Up, up and away! If you have to ask what that’s about, you’re no fan of superheroes—comic book superheroes, to be precise. From comic books to TV series to the movies, these superheroes have expanded their empire.
The superhero is a part of modern life. Aside from those of Marvel and DC, superhero-style characters can be found infiltrating all aspects of media. But it was not until 1938, one of the dark years between the Great Depression and WW II, that Superman made his appearance, in the debut issue of Action Comics.
Since then, they have continued to captivate our imagination, by adapting to changing times. Originating from the US and fighting for ‘American ideals’, they are now changing their political hue in the globalisation era.
While legends of yore—Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Spiderman and X-Men et al—continue to thrive, new icons are being added to the list by captains of the comic book industry, in print, movie, and video game formats.
With influx of Hollywood blockbusters featuring American superheroes, some are looking to the creation of Muslim equivalents. Marvel Comics introduced Dust, a Muslim “mutant” member of the famed X-Men, with only her eyes visible beneath her full-body burqa, whereas rival DC Comics recently brought out Nightrunner, an Algerian Muslim immigrant recruited by Batman. Dr Naif Al-Mutawa’s creation, The 99, a comic book published by Teshkeel Comics, features a team of global superheroes based on Islamic culture and religion.
However, Buraaq is the first real superhero in America created to counter bias and propaganda against Islam in the post-19/11 scenario. A practicing Muslim, Buraaq gains super powers as a result of traumatic events in his youth. “The underlying message, they say, would help foster better relations between the West and the Muslim World,” claims creator SplitMoonArts.
While the Muslim superhero is supposed to smoothen ruffled feathers between the West and the Islamic world, oriental versions of superheroes-in-making are being grafted for reasons of commerce.
The creator of the Marvel Superheroes that have defended America for the last 50 years, Stan Lee, is now working to ensure that they lend their super-powered hands to the Chinese and Indian public too.
The co-creator of Spiderman (with Steve Ditko), The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, X-Men, Thor and Fantastic Four (with Jack Kirby), has formed a new entertainment company, Magic Storm Entertainment, which would make superhero movies for international audiences.
Since the home turf of most conventional superheroes is New York, Stan Lee thinks he can broaden their appeal by giving Hong Kong and Shanghai their own superheroes. “I have been eagerly awaiting a chance to combine the best of American superhero epics, with that of Chinese and Asian film-making, for a motion picture that would be excitedly received worldwide,” Lee is reported to have said, according to AP.
There have been Asian characters in comics before. Cassandra Cain was Batgirl until recently and one of the recent X-men, Dust, is Afghan and a devout Muslim. But the new experiment has the potential to open floodgates for new superheroes.
Indian superheroes like Nagaraj and Shaktimaan, have already found an increasing audience among children and adults. Recently, Aravind Menon, Sathya Sandira and Alexander Zhao have joined hands to create a new Chinese-Indian superhero Sam, in a comic book titled Salvation Sam.