There are many ways missioners can go about their overseas mission, from nursing the sick to teaching the poor. Maryknollers tend to put a unique spin to their mission that draws on their personality and talents. One such example is Brother Sebastian J. Schwartz, a prolific artist who intertwined his mission with comics. Br. Schwartz created many different comic strips over his 62 years of service at Maryknoll, including titles such as “Melting Pot Gang”, “Circle of Love”, “TOA: Warrior of the Sunrise”, and an illustrated biography of Joan of Arc. His creative works are vast and cover many topics such as AIDS, bullying, “being different”, drug addiction, and much more.  All of these works served the purpose of sharing Christian beliefs and values with the world.
Brother Sebastian MM, drawing cartoons at the Maryknoll Center House, photo by Sean Sprague
Prototype Logo for Toa Comic
Concept art of Toa, drawn by Br. Schwartz
For this specific feature I will be focusing on one of his earlier works, “TOA: Warrior of the Sunrise”. He started the comic in 1978 during his mission to Western Samoa. The fictional story follows a Polynesian warrior named Toa as he fights against the schemes of the Queen of a mysterious kingdom. Br. Schwartz created the comic as a way to teach Christian values by blending these values into a story centered on the culture of the mission area he was serving.
Cover for Volume 1 of Toa: Warrior of the Sunrise, drawn by Br. Schwartz
First Page of Toa: Warrior of the Sunrise, drawn by Br. Schwartz
“TOA: Warrior of the Sunrise” had a very clear Polynesian influence to it, featuring a setting that seemingly came straight out of a Western Samoa myth. While the story eventually evolved into a Sci-Fi adventure with aliens and advanced civilizations, the comic always kept its cultural flair. This cultural connection worked alongside the thrilling adventure to help draw readers in and keep them coming back to read future issues. The comic’s popularity increased over its runtime (1978-1983) and it was featured in a number of magazines across the Pacific, including the Pacific issue of News Nation and the Hawaii Catholic Herald.
Brother Sschwartz drawing
Br. Schwartz applied his artistic talents to his mission wherever he went. The comic about Toa was just the beginning in a long line of comics meant to both entertain and teach. Each of his comics were set to portray a Christian value he felt particularly strong about. Toa’s story focused mostly on doing the right thing and fighting back against oppressive forces (both internal and external). His later works would focus heavily on advocacy for the people with disabilities. While his various comics touched on a variety of topics, they all were designed to both entertain the reader and teach them whatever message Br. Schwartz had to offer.
Close up of Br. Schwartz drawing a new comic
Page 58 of Toa: Warrior of the Sunrise
A cartoonist should entertain as well as have some message to get across, but do it in a way so as not to bombard the reader. -Brother Sebastian Schwartz
Quote from the article "Inside the Box" in the March 2012 issue of Maryknoll Magazine

If you would like to learn more about Brother Sebastian J. Schwartz and his many comics, you can browse our guide to his creative works here.