Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Playpus Thoughts: Simon Baz, the Arab-American Green Lantern

It looks like we have a new Green Lantern, and guess what, he is Arab-American. Granted, this is not actually news since some vigilant comic book fans spotted the tattoo with the Arabic lettering on Simon Baz’s forearm shortly after DC Comic released the solicit to this week's Green Lantern #0 months ago. The DC media machine is ramping up the publicity for the character via an interview with Green Lantern writer, Geoff Johns. What caught my attention is how Jeff Kaurob of the Associated Press wrote that Arab-Americans fell, “under intense suspicion and ostracism in the days, months and years following the [9-11] attacks.” This caught the attention of noted counter-jihadist, Robert Spencer, who criticized the press release and Geoff Johns for, “wittingly or unwittingly . . . abetting that victimhood mythology, and its sinister goal.”

While I do believe that certain interest groups abuse the term “Islamophobia” to suppress legitimate criticism of Islam, my concern with Simon Baz is that DC is not treating him like a viable character. For one, hate crimes against Muslims are not as prevalent as the article suggests. Muslims only accounted for only 13.2% of reported hate crimes in the United States in 2010, according to the FBI. Compare that to Jewish-Americans, who comprise 65.4% of reported hate crimes the same year. So I agree with Mr. Spencer that this is pandering.

However, since there are hate crimes against Arab-Americans (albeit much fewer that DC Comics or the Associated Press wants us to believe), I can accept that Simon and his family have faced suspicion and ostracism. What I do not want DC to do is tell me why Simon Baz is an interesting character, I want them to show me in the comic and issuing press releases that spoil the issue is not the way to do it. This is a problem endemic to the industry; comic book sales are falling across the boards and publicity stunts like Jeff Kaurob’s article, and the New 52 in general, only bump up sales in the short term, which implies desperation, especially after the failure of the Green Lantern film last year. Marvel pulled similar stunts with the deaths of Captain America and the Human Torch as well as President Barack Obama’s appearance in Amazing Spider-Man. I am simply tired of these press releases and want to enjoy the story on its own merits.

So there is my problem with this article: it is not the fact that Simon Baz is a Muslim or Arab, it is that they feel that they need to beg the public for attention just to get a momentary sales spike. Personally, I think Simon Baz may be an intriguing character in that he wears the tattoo, which is haram in Islam, so he is not a devout Muslim as Johns admits,

"He's not a perfect character. He's obviously made some mistakes in his life, but that makes him more compelling and relatable," he [Geoff Johns] said. "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."

I am invested enough in Green Lantern to pick up the title through Rise of the Third Army but am I am simply tired of DC’s fickleness. Simon Baz had potential but DC Comics squandered it through its histrionics and pandering.

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