Manga Hero, a California company that produces Japanese-style comics with Catholic themes, will offer World Youth Day attendees a special comic about the life and papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, called “Habemus Papam!”
“The point of 'Habemus Papam!' is to introduce Pope Benedict XVI to those who may not know much about him,” said Jonathan Lin, a producer and editor at Manga Hero.
Lin told World Youth Day organizers that the story shows the Pope's time as a cardinal working with Pope John Paul II, leading up to his papal election in 2005. “The story also shows how he grows into his role as pope,” said Lin.
“We want to use manga as a tool to show the youth and the world that the Church is not afraid of modernity and evolving culture,” Lin explained. “It is not afraid to use, in this case, new and compelling forms of media to meet young people where they are.” Manga Hero has already published two previous comic series, on St. Paul and the Biblical figure Judith.
Lin said his company was working with a Spanish publisher to distribute over 300,000 English and Spanish-language editions of “Habemus Papam!” to World Youth Day participants and the general public.
“We are aiming to distribute the manga throughout Madrid,” he said, “at locations such as churches, schools, hotels or hostels, metro stations, the airport, information kiosks, tourist attractions, and other event locations.”
The comic, written by Gabrielle Gniewek with illustration by Sean Lam, takes its name from the traditional announcement that follows a papal election. Gniewek is a graduate of San Diego's John Paul the Great Catholic University, a school that focuses on business, technology, and media in the service of the Church.
Lin's own desire to make a positive impact in the business world drew him to the manga format, where he found that Catholic stories and themes could be presented in a new and dynamic way.
“With media playing such an influential role in our culture, especially on the youth,” he said, “I felt this was an area that I could make a difference.”
Lin also believes that the soon-to-be-beatified Pope John Paul II – the founder of World Youth Day, and the patron of this year's event – would approve of the manga tribute to his successor Pope Benedict XVI.
“Pope John Paul II called for the use of new and different forms of media, to reach young people where they are in order to build a culture of love and dignity,” Lin observed. “Manga is one such medium.”