Like most superheroes, Simon Baz is strong, muscular and virtuous. What makes him stand out is his heritage. He is the first Arab-American superhero, and also the first Muslim superhero in the DC Comics Universe. Simon Baz is also only the fifth human from Earth to receive the Green Lantern ring, which is an impressive accomplishment in its own right within the DC Comics Universe.
Appealing to the Masses with a Muslim Superhero
Reaching out to minority groups is a trend in the comic world, and fitting for an industry that celebrates the uniqueness of the people and creatures (imaginary or real, up to you) within its universe. The move by DC comes on the heels of the introduction of a gay Green Lantern earlier this year, and a half-Hispanic half-black Spiderman by Marvel the previous year.
While comic book aficionados are conscious that the most popular stories are scripts with a traditional white male superhero, most are applauding the development of such diverse human characters as a Muslim superhero. Ryan Clark, senior staff member at the Comic Book Shoppe in Ottawa, believes diversity amongst the characters in the DC Universe is always a good thing: adding more to the mix makes for dynamic scripts and versatility in storytelling.
Simon Baz – Based on a True Story
The character history of Simon Baz resonates with reality, offering an almost tongue-in-cheek narrative of post 9/11 experiences of Arab and Muslim Americans. The character’s development begins with him watching the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks as a young person. As he reaches adulthood, his heritage becomes somewhat of a handicap in the face of racial profiling, causing guilt to be unfairly assigned to him in complicated situations. This unfortunate phenomenon is established for readers prior to the Green Lantern powers being conferred upon him. Before being blessed with the Green Lantern ring, Simon Baz has trouble with the authorities when he is apprehended and interrogated on suspicions of terrorism in a situation that he unwittingly finds himself in. Similar profiling is regrettably not unfamiliar to many Muslims living in North America today.
To make Simon Baz relatable and compelling, Geoff Johns, the character’s creator, instilled bytes of contemporary reality into the character. In an interview with the Guardian, Johns (himself of Arab-American heritage and raised in a Muslim household) states that the key trait to becoming a Green Lantern is the ability to overcome great fear, something which he felt would be fun to work with for a character with Baz’s background. Simon Baz even has the Arabic word for courage tattooed on his forearm.
The Simon Baz character is also not the first time such bitter experiences have been reflected by DC. In a Power Girl Script in 2011, an Arab character who has the ability to control the weather is detained when his efforts to save a passenger jet plummeting to earth are construed as a hijacking. DC has thus kept up the longstanding tradition of keeping comics aligned with the times, giving us a lighter-hearted media source with embedded social commentary, and one that transcends time periods (in more ways than one).
A Muslim Superhero – A New Age for Comics
The move by DC to recognize the diversity of its readers and changes in North American demographics is welcomed widely.
The shift away from white, affluent, heterosexual males as the typecast for superhero status opens up a plethora of potential scripts, and a world of imagination for audiences who can perhaps relate better to the range of character attributes.
The most refreshing aspect of this venture by DC is the fact that it unabashedly challenges what has become, thanks to a combination of hyped and misconstrued media representations and the havoc wreaked by fanatics on both sides, the normal interpretation of the relationship between Muslims and Arabs, and the West. As with other art mediums, the Green Lantern comic script is an opportunity for cultural insight and dialogue, offering a creative means of bridging the divide. The Simon Baz character is compelling in its genuineness: he bears human flaws and handicaps, but overcomes his demons — as do the authorities, in this instance — learning to work together and use his courage and strength towards safeguarding the planet.
For those anxious to see more of Simon Baz, there is hope — Clark hinted that the character is slated to be a member of the Justice League of America Team, combatting injustice alongside Catwoman, Hawkman and the Green Arrow – and thereby earning himself a place in comic history.