The comic-book world has taken bold steps this year to diversify its landscape, with Marvel introducing a new half-black, half-Latino Spider-Man and DC Comics revealing that Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, is gay. And now, DC has revealed yet another milestone: The Arab-American character Simon Baz is the new Green Lantern. (See an image at right and below.) Here, everything you need to know about DC Comics' new Muslim superhero:
What makes Simon Baz special?
A lot. Unlike the rest of DC Comics' major superheroes, Baz has "not been around since the '40s, '50s, or '60s," says Brian Truitt at USA Today. Creator Geoff Johns only recently "worked on the script with the Arab American National Museum" in Dearborn, Mich. In his debut issue, Baz, who is Lebanese, is depicted "watching the events of 9/11 unfold on his TV as a 10-year-old, and dealing with the aftermath that Muslims faced in America." And his first major obstacle isn't a conventional super-villain, but "a federal agent who deems him a terrorist."
Is Baz really the first Muslim superhero?
That's debatable. He's certainly not "the first Arab or Muslim" introduced into the comic-book world, says Jeff Karoub of the Associated Press. DC Comics has Nightrunner, a "Muslim hero of Algerian decent" who has teamed up with Batman. And Marvel has Dust, "a young Afghan woman" who appears in the popular X-Men series. But Baz is the first Muslim character to become a big-name superhero.
Is this the same Green Lantern than Ryan Reynolds played?
No. Reynolds starred in Warner Bros' 2011 Green Lantern film, but he played Hal Jordan — a "Caucasian ladies' man" who is chosen to be the Green Lantern, says Lily Kuo at Reuters. But in the comic-book world, Hal Jordan, who was created in 1959, is just one of several men to take on the persona of the Green Lantern (including Alan Scott, the 1940 Green Lantern who was revealed to be gay earlier this year). In Jordan's absence, the Earth needs another hero, so Simon Baz has been "bestowed with a ring that gives him super powers and anoints him a Green Lantern."
Is the comic any good?
The first issue is somewhat middling, though the series "has potential," says Dan Seitz at Uproxx. The introduction of Baz is "spare and effective," but the issue takes a turn for the worse when it tackles Baz's issues as an Arab-American Muslim. That storyline is handled "in a thudding, obvious way." There's nothing wrong with political overtones in Green Lantern, but it needs to be sharper than "an episode of 24 that ends with a Green Lantern ring instead of a Jack Bauer torture scene."
Have a look at the cover: