Mario DeMatteo grew up loving Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, he never thought he would end up in a career telling a powerful story through creatures of his own. It wasn’t until DeMatteo broke his neck in a freak accident and became paralyzed that he discovered his true passion; a desire to use visual language to make the Bible more accessible to families. DeMatteo, along with his writer Ben Avery, and illustrator Mark Harmon, dove into the Book of Acts and created a 144-page, full color, graphic novel about the Apostle Paul. We interviewed DeMatteo in 2018 and talked with him about how his injury affected his faith journey and how Disney has influenced his work.
DeMatteo opens up about his faith journey before and after his injury.
“Before I got hurt, I was about to go to San Diego State. I had started at Point Loma Nazarene University. God was kind of on the back burner. I had this whole vision of becoming this super successful businessman and having a house in Costa Rica and funding all my surf trips. It was all about material and kind of like, ‘Oh, well, when I get a wife and kid then I’ll start following Jesus again.’ I never lost my faith, but it was definitely not a big part of my decision-making. After I got hurt, I think it was more out of desperation that I really relied on
God to help me get through this ridiculously tragic and depressing event. I was just like, ‘What am I supposed to do now?’ That was kind of the moment of just desperation where I’m calling on God to help me through. That was me saying that cliché prayer, ‘If you let me walk again, I’ll do whatever you say?’ He got me through it and I had a really supportive family and friends. It was I think, harder on my family that it was on me. I know I wouldn’t have been able to have a positive outlook without my faith for sure. Right from the beginning, I knew that there was something at work that was going to make my life a lot better than probably it would have been without getting hurt. I think I was maybe on the wrong path and I don’t think God punished me. There’s this thing I wrote a long time ago where we’re all like ants headed toward this little feast. Ants get distracted and will wander off path. If you just put your hand down, an ant will hit your hand and go back and just redirect toward the main path. That was going to feel like maybe I was off path and God was pushing me back. Along that time, I started gardening.”
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times; and I pray that now at last by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you. I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.” Romans 1:8-12
DeMatteo shares how Disney is an influence on his work and how now more than ever comic books are becoming mainstream with movies.
“Disney has been one of the biggest influences of my life. I love Disney films. They are a massive influence and even today, the movies that are still coming out are amazing…The thing that I take a little issue with, is the ultra-violence in a lot of the films, especially the DC franchise. But at the same time, I love Star Wars. I think violence has a place in film and in society. It’s a reality of our world, but sometimes it’s hard as a writer to write something that’s not violent. Like Jesus was so radical to not just magically destroy all the Romans. He laid down His life, like this non-violent resistor, which is the most radical thing. We never see that in film. It’s always ends up with the killing of the villain. I think that is kind of what we’re taught. That way I was taught as a young kid. If somebody messes with you, you fight back, you punch them first. In our Paul book, Paul becomes a martyr and he also has the powers of Jesus and doesn’t use them. It’s kind of like this anti-climatic book and he ends up getting killed in the end, which is not your normal hero story. We’re working on the second story right now and it’s the Jesus story. Again, He’s amazing and then He gives up His own life. It’s a tricky way to end a story. It’s like the anti-climax, but it’s the ultimate climax.”
Be radical. Take time this week to read about the life of Paul. It might be reading it in your Bible or DeMatteo’s graphic novel or even listening to the story. Reflect on what Paul did that was different than others. What made him stand out? Pray and ask God to help you to be radical. It might mean taking a stand for your faith at the office, at school or amongst your friends.
Live out your calling. It can be difficult to live out the calling God has place on our lives. Take a step back and pray. Ask God to show you the different gifts and talents he has entrusted you with and how He wants you to use them to glorify Him. It might be volunteering at church or starting a ministry or mentoring someone. Sometimes it can be difficult to identify our gifts, ask a friend or small group leader to help you.
Pray for the next generation. They have so many messages being placed in front of them. Pray that God’s truth would reign and that they would respond to it. Pray for DeMatteo and other creators like him, that they would use their gifts and talents to create messages that would have an eternal impact.
To read our entire interview with Mario DeMatteo, click here.