When Marvel Did A Weird Dip Into Biographical Comics
Over the years, Marvel has published the adventures of fun and exciting characters like Spider-Man, Thor, Gambit of the X-Men, and, of course, Pope John Paul II.
Yes, for a while in the '70s and early '80s, perhaps fearing that the superhero gravy train had made its final stop, Marvel decided it would be a good idea to publish comics about real-life figures like the then-current Pope. The result was this most blessed artifact: a comic book cover depicting the Pope surrounded by Marvel's classic trade dress, complete with a box saying "FROM HIS CHILDHOOD IN POLAND TO THE ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT!" like when they breathlessly announce "IN THIS ISSUE: SOMEONE DIES!!!"
The comic itself is a perfectly serious and (as far as we can tell from glancing at Wikipedia) accurate retelling of the Pope's life -- they didn't make up a scene where he teams up with Wolverine to hunt down Sabretooth or something. (Side note: Marvel we have a comic idea.) The most noteworthy part of the issue is the panel early on that seems to reproduce part of an Adolf Hitler speech ...
... which must have caused Marvel to receive a strongly-worded letter from someone important because they reprinted the issue with some corrections to the Fuhrer's dialogue.
But this wasn't the only biocomic Marvel did. A year later, they published Mother Teresa of Calcutta #1, which is the reason why Mother Teresa has a profile page on the Marvel Wiki listing three guys younger than her as her creators. The cover this time isn't as exciting as the Pope John Paul II one, but it did at least include a character box on the corner with a little Mother T standing there like she's Spider-Man swinging to the rescue.
Of course, doing comics about the Pope and Mother Teresa would have been pretty disrespectful if Marvel hadn't already published two issues about the most important spiritual leaders of the 20th century: The Beatles. The first one is a perfectly competent (boring) biography for the band, while the second has become one of the most sought-after collectibles for Beatles fans everywhere due to the utter crappiness of the source material.
See, Marvel's second Beatles-centric comic was based on the 1978 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie starring the dream team of the Bee Gees, Alice Cooper, and Steve Martin. The studio reportedly hyped the movie as "This generation's Gone with the Wind," but instead it went over like a wet fart, prompting Marvel to deem the completed 50-page comic unpublishable and throw it in the trash. It still came out in France, though.
Marvel Comics has been out of the biographical comic game for a good while now, but it's only a matter of time before Marvel Studios gets desperate enough to adapt these issues, and then finally let their protagonists meet Wolverine and Gambit of the X-Men in a crossover movie. Into the Pope John Paul II-Verse, let's goooooooo.
Editor's note: In order to prevent Adolf Hitler's insidious message from spreading, we've decided to correct his dialogue once more.
Follow Maxwell Yezpitelok's heroic effort to read and comment on every '90s Superman comic at Superman86to99.tumblr.com.
Top image: Marvel Comics