In honor of the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, Andrew Knaupp and artist Sal Velluto have created a graphic novel adaption of Joseph Smith’s First Vision. “Pillar of Light” teaches youth through a talented blend of imagery and words. Their goal is to inspire young readers to build their testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith and provide insights for receiving their own personal revelation. Details from all four wondrous accounts written by Joseph Smith as well as from those who heard him tell his firsthand experience are captivatingly blended together.
Created by Sal Velluto, who is best known for having worked on the Life of the Prophet Joseph Smith published in the Friend Magazine and drawing 34 issues of Marvel’s Black Panther. Velluto used the script, a copy of Joseph Smith’s death mask and a research binder full of historic American clothing of the 1820’s to translate the spiritual concepts into visual representations.
Velluto’s illustrations are detailed, symbolic and creative. The artistry is innovative, particularly in the depiction of the First Vision and his battle with Satan. Joseph Smith’s search for truth captures the reader’s attention as good and evil are vying for his soul. The book was completed on March 26, 2020 and it is available to purchase on Amazon.
I recently interviewed Knaupp, who has spear-headed an effort to create Latter-day Saint comic books. He shed light on this project and provided a better understanding of the creative process.
Which scene was the most difficult to depict? The battle with Satan clearly. This is a subject that has been very lightly touched on over the years, it was even excluded from several film versions. We felt that this needed to be portrayed in a way that clearly showed that the adversary was real, almost “destroyed” the young Prophet, and was the darkness that was the opposite of the glorious light of the Father and the Son. We were trying to convey that he had a physical presence, but not a physical body, which was very tricky, but Sal pulled it off beautifully.
What details are included from the accounts of Joseph Smith about the First Vision that have not been previously shown in current films and visuals? The fact that he searched for two years, his extreme exhaustion and loss of consciousness after the vision, his mother’s personal revelation after her near death experience that must have influenced him. Also his battle with Satan and the degree of danger and opposition it was, the Pillar of Light appearing as fire which enveloped the trees, the Pillar descending separately from the figures, Joseph being transfigured to endure the presence of God, the Father and the Son appearing at separate times, the additional words spoken to Joseph that were not included in the Pearl of Great Price Account, and the angels appearing in the vision.
What has been most rewarding for you about this project? Seeing the artwork inspire the youth and adults in their study and appreciation of the First Vision. When we hear feedback from readers who tell us how it has been a blessing to them and their children and has helped to strengthen their testimonies of the Prophet Joseph, it feels wonderful.
In what ways have you seen the hand of the Lord in this? The Lord helped bring Sal and I together through a series of events over 5 years. Sal’s very busy schedule opened up just at the right time to have this done by the 200th anniversary, which we didn’t realize was happening until several months after we started. He also helped us with funding for the project through a few key individuals who were willing to support us without seeing a finished product. He also blessed both of us with ideas and inspiration as we collaborated on each page, even reminding us of words or details that answered questions about how specific illustrations should be done. We were also blessed to make contacts who helped us spread the word and even got support from Stephen Harper, one of the historical experts on the First Vision, who was willing to write a foreword. It was a wonderful and challenging experience we very much enjoyed.
See a video of the graphic novel’s creators sharing more about their creation and their experience below: