An Interview with Fr. Niko Bekris of Christ, Coffee, and Comics

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If you haven’t yet, you NEED to check out this amazing and brand new blog, Christ, Coffee, and Comics, which offers reflections on Comic Books and Theology by a Greek Orthodox Priest.  It’s written by the wonderful and talented, Fr. Niko Bekris of Annunciation Cathedral in San Francisco.  In this really cool blog he explores comic books through the perspective of Orthodox theology, while simultaneously sharing the fantastic coffee shops, restaurants, and art in San Fransisco’s Mission District.

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As long as I have personally known Fr. Niko, in addition to being a really great person, he has been a HUGE comic book fan.  I remember learning so much from him about comics and our faith, as a friend at Hellenic College and Holy Cross and during our years as camp counselors together at St. Nicholas Ranch.  I am so thankful that he is sharing his talents and knowledge with us, and really appreciate this awesome endeavor.  I am also very honored and grateful he took the time to do this interview and look forward to reading, learning, and sharing his work in the years to come.  In addition to the website, you can also learn more on the Christ, Coffee, and Comics facebook page.

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Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 12.59.15 PMMy name: Father Niko Bekris

My Patron Saint: Saint Nicholas of Myra, the Wonderworker

My job/what I do: Parish Priest

What do you enjoy most about your job? Seeing and experiencing all the ways in which the priest becomes a part of people’s family. The happy moments, the sad moments, and everything in between, and (hopefully) representing and conveying God’s love to the people in those moments

The name and website for your blog: “Christ, Coffee, and Comics” christcoffeecomics.wordpress.com

How would you describe Christ, Coffee, and Comics? What inspired you to start it? It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to write a blog as a component to my ministry. I love sharing things with others, and I have come to find I enjoy writing a great deal, as well. I’ve been into comic books for most of my life and have found a new appreciation for them as an adult, but given the explosion of comic book based movies in Hollywood these days, it seemed like a no brainer to do this blog. I try to start with a comic book movie or TV show, write a little bit about the comic book source material and how it affects me, positively or negatively. So it’s a little review, a little testimony, and a lot celebration.

How do you choose the comic or subject matter you will talk about? I always have something to talk about! But seriously, I try to pick what’s mainstream, not just what I’m into at the moment, as that can be very obscure. And prayer plays a part, too. I believe God guides me in what I write, since it’s ultimately for His people and His glory.

Do you often find that comics have theological meaning woven into the storyline? Comic books are like any medium. Some try to go really high concept, some go for artsy, others are just for kicks, etc. As for theological meaning, pop culture, in general, has lots of Bible story templates that are woven into what is produced, whether we know it or not- Messiah stories, paradise/fall stories, prophesy stories, etc. Depends on what the writer and artist are trying to say. I don’t know about “often” but I’d say it’s not infrequent.

What was the first comic book you ever read and how old were you? Whew! I think I was ten and I believe it was Ghost Rider #27, which guest starred the X-Men. This was during comics’ heyday in the early 90s. I’m pretty sure I have the tattered copy somewhere.

Do you have a favorite comic book or comic series? My favorite individual story is Batman: Year One, by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli (1987). It is a fantastic story of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman, but the way the story is told is unparalleled. Absolutely brilliant script and art, and more importantly, the words and pictures fit together seamlessly. It was the template for “Batman Begins,” but the comic was far superior.

My favorite series of all time is X-Men. The concept of a group of people who are born differently and fight to protect those who hate them is very powerful and appeals to anyone. The movies have done an okay job reflecting this, but alas, they’re not made by comic books creators, like the Avengers movies are, so they drift too far away from the heart of the book, at least for me.

What kind of comics do you wish you could see more of? Smarter, better dialogue. TV shows have the same problem right now, and it tends to spill across other mediums. I think I’m in a minority, though.

What role does coffee play in your blog? I’m from Seattle and live in San Francisco, which means I’m a coffee drinker! Since I’m talking about an art form, ultimately, coffee shops are the perfect place for it! I have no idea how coffee and art came to be associated with one another so closely, but they are, and it’s a lot of fun. The Mission district in San Francisco has PLENTY of them, too, so there’s no shortage of great places I can enjoy writing in.

If you could tell those of our Orthodox youth who are thinking about pursuing the priesthood one (or several) thing(s) it would be: God calls everyone to do something in their life, based on the gifts He has given us. The priesthood is one part of the Body of Christ, but other parts are just as important. If someone chooses to go into the priesthood, it must be a calling. Make sure you’re spending time talking about it with God (which is what prayer is, at the end of the day) and He will take you where you need to go, which is what is best for you, as well.

If you could tell aspiring young comic book writers one (or several) thing(s) it would be: I have absolutely no idea! I guess just make sure you have a well-rounded knowledge of all eras and types of comic books, not just one, and not just of those released the last 3-5 years.

As a child, my favorite children’s book was or My favorite children’s book is: Probably any Bernstein Bears book. I loved those guys.

If I could tell our Orthodox youth one thing it would be: God loves you, and I love you. That, plus everything else our faith teaches us becomes even more true as we get older.

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