Simon Baz, Our New Favorite Superhero
BY: Clara Ana Ruplinger/Contributing Writer
Simon Baz, the latest member of the Green Lantern Corps, is Arab America’s new favorite superhero.
Simon Baz is an Arab American Muslim superhero. Not a villain, not a terrorist, not a stereotyped extra. He has his own comic, his own platform, and a full-fledged story. Also, he has the Arabic word for courage (alshaja’) tattooed on his forearm, which glows green when his powers activate. (AWESOME!)
A little about Simon. He is a Lebanese American, born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan. The story begins with the events of 9/11 and its effects on his childhood. He and his family are shown just as devastated by the event as anyone else, in addition to enduring all the discrimination that comes with being an Arab American in a post-9/11 world.
Later in life, Simon earns a degree in engineering, which he uses to get a job at an auto factory to support himself. But during the recession, his auto factory shuts down and he loses his job. In a desperate bid for money, Simon took up illegal street racing, which he proved good at. Unfortunately, during one of these races his brother-in-law gets severely injured and sent into a coma. This estranges Simon from his sister.
Some time later, Simon starts stealing cars to make ends meet. One day, a car he steals just happens to have a bomb in it. Once Simon realizes this, he takes the car to a place where he knew no one would get hurt. He is then arrested for terrorism, and interrogated by FBI agents, but they don’t believe Simon because there was an explosion, and he’s Arab and Muslim. The FBI was about to use “enhanced” interrogation techniques (torture) to get a confession out of Simon when the Green Lantern Ring shows up. He is whisked away and a new hero is born.
There has been some criticism of the way Simon is introduced to the readers, as it clearly plays on the worst kinds of cultural stereotypes. Oliver Sava of the A.V. Club sums up this critique, saying, “The idea of an Arab American being chosen as the Green Lantern because he’s able to overcome great cultural fear is an inspired one, but the majority of sympathy for the character is condensed in two pages so that Johns can set up Baz as a suspected terrorist.”
The comic certainly takes advantage of Simon’s background and ethnicity to create the story line, but despite these initial hiccups, there is hope for Simon Baz to help normalize Arab American presence in pop culture. In writing Simon’s story, Geoff Johns, who himself is half Lebanese, took on contemporary issues facing Arab Americans in this post-9/11 world: discrimination, profiling, and economic downturn.
Simon Baz has a lot to give to DC fans and Arab Americans at large. Keep your eye on this hero, and let’s hope he gets a shot at the big screen.