Marvel Comics already has iconic heroes like Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Iron Man, but in January of 1982, they added a new hero to their pantheon: Pope Saint John Paul II.
Talk about a first for the Successor of Saint Peter!
Published in 1982, it tells the story of his life from his childhood in Poland through the assassination attempt on his life in May 1981.
So, how did this come to fruition?
According to Catholic News Agency, “It all started with Gene Pelc- a New Yorker and Marvel representative living in Japan.”
Pelc was tasked with producing a Marvel comic to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the birth of Saint Francis of Assisi.
“Father Roy Gasnick, a Franciscan priest and director of communications based in New York, helped Marvel writer Mary Jo Duffy to write the story of Saint Francis' life for the comic. Father Gasnik was, by all accounts, a massive comic book fan himself,” the article explains.
“Then the artists at Marvel did their magic, and produced the comic entitled ‘Francis: Brother of the Universe,’ which hit stores in 1980.”
Just a year later, Pope John Paul II arrived in Japan as the first pope to visit the country.
“The pope's visit galvanized Pelc, who was still riding high on the success of the St. Francis comic. He began looking into the possibility of producing another religious-themed comic for Marvel,” Catholic News Agency explains.
The comic was written by Steven Grant, a young freelance comic book artist who worked for Marvel in New York.
The team at Marvel encountered numerous obstacles during production, one being the 1981 assassination attempt made on the Holy Father.
Political turmoil in Poland at the time made it hard to communicate with their liaison Father Mieczyslaw Malinski, a friend of John Paul II and consultant for the story.
But, in 1982, the comic book hit the shelves.
According to Catholic News Agency, “a Marvel executive flew to Rome and presented the pope with a leatherbound edition.”
It was a huge success, selling millions of copies worldwide. You can still buy copies on Amazon.
So how long will it be before Marvel makes it into a movie? Should we start a petition?!
Also of interest: since the comic book about Saint John Paul II was so successful, the artist John Tartaglione illustrated a comic book about Blessed Mother Teresa.
Here’s the cover of The Life of Pope John Paul II: Here’s the cover of The Life of Pope John Paul II:
And here are some pics of the inside:
Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us!