Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The 99: Muslim Justice League of Avengers ASSEMBLE!

I am posting this with full responsibility and expectations on impending clash of discourse. But here goes.

I came across this article today and let me cut to the chase:
I am a Muslim growing up being fed with Western pop culture media primarily cartoons and comics every morning, and the later half with influences from the Eastern side of the world through anime and manga. Having said that, upon reading about Muslim Superheroes - those two just don't sing. It's not in the culture even. While I love superhero comics to a certain extent, I stand firm that the idea of khaliphs clad in spandex does not fit within the context of Islam.

It's embarrassing to see servants of God with Allah's 99 attributes spreading the Da'wah and Islamic values while they themselves look like they can't be taken seriously. Imagine a superheroine wearing her Hijaab (head scarf) flying around town. Would she take 5 every time for prayers? Perhaps then they can explain about the prayer for Musafir (travellers). Still... *facepalm*

The Japanese have their Ninja and Samurai that they are proud of to this day. The superhero genre has long been a trademark of Western identity. Why not explore and exploit the possibilities of the origins and rich history of Middle Eastern assassins? Ubisoft surely paved the way on giving it a contemporary approach through Assassin's Creed.

Yes, we do believe in supernatural beings in fact Djinns are mentioned in the Qur'an. This is where I would say the approach of Karas - a supernatural being who fights evil in the realm of the spirits, thus can't be seen by the naked human eye - is more suitable and relative. How does punching someone in the gut or emitting a Holy beam to a supposed infidel villain in public make it any different than the terrorist who believe in their attacks?

Coincidently I am also working on a personal comic project regarding this theme of superheroes and Islamic faith by combining both world of Retrojak and Black Light. I spent weeks rationalizing on how to make it work. I agree with an artist friend Corey Lewis' stand on how we should just let lose and enjoy the fun of storytelling. This however just takes it to a different degree. Come on it's already selling the idea of a religious superhero team. A MUSLIM superhero team, no less! If that's not serious then I guess I'm just getting old and becoming more uptight about trivial matters.

With all that said, I understand this is probably one of those novelty business models created to bring down the Islamophobia in the face of the world but... I don't know man, to me it just.. doesn't fly. Regardless, I will contradict myself here by giving a pat in the back to the creator of The 99, Dr.Naif Al-Mutawa for his attempt to perform his Da'wah. President Obama gave a shout-out to this guy in his speech, okay?. He still has my respect, make no mistake about that. Who knows if sales go up then he has proven me wrong.

I may have a sense of humour of an undertaker but Muslim superheroes sounds funny to me.

Link: The 99's Official Site


Yxji said...

If it sells, thats gonna be this very 1st one. And that would be be due to readers wondering whats inside. I don't think the next would be.

HOnestly when I 1st saw this, I lol'd too. Hard.

Zool said...

It's dumb!

Muslim heroes don't need fancy costumes. And what's up with the heroins? only one of them's wearing a tudung. *sighs*

Muneer said...

Being a white American Muslim of similar down-time preferences as the blog author, and therefore avid DC Comics Superman/Batman fan with anime on the side, this idea should excite me, but again, being a Muslim, I am both embarrassed about the character designs, with the main villain (Rughal) being the only one having a beard (which if not required for men by Islam, is unarguably encouraged and respected) and the male heroes being clean-shaven, female heroes not properly covering their bodies, or in other words, not standing for anything that resembles Islam in the most important and iconic factor for a superhero: their physical appearance/costume. This sends a clear message that signs of piety, and Islam in general, like beards and hijab are in fact evil.

Apart from cosmetic details such as hijab and beards, it goes without asking that these Muslim heroes will not be seen praying their obligatory 5-times prayers and reciting Qur'an, and even if by some miracle they were portrayed doing so, I doubt the creator could find a loophole after realizing the blue-jean clad heroins or the men in tights need to change their clothing to something that doesn't expose the awrah before they could do so.

There is also an ugly contradiction in both world culture and superhero culture, with all of the heroes possessing common, layman Arabic names (which is inevitable being based on the 99 attributes of Allah), making it impossible for any hero to be unique, which is a critical component of a superhero, but even going so far as to affect their 'real-life' non-superhero names, giving the impression that Muslims have no unique cultures of their own and are just Arabicized cattle, while at the same time stripping them of all religious identity, so it fails to show either Muslim culture or Muslim religion. It's about as interesting as a random group of superheroes all with common Spanish names like Jose and Miguel. Are you yawning yet? Not to say that the 99 names of Allah aren't beautiful, important, and represent His Qualities, but in this context, it's not necessarily a good thing.

This proves that superheroes can only be based on the values of Western Liberalism, and a real Muslim superhero could only ever be portrayed as a lame supervillain and global terrorist trying to spread a fascist agenda who proceeds to be quickly jailed by the likes of any DC comics hero.

The niqab-wearing heroin based on Allah's attribute 'The Hidden' might have potential both as a religious and cultural identifier, since her costume represents Islam, and her powers could hypothetically be jinn-like, but the rest... :-/

Muneer said...

The only interest I would have, and Tashkeel's Pub's only chance with this, is to choose who they wish to appeal to. If they can have a tie-in with the DC Comics universe and exist in the same world with Batman, Superman, and the like, and be portrayed working with, praised by, and being accepted by them, then it may all be worth it.

However, if they stay separate from that and cannot obtain the opportunity to become part of the DC Universe, they will fail, since this can't appeal to Muslims due to it having no Islam, and can't appeal to non-Muslims and Muslims like myself and the blog author without it being part of a real superhero community.

Logically, there is little to no chance either option will prevail, since you can't inject 99 superheroes with near-identical, forgettable identities and a story behind them that doesn't make sense (remind me again how exactly one stone of every 99 tasbeeh beads got into the hands of 1 person from 99 different countries who in no way represent the names or cultures of those countries?) into a community which has unique, iconic legends that are worlds apart. They could have solved this by making ONE unique superhero which possessed the tasbeeh chain, and they could have had a chance, but not like this.

In closing, people do not watch Superman for religious or cultural guidance, but they do, or at least I do, to see Braniac punch Superman through a steel wall and stare in sheer enjoyment when he gets up for more and thwarts the death-rays coming from his palms. I would gladly welcome the Muslim superheroes in to invite Superman to Islam and perform Jihad to bring Metropolis under Shariah law and watch them pummel The Green Lantern and Wonder Woman into the ground in the process, but not to borify and lame-up the superhero world :-/.

Zid said...

Well said, Muneer. I couldn't have presented it better.

Anonymous said...

I always motivated by you, your views and attitude, again, appreciate for this nice post.

- Norman

Faqihin said...

really like to see your idea of combining 'retrojak' and 'black light' together. Especially with the idea of Da'wah involve :D