WASHINGTON – Move over, Spider Man. Here come some new comic-book heroes.

Among this new breed of heroes are Pope Benedict XVI, St Paul and Old Testament figure Judith.

The genre is manga, a Japanese genre of cartoons and comic books, and Jonathan Lin, who runs Manga Hero in the United States, may well be the world’s only publisher of Catholic manga comics.

A 32-page Pope Benedict manga comic will be distributed in August during World Youth Day in Madrid. Lin said he expects to have 300,000 copies produced in Spain to meet demand. He hopes it will whet World Youth Day participants’ appetites for a longer Pope Benedict manga to be produced later this year in the US.

A full-time manga artist in Singapore, Sean Lam, does Lin’s manga artwork.

“I wanted to start my own business – something that could positively influence young people, who are especially influenced by media,” Lin told Catholic News Service in a June 3 telephone interview from San Rafael, California.

“I was talking to my parents. And my dad, who actually grew up in Japan, asked me, ‘How come there’s no biblical manga?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s right. That’s a shame.’ There were only a couple written by Protestants and published by Protestants that basically converted the Bible into a manga series,” Lin said.

But it got Lin thinking: “What stories are there out there that could actually work?”

The St Paul and Judith mangas are already available for sale in the US. Later this summer, Lin will have produced a manga telling the parable of the 10 virgins at the wedding feast from the Gospel of Matthew.

Lin, 36, is a real estate broker and uses his earnings to provide seed money for his mangas, which can be viewed at www.mangahero.com. He was in Sydney for World Youth Day in 2008 and plans to be in Madrid to oversee the manga distribution of the Pope Benedict comic.

Still, Lin does not do it all by himself. He recruited two writers from John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego. (The school also supplied Lin with a grant to produce the 300,000 World Youth Day mangas.)

Lin said it takes Manga Hero about three to four months to get a comic from the idea stage to the finished product.

“We have others being written – Joshua, and then we have another one on Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, St George. These are all in the writing stage,” Lin said. “And then we have an epic on David.”  - CNS

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