Kevin Spear: The man behind the cartoons

Tue, 2013-02-19 10:26 -- univcomm
Kevin Spear
February 19, 2013

For some reason, every time we see Lucy pull the football away from Charlie Brown, we can’t help but crack a smile. There’s something about humor that smooths out the rough edges and eases the ache of an unforgiving world. As Charles Schultz’s pen once brought humor into households around the world, one man now brings the same for the Church of God. His name is Kevin Spear, and he supplies the cartoons for CHOGnews.

Spear’s mother likes to show off a picture of him resting in a baby carriage outside Warner Auditorium. Spear, and the auditorium itself, were born about the same time. The great campmeeting landmark and the surrounding land would become Spear’s playground. After Spear’s tenth birthday, his father subscribed to the daily paper to satisfy Spear’s growing interest in the comics. He was the first one up each morning to bring in the paper and catch up on the adventures of Charlie Brown and his little dog Snoopy.

While studying graphic design and mass communication at Anderson University, Spear sold his first batch of cartoons for a publication that longtime Church of God children’s editor Kathleen Buehler was managing. Following an internship at the Saturday Evening Post, a slew of freelance pursuits, and a job at MacMillan Publishing in Indianapolis — where he illustrated several of the popular Complete Idiot’s Guides — he came to work at Warner Press.

Each month in CHOGnews, readers delight in the witty and often profound messages gleaned from illustrations that frequently depict the lighter side of children, their parents, pastors, teachers, and animals. But Kevin Spear is constantly creating and composing expressions of humor and insight that readers can view anytime at his website, www.KevinSpear.com. So where does he come up with his ideas?

“Usually my inspirations come from journaling,” Spear explains. “I take notes on the things of life. Sometimes there will be funny ideas that come to me, and other times I’ll go back and review my journaling and discover humor. Often it’s the observations and even frustrations of life that inspire my work.”

In the church, an aversion to humor and entertainment sometimes presents itself. On rare occasions, Spear has received complaints about the lighthearted manner with which he treats life and faith. But Spear takes it all in stride. “I want to honor Christ in all I do. Humor gives us all an opportunity to grow. If you don’t have any humor in your life, you can become bitter, because this world is an evil, depressing place if you let it get to you.”

Spear believes that sometimes Christians simply take themselves too seriously. He cites Christian humorist Ken Davis’s words of wisdom that we “lighten up and live!” “We may forget that God is in control even when it doesn’t look it in the world,” Spear adds. “We’re definitely not going to win someone to Christ if we look like we just ate a sour pickle. Jesus himself had to have a sense of humor to put up with the Pharisees and the hard-headed disciples!”

More than anything, Spear views his work as a ministry. Humor can play a major role in encouraging broken people and inspiring spiritual growth. “The one thing I love about humor, if you’re dealing with a serious topic, humor can ease the blow, especially if it’s difficult to understand or explain. Humor helps us look at things from a different angle. One of my favorite hymns is, ‘There is Joy in the Lord.’ I take this hymn seriously! If you have joy in spite of a difficult journey, you can relax and laugh. If you are resting in his favor, safe and secure, you can afford to see the humor in life because you know the Lord is ultimately in control.”

Spear also believes humor can be used as a witness. “If I can use humor to help people realize that all of us Christians aren’t serious all the time — that we also laugh and enjoy life — maybe they can look at Christ from a different angle than they have before.”

At Warner Press, Spear’s responsibilities include designing children’s books. Lately, he’s also taken on a new role of digital marketing for the Church of God publishing house. “I’m excited about this new opportunity,” Spear notes. “I ask myself, ‘What would Enoch and Noah Byrum be doing to reach people for Christ if they were here today?’ New media has afforded us so many ways to reach more people than ever with the gospel.”

Spear has some advice for young cartoonists interested in perfecting their craft. “I would encourage them to get their work out there. It’s so much easier now with the Internet. Anybody who can use a blog can get their work out there and get feedback. I’m very thankful for getting a bachelor’s at AU. Part of my AU experience was that I got a good education in different areas. To write or cartoon about anything, you need to know at least a little bit about everything. The more you do that, the more material you have for humor. I’d also encourage them to take notes of their pastor’s messages. Sermons can be a great source of material, and note-taking is a great way to a pay attention to what the pastor is saying!”

Want to see more of Kevin’s cartoons? Visit www.KevinSpear.com, where you can also learn more about the Creative Commons License, which allows churches and ministries to use his cartoons for noncommercial purposes.

Charles Schultz, Vital Christianity’s Doug Hall, Ken Davis, Sam Collins, Kevin Spear — all honorable humorists of our time. But as Kevin Spear will tell you, the real man behind the cartoons is Jesus.

— Carl Stagner is communication services assistant for Church of God Ministries, Inc. Story reposted with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of about 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology.