Arab-American hero challenges industryWritten by Jim Beard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It should come as no surprise that the comics business is dominated by white, male superheroes, seeing as how its writers and artists have predominantly reflected that standard for almost 80 years. This month saw the introduction of a new Arab-American hero in DC Comics’ universe of Green Lanterns, created by Geoff Johns, a half-Lebanese author from Detroit whose purpose, as he claims, is to shake up the decades-old status quo and give readers a new launching pad for this modern crime buster.
In Green Lantern No. 0, out-of-work automotive engineer Simon Baz has been reduced to stealing cars to make ends meet. However, for some yet-unknown reason, he is chosen by the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps to take on one of its near-magical power rings and fight injustice across the galaxy. Before this monumental offer arrives, though, Baz’s life in Dearborn, Mich., is shown to be anything but an easy one; hunted by police and federal agents, he feels the sting of both poverty and suspicion of his Muslim faith. To put it mildly, Simon Baz isn’t exactly your typical Green Lantern candidate … and that’s just what writer Johns intends.
There have been Arab or Middle-Eastern heroes before in comics, but they’ve tended to be natives of other countries and overwhelmingly saddled with themes and motifs that some might call stereotypical, i.e., codenames and costumes with “Arabian” styles and the like. Baz will sport a costume reflective of the Green Lantern universe, though in a controversial move, he’s also seen toting a gun in promotional images. Not a science fiction raygun, mind you, but a very obvious Earth sidearm. Why? That answer is forthcoming; Johns promises all will be revealed and all will make sense as Baz’s personal mission is explained.
Will this new hero end up being just another stereotype, a knee-jerk reaction to the current trend in society of all-inclusion, all-acceptance? Johns has said that he’s worked with the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn to ellicit their opinions and commentary on Baz’s character, in an effort to make him as real and resonant as possible. Time will tell, of course, how the comics industry — and the public — will accept the new hero. Sometimes, people just want the same old, same old, but for those who seek diversity, it’s out there.