The Holy See in NYC, by Dennis O’Neil
Well, the Holy Father has certainly been all over the media this past week, hasn’t he? Just a while ago, I looked, briefly, at Benedict celebrating Mass in no less a venue than Yankee Stadium – lots bigger than the biggest cathedral – and judging from the shots of the stands, it was a sellout crowd; I wonder if the Yankees themselves attract so many spectators, even when they’re against the Red Sox.
Shall we seek meaning here? Dare we posit that a) this pope is super-beloved or b) the church he leads is making a comeback or c) both of the above?
I’m reminded of an evening in Chicago, about 20 years ago, that I shared with a comic book artist and an actor. I don’t remember exactly why we were thrown together, but it probably had something to do with a convention. The actor was featured in a movie I’d recently seen and kind of liked, though I don’t recall having any strong reaction to this particular man’s performance, which probably means that I thought it was all right. As a dinner companion, sitting across he table at a Chinese restaurant, he was nice enough – chatty and just a bit gossipy, without any hint of malice. Not a stupid man, but he didn’t dazzle us with his intellect or wit, either. An okay guy. And, midway through the evening, I found myself trying to make him like me. It seemed important that he like me. Why? The only answer I have is that he was a celebrity. His image was on thousands of screen. Passersby recognized him. He was privy to really big, major-honkin’ celebrities.
In short, and, I admit, to my chagrin, I was being the average, Midwestern, star-struck kid. I wanted this guy’s good opinion, not because of his art, skill, or accomplishments, but because he was famous. Orfamousish, anyway. I was suffering from the celebrity virus.
I wonder how many of the good folk who received communion at Yankee Stadium this afternoon were similarly afflicted.
According to CNN, when His Holiness was in D.C., consorting with other household names – and we all know whom I mean – the locals did a brisk business in papal souvenirs. Pope soap on a rope. Pope bobble heads. Even Pope cologne. Nothing wrong with any of that, but… I dunno – I don’t think I’d celebrate a living saint’s depth and breadth of spirituality and wisdom with a graven image whose head bobbles. Or use his likeness to lather up my privates.
If he were just another celebrity, however – don’t let the soap suds get in your eyes.
RECOMMENDED READING: Mom’s Cancer, by Brian Fies. Comics have evolved a long way since the gag-a-day beginnings and this wonderful little book, an Eisner Award winner, is a good example of what they’ve become when they’re really good. If I could tell you exactly why it is so effective, I’d be a lot better critic than I am.
Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and The Shadow – among many others – as well as many novels, stories and articles. The Question: Zen and Violence, reprinting the first six issues of his classic series with artist Denys Cowan, is on sale right now, the second volume, Poisoned Ground, will be on sale next week, and his novelization of The Dark Knight will be available in a nonce. You can pre-order them now.