Sep 4, 2012 12:23 PM by Lauren Molenburg
DETROIT (AP) -- When DC Comics decided to blow up its fabled universe and create a brave, diverse future, Geoff Johns drew from the past for a new character: his own background as an Arab-American.
The company's chief creative officer and writer of the relaunched "Green Lantern" series dreamed up Simon Baz, DC's most prominent Arab-American superhero and the first to wear a Green Lantern ring. The character and creator share Lebanese ancestry and hail from the Detroit area, which boasts one of the largest and oldest Arab communities in the United States.
"I thought a lot about it - I thought back to what was familiar to me," Johns, 39, told The Associated Press by phone last week from Los Angeles, where he now lives. "This is such a personal story."
The Green Lantern mantle in DC Comics is no stranger to diversity with its ranks made up of men, women, aliens - animal, vegetable and mineral - from across the
The olive-skinned, burly Baz hails from Dearborn, the hometown of Henry Ford and the capital of Arab America. His story begins at 10 years old, when he and the rest of his Muslim family watch their television in horror as airplanes fly into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Events unfold from there as U.S. Arabs and Muslims find themselves falling under intense suspicion and ostracism in the days, months and years following the attacks.
Baz is not the first Arab or Muslim character to grace - or menace, as has historically been the case - the comic world. Marvel Comics has Dust, a young Afghan woman whose mutant ability to manipulate sand and dust has been part of the popular X-Men books. DC Comics in late 2010 introduced Nightrunner, a young Muslim hero of Algerian descent reared in Paris. He is part of the global network of crime fighters set up by Batman alter-ego Bruce Wayne.
A broader mission to bring Islamic heroes and principles to the comic world comes from Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of "The 99." "The 99" is named after the number of qualities the Quran attributes to God: strength, courage, wisdom and mercy among them.
Johns, who also has written stories starring Superman, The Flash, and Teen Titans, said going diverse only works if there's a good story, and he believes he found that with Baz. But don't mistake him for a hero in the beginning: Baz disappoints both devout Muslims - his forearm tattoo that reads "courage" in Arabic is considered "haram," or religiously forbidden - and broader society by turning to a life of crime.
Of course, Johns hopes Green Lantern fans accept Baz, who joins other humans who have been "chosen," including Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)