three-volume graphic novel series about young people standing up for their convictions against powerful political and religious leaders.
By Water: The Felix Manz Story (Plough) was produced by Jason Landsel, a Bruderhof member whose artwork is regularly featured in Plough Quarterly. Co-author credits are shared with Sankha Banerjee for art and Richard Mommsen, director of the Bruderhof’s historical archives, for the script. Subsequent volumes will be titled By Fire and By Sword.
Plough has produced graphic novels since 2017 on diverse topics: the life of Martin Luther, the White Rose resistance movement in Nazi Germany and a story from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.
“By Water chronicles the real-life conflict between Manz and his mentor, the establishment reformer Ulrich Zwingli,” said Landsel in a Plough release. “Manz revered Zwingli as a father figure but ended up being drowned on Zwingli’s orders for insisting that only believers should be baptized.”
Basing both the plot and visuals on historical documents and the art, architecture and culture of the times, Landsel and his team breathe new life into a high-stakes tale that can come across as dusty and distant if left to the realm of history books. The tone and word choices are appropriate for most teens — and most adults — though they carry an edge that makes sense for a story of life and death. The project can also serve as an excellent entry point for young adults put off by what they may perceive as ancient history.
Several pages of historical materials in the appendix add context to the main characters, the Peasants’ Revolt, Manz’s death sentence and other details.