Recent weeks have produced a bevy of commotion regarding Muslim superheroes, to whit:
In May, A. David Lewis was interviewed by WBUR’s “Here and Now” host Robin Young about the depiction of Muslim protagonists in superhero comics, particularly in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s assassination. Lewis had recently given a talk on the subject at Harvard University as part of a one-day event about Muslim identities in comics. That, in turn, seems to have led to an article by BU Today report Rich Barlow focusing on Lewis and his interest in characters like Dust, Nightrunner, the Janissary, the Arabian Knight, and others.
What is clear is that Muslims on the comics pages confront the conundrum of their flesh-and-blood counterparts: their community views them with suspicion. Lewis says non-Muslim heroes wonder, “Can they truly represent the American way? Could they really be on our side? When Dust joins the X-Men, these persecuted American mutants don’t really know if they can trust her. The comic book creators can have it both ways. They can present an altruistic Muslim hero, but also reflect the Islamophobia.”
The BU Today article was accompanied by a slideshow of such characters set to music:
Barlow’s article was picked up by Madinat Al-Muslimeen, Professor Hussein Rashid’s Islamicate.com, and The Houston Chronicle‘s “Believe It Or Not” column, among others. It also received comment of an altogether different sort from Avi Green of The Infidel Bloggers Aliance and The Astute Bloggers:
Wow! So in Lewis’s narrow vision, the Copts of Egypt aren’t victimized, nor are the French, the Israelis, the Sudanese Christians, or even the Armenians during WW1, when the Islamic-led Ottoman Empire of Turkey slaughtered at least a million Armenians. Nor, I suppose, was Lara Logan when she was gang raped in Egypt back in February. What a most utter ignoramus. I guess he hasn’t ever read the Koran either.
Green suggests The 99 as one example of Muslim superheroes Lewis may have been trying to sidestep: “Lewis chose to put his head in the sand.” Meanwhile, that series was being featured elsewhere online, as part of The National‘s coverage of DC Comics’ recent publishing shift. Shot in February, the video focuses on The 99‘s creator Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa discussing the multi-national and inter-religious basis for the series in addition to its Islamic roots.
Coincidentally, DC’s position on Muslim characters was challenged in a different way this month with the resolicitation of Superman #712. ComicBookResources.com reports that the issue was originally supposed to feature Superman teaming up with the Muslim hero Sharif (formerly Sinbad), but it had been replaced with a story of Krypto the Super-dog. ComicBook.com notes that “the change was apparently so last minute by DC Comics that the DC Comics website still shows the old content description for Superman #712 with the new Krytpo the Superdog cover image for Superman #712.” ComicBookMovie.com has opened a poll to ask readers whether the decision was a wise move or not.
Lastly, in separate but not unrelated news, PR Newswire announced the new series Buraaq from Split Moon Arts. The title character is “a practicing Muslim, a regular guy who is turned into a superhero by traumatic events in his youth. According to SplitMoonArts, the mission is not to preach, but to provide wholesome family entertainment. The underlying message, they say, would help foster better relations between the West and the Islamic World.” Whether this is, as the PR Newswire headline reports, the first Muslim superhero is doubtful, but that claim does not seem to originate with SplitMoonArts itself.