When I was growing up in the sixties in England I would read comics with characters like Superman and Spiderman. Later, I would enjoy Batman on Television.
When the elementary school principal told us she met Batman and Robin on the bus I was entranced. As I grew up, I entered the dark ages and lost interest in these characters. Fast forward to the nineties, I entered my renaissance and found a renewed interest in reading and watching film.
So how did I get interested in this subject of superheroes? I was browsing some of the featured books in our public library, and the cover of a book caught my attention. “Disguised as Clark Kent” with a subtitle “Jews, Comics, and Creation of the Superhero.” It is an interesting read into how children of East European Jews came to create all the major superheroes that we are familiar with. There is a social and historical context which gives some interesting insights. Superman was the first real superhero created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster who were sons of immigrant Jewish families. In mid-1930s America, their inspiration came from “President Roosevelt’s fireside chats, the effects of the depression on the downtrodden masses, and the oppression of Jews in Nazi Germany. Superman was the answer to all the problems. Inspired by Moses and Jesus, he is a child destined for greatness, sent to save the earth and it’s people one at a time. The immigrant parents from the planet Krypton sacrifice all they have so their child can prosper. The child is adopted by a mid-western couple. Superman like many other superheroes follows a dual identity. He is the common man as Clark Kent with a job at the Daily Planet and then he is the extraordinary Superman, who has super abilities. Superman was such a hit, all other superheroes like Batman derive from him. I won’t bore you with a review but the book is worth a read.[j2]
In terms of heroes, I have been thinking about the subject over the last few months. Given a lot of the negative news coverage about Islam and Muslims, I wanted to highlight contemporary famous Muslims who we could consider to be heroes. I put the video “Muslim Firsts” together. This in turn led me to think about people of other faiths, Jews, Christians, Hindus who are making a difference to our Community, so I put together another video “Friends of Muslims.” I am still thinking about the subject. I paid another visit to our public library looking for an Audiobook to listen to in the car. Out pops, ABC News, John Quinones with his “Heroes Among Us.” Perfect. In it he captures the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary heroic acts. Both Quinones’ a sixth generation Latino and the stories he tells are captivating.
Every cultural or national group looks for its heroes. Where they are deficient they create the altered egos in the form of a Superhero. Chinese films have created characters that can do super-human feats in films like “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.”
Bollywood too has taken note and come up with it’s first Superhero film Krrish. Although the Muslim world does not have a media capital, like Hollywood or Bollywood, they too are taking baby steps. No Mollywood yet but, over in Kuwait, Teshkeel Media, has started publishing “The 99.” It is a series of comic books based on superhero characters who battle injustice and fight evil. Each character embodies one of the 99 qualities that Muslims believe God exemplifies.