THE BIBLE's Story of Ruth Retold in the Great Depression

The Book of Ruth
Credit: Colin Dyer
Meredith Finch
Meredith Finch
Credit: Image Comics

On the heels of wrapping her Image Comics’ title, Rose, writer Meredith Finch launches a new creator-owned title - The Book of Ruth, with up-and-coming artist Colin Dyer, through Kickstarter. The graphic novel is a retelling of the Bible’s “Book of Ruth” placed in the setting of the Great Depression.

Finch's Kickstarter describes the title as, "a story of one woman's journey of faith and love as you've never seen it before. Join Noami, Ruth, and Boaz in a little town called Bethlehem, Texas, as they struggle to overcome sickness, death and bankruptcy, and discover sometimes all you really need to have is faith."

The Kickstarter will be running through November 30, with several tiers that include not only the book, but variant covers from David Finch, Billy Tucci, and Lee Weeks, a special sketch in the comic by David Finch, and even a dinner date with Meredith and David.

Newsarama had the chance to talk to Meredith Finch about why she went the Kickstarter route to publish The Book of Ruth, why the story is important to her, and how she picked Colin Dyer as her art collaborator for the project.  

Credit: Colin Dyer

Newsarama: Meredith, What inspired you to write this story?

Meredith Finch: I have always loved the story of Ruth. With only four relatively short chapters, it is one of the most accessible and understandable books in the bible. Once I knew that I was going to bring the story of Rose (Image Comics) to an end, I started thinking about what I wanted my next creator-owned project to be. I just could not get away from the idea that this was the right time to tackle this beautiful story.

Nrama: What attracted you to Ruth’s character?

Finch: Some might say I’ve made writing strong, female characters my genre. The story of Ruth is certainly no exception to that. The courage and strength of will demonstrated by Ruth cannot be overstated. She left behind everything she knew; her family, and her homeland, to travel with her mother-in-law to a foreign land. Once there, it was Ruth who ventured out into the world to support the two of them.

While she is definitely not an “in-your-face” character, she has a quiet assurance about her that I find very inspirational. She leads by quiet example, and she does what’s right simply because it’s right. I have had some very challenging times in my life, and much like the character of Naomi in this story, I have tried to control the uncontrollable. I find the solumn faith of Ruth something to aspire to. 

Credit: Colin Dyer

I also think her refugee story; of crafting a new life in a new land feels especially appropriate in today’s world, where people are too often being displaced from their homeland because of famine or war.

Nrama: What made you decide to set the story in the Great Depression instead of modern day?

Finch: One of the things I find about reading the Bible is that sometimes the stories feel so remote and distant from the times we live in, and yet at the same time the core of the stories are still very relevant. I wanted to bring this story into a time that was more accessible, and when I thought about the ideas within the original "Book of Ruth," about the extreme cycles of famine and abundance, I was immediately transported to the Great Depression. It was a time of such a swing from great wealth to great poverty, both materially and emotionally. 

Nrama: How did you connect with your artist, Colin Dyer?

Finch: My strategy, whenever I’m doing a creator-owned project, is to write the first issue and then hire the artist. It keeps me accountable, and makes sure I’m actually moving forward instead of spinning my wheels. Dave and I knew we wanted a very specific look for this book – think Jason Shawn Alexander or Alex Maleev. But it’s not the easiest to find someone like that in an industry that still leans very heavily toward “Super-hero” artwork.

Ultimately it was Dave who suggested we put it out on Facebook. I was overwhelmed with the response, but after the first day we still hadn’t found the right artist. I owe a huge “thank you” to Tom Lyle. He was one of Colin’s professors at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). Tom saw our post and forwarded it to Colin. The moment I saw Colin’s submission I had chills. 

Credit: Colin Dyer

Nrama: Why did you feel Colin was the perfect fit for the title?

Credit: Colin Dyer

Finch: Colin’s artwork just has such a texture and richness to it. Also, a lot of people can draw expressions, but it takes something special to make those expressions come off the page and hit you the way Colin can. You can look at a page and see directly into a character’s heart. That’s something truly special, and I just feel so blessed that we were able to have him be a part of this project.

Nrama: What was the choice behind making the story black and white?

Finch: Initially it was my intention to slowly introduce color into the artwork as the story progressed, and our characters moved from their emotional famine toward abundance. But as I got deeper into the story, I felt that it was better served, in terms of the look and feel, to keep it black and white. The work Colin did on the art really sealed the deal on that. He uses a combination of ink-wash and airbrush, and with one notable exception, I simply didn’t feel that color would add anything to the story he’s told so beautifully.

Credit: Colin Dyer

Nrama: How did you put your own spin on this biblical story?

Finch: The biblical story really glosses over a lot of what Ruth must have gone through as a young woman, in a strange place, trying to support herself and her mother-in-law. These were times in which most, if not all, women had a man to look after and protect them. (Another reason why using the Great Depression times as a setting really worked. Women still hadn’t achieved equality the way they have now.) 

I really wanted to show the pitfalls and dangers that she must have faced. I hope that helps to emphasize how special it was that she wound up on the farm of Boaz, but also to emphasize the personal strength that she developed in herself in that journey. She isn’t saved. She’s given strength from Boaz, but she gives it to him in equal measure.

Credit: Colin Dyer

There are also several aspects of the story that are fairly hard to understand living in the 21st century: like Ruth lying at the feet of Boaz on the threshing floor; or the idea of the kinsman redeemer. I wanted to honor the intention of those concepts in a way that made sense for a reader who didn’t have inside information about Jewish customs of that time. 

Nrama: Would you like to adapt any other religious stories?

Finch: As a writer, not only am I constantly looking for great stories, I’m also looking to tell stories that are spiritually meaningful to me. I think having a personal connection to what you are writing, and to your characters, is part of what helps the audience connect and relate to the work.

A lot of times “religious” or biblical stories are easily dismissed by the broader reading public, either because they don’t feel relevant, or because “religion” can seem alienating to those not in the faith. I’m not trying to sell a system of beliefs to anyone. Instead, I prefer to think of myself as telling stories of faith and love. And yes, Colin and I have already started talking about what story we’d like to tackle next.

Credit: David Finch

Nrama: What made you go the Kickstarter route for this book?

Finch: Kickstarter has become another type of social media for people in our industry, and I felt that it was a great way to get more exposure for this story than it might otherwise have had sitting at the bottom of a page in the back of a Previews catalogue.

Nrama: Do you have other stories you’d like to publish through Kickstarter?

Credit: Billy Tucci

Finch: David and I have talked about doing a creator-owned book together, and putting it out through Kickstarter. But I think that it really depends on the project.  If it’s something that Image or one of the larger publishers would readily publish I’m not sure it makes sense. To me, crowdfunding is for projects that wouldn’t see the light of day without some help. I wouldn’t want to dilute that pool of resources for great independent books by putting out something that didn’t need to be there.

Nrama: Do you have plans to release the book through Diamond or distribute online if the Kickstarter succeeds?

Finch: Definitely, we are using Kickstarter to test the waters, and to see if there really is a market for this type of comic. If we are successful, I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t want to take it as far as it can go. A great story is, quite simply, a great story. I firmly believe that what we have here is not just a great “comic”, but something truly special. I just know that our readers will love what we have created as much as we have loved creating it.

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