Tag Archives: dc comics

More on Nightrunner, the Muslim Batman of Paris

Since the previous posting, additional sites and commentators have gone on record regarding Nightrunner, Batman/Bruce Wayne’s selection for his “deputy” in Paris.

Tim Murphy at Mother Jones remains rather neutral and unalarmed on the issue, suggesting that there are two controversies overlaid here: first, that “Frenchmen (and Frenchwomen) would never embrace a Algerian Muslim as a national savior,” and, second, that, in the words of “US comic book creator Bosch Fawstin, […] ‘DC Comics has submitted to Islam.'” This doesn’t seem to be Murphy’s position, though, as he satirically footnotes the report by saying, “Presumably this comes at the expense of the traditional mom-and-pop superheroes, who, now unemployed and compelled to put food on their table by any means possible, turn to crime. It’s the perfect cycle.”

Rory Mulholland of the Agence France Presse (AFP), published online through The Daily Star: Lebanon, also quotes Fawstin. But Mulholland notes that the issues have sold briskly and raised little attention in France itself. Olivia Snaije of Publishing Perspectives says that the French are “bemused” by this controversy (though she offers no French bloggers either by name or by URL).

OnIslam.com lets many of the complaintants speak for themselves but includes author David Hine in the discussion. He explains:

“The urban unrest and problems of the ethnic minorities under (President Nicolas) Sarkozy’s government dominate the news from France […] It became inevitable that the hero should come from a French Algerian background.” […] He said that the Nightrunner is “the kind of hero I would want to see in a comic book if I were French.”

For Hine, then, Nightrunner is not a slight but, rather, a character born out of current events. Add to this the idea posited by an nonymous commenter at the Hindustan Times, suggesting that “Comic book heroes were always about politics and social engineering.” If that is correct, is Nightrunner that far afield? IkhwanWeb believes that the furor over Nightwing isn’t that he has Algerian roots or is potentially representing the French; rather, their article suggests that right-wing bloggers simply feel “a Muslim [is] not fit to play the role of a superhero and fight crime.” In short, the subtext of protests against Nightrunner seem to stress that Muslims cannot be superheroes. Though not discussing Nightrunner, the Malaysian Sun2Surf features the debut film of a new Muslim superhero, the eponymous Haq. Co-director Jumaatun Azmi is quoted as saying, “These values are also universal and they apply to all faiths. Even if you’re not a Muslim, you can still relate to the values,” a possible retort to the right-wing subtext.

At the forum for SuperheroHype.com, the conversation has inverted somewhat, questioning whether a superhero can be as overtly and outwardly Christian as Nightrunner is Muslim. Additionally, the poster lebenskuntzler at LiveLeak.com argues that only multiculturalism is permitted in popular culture, including superhero comics, going so far as to suggest a supervillain modeled on Mohammed (pbuh) be more fitting for Batman comics.

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The (Controversial) Muslim French Batman – or French Muslim Batman

The short version of this story goes something like this:

Both this month’s Detective Comics Annual #12 and Batman Annual #28 feature a new DC Comics superhero, Nightrunner. As Batman (aka Bruce Wayne) travels the world and takes his fight against crime global, he is appointing local heroes Batman-like roles, just as he has long done for Gotham in America. Nightrunner, otherwise known as Billai Asseiah, has an Algerian background and is Muslim.

Let the sideshow begin.

Warner Todd Huston, freelance writer for websites including BigGovernment.com, RightWingNews.com, and, StoptheACLU.com, calls this “a PCing of the American comic book industry that has been going on for far too long” and “a misreading of what ails France.” He writes:

You see, DC Comics has decided that the “French savior,” the French Batman is to be a Muslim immigrant. The character’s name is Bilal Asselah and he is an Algerian Sunni Muslim and an immigrant that is physically fit and adept at gymnastic sport Parkour. Apparently Batman couldn’t find any actual Frenchman to be the “French
savior.”

Arturo R. Garcia, writing at Racialicious.com, argues against Huston’s position, sardonically commenting:

In the meantime, far be it from us here at Racialicious to completely dismiss the views of people like Mr. Huston or the “Astute Blogger.” In fact, here’s a hot tip for them to pursue: as it happens, DC has been guilty of exploiting an undocumented immigrant superhero for decades on end. We’ll even provide a picture for reference:

The “Astute Blogger” quoted by Garcia refers to Avi Green writing at The Astute Bloggers, who, among the rest of his commentary, suggests Nightrunner might “bring justice to the Parisian streets by lighting dozens of evil automobiles on fire every night” or “setting disabled women on fire too.” Like Huston, Garcia feels this is DC’s PC “kowtowing” (He points, too, at the cross-over between Batman’s superteam and Teshkeel Comics’ Muslim supergroup, JLA/The99, being “a fiasco.”)

Comics-centric sites like Comics Alliance, Superhero Hype, and Comic Book Resources have largely fallen on Garcia’s side of the debate, citing similar uproar over an African American actor in the Thor movie or Captain America‘s rebuke of the Tea Party.

Meanwhile, Dylan Moran, writing for 3News in New Zealand, says, “the [comic book] industry appears to be making equality a focus lately, and the inclusion of Nightrunner may be a real signal of that intent.”