DC Fully Commits To Diversity By Making Major Comic Book Hero Arab American

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Green LanternWe’ve talked a lot about the ways that comic books are diversifying and changing the image of strength for pop culture. Last year, the newest Spiderman was introduced as a mixed-race boy from Brooklyn. Then, Marvel announced that it’s gay superhero Northstar would be marrying his fiance in the pages of Astonishing X-Men. DC comics quickly revealed that the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, was being re-imagined as a homosexual man.

The next step in the evolving face of comic books comes in the form of another Green Lantern, the newest to be worthy of a ring from Oa. Simon Baz, an Arab-Muslim, will be the star of the relaunched Green Lantern series. He’ll be the most prominent Arab superhero and the first to slip into the green suit.

For those who don’t follow the Green Lantern series, Ryan Reynolds is not the only Lantern. His character was part of a group, an army really, called the Green Lantern Corps. They’re a little like intergalactic police officers. There have been multiple Green Lanterns from Earth: Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner. Simon Baz will be the next.

What makes this announcement all the more important is that Baz will not just be a single issue of a well-known character in an alternate universe, like Alan Scott’s transformation. It won’t be a one-off to support a nice cause but then fizzle out of sight, like the hearing-imparied Blue Ear. Simon Baz will be a prominent figure in DC Comics going forward. He’ll not only star in the new Green Lantern series, he’ll be joining the famed Justice League of America.

This new, diverse role model hits close to home for DC. The character draws from Chief Creative Officer and writer of Green Lantern Geoff Johns‘s personal experience as an Arab-American. It’s a story that he wanted to tell and a voice which he knew was important to add in to the superhero world. And Johns will not shy away from controversial issues that Arab-Americans deal with.

In fact, the story of Simon Baz starts when he is 10 years old, watching in horror with his family as planes crash in to the World Trade Center. The storyline deals with suspicion and ostracism that his family faces in the time that follows September 11th. Johns explains, “One of the things I really wanted to show was its effect on Simon and his family in a very negative way.”

The diversification of the superhero world benefits everyone. It shows that strength and courage don’t come in one size, shape or color. It lets kids who look up to these heroes find something to relate to, no matter who they are. Johns recognizes the importance of these new characters, saying, “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.”

My daughter is an enormous fan of the superhero world. (And I have to admit, she’s a DC girl.) We’ve spent plenty of time watching and pretending to be the Justice League. I’m happy every time I see comics get more inclusive and accepting. I see the importance of children finding role models that they can relate to. Simon Baz will be that role model for thousands of children.

(Photo: DC Comics)