If you know a Muslim family, ask the kids about the new superhero in the DC Comics universe. Frankly, ask any comic fan about this. Given the Green Lantern’s legions of followers over the superhero’s 70-year history—millions of Americans have heard of the new hero: He’s Simon Baz, the newest Green Lantern, an Arab-American Muslilm hero from Dearborn, Michigan.
Who is Green Lantern
and What’s His Origin?
AMONG THE OLDEST AND MOST COURAGEOUS: From his debut in 1940, Green Lantern now ranks as one of the oldest and most popular super heroes—even if the 2011 Green Lantern movie wasn’t greeted with the same kind of rave reviews lavished on Batman, Spiderman and Avengers movies.
GROUNDBREAKING SOCIAL CONSCIENCE: His reputation for having a larger-than-life conscience is longstanding. Back in the late 1960s, a restless, young generation of artists and writers emerged at DC Comics and chose the Green Lantern as one of their standard bearers. Through most of the 1960s, mainstream comic books had avoided dealing with serious social ills. Then, in 1970 and 1971, DC dared to put issues like drug addiction and racism on the covers of superhero comic books. It was a salute to the brave and venerable reputation of Green Latern that he was chosen to co-star in that series with another old-school hero, Green Arrow. Just this summer, DC released a full-color volume of the Green Lantern and Green Arrow series from 1970-71, which now is available from Amazon.
FROM WORLD PEACE TO COSMIC PEACE: Most Americans know a good deal about Superman, Batman and Spiderman—individual heroes trying to do the right thing. Green Lantern is different. Think of the knights in King Arthur’s round table. Think of the Jedi Knights in the Star Wars saga. The origin of his power resides with a cosmic round table, the Guardians of the Universe. These Guardians have distributed many power rings through the universe to all shapes and sizes and genders of heroes. The most famous “current” Green Lantern is American test pilot Hal Jordan who received his ring as shown in the 2011 movie—and suddenly found himself a cosmic peacemaker. Of course, in the realm of superheroes, peacemaking involves more battles than quiet negotiations. Think of the Seven Samurai from Japan or the Magnificent Seven from Hollywood Westerns—battling to restore peace, or so their stories go.
How Did a Muslim Get a Green Lantern Ring?
Now, we’re in the heart of the story unfolding in the latest DC Comics.
The re-launch of the entire Green Lantern saga occurred in 2011, when DC Comics re-started all of the longstanding superhero series. You can catch up on the latest storyline through Green Lantern Vol. 1, containing the first half year of the new Green Lantern comics in a single volume from DC and carried by Amazon. By this summer, it was becoming clear that at least a couple of green lantern rings—the official connection with the Guardian-authorized power—were likely to be on the loose. By early next year, the entire first year of individual Green Lantern comic books will be available in book-length collections. For now, though, the debut of Simon Baz is only available in Green Lantern #0 “The Introduction and Origin of a Surprising New Green Lantern!” That individual comic book is available through Amazon resellers and at comic stores, if they’re not already sold out. Some Amazon resellers already have their prices jacked up by more than three times the original $2.99 cover price. This is sure to become a classic.
Detroit Free Press staff writer Julie Hinds has published some of the best coverage of this landmark in Muslim media representations. In her first story about Simon Baz as Green Lantern, Julie accurately pointed out that there have been other Muslim and Arab characters in superhero comic books. In fact, some years ago, a team of Muslim comic creators launched The 99, an elaborate multi-media universe of male and female super heroes representing the best values in Islam. (Here’s a ReadTheSpirit story on a documentary film about The 99 that’s fascinating viewing for anyone who cares about these issues.)
In her second story, Julie covered DC executive Geoff Johns’ visit to metro-Detroit, where he was celebrated by Dearborn Arab and Muslim families. Julie wrote in part: Now based in Los Angeles, Johns grew up in Grosse Pointe and Clarkston and graduated from Michigan State University. To make sure he got all of the details of Baz’s heritage and hometown right, he consulted on the script with the museum in Dearborn. “He did his research,” said Matthew Stiffler, the Arab American National Museum researcher who worked with Johns. “He came to the museum because he didn’t want to reinforce stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims. He’s really helping to break down stereotypes.”
Simon Baz is introduced to readers, beginning with a flashback to the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001. The comic then very quickly summarizes the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias that followed, even though the vast majority of Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans are deeply patriotic American citizens. Unfortunately, as a young man, this fictional Simon Baz gets caught up in an international web of investigations and—well, without spoiling the comic, it’s safe to say … he winds up with a green ring.
Our Recommendation: Sometimes interfaith peacemaking involves attending conferences and joint worship services; sometimes it takes long-term education and negotiation; and sometimes peacemaking is picking up some comic books and engaging kids in a fresh perspective on our world.
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.