Joey Ruff is the head of WASHED Entertainment and the creator of The Pendragon Chronicles, an upcoming comic geared toward young people. GUG was fortunate to connect with him and have a conversation about his work and his vision, both of which are rare enough to warrant a deeper look. We think you will enjoy his insightful answers to our questions!
The Pendragon Chronicles is based on the legend of King Arthur. What makes this retelling different from others?
This is Camelot for a generation hooked on Harry Potter and Game of Thrones.
Even casual readers will notice monsters abound. Dragons and fairies play heavily into the story, while other creatures, like giants and werewolves, are also hinted at. The plot hinges on the fantastical.
But more than that, this is also a Camelot seen through the Bible. As C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.” Everything I’ve been doing for the past ten years has been to reinterpret the monsters and myths of the world through the lens of God’s Creation. This is just the newest myth.
Our version of the tale is not only laced with Christian principles, but Biblical mysteries and characters as well. Merlin isn’t a wizard. He’s a very specific type of angel, one tasked with watching over humanity and keeping them safe from the manifestations of evil that inhabit the world. He’s also a figure in the order of Melchizedek. And he fights against demons and fallen angels.
I know there will be parents out there that won’t see how magic and Jesus can coexist. I grew up in the Satanic Panic of the 80’s when D&D was the devil’s game and He-Man was strictly taboo. Now as a parent myself, I can respect those parents for that belief. But as a kid who was drawn to magic and monsters, being told those things were evil made me wonder what was wrong with me if I liked those evil things.
The Bible is full of magic, not just miracles, and the magic displayed in this comic will do one of two things: Point back to the grace and glory of Heaven, or have a dark and dire consequence.
Tell us the story behind the story. What inspired this idea?
It all began with a much grander idea for an animated series. The premise of which is warriors from every tribe and nation coming together in an epic adventure that spans time and eternity to give an exciting parable of spiritual warfare. It’s about 13 champions called upon in a time of great peril, but they weren’t the first such group. When I began exploring where these champions first originated, it all naturally led me to Camelot, to Arthur and his Knights.
So I began developing the story of King Arthur, set in the world I’d already been building. It was far enough removed from the original tale that I could spread my wings and not be hampered by what was to come, yet it was still relevant to the former. The comic book came about out of a need to start telling the story. Comics are far more accessible than animation when you have a limited budget.
The more I talked to people about it, the more encouragement I got, and the more I realized the story of Arthur isn’t as widely known as I’d thought. Most didn’t know Excalibur and the sword in the stone were separate blades. Most don’t know who Uther Pendragon is. As I started to plot out the stories and determine where I wanted to take this comic, I began to get really excited. The original is a great story, but giving it some modern sensibilities and new intrigue really makes it that much cooler.
What is WASHED Entertainment?
WASHED is the company I created two years ago with the intent of creating new, fresh, faith-based, and family-friendly entertainment. In Matthew, Jesus told his disciples he was sending them out as sheep among wolves, to be Wise As Serpents & Harmless as Doves (which is what WASHED stands for). Our primary goal is to create stories and media for our youth.
While we’re starting with a comic, we have lofty goals that include series for TV (both animated and live action), movies, console games, and mobile apps…all built from the ground up on biblical principles designed first to entertain, with edification being an added bonus.
As a start-up company, we have more allies than employees, something I’ve been calling a confederation of talent. These are all people that share my passion for the hearts of our youth and agree what’s currently being done in Christian entertainment could use a little extra effort. These are novelists and writers, editors, business people, artists and animators, filmmakers.
Grace Holsten was the first artist to board the project, and she’s responsible for all of the amazing concept art. I found her as a freelance artist on the internet, and we just worked incredibly well together in designing the characters. I have so much respect for her talent, and she’s a dream to work with. Tom Bancroft, who is an animation veteran and much respected in the field, worked for Disney for years and designed characters your kids know and love; he’s been there to offer advice and guidance, as well as partnering with us to do a variant comic cover. Also along for the ride is John Pomeroy, who’s an incredible talent and heart – one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met – and has helped bring such classic movies as The Land Before Time and An American Tail to life. Laia Lopez, Scott Sirag, and Sergio Cariello are all also on board for variant covers.
Which books and/or comics did you grow up reading?
In comics, I was a Marvel guy: Spider-Man and X-Men.
Books, I read ‘em all. The Chronicles of Narnia, for sure. The Dark is Rising series was a favorite. Alice in Wonderland…but in middle school, I discovered Frank Peretti. This Present Darkness (which I’m reading again right now), The Oath, etc.
Peretti had a big influence on me. I met him one night in a chatroom, back in high school, in the days of AOL. I sent him a poem I’d written. He wrote back and said, “Keep writing. The Lord will anoint you.” He and I have mutual friends now, so I’m hoping to tell him what an influence he’s been on me. He’s one of the three people I’d love to work with one day (the other two are Chris Pratt and Trevor McNevan from TFK).
Who is your favorite character in The Pendragon Chronicles and why?
For me, he’s a bit of a David-like character. He comes from humble beginnings to become king. If you know the original story, it isn’t a spoiler to tell you that he falls for the wrong woman and makes a terrible mistake that ultimately costs him his life. In our story, he’s also a man of passion who loves his land and people and strives to be a good king. His journey in this first story is one of finding his identity: Who he is as a man, king, warrior, and as a son of the Most High King. It’s a lesson I’ve struggled with my entire life and hopefully a theme our youth will be able to resonate with.
Which aspect of this project are you most excited for?
If you would have asked me this question at the beginning of the year, I would have said I was eager to tell a great story. That’s still true, but these days, I’m most excited to inspire a new generation to a different kind of faith-based entertainment.
I know there are Christian comics out there. I think what Art Ayris and Kingstone are doing is fantastic! The Action Bible is incredible! Retelling Biblical stories in comic form is an awesome way to read the Bible and kids need to know how amazing those stories are. But often, those kinds of books don’t feel like entertainment so much as devotions. My son is 13. He loves Fortnite, Ninja Turtles, and Star Wars; the kind of shows that have cool characters and travel to weird places and tell a grand, sweeping story. Kids want something they haven’t seen before, some mystery, not just a fresh coat of paint on the stories they’ve heard all throughout Sunday school.
We’re targeting a youth audience, teens and preteens, and daring to give them something they’ve never seen. Through fiction, we can talk about certain things and themes that are awkward or preachy if addressed otherwise, things kids deal with as they start to mature: Sex, peer pressure, bullying. Sex is easy to talk about in the story of Arthur because it’s there in the legend, whether it’s Uther and Igraine or Guinevere and her multiple suitors. It’s what the world spoon-feeds our kids on primetime television without consequences. They aren’t teaching the spiritual implications. Of course, people wince when that word is used in most contexts; it isn’t comfortable. But my answer to that is this: The youth are already getting it from a worldly perspective. We’re coming at from a biblical POV. Who would you rather them get it from?
Where can people find out more about The Pendragon Chronicles?
We have just under two weeks left on the Kickstarter and we have a great video that shows all the art and talks about the project. You can check it out and help support it here! Please feel free to share it with your friends.