Photo courtesy of http://www.nydailynews.com
Simon Baz has become the newest addition to the Green Lantern comics, as part of a new storyline called, "Rise of the Third Army." The new character is a Muslim, Lebanese American superhero from Dearborn, Michigan. The new Green Lantern has an Arabic tattoo on the same arm as his power ring which reads al-shuja'a, the Arabic word for courage.
Geoff Johns, a comic writer and creator of the new character, was inspired by his own Lebanese ancestry. Growing up in a Lebanese Christian household and a suburb near Detroit, Johns was able to utilize his own background as an Arab American to create Simon Baz.
Johns drew from his ancestry in an effort to diversify the superheros present in the comics universe. The character of Simon Baz reflects a lot of truth and reality. Dearborn is infamous for being the capital of Arab America and of course home of Henry Ford. It is no surprise that the newest member would be a downsized auto worker from Dearborn.
Above: Cover for GL #13. Courtesy of dccomics.com
The story starts off by describing Baz as somewhat of a criminal—a car thief—who also holds a criminal record for street racing. As the Green Lantern Baz is drawn holding a gun, which is negatively associated with violence. So clearly he is not the perfect character (but none of the Green Lanterns ever are) and he is certainly not your typical comic book hero: tall, blonde and white. But I think that is the point.
Although the character of Simon Baz encompasses a lot of Arab stereotypes, at the end of the day the idea of diversifying superheroes to include Muslim and Arab people is a step in the right direction. And Simon Baz in a big way helps reflect the reality of the world we live in. Baz is a character that Arab Americans might better relate to. It at least acknowledges their existence.
On a personal note, it is deeply satisfying to see this particular diversity appear as a mainstream character. a Muslim, Arab American superhero is a powerful image—totally subversive to the association of Muslims and Arabs as terrorists, villans and hijackers, as if often seen in pop culture.
Simon Baz is not the only "minority" superhero. There's John Stewart, a black Green Lantern. More recently, Marvel Comics unveiled a half-Black, half-Latino Spider-Man and earlier this summer DC also unveiled a gay Green Lantern. I hope this trend continues with more comics, along with children books and movies, will follow DCs' recent steps towards diversifying their characters.
"Rise of the Third Army," beginning with GREEN LANTERN #13, in stores October 3.