Think of Middle Eastern characters in popular comics and you'll get a long list of villains: like the Ten Rings organization in the recent film adaptation of Iron Man.
"In general, when you think about Arabs and Muslims in main roles in pop culture, they’re always the villains," says Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. "We're always the hijackers. We're always the bad people that the good American soldiers or CIA is trying to fight," Sarsour told the New York Daily News.
However, for the first time in comic-book history, America has an Arab-American superhero. Meet the newest member of the Green Lantern Corps: Simon Baz. The new Muslim-American superhero even has a cool Arabic tattoo on the same arm as his Lantern ring, further emphasizing his divergence from the more traditional mainstream DC Comics lineup. The tattoo means 'courage,' according to the Associated Press.
"To finally have the opportunity where the Arab-American can be the super hero, to be the one who saves people, is a lot more powerful an image," Sarsour told the New York Daily News.
However, Baz still has a bit of a dark side. "He's not a perfect character. He's obviously made some mistakes in his life, but that makes him more compelling and relatable," says DC Comics' Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns. "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," Johns told the Associated Press.
Baz is also quintessentially American, being raised in Dearborn, Mich., according to the Detroit Free Press. Dearborn is home to both Ford Motors and to the largest Arab-American population in the country. Baz's character is an out-of-work auto engineer who becomes ends up as a car thief before the Green Lantern ring chooses him to be a "cosmic cop," according to USA Today. Baz is shown watching 9/11 on TV and dealing with the consequent fallout on Muslims.
In June this year, DC Comics also announced that Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern who first appeared in 1940, was gay.
Check out the photos of Simon Baz as America's first Arab-American superhero below: