Russian Comics on Warrior Saint: Putting American Superheroes to Shame

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Originally appeared at: Global Orthodox

Sometimes it pays to look at something familiar at an unfamiliar angle, to change the lens. Then there is a freshness of perception, and we see the details that we had not noticed before - or just forgot about them. It is important to revisit familiar stories over and over again: this is how we root them in our memories, rethink them, and cherish them.

For example, the hagiography of Saint Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky. It seems that there are so many editions available for children and adults, that it is impossible to create something new. However, it is possible to take a well-known story, and put it in a new, unusual form; it will take on a different sound, highlighting important points.

Recently the publishing house "Free Wanderer" issued the children’s book "Two feats of Alexander Nevskiy”. It reminds one a little of our habitual retelling of the saint's hagiography for children. There are no detailed descriptions or reasoning about the destiny of the prince. The basic emphasis is made on key events of the biography. The rest is given schematically, with big strokes.

Два подвига Александра Невского»: книга-комикс о судьбе Руси /  Православие.Ru

"Two feats of Alexander Nevskiy" is a comic book about the life of the saintly prince. The amount of text is less than the images and their sequence. So, to read this book as an ordinary text is impossible: you must constantly correlate the words with the images.

The text for the book was created by Anna Saprykina, a student of pedagogical sciences and an expert in family education. The consultant for the project was the historian, poet, prose writer, and publicist Alexander Orlov. The resulting text is clear and easy to understand, which doesn’t just talk about the life of the saint prince, but helps to understand the essence of his feats. On the pages are many explanations and historical commentaries, maps and diagrams, and at the end there are some interesting tasks one can do. Readers will be able to examine the map of Russia, the genealogical tree of the Rurikids, and the churches dedicated to Prince Alexander, which were built around the world. At the same time the author appeals directly to the reader, helps him to relate his own life to the life of the saint, to learn from him, to emmulate his virtues.

Два подвига Александра Невского»: книга-комикс о судьбе Руси /  Православие.Ru

Illustrations for the book created by Ekaterina Sklyarova. They turned out bright and memorable; images that immerse the reader in the story.

Many parents are afraid of comic books. It often seems that these are just trashy magazines about superheroes, full of violence and dubious jokes. And there are such comics, but that doesn't mean there aren't others. Generally speaking, a comic book is a medium. The content can be anything. Now there are many comics about history, culture, science, and social phenomena. There are biographies of famous people and even retellings of classic novels in this unusual form.

Reading comics is not as easy as it may seem at first glance. In normal reading, our brains process the information we take from the text. Even if there are pictures in the book, there is still more text. While reading a comic book, our brain is constantly switching from pictures to words, making the missing connections, and turning on logic. The child is not just looking at illustrations - he is doing hard intellectual work.

"The Two Feats of Alexander Nevsky" is a multifunctional book; it can work in many different ways. The book is designed for children of elementary and middle school age: for example, those who know nothing about Saint Prince Alexander. Here are a few scenarios of how and to whom it will be useful.

Children who know hagiography

If you have already introduced your child to the exploits of the Blessed Prince Alexander, it does not mean that he memorized and assimilated everything once and for all. Most likely, in a few months, the writing will be overshadowed by other information and other impressions. The comic book "Two feats of Alexander Nevskiy" will help to refresh their memory of what they’ve read, and compare their own impressions with new information.

The unusual form of the book attracts the child's attention. Looking at the illustrations, reading the small captions, he re-immerses into the history of the battles and feats of the prince and involuntarily fixes it in his memory.

Children who are not familiar with hagiography

The comics book is suitable not only for children who are familiar with the destiny of Alexander Nevskiy, but children who knew nothing about him can begin their acquaintance, not with a classical hagiographic text, but rather with a comic book. It is more dynamic and brighter than the usual book, and visual images supported by capacious phrases are easier to digest.

When the child is already familiar with the personality of the holy prince on the comic book, you can then read the familiar hagiography arranged for children. If you stop during the reading to compare the two books and discuss the important things, children will more easily absorb and remember the main events more firmly.

Unchurched Children

Even if the life of a saint is adapted for young readers, a child who knows almost nothing about the spiritual life will be "out of touch." Many concepts and terms he simply has not heard, and if he has, he may misinterpret them. If you add the historical context, you get a complex story that not every child can overcome.

Два подвига Александра Невского»: книга-комикс о судьбе Руси /  Православие.Ru

"The Two Feats of Alexander Nevsky" is a bright book written in simple language. The abundance of pictures helps to understand even unfamiliar entities. It can be an important stepping stone on the way to churching.

Non-reading children

If a child doesn't like books and his reading skills are weak, comics are a great alternative to conventional works. There's little text, and it's simple and concrete, without the extra arguments and digressions. The dynamics of the story, conveyed through the illustrations, holds the child's attention. "The Two Feats of Alexander Nevsky" is a book about important things, which will help the child to "settle in" and feel the pleasure of the process.


I have been teaching Sunday school for twelve years, and I know how difficult it is to talk about the saints. You have to get the child interested, convey the essence of the feat, touch their heart, and evoke reciprocal feelings. Often, I have to use non-standard techniques that help "ground" the story, make it closer and clearer.

The book "The Two Feats of Alexander Nevsky" can be a great help in the classroom. Considering comics with children, it's easier to explain important historical and political moments. Visibility, brightness and dynamics help pupils to present the milestones in the life of St. Prince Alexander not in the abstract, to see the reasons and consequences, and most importantly - not to lose interest.

Два подвига Александра Невского»: книга-комикс о судьбе Руси /  Православие.Ru

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