x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Hero's welcome

An Arab American comic book character, fighting for justice – and greater understanding between people of different backgrounds.

Look, up in the sky. It's not a bird or a plane; it's not even Superman. It's the new Green Lantern, but not as many fans of the DC Comics character will remember him. The latest Earthling hand-chosen by the Guardians of the Universe is an Arab American named Simon Baz. And like his creator, comic-book writer Geoff Johns, he hails from the metropolitan area of Detroit, Michigan, home to one of the largest Arab communities in the United States.

A special new edition of the Green Lantern comic book sees Baz, a petty criminal who has been laid off from his factory job, hauled in by the FBI as a terrorism suspect. At this point, the Green Lantern's power ring finds him and he is transformed into a superhero.

While firmly set in the world of fantasy - Baz will eventually team up with the likes of Batman and Superman in the Justice League series - the comic does not shy away from real issues, including the treatment of Arab Americans in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Not everyone will like the story, but writer Johns has certainly done his homework, including consultation with experts at the Arab American National Museum. And if the appearance of a sympathetic, heroic Arab character in a mainstream comic book can lead to greater understanding between people of different backgrounds, that's a superhuman feat indeed.