Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Habemus Papam: Pope Benedict II" - Papal Manga!!!

Readers of the "John Paul II generation" and fellow Catholic comic book fans might recall Marvel Comic's epic biographical portrait of His Eminence. Published in 1983, it chronicled the life of Karol Wojtyla from his childhood to his election, up to the point of the assassination attempt.

Given his (unmerited) reputation as the Vatican's "PanzerKardinal" and Dostoyevskian "Grand Inquisitor", I thought it unlikely that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger would ever receive the same comic-book treatment with his election in 2005. Likewise, Marvel Comics is an altogether different kind of animal these days, getting into a tiff with the Catholic League over X-Men#424 (July 2003), with a controversial and in some respects anti-Catholic storyline.

And so it is with pleasure that I was recently contacted by Catholic author Regina Doman, who with artist Sean Lam has produced an incredible comic portrait of Pope Benedict XVI in the style of Japanese manga:

Habemus Papam! Pope Benedict XVI (Manga Hero, 2012) is the story of an extraordinary young man who thought he was ordinary. Young Josef Ratzinger faces a number of challenges growing up in German Bavaria: all he wants to do is learn, but the Nazis keep closing down his schools. His father, Captain Ratzinger, a retired police officer, has been trying to stay one step ahead of the Nazis, but as Josef grows older, Germany moves towards war, and every German youth must serve in the army Hitler has taken over. Little does Josef realize that the plan God has for him goes beyond books and the academy - and even beyond Germany! This graphic novel about the life of Pope Benedict XVI is an expanded version of Gabrielle Gniewek's book that was officially published for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, Spain, and distributed to 300,000 people. Also included is a nine page appendix with fun facts about the Holy Father, his vehicles, and the Swiss Guards.

Those not used to manga style will need to get aquainted with the traditional habit of turning the pages (and reading the frames) left-to-right, but once accustomed, they will encounter a work of love. The life of the Pope is beautifully rendered in faithful and well-researched detail.

It is also with great appreciation that I wish to relay (with her permission) Regina's special note to the Ratzinger Fan Club on the comic's production:

the main reason I wanted to write was to send my profound thanks to the Pope Benedict XVI Forum. I can say with all honesty that this book would have been nearly impossible to finish, if not write, without all the photographs and information on the Pope which your members have collected over the years.

There is so much misinformation and slander about the Pope on the Internet, and as I spend long nights searching the Web for images to send to the artist as references, I became depressed by all the horrible and hateful images and stories on this good, good man, Josef Ratzinger. But every time I stumbled across an image or a story that brought me hope or made me smile, it was inevitably something that was posted on RatzingerFanClub.com.

One aspect of the Pope's life that I found it nearly impossible to document was his relationship with his sister Maria Ratzinger. I wanted to send a particular thank you to the member who annually posted photos of Maria on the day of her passing from this life. As an author, I had to make up much of Maria's personality, since so little is written about her, but the only photos of her as an adult I could find were the ones posted on your forum. From them, I tried to deduce her personality. Who knows if I've succeeded in telling anything near the truth? But this leap of faith would have been harder to make without the photos, and I am very grateful. It's my hope that my fictional portrait of Maria will at least make more people recognize the significant contributions that this older sister of the Pope made to her younger brother's life.

There's a little visual shout-out to the Forum on p. 213, and I had them put the club URL in the appendix, so hopefully you'll get some interest as a result! But I felt that wasn't enough of a thank-you, so I wanted to write and express my gratitude for the contributions made by the Forum members. At any rate, I wanted to say thank you, and I hope that you can pass this letter onto the Forum members for me.

And finally, the "Ratzinger Fan Club" will be pleased to know that one of our members' meeting with the Holy Father be forever immortalized in comic book form:


Credits

  • Habemus Papam! Pope Benedict XVI is published by Manga Hero and is available on Amazon.com.
  • Regina Doman is a Catholic wife, mother, author and editor. She is a graduate of Franciscan University and owner of Chesterton Press. Find out more about her at reginadoman.com.
  • Sean Lam is a professional artist specializing in American-style comic books as well as Japanese anime and manga. He has previously illustrated Paul: Tarsus to Redemption and Judith: Captive to Conqueror, among others for Manga Hero. His past works include the 480-page single volume manga It Takes a Wizard. He is a graduate in graphic design from Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore.


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