Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Papal Bull

Have you ever heard of a papal bull?  It is a decree issued by the Pope.  When I heard about a papal bull in my high school world history class in the 1980's an image of a cartoon bull dressed in papal robes flashed into my mind.  That was the birth of The Papal Bull. 

His story formed rather quickly in my imagination.  He was the Pope's special agent used to carry out missions of worldwide importance.  These were the days of John Paul II and it had only been a few years since the 1981 assassination attempt on everyone's favorite Papa.  The super-heroic Papal Bull was a natural progression after the development of the real world Pope-mobile.  In time, the Papal Bull would add his very own Pope-mobile to his arsenal of super-spy gadgets and holy artifacts.

Inspired by the Monty Python skit "The Bishop," the Bull used an "ex-communicator" to contact the Vatican by wireless (these are the pre-cell phone days you understand).  His shepherd staff was the source of his power but he wasn't above stealing other characters tricks, like eating spinach to gain super-strength.  The Papal Bull did have his own battle cry "Dominus Onus," which is a corruption of dominus omnis meaning "Lord of All."  Of course I did not know that in the eighties; I picked it up from Eddie Murphy's routine about the Pope getting shot.

The Papal Bull saved the Pope from cartoon terrorists in striped shirts and domino masks in his first adventure.  But the villains soon improved.  Later, the Pope sent him on an ecumenical mission to save the Salvation Army from the "Lybian" army of Col. Gaddafi.  That's right, the same guy who just got ousted by his own people.  Recall that Gaddafi was the Bin Laden of the 1980's.  He was President Reagan's arch enemy and even in the those old days he seemed to be mimicking a Bond villain.  So if the Pope was going to send his top man - er, bull - into political territory who else would he confront other than Gaddafi? 

The Papal Bull even made it into movies.  Well, I made a tedious clay-mation, Gumby-style, 8mm film of Papal Bull rescuing the Pope's from a jet plane hijacked by terrorists.  It all seemed so fantastic and unbelievable in those days.

Gaddafi and the clay-mation terrorists were played for laughs.  This was parody and lampoon.  We joked about our enemies and made fun of them.  Reading these old comics made me smile, but also reminded how much humor the world seems to have lost in the last thirty years.