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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Boston University writes puff-piece about Muslim superheroes

The Boston University's site has written about an alleged comics expert named A. Dave Lewis, who's probing the rise of "superheroes" of Muslim backgrounds (via CBR's Robot 6 blog, where there's too few positives and far too many negatives). Interestingly enough, it begins by telling that:
In 2009, Image Comics issued a $1 book with a cover depicting Barack Obama landing a right cross on Osama bin Laden. The presidential punch pales next to bin Laden’s real-life end, but sure as radiation enlarges Bruce Banner into the Incredible Hulk, the al-Qaeda leader’s demise made the Obama-Osama cover a collector’s item that now sells for $100.
Funny, isn't it, that they never published a cover depicting Dubya or even a lower-ranking Republican doing the same thing? But the article starts to deteriorate with the following:
Comics expert A. David Lewis (GRS’11), who is studying for a doctorate in religion and literature, sees a bigger, more surprising development than a bonanza for comic book collectors. Lewis sees the emergence of the Muslim superhero.
This is what we have to hear about? Why don't we get an article where we wonder why there's no superheroes or supporting cast members of Armenian, Portuguese, Ghanian, Estonian and Burmese descent?

That aside, it's important to note that almost 6 years ago, Lewis attacked Michael Medved for criticizing Marvel's anti-American injection in Captain America during 2002-2004. He even used Wikipedia, the site anyone can edit, as his means of gathering "evidence" to support his limp argument. He seemed otherwise unconcerned about The Truth: Red White & Black's use of stereotypical artwork too. One can only wonder if he sees nothing wrong with Mexico's monstrous Memin Pinguin comic either.
The year after 9/11, Marvel Comics introduced Dust, a Muslim “mutant” (superhuman) member of the famed X-Men, only her eyes visible beneath her full-body burka. Born in Afghanistan, she can change into a blinding, skin-shredding sandstorm. Then there’s M, whose super strength, telepathy, and flight are the least obvious of her attributes (buxom and curvaceous, she’d shame Wonder Woman as an adolescent boy’s fantasy). M debuted in 1994. She revealed this year that she’s Muslim.
Oh good grief. Monet St. Croix is a fictional character, and can only be as curvy as the artist can draw her body. This sounds like an attempt to insult William Marston's classic creation and the fans of the Amazon princess. (Likewise, if any writers/editors turned St. Croix into an Islamist, they've done the same.)
Meanwhile, rival publisher DC Comics recently brought out Nightrunner, an Algerian Muslim immigrant recruited by Batman, drawing charges from some American readers that DC is PC. Batman, they groused, should have deputized a native Frenchman.
Guess again: they should've deputized an Armenian! Yes, that's what I think now. There's not enough Mannix variants out there in mainstream comics, so I don't suppose they might think of them for a change?
What’s up with the new Islamic heroes? Religion, once taboo in comics, now gives characters a foothold in readers’ experience, says Lewis (below), who has written comics and graphic novels and edited Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels, a collection of scholarly essays. His dissertation details depictions of the afterlife in comics and other pop culture.
Oh wow, what a laugh. Nightcrawler of the X-Men was characterized as a German Catholic Christian who fled from a mob in Germany to be recruited by Prof. Xavier. Since the Huntress was recreated by DC Comics in 1989, she's usually been characterized as an Italian Catholic too. Black Lightning was usually characterized as a Northern Baptist Protestant, and Marvel's Wolfsbane as a Scottish Presbytarian Protestant. And Kitty Pryde was written as a Jewish protagonist, though her observance of Judaism is not fully clear to me. In recent years, however, religious observance has become less clear for followers of Christianity and Judaism, as the companies seem more interested in depicting this or that character as Muslim at the Judeo-Christian's expense. (The same can be said when it comes to gays and lesbians, at the expense of most other ideas, though the main problem is that they won't allow any questions of whether homosexuality is a bad practice). And Lewis begins to derail when he attempts to hijack the X-Men with the following:
The comics are “already dealing with these incredibly fantastic characters: flying characters, alien characters, underwater characters,” he says. “There’s such a suspension of disbelief that they needed to ground them more in the readers’ real world” with religious references. He points out that both the X-Men and Muslims are victimized minorities.
Wow! So in Lewis's narrow vision, the Copts of Egypt aren't victimized, nor are the French, the Israelis, the Sudanese Christians, or even the Armenians during WW1, when the Islamic-led Ottoman Empire of Turkey slaughtered at least a million Armenians. Nor, I suppose, was Lara Logan when she was gang raped in Egypt back in February. What a most utter ignoramus. I guess he hasn't ever read the Koran either.
For much of the Cold War, Lewis says, mainstream comics avoided religion and tended to use communists when they needed real-life villains. Then the 1973 Arab oil embargo and the 1979–1981 Iranian hostage crisis turned the comics’ gaze toward the Middle East, and the Hulk embarked on global adventures that included evil Arabs. But if that’s your scenario, Lewis says, you “do also have to opt for at least the token opposite…a token superhero,” and in 1980, the Hulk series introduced the Arabian Knight, “our first headlining, Middle Eastern superhero,” replete with a flying carpet and a scimitar that fired force beams and could pierce anything. He lasted about five years. The comics’ interest in Arab characters receded along with the price of oil in the late ’80s and the shift in national angst towards the rising economic sun of Japan.
All of which might've worked out if they'd just acknowledge the Koran's jihadist, supremacist indoctrine. But the depiction of the Arabian Knight was superficial at best, and there was no comment made on his polygamy.
Then came 9/11. While American interest in Islam led to Muslim heroes, Muslim villains (fictional ones, anyway) have been rare, which Lewis attributes in part to publishers “playing it safe,” not wanting to muck with either Islamophobia or offending potential customers. Frank Miller, creator of the Batman Dark Knight series, announced in 2006 that he was writing a graphic novel pitting the Caped Crusader against bin Laden. He later announced that he’d substituted a new superhero in the book, which he targeted for publication this year. It’s unclear how he’ll proceed in the wake of bin Laden’s death.
Boy, I guess they really do have a negative leaning against Miller's project. As a matter of fact, he could do it somewhat more easily now, since bin Laden's dead. As for playing it "safe", I'm afraid that part is right in a sense: they've sunk into cowardice, but worse yet, into leftism, if we ponder any and all of the leftist propaganda publications with anti-conservative leanings they've produced this past decade, including - but not limited to - the very apologia that Medved criticized in 2003 and Lewis blatantly attacked him for doing, and not very cleverly.
What is clear is that Muslims on the comics pages confront the conundrum of their flesh-and-blood counterparts: their community views them with suspicion. Lewis says non-Muslim heroes wonder, “Can they truly represent the American way? Could they really be on our side? When Dust joins the X-Men, these persecuted American mutants don’t really know if they can trust her. The comic book creators can have it both ways. They can present an altruistic Muslim hero, but also reflect the Islamophobia.”
Very funny. The Koran doesn't promote altruism, so for any such character to present it wouldn't be doing it as per the Koran's teaching. But in a way, they're right about Grant Morrison's New X-Men title featuring "Islamophobia" via the X-Men themselves: at least one character acts so negatively, while Dust comes off more positively.
Lewis thinks our interest in Muslim heroes may wane if and when another global hot spot bumps the Middle East off the front pages, but for now it’s clear that the comic-book bug has bitten the Arab world. America invented the superhero comic book in the 1930s, but Kuwait’s Teshkeel Media has created a comics series about the 99, an international band of superheroes whose powers are the 99 Koranic virtues of Allah, such as wisdom and love. The company distributes a million comic books a month in Islamic countries. The creator read American comics as a boy while summering in New Hampshire, growing up to create his own heroes.
Um, what's so wise and loving about a religion that tells its followers in Sura 8:12, "I will instill terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them"? And upon reaching this last part in the article, I found that the 2010 Atlantic interview they linked to contains something very scary about Naif al-Mutawa:
You've said that you hope that The 99 provides a less threatening face of Islam to non-Muslims. But what do you hope it achieves within the Muslim world?

A year ago, I gave a lecture at the medical school in Kuwait on the biological basis of behavior. I gave my students a copy of two articles--one from The New York Times and one from New York Magazine--but I removed the name of the reporter, the actor, where it took place. The first article was about a group who wanted to ban Valentine's Day. The second article was about a woman who was complaining that a man she didn't know started to talk to her, pinched her son's cheek, told her he was cute. Then he walked off and some vans pulled up; six bearded men jumped out and interrogated this woman.

I asked my students where they thought these incidents took place. They all said the first incident was in Saudi Arabia. For the second story, the students were torn between Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. It blew their minds when I told them that the first incident took place in India and the second one took place in upstate New York at an ultra-orthodox Jewish community. This is what broke my heart: In the situation in India, people being interviewed, called that behavior "Talibanization." In other words, this is Islam's influence on Hinduism. We don't act this way with Hinduism, said the people in the article. In the second example, the woman called the men "stupid Talibans." Again, this is not Jewish behavior; it is coming from the Muslim world. But my students said, "it is us."

This is what I fear. This is very, very problematic. With The 99, the idea is that we have gone back to the same places from where other people have pulled very negative one-sided fascist messages and created a multicultural theme park. When you have the happy-go-lucky stuff that is based on the same source as the extremism, your average is going to be pushed in a different direction. It confuses the system. That is where I think the impact will come from.
An important note should be made about the latter article they provided from NY Mag that al-Mutwa didn't explain: the women interviewed there left a Satmar community in upstate New York where she felt belittled. And as they say in the article itself:
“The Lubavitchers, they have a joy about them. The Satmars are nuts. They tell you the State of Israel shouldn’t exist because the Messiah hasn’t come yet, that the Holocaust was God’s way of punishing Jews for Zionism. It makes you sick.”
You can say that again! If there's any religious community that doesn't deserve to be called "Hasidic" if it derives from positive words, it's the Satmars. They really are a thorn in the side of Judaism and the Jewish state. It's their very twisted beliefs that are exactly why the Messiah is kept from coming. The Lubavichers/Chabad movement may not be perfect, but are a lot more respectable of freedom to choose how to run your life than the Satmars are.

And this is what al-Mutawa doesn't make a distinction about, otherwise making a cryptic, subtle statement that villifies Jews and Hindus while living in denial about his own Religion of Peace. Anyone concerned about al-Mutawa and his propaganda may want to take a good look at this worrisome piece from the Atlantic, which bears more than a hint of taqqiya about it.

And Mr. Lewis chose to put his head in the sand when it came to the publisher of The 99 in Kuwait too. This is not the kind of writer whose works I would recommend.
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posted by Avi Green at permanent link#

2 Comments:

Blogger Wrial Huden said...

And speaking of The 99, DC published a limited series featuring the Justice League and The 99. I am a comics fan and I do pick up the regular Justice League series, but I refuse to buy the limited series. If this trend continues, I may drop DC titles altogether!

Monday, June 20, 2011 5:15:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/book-news/comics/article/47985-depicting-muhammad-religion-biography-and-bad-faith.html

Friday, July 22, 2011 7:48:00 pm  

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