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Arab-Muslim to join ‘Green Lantern’ comic series

Queue the claims of “cultural-Jihad” in 1, 2, 3… (h/t: Wanderer)

Arab-Muslim to join ‘Green Lantern’ comic series

DETROIT (AP) — When DC Comics decided to blow up its fabled universe and create a brave, diverse future, Geoff Johns drew from the past for a new character: his own background as an Arab-American.

The company’s chief creative officer and writer of the relaunched “Green Lantern” series dreamed up Simon Baz, DC’s most prominent Arab-American superhero and the first to wear a Green Lantern ring. The character and creator share Lebanese ancestry and hail from the Detroit area, which boasts one of the largest and oldest Arab communities in the United States.

“I thought a lot about it — I thought back to what was familiar to me,” Johns, 39, told The Associated Press by phone last week from Los Angeles, where he now lives. “This is such a personal story.”

The Green Lantern mantle in DC Comics is no stranger to diversity with its ranks made up of men, women, aliens — animal, vegetable and mineral — from across the universe.

Earlier this year an alternate universe

after being laid off from his automotive engineering job. He steals the wrong car, which inadvertently steers him into a terrorism probe and, eventually, an unexpected call to join the universe’s galactic police force.

The olive-skinned, burly Baz hails from Dearborn, the hometown of Henry Ford and the capital ofArab America. His story begins at 10 years old, when he and the rest of his Muslim family watch their television in horror as airplanes fly into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Events unfold from there as U.S. Arabs and Muslims find themselves falling under intense suspicion and ostracism in the days, months and years following the attacks.

“Obviously, it’s affecting everybody,” said Johns, who grew up in nearby suburbs in a Lebanese Christian household and got into comics when he discovered his uncle’s old collection in his Arab grandmother’s attic. “One of the things I really wanted to show was its effect on Simon and his family in a very negative way.”

Baz is not the first Arab or Muslim character to grace — or menace, as has historically been the case — the comic world. Marvel Comics has Dust, a young Afghan woman whose mutant ability to manipulate sand and dust has been part of the popular X-Men books. DC Comics in late 2010 introduced Nightrunner, a young Muslim hero of Algerian descent reared in Paris. He is part of the global network of crime fighters set up by Batman alter-ego Bruce Wayne.

Frank Miller, whose dark and moody take on Batman in “The Dark Knight Returns” in 1986 energized the character, took a different tack in his recent book, “Holy Terror,” which tells the story of The Fixer and his efforts to stamp out Islamic terrorists. The graphic novel initially took root as a look at Batman’s efforts to fight terrorism, which grew out of Miller’s experiences of being in New York on 9/11.

A broader mission to bring Islamic heroes and principles to the comic world comes from Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of “The 99.” The U.S. educated psychologist from Kuwait has been gaining followers across the globe since the 2006 debut of the comic book that spawned a TV series. “The 99″ is named after the number of qualities the Quran attributes to God: strength, courage, wisdom and mercy among them.

The series gained a wide audience in 2010, when it worked with DC on a six-issue crossover that teamed the “The 99″ with The Justice League of America.

Johns, who also has written stories starring Superman, The Flash and Teen Titans, said going diverse only works if there’s a good story, and he believes he found that with Baz. But don’t mistake him for a hero in the beginning: Baz disappoints both devout Muslims — his forearm tattoo that reads “courage” in Arabic is considered “haram,” or religiously forbidden — and broader society by turning to a life of crime.

“He’s not a perfect character. He’s obviously made some mistakes in his life, but that makes him more compelling and relatable,” he said. “Hopefully (it’s) a compelling character regardless of culture or ethnic background. … But I think it’s great to have an Arab-American superhero. This was opportunity and a chance to really go for it.”

Of course, Johns hopes Green Lantern fans accept Baz, who joins other humans who have been “chosen,” including Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner. The overall relaunch has been good for DC, which has seen a solid gain in sales and critical reception — as well as some expected grumbling — since coming out with the “New 52″ last year.

Johns also sees the debut of Baz as a chance to reconnect with people in his home state: He’s scheduled to visit Dearborn this weekend for events related to the release that include a signing Saturday at a comic book store and a free presentation Sunday on his career and characters at the Arab American National Museum. He worked with museum staff to make sure he got certain details right about his character and the Arab-Muslim community.

“It doesn’t completely define the character but it shapes the character,” he said. “My biggest hope is that people embrace it and understand what we’re trying to do.”

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  • Géji

    @Steve says: “Zakariya Ali Sher, is mentioning forced conversion to islam an islamophobic act now?”

    Depends on whether there are reliable facts, not fictions. Of course there have been some cases, and some areas where’s Islam was forces on people, that holds true for Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Atheism, or whatnot etc ….. (sorry but had to list them almost all, ’cause some people just don’t getting-it it affected all confessions, and not just one, but with this 21 st century trend – lets just pick on Islam and all, best to stress to that point!). But anyway name whatever confession Steve, it happened. Just don’t tell us that Islam is the only “evil” one that did that, or that all of Islam is “forced” conversion, or that Atheism did never forced to convert people, and we will be fine!

  • Amro

    @HGG

    I haven’t read it yet, HGG, but that doesn’t sound that bad. I’ve been reading comics for over 12 years and they’re not nearly as bad as Hollywood or TV.

  • HGG

    Anyone read this issue?

    I was discussing it with some (well meaning but non-Muslim) friends who believe this comic was a bit offensive because it depicts the main character involved (by mistake, he’s innocent) in a terrorist plot. I’d like to hear some thoughts.

  • Steve

    “Steve, is mentioning forced conversions to Christianity bad too?”

    Of course not.

  • Nilufer R Sage

    Steve, is mentioning forced conversions to Christianity bad too?

  • Steve

    @Zakariya Ali Sher, is mentioning forced conversion to islam an islamophobic act now?

  • Zakariya Ali Sher

    @ Amro:

    No doubt Steve is going to trot out the same tired old Islamophobic talking points about how the Janissaries were slaves, taken from Christian households and forced to be the ultimate Muslim supersoldiers. And yes, there is some truth in that, but its a greatly simplified view that removes any sense of agency or power from the Janissaries themselves. The Janissaries really deserve more recognition as one of the greatest and most influential military units of their time.

    In real life, the Janissaries (or, more accurately, yeniçeri in modern Turkish and yeni asker in Osmanlı Turkish, meaning simply ‘new army’) were the first standing army in the Turkish world. They were infantry, and the Sultan’s personal bodyguard was selected from their number. As such, they were exceptionally influential, up to the point of being able to overthrow the Sultan. After retirement, many Janissaries took up positions as governors, sometimes returning to the eyalet or vilayet of their birth, which brings me to my next point.

    Yes, the original Janissary corps was composed of children collected through the devşirme, a conscription or tax on Christian households. Certain ethnicities (Greeks, Albanians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Bosniaks, Ukranians, Georgians, Romanians, Poles, etc) were preferred. Jews were specifically excluded, as were Turks. But the Ottomans did not just take random children. They carefully selected those with the right physical and mental acumen, and subjected them to rigorous training befitting of an elite military unit. The Janissaries all had to convert to Islam, specifically the Bektaşi variety, and the corps developed a close bond with the Bektaşi Sufi brotherhood.

    Its difficult to call them ‘slaves’ in any traditional sense of the word though. They were collected through legal conscription, not captured in raids. Indeed, some households sought to ensure their children were selected because of the possibilities for political advancement. Janissaries were salaried, could eventually retire, and even earned pensions. The Janissaries even married, and towards the end it almost became a hereditary institution. This was further helped by the fact that sons of Janissaries were not obligated to go through the same rigorous training as other recruits.

    And while I may disagree with the concept of slavery, its not that different from what other armies were doing at the time. Conscription, draft, press gangs… call it what you will, it still sucked for you. The other thing the Islamophobes tend to overlook is that the devşirme was abolished by the late 17th century after a long, gradual decline. By that time, the Janissaries had opened up to Muslim Turkish recruits and for the last century or so of the corps existence they were the majority. They were ultimately abolished by Sultan Mahmud II in 1826 after an attempted coup.

    Most people don’t know ANY of that, and the Islamophobes don’t really care because it requires you to think in terms of nuances and subtleties (which, lets be honest, your average Islamophobe is incapable of). Its much easier for them to lump all Muslims together and blame us, collectively, for acts that happened centuries ago in places many of us have never been to. It doesn’t matter if we are Sunni or Shi’a, it doesn’t matter if we aren’t Turkish, it doesn’t matter if our ancestors might have been peoples OPPOSED to the Ottoman Sultan… to them, we are all collectively on big evil brown horde.

    Of course, I suspect a fair number of us (Muslims and Turks included) only really know the Janissaries from pop culture. They are in several war strategy games like Civilization, Age of Empires, Total War and the like as an elite unit for the Ottoman civ. They also pop up in comics, as was mentioned, or RPGs. In Mage: the Ascension, there is a house of Hermetic mages called House Janissary who are sort of magical secret police, with a Middle Eastern flavour. I’m sure there are other examples. No doubt Spencer and company will jump on that as another secret jihad (a d10 jihad?).

  • Amro

    @ Steve

    I can’t honestly say I know any more than that they were the Ottoman king’s own army or something. Care to enlighten me?

  • Amro

    And if I recall correctly, the chief of police in Bludhaven, former city that Nightwing was the main character in, was an Arab American Muslim. He got killed off though.

  • Steve

    “DC had a Turkish Muslim doctor called Jannisary”

    Do you know about the history of the janissaries?

  • Amro

    DC had a Turkish Muslim doctor called Jannisary a few years ago, which would have made a great ongoing series. Shame these characters fall by the wayside.

  • marco

    As long as they can give him a good enough story & devlop his character properly, i’m sure he’ll be accepted no problem.

    A muslim Green Lantern, i like the sound of that.

  • HGG

    “You should visit New York.”

    One of these days… But I’ll admit looking for comic book stores would be pretty low in my list of priorities.

    “I’m surprised that you did not note that GL has a reputation (which it certainly likes to play up) for addressing race issues”

    Ah, yes. Denny O’Neil run with Neal Adams dealt with some interesting issues relating to race (with the introduction of John Stewart), overpopulation, discrimination and drug use in the 70’s. More recently, there was Judd Winick having another GL deal with homophobia:

    http://fourthage.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/green-lantern-154-155-hate-crime/

    Both Winick and O’Neil are very politically oriented, so it’s no surprise they wrote those comics, but Johns is about as non-controversial (at least when it comes to real world issues) as they come. It will be interesting to see how he deals with islamophobia.

  • Just Stopping By

    @HGG says, ” A physical comic book store is not the easiest thing to find…”

    You should visit New York. ;-)

    I’m surprised that you did not note that GL has a reputation (which it certainly likes to play up) for addressing race issues: http://www.characterent.com/monthly_feature/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Green-Lantern-Green-Arrow.14.jpg.

  • HGG

    As a heads up, the issue in question is Green Lantern #0 (yes, zero) and it will be on sale tomorrow (Wednesday 5th) A physical comic book store is not the easiest thing to find, but it will be available for download from here:

    http://www.comixology.com/

    Or from the same service via their dedicated iPhone/iPad app. The price is 2.99

  • corey

    wow the idiots at jihad watch really pissed at the concept of an muslim super hero, you know I can come up with quite a list of things that those idiots should be pissed off at the comics industry for in fact here it is and I am hoping somebody from “jihad watch” is seeing this
    1.spider man making a deal with the devil in order to save his aunt may from a bullet wound by giving up his marriage with mary jane to him in the storyline one more day.
    2.jla cry for justice in which to have a shock moment a child character Leanne harper daughter of the red arrow is pointlessly killed off even though she had no bearing on the story.
    3.amazons attack, in which the very mythos of wonder woman is ripped to shreds just to have a tie in to a more idiotic comic speaking of.
    4.countdown, a dc event comic in which consist of nothing but continuity errors, pointless deaths, and the monitors badass characters being completely reduced to idiots wondering if they should do well anything at all.
    5.ultimatum, arguably worse then countdown in which probably half of the heroes in the ultimate marvel universe are also pointlessly killed off in completely idiotic ways.
    that’s really all I can think of at the top of my head but really jihad watch goes into a full on rage about a muslim becoming a green lantern just idiotic.

  • Aasim

    Have any of you read this moronic article of Robert Spencer who talks about this Green Lantern and while he is at it treats Islamophobia in the United States as myth yet again and the moronic comments of his stupid fans. Here is a link to this article of his http://www.jihadwatch.org/2012/09/muslim-superhero-victim-of-islamophobia-to-join-green-lantern-comic-book-series.html.

  • http://gravatar.com/saladinakabigboss Saladin aka Big Boss

    About time, I do wish that they would have more Muslims characters that are not just Middle Eastern we have Indonesian Muslims ,Chinese Muslims,
    African Muslims,Eastern European Muslims,South American Muslims, and also a lot African-American Muslims,so now I wait the day of for a Muslim Wolverine and a Muslim Storm.

  • mindy1

    Geeky goodness :P

  • corey

    you know I had a look at frank millers “holy terror” when I was in a barnes and noble and it looks like I was reading a sin city comic considering the art style is the same a comic series which many think that’s when he started to go cuckoo and in which can be seen in crap such as all star batman and robin in which batman is portrayed as a violent psychotic who gleefully runs over cops and kidnaps a kid right after he just lost his parents(our hero!) as for green lantern I have never read any of the comics and only watched the animated series which is awesome and is worth checking out and the live action film which isn’t really that bad but I guess geller and spencer will respond with a comic of there own cutting and pasting there faces on iconic superheroes pretending to fight the evil forces of the muslamic galactic empire.

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