Marvel’s Non-Battle Pope Comic: Paul II

June 4th, 2009 by | Tags: , , , , ,

If you’re not up to speed, read the first part of James Howard’s review here! Unless you want to experience it Star Wars style. That’s cool too!

So Wojytla heads back and joins the official Polish delegation to Rome for Pope John XXIII’s Ecumenical Council, where he makes a speech before the assembly and spends his time soaking up the scene.

Africa, you know I love you, but stop listening to the fucking Vatican already. And don’t think for a second that the pair are placed next to one another here to imply a sense of colourblind kinship and equality before the Lord; one being a white bishop and one being a black bishop, they’re actually positioned there to spend the evening completely ruining my knights’ mobility.

Wojtyla is officially promoted to Archbishop of Cracow and gains all the perks of the position: new business cards, free jello, and a much, much larger hat.

Most people would look at this picture and take most interest in the apparent radioactive properties of the new headwear, but I’m more intrigued by the stubby sausage-like hand sneaking in behind the new Archbishop to swipe his old hat before the new one comes down. What if he wanted to stack them, like Duplo? Is that not allowed?

That guy on the left just snuck in for some of the cafeteria food, which is why he’s the only dude in this shot without a hat. Also note that the largest hat is on the head of the cook in the back, which means he’s actually the highest authority in this shot. “WHADDYA THINK‘S IN THE SACRAMENTAL WAFERS?”

By this time we’ve made it to 1967, at which time Archbishop Wojtyla moves up the ranks again and becomes the Cardinal of Cracow.

Marvel Comics identifies this point not only as his establishment as the spiritual leader of his nation, but the point from which they’re just going to portray him as a complete badass.

Skiing downhill! Taming kangaroos! They could have replaced Ozymandias’ televised gymnastics routine in Watchmen with this highlight reel and it still would have left Dan Dreiberg impotent. “This man is in his forties, folks!”

The swagger also extends to suffering fools, which the newly minted Cardinal seems to decide he’s done with during a tour of America:

You got told, Father. You should have known better! Any cassock-related backtalk around Cardinal Wojtyla and he’s guaranteed to go back-forward-forward-block and Shang Tsung morph into Norm Macdonald, just so he can get off a glare like that at you. Mess with the papal bull, you get the papal horns.

But by far the ultimate expression of this phenomenon, and easily my favourite part of this comic, is when the Cardinal announces — to the surprise of everybody — his next fantastic American vacation destination.

. . . Montana?

Yes, Cardinal Wojtyla leads his entourage into the heart of Montana and gives a very lovely speech.

Well, that’s nice of him, isn’t it? The priest certainly seems to think so and tries to thank the Cardinal for his largesse, which means he’s about to get the repudiatin’ of a lifetime:

Oh, shit. Oh shit. If I’m a Montana mountain bear right now I’m suddenly struck by a wave of terror and I don’t even know why yet.

Imagine you’re a mountain bear and you’re out one day along the mountain, minding your own beary business; you’re pretty laid back as far as bears go, maybe a little crazy for huckleberries sometimes, but who doesn’t love huckleberries? It’s a brisk, cool Montana morning as you lazily lumber through the rocky path, making your way up the mountain just to see what you can see — and then you hear soft footsteps and the rustle of trees, faint but foreboding, fading to silence. Suddenly and without warning comes Cardinal Karol Jozef Wojtyla bearing down on you from out of nowhere, naked to the waist, armed only with a pointed stick and the word of God himself as he shouts to the heavens that “ONLY ONE OF US WILL LIVE TO SHIT IN THESE WOODS” — oh, yeah. It is a bad time to be a bear.

It is while fighting bears up in these mountains that a tornado sweeps up the future Pope and swirls him through the air, and surviving the experience gives him the inspiration he needs to develop his powerful Spinning Pile Dri–I’m sorry, no, I’m getting my origin stories confused here. Back to Rome!

With the death of Pope Paul VI in 1978, Wojtyla is once again summoned to Rome and finds himself staring down the prospect of being elected the next Pope; he views the idea with open dismay, hoping to stay with his beloved homeland and its people. He doesn’t have to worry about the idea long, however; Pope John Paul the First is elected at the ensuing Council —

— and everybody lives happily ever after, for about, enh, five weeks.

Pope John Paul the First, ladies and gentlemen! With all the intricacies of the candidate selection process and the political struggles that ensue and the consensus effort that it ultimately takes to elect a new Pope, there’s always that one veto that they manage to forget about.

So everyone has to come back to Rome again, the same procedure from the month before is carried out, and this time they land on a Pope who will last them a little longer — Our Man Wotjyla, the new Pope John Paul the Second. He makes a lovely speech to the adoring masses, and the exciting news is received back in Poland with a spontaneous and heartfelt… light vaudeville routine.

If you strain a little you can probably hear me making muted trumpet noises from here.

Yes, it’s a new Pope (and you have no idea how happy I am to be calling him ‘Pope John Paul II’ now after a hundred nervous attempts to spell ‘Wojtyla’), and with a new Pope comes a new tone at the Vatican — not in terms of any meaningful policy shifts, of course, but with a lot more hugging and wisecracks.

Oh, Bishop Strawman, you don’t like anything.

Following his inauguration John Paul goes on a madcap whirlwind tour of the world, despite the unease of his friends and compatriots.

“Suit yourself, Your Holiness. I’m not the one sharing the cover with the word ‘ASSASSINATION’ written in big red letters.”

Yeah, I figure, there’s no way that this is going to turn up as an important point later. Because now that we’ve got all that preamble out of the way, we can finally get back to the guy that you really came to see:

Yes, Scoop has successfully seated himself, and now he sits motionless with his eyes locked on this foreigner to his turf, waiting for the subtle but telltale let that will crack his defenses and reveal the real him. Scoop is going to be so, so disappointed when the Pope comes out, tells the crowd “You guys should tear this whole building down and build another one across the street just like this but with slightly more legroom” and then catches the first flight out of town.

Not a halfway bad chant! But will things turn out alright in New York this day, or will the spectacle become the unmitigated disaster that Scoop fears it will? (I know that the box in the bottom right already gives this away, but work with me here.)

I regret not buying it when I saw it, but in a used bookstore along a beach town I once saw an old full-sized Archie comic wherein Mr. Weatherbee took the school out on a camping trip, bungled the whole thing, and just wanted to die; he wandered away from his group in a funk of self-pity, monologuing and feeling sorry for himself until he overheard a Bible reading from a nearby Jesus-camp field trip. The healing messages (which I assume were direct quotations, but what do I know) cut through him instantly and flipped him onto Jesus, and suddenly he was staring into space and he just started blubbering like he’d been shot because Jesus loves you even if you are bad at camping. Or… something. My point is, what is it with Jesus and making people cry and/or stare off into the middle distance (usually with Spider-sense lines flying around their head)? Are there no better ways to indicate one’s newfound Christ-love through art and text? One of these days I’d love to see somebody in a comic turn, smile at the reader like Space Ghost, and apropos of nothing announce “and good news, everybody — I just found Jesus!”

Ha ha ha ha I’m being critical of other people’s religions for no good reason. Internet toughguy! Okay, seriously, though; when the comic acts out this scene and pronounces “that is why the Pope is great”, the thing you have to remember is that it is absolutely right. Aside from the same social and international issues that are going to arise with every Pope, John Paul II was about as universally beloved and inspiring a public figure as any of us may ever encounter in our entire lives. He was certainly top-tier as far as the Popes went (I almost wrote ‘god-tier’ out of force of habit, but he probably wouldn’t have appreciated that), and the Catholic Church would kill to have another one of him running the place; following him with the guy they’ve got now is like booking Rick Astley to play after The Beatles at Shea Stadium. It’s not even close, everybody knows it’s not even close, and now you have to put up with really terrible internet humour on top of it. (Besides mine, I mean!)

As for our story — Scoop, the ruffians, and everybody else leave Yankee Stadium changed and humbled after seeing the Pope speak, and the Pope continues his world tour by also speaking in Mexico, Poland, Ireland, Zaire, France, Germany, Brazil, Turkey and Rome. The comic gives us little themed drawings of each country and shows the Pope talking with locals, so it’s entirely possible that he was also on the trail of Carmen Sandiego while he was at it. You never know, with Pope John Paul II.

Holy crap, it is Carmen Sandiego! You’re in the last city, Pope John Paul II! Make sure that you’ve filled out the characteristics sheet and obtained the warrant before you click on any of the other locations, or it won’t let you… get… what on earth am I talking about? Okay, focus, focus.

The news comes through the wires to Scoop’s workplace that the Pope’s been shot, and somehow this leads to him standing up and talking to us about it the same way Linus told us about Christmas:

I mean, yes, he’s right, but it still seems kind of out of place. I figure his coworkers are going to feel bad about it for the next five, maybe ten minutes, and then start making fun of him behind his back about it. (And if this seems to you like an unreasonably petty thing for coworkers to do — you have never, ever had coworkers.)

Scoop wanders the streets of New York City until he (inevitably) ends up at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, comforting and striking up a conversation with an old Polish woman as he helps her up its stairs. Scoop goes inside the cathedral and prays, like Wolverine at the end of the Nightcrawler episode of the X-Men cartoon; it is left offscreen, however, unlike Wolverine at the end of the Nightcrawler episode of the X-Men cartoon.

The Pope survives, of course, but you knew that already.

Well, he’s in good spirits, at least. And of course he forgives his shooter, that’s just how he rolls. (Not shown: Tony Stark sitting next to the Pope’s hospital bed, sobbing that it wasn’t worth it.)

We get a bit more of this, him in the hospial lightly joshin’ with the wellwishers, and then it’s back to the Vatican for Pentecost Sunday and an argument with his doctor. The part of his doctor, apparently, being played by John Diefenbaker.

I don’t know why this woman in the bottom right panel feels the need to blurt out “LOOK! IT’S POPE JOHN PAUL II!” when a simple “look, a Pope” would have sufficed, but hey, she’s excited. What’s that name again, guys?

The Man! The Myth! The Legend! The closing splash page!

As I mentioned off the top, there are worse comics to have around; it usually ranges from one to twenty dollars on eBay, and if I could find a copy in a brick-and-mortar store in Winnipeg then you should be able to find this thing just about anywhere.

Putting aside its strange and somewhat misguided aspirations to be a primary historical source on the subject, The Life of Pope John Paul II is a surprisingly good read; the subject matter is handled pretty superficially in spots, which is just what’s going to happen with a sixty-four page biography about a man who was sixty-two at the time it was written, but the book is charmingly drawn and paced well enough that you can make it through the whole thing without deciding that you’re bored by it. Or rather, I certainly wasn’t bored by it, but you could probably tell that from the sheer volume of crap I just wrote about it.

Pope John Paul II! You’ll never hear anyone say he forgot Poland!

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4 comments to “Marvel’s Non-Battle Pope Comic: Paul II”


    You are on the verge of creating the coolest t-shirt *ever*. Keep at it.

  2. My most vivid memory of this book was the shock at finding out El Pope was shot.

  3. I found this all very amusing, also don’t for get the biography graphic novel Papercutz did a few years back.


  4. That was unusual, but pretty good. In the Philippines we used to have similar comics (mostly bios and Christian living ones) but they were perhaps more exaggerated as far as the storytelling went.